With an Open Mind and Open Heart, Scholarship Recipient Strives to Use her Passion and Energy to Help Others
“Stoked and blessed” is how Madeline Gross, a Junior Anthropology major at the University of Colorado at Boulder described her reaction to being selected as the recipient of a Casey Feldman Memorial Scholarship to participate in the University’s Alternative Spring Break Program. “I signed up …specifically to learn more about what it means to be an ally to the LGBTQ community. I saw the deeply ingrained and confusing attitudes from parents, friends, community leaders, teachers and doctors … I wanted to understand what it means to be of a marginalized community.” Although she has faced challenges in her own life, overall she feels privileged to be able to use her time as a college student for the good of others.
Raised by her grandparents in a close knit church-going family, Madeline saw little support in her community for teens struggling with gender and sexual identity, especially the impact on friends who were not able to be seen “as fully human” by those closest to them because they were different. As a high school junior seeking inspiration in the big world outside her Fort Morgan, Colorado home, 16-year old Madeline spent a year in Minas Gerais, Brazil, learning and volunteering through the foundation APAE. While in South America, she spent half her school day in class and the rest working with mentally and physically disabled children and adults, in another language (Portuguese), far from home.
At CU Boulder, Madeline remains committed to improving the lives of others from marginalized communities. In the spirit of Casey Feldman’s advocacy and support of the rights of the LGTQ community, Madeline, along with other dedicated and curious CU students, participated in ThroughOUT San Fran: LGBTQ Advocacy. The program’s participants experienced the diversity of the LBGTQ community with members from every walk of life. They learned about the needs of its members for food, shelter, medical necessities as well as protection from HIV/AIDS, police brutality and discrimination. Among the projects she worked on during her stay, Madeline and other volunteers walked more than 14 miles across San Francisco with the AIDS Housing Alliance to find housing for people with immediate needs for shelter and to meet with various hotels to see if they wanted to partner with the organization.
Just as she feels grateful for her many opportunities for civic engagement and her ability to make a difference, Madeline says of her Alternative Spring Break experience, “I understand many of the benefits I have being a college student, being a heterosexual, white woman because I don’t worry about unfair treatment or harassment on a daily basis.” By working with, not for, people from the LGBTQ community, Madeline not only understands the issues on a deeper level but made friends with other trip members in the process.
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“Alternative Spring Break Scholarships Fostering a Generation Who Wants to Give Back“, Nov. 2014 (Casey Feldman Foundation)
About the Alternative Spring Break Program (CU Volunteer Resource Center)
Casey Feldman Foundation Alternative Spring Break Blog News