Meet 6 Bay Area LGBTQ Student Trailblazers
As the AIDS crisis spread in the '80s, Tom Markowski and Jim Leach, a gay couple living in San Francisco, discussed the legacy they wanted to create: They wanted to foster the development of role models for the LGBTQ community.
Through a planned gift made through their estate, the couple established the Markowski-Leach Scholarship Fund, housed at Horizons Foundation, to create their legacy. The Fund awards scholarships to Bay Area students working to make an impact on other LGBTQ people — in other words, role models for the community.
The Markowski-Leach Scholarship recently announced the recipients of this year's awards. Meet the impressive group!
Incoming Freshman; Studying Symbolic Systems Stanford University
My name is Vasco Vidal (they/them), and I'm an incoming freshman at Stanford University. I'm pursuing a B.S. in Symbolic Systems (Learning Concentration) and an M.S. in Learning Design and Technology to one day create a mastery-based educational model that empowers students with disabilities.
Growing up non-binary in Peru, a conservative country, pushed me to advocate for the rights of LGBTQ+ youth — I became the precursor of an educational project that aimed to create safe and supportive learning environments for Queer students in Latin America, worked as a voice actor for a video-based learning program to teach sexual violence prevention and other initiatives to support LGBTQ+ rights. At Stanford, I will continue to work for the community; this time, I will seek ways to fight legislation that seeks to ban gender-affirming care for minors.
Receiving the Markowski-Leach Scholarship is a significant milestone for me. It provides me with the resources to continue advocating for the rights of LGBTQ+ youth, especially trans youth, who face ongoing attacks across the United States. My goal is to be an example for queer youth and create the greatest positive impact so that one day any Queer student can safely share their identity with the world, knowing they will be surrounded by love and support.
Undergraduate, Junior Year; Studying Economics Stanford University
I'm Stanley and I'm a Junior at Stanford studying Economics. I'm originally from South Bend, IN, where my parents moved as refugees. From a young age, I've been eager to use business and entrepreneurship as a means for good and advocating for communities close to my heart. This year, I am proud to be the only undergraduate serving on the Stanford LGBTQ+ Alumni board, in addition to founding Stanford Pride, an undergraduate club at Stanford. As current president of the Stanford Pride club, I plan LGBTQ+ related events, inform campus programming and resources, and ensure a supportive community for all, including allies. I also serve as a student ambassador for Out for Undergrad, an organization devoted to empowering LGBTQ+ individuals in the business, engineering, and technology disciplines. Receiving the Markowski-Leach Scholarship is about joining a community of people who are committed to creating a world that is inclusive, fair, and supportive -- especially for the LGBTQ+ community. I seek to use this opportunity to honor the legacy of Jim Leach and Tom Markowski and apply my talents to increase society’s awareness of the LGBTQ+ community.
Alicia Naylor Guerrero
Undergraduate Junior, Studying Cognitive Science University of California, Berkeley
Alicia Naylor Guerrero (she/her/ella) is a third-year cognitive science student at UC Berkeley. As a mixed-race Trans-latina, being able to connect her cultural heritage and queer life experiences has been integral to understanding cognitive science, a field that bridges social and biological sciences. She is grateful to the queer communities in the San Francisco Bay Area that have supported her to where she is today, and is dedicated to forming healthy and affirming queer and trans communities in all the spaces she inhabits. In addition to her studies, she works as a Residential Assistant at the UNITY Theme Program for LGBTQ+ students at UC Berkeley and has grown in this position as a role model and community member, and provides support for new generations of queer learners through organizing events and fostering intentionality, respect, and safe exploration for her residents and the community. This scholarship, to Alicia, means that she can continue pursuing her education and passion for understanding and supporting communities both through her studies and LGBTQ+ encouragement and support.
Gilda Temaj Marrroquin
Undergraduate Senior; Studying Ethnic Studies University of California at Berkeley
Master’s Candidate; Social Work San Francisco State University
My name is Gilda Temaj Marrroquin, I was born and raised in the outskirts of Guatemala, (Central America), and immigrated to the United States as an unaccompanied minor at age 16. Currently, I am a senior at UC Berkeley, pursuing an Ethnic Studies major. I am proud to be a recipient of the Markowski-Leach Scholarship. When I decided to “come out” to my family, I was terrified. There were not openly LGBTQ+ people where I grew up. While I was scared to tell my family my truth, I wanted to be honest with them about my sexuality. With all the courage I had, I told them I was gay. Initially, my parents were upset, disappointed, and confused. Their worst fear about me was confirmed and the rumors were true. Despite initial resistance and contempt, little by little, I have altered my family's conception of gender roles, cultural expectations, and societal norms in a significant and permanent way. My mission in life is to work toward educating and uplifting my LGBTQ+ and Hispanic communities: by connecting them to resources, support, mentorship, and legal assistance, so they too, can have the opportunity to build a better quality of life. The Markowski-Leach Scholarship will help me complete my undergraduate degree and pursue a Master’s in Social Work, so I can continue to enhance human well-being and help people meet their needs
Master’s Candidate; MBA/Business-Entrepreneurship Stanford University
I am honored to be a Markowski-Leach Scholarship recipient for my MBA at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Prior to pursuing my MBA, I obtained an MSc in Social Science of the Internet from the University of Oxford and a BA in Financial Economics & Hispanic Studies from Columbia University. I am deeply committed to continuing to drive social change and impact for the queer community while at Stanford and beyond. Prior to graduate school, I served on MuleSoft's Global Diversity Council and Salesforce LGBTQIA+ employee resource group’s President's Council. These platforms have given me the opportunity to champion queer issues in the corporate world, combat discrimination and microaggressions in the workplace, and promote a more inclusive environment for everyone. Outside of work, I was a mentor with akt (formerly The Albert Kennedy Trust), where I supported queer and trans youth facing homelessness. In addition, I am passionate about furthering queer and racial representation in film and media, which is why I am also a board member of Frameline, the largest queer film festival in the world.
Master’s Candidate; MFA/Documentary Film and Video Stanford University
My name is Elina-Alem Kent but I go by Alem as it is my Crimean Tatar name.
I am grateful to receive the Markowski-Leach scholarship because it will help me cover the costs of attending Stanford’s masters in documentary film and video. There, I will gain incredible skills and opportunities to grow as a documentary filmmaker.
I have been living in Kyiv, Ukraine since 2019. I started as a journalist focusing on the underground cultural scenes and human rights with the queer and indigenous Crimean Tatar communities, important to me as a queer Crimean Tatar-American myself.
My calling is documentary storytelling through activism and art. I now mainly work with documentary photography, film, theatre, exhibits, and creative protests.
I am fighting on the informational and cultural frontlines in this war. I don’t want the world to think about Ukrainians through the lens of trauma and violence, but instead be remembered for their resilience, bravery, and creativity.
The existence of Crimean Tatars debunks Russia’s false imperial narrative, and is why the occupier is systemically isolating and killing the indigenous community. My future films that will focus and share Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian stories will contribute to the decolonizing of Ukraine and Crimea against Russia.
I would like my work to reveal new realities and perspectives to further understanding, inspiration, and solidarity between US communities and Ukraine.