Monday, May 6, 2024

Four High School Students to Receive PBCHRC's 2024 Social Justice Awards


The PBCHRC Charitable Foundation has selected four graduating seniors to receive the organization's 2024 Social Justice Awards..The awards are presented annually to college-bound graduating seniors who have demonstrated interest in advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community.


The Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) is Florida's oldest, independent, non-partisan, political organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. In 2015, the organization established the PBCHRC Charitable Foundation to fund educational scholarships and other charitable endeavors.

Lindsay Reese, who is graduating from William T Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, is in the Early Childhood Teacher Education Academy, where she earned her Early Childhood Professional Certificate (ECPC) and her Child Development Associate (CDA).

She is President of the school's award winning chorus where she has had the opportunity to teach students and conduct the school choir.

"My experience and involvement within the LGBTQIA+ community is significant to my character. In the world of classical music which is historically dominated by men, I hope to show that Queer women can make a large, positive impact."

This summer, Lindsay will commence her studies at Florida State University College of Music, where she will be studying Choral Music Education,

Following graduation, Lindsay plans to become a public school choral teacher and choir director.

Laura Susskind is graduating from Florida Atlantic University High School in Boca Raton.

Over her years as a student, she participated in basketball, baseball, cheerleading, ice hockey, martial arts, soccer, and many other activities. Laura never let her gender limit her activities -- even when she was the only female on the team!.

Laura is one of only three women -- and the only out LGBTQ+ person -- in the Fire Explorers Program.

Following graduation from Florida Atlantic University, she intends to become a firefighter.

"When I get into the fire service, my goal is to be who I am by being openly lesbian. I want to spread awareness and educate my peers about the difficulties and issues in my community."

Samaril Vellavoor, who identifies as queer and nonbinary, is graduating from Seminole Ridge High School in Westlake.

As a liberal, queer, person of color living among conservative-minded people in Loxahatchee Groves, Samaril has faced numerous challenges over the years. Yet, through hard work in their school's Advanced International Certificate of Education Program, Samaril has been successful academically. Through dual enrollment, they have earned college credits at Palm Beach State College.

Samaril has participated in the Youth Program at Compass LGBTQ+ Community Center and their school's Gender-Sexuality Alliance. Politically active, they have also volunteered with Democratic Socialists of America

They initially plan to attend Palm Beach State College with the hope of transferring a state university to study game arts. Samaril's ultimate goal is to work at a game studio.

"I want to be a role model for other LGBTQ+ people in the game arts industry. All people deserve to work and live comfortably without worry."

Katherine Yang, a passionate advocate for social justice and healthcareis graduating from Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach.

After her father had a stroke, she became involved with the American Heart Association as a "Teen of Impact", advocating for awareness and prevention of cardiovascular diseases.

Katherine also finds solace through dance and serves as Vice President of the school's Arts Club. In that role, she actively engages with younger members, nurturing their creativity and fostering mentorship relationships.

She will be attending Fordham University to study journalism, following which she plans to go to law school.

"As an aspiring journalist, I aim to use my education and platform to amplify voices, raise awareness, and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and representation. Homophobia and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community are pervasive issues that demand attention and action."

Created in 2015, the Social Justice Awards are administered by PBCHRC Board Member Jasmin K. Lewis, Chair of the PBCHRC Charitable Foundation's scholarship program.

Under Jasmin's leadership, the Foundation has awarded scholarships to more than two dozen students.


"Lindsay, Laura, Samaril and Katherine are amazing advocates and role models for local LGBTQ+ students," said Lewis. "The Foundation is proud to recognize their work by presenting them with the 2024 Social Justice Awards."