Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Student rewarded with scholarship for LGBTQ activism on campus

The 2013 Elliot Jackson Jones Memorial Scholarship was recently awarded to Kaylyn Johnson, a junior majoring in English and American studies, for her efforts to advance diversity and acceptance at The University of Alabama. The monetary scholarship was presented by the scholarship board of Capstone Alliance, the University’s official organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered faculty and staff and their supporters.

“The scholarship is focused around student activism about LGBT and allied topics,” Jessi Hitchens, president-elect of Capstone Alliance, said. “We look at the work a student has done to create positive change and promote social justice on campus.”

Johnson submitted an application and essay to be considered for the scholarship. Hitchens said Johnson’s application stood out among the others because of the way she related her experiences.

“Kaylyn went above and beyond the qualifications,” Hitchens said. “What really stood out was the articulate and smart way that she showed how she has grown and changed while at the University.”

Johnson has served for the past two years as the political chair for Spectrum, the campus group for LGBTQ students and allies. She is also an active member of the 49, the out-of-state student group where she serves as administrator for foUndAtion, a mentoring program designed to increase retention of out-of-state students.

When she is not devoting her time to Spectrum or class, she also volunteers at the Children’s Hands-On Museum with Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society. Johnson also maintains a 4.0 GPA and is a National Merit Scholar. Johnson has participated in many events and programs during her time at the University, but she says the Trans* Day of Remembrance candlelight vigils that she has organized the past two years stands out as some of her proudest moments.

“These events seem to really bring the community together, and I love how many people get involved with them by reading a piece or just attending,” Johnson said. “Most importantly, I feel these events help raise awareness regarding the difficulties and discrimination trans* individuals face.”

It is experiences like these that made Johnson the clear choice for the scholarship, Hitchins said.

“I have seen Kaylyn in action, and I’ve seen how she has grown and matured and has brought a good deal of change to this campus because of that,” Hitchins said. “She wants to take her knowledge beyond the campus and that’s why she is going to Washington, D.C., this summer, to make a difference there.”

Noah Cannon, president of Spectrum, said Johnson is an inimitable force on this campus.

“I’ve been lucky to witness her passion for advancing the LGBTQ+ community and her knowledge of the nuances of sexuality and gender,” Cannon said. “Elliot Jackson Jones was a trailblazer on this campus who lit a path 30 years ago that many have followed. His commitment to the LGBTQ+ community has led to Spectrum existing continuously for three decades to facilitate the activism of people like Kaylyn.”

The scholarship commemorates Elliot Jackson Jones, the founder and first president of the first gay-straight alliance at the University in January 1983, the group that later became Spectrum. Jones was a life-long activist for a variety of causes.

When he passed away in 1993, Capstone Alliance instituted the scholarship to honor his legacy. The scholarship was designed to recognize those who, like Elliot, raise and spread support for gay, lesbian, bisexuaal and transgender issues.

In 2012-13, Spectrum celebrated its 30th anniversary, making it the longest continuous gay-straight alliance among all southeastern colleges and universities.

Johnson will use the scholarship to help offset some of her costs when she interns in Washington, D.C., this summer with an advocacy organization focused on gender and sexuality activism. After she graduates, Johnson said she plans to pursue a doctorate and one day become a college professor.

“Most people, including UA students, simply need to realize that they cannot relate to everyone and their struggles,” Johnson said. “Instead of trying to pretend that we can, we must listen to and respect the experiences of people with identities we do not share. In order to be the best allies we can be, regardless of which community we are focusing on being an ally to in that moment, we must listen to what that community says they want and need us to do and act accordingly.”

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