Three LGBT students with Greater Houston ties are among the 2015 recipients of coveted annual scholarships doled out by big-money benefactor the Point Foundation.
The foundation pores over scores of applications each year and puts funds into the higher education coffers of students with widely varying interests, backgrounds and education levels. What do all the scholars have in common? A record of excellence and a gay card – that is, they identify as LGBT.
Gabriel Anker (photo, left) is an HSPVA violin virtuoso seeking his performance and linguistics degrees from Rice. Jordan “Jay” Moore (center) is a Houston native studying microbiology at Oklahoma State University. Brittany Ellenberg is a former La Porte valedictorian going studying at University of Chicago Law School to become an attorney. They each boast backgrounds and harbor future goals in LGBT activism.
The three locals are among three-dozen Point Scholars for 2015. Here are their bios from the full list of recipients.
Gabriel Anker is originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico. He attends Rice University in Houston and is studying violin performance and linguistics. An alumnus of Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, he is not only an avid orchestral and chamber musician but also a zealous proponent of LGBTQ causes and music education. Gabriel’s experiences with bullying during middle school encouraged him to become involved in building affirming learning environments for queer students. As co-president of his high school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (PVA-GSA) from 2011 to 2014, he collaborated with students and administration to promote inclusion and create an empowering space for dialogue. PVA-GSA provided educational materials about the pervasiveness of cisgenderism and other systems of oppression, held relevant discussions, hosted a variety of speakers and events, and campaigned within the school. In 2012 and 2013, Gabriel was also a GLSEN Student Media-Ambassador and a cofacilitator of youth-led events and workshops for GLSEN Houston’s Jump-Start team. Beginning in the summer of 2014, he volunteered for local advocacy group Out for Education, and in 2015 he became external vice president of Rice’s Queers and Allies. In addition, Gabriel works to make the arts an accessible resource for helping youth realize their creative potential. He is involved with a local nonprofit organization, Music Doing Good Inc., and he performs in the organization’s benefit concerts and interacts with aspiring young artists.
Jordan “Jay” Moore
Jay Moore grew up in Houston in a very culturally and ideologically diverse school and community. It wasn't until late in middle school that she found out that being called gay was considered derogatory to some people. The privilege she enjoyed living in a progressive community ended when she moved to Tahlequah, Okla., during her junior year of high school. Jay immediately witnessed the effects of widespread racism, sexism, and homophobia on her fellow minority students. Instead of letting her experiences get her down, she channeled her frustration into changing the system. It started with creating Tahlequah High School's first gay-straight alliance. Jay also sought change on an academic level, creating a new curriculum for history and health classes that were more inclusive of LGBTQ and two-spirited individuals. Her advocacy in school earned Jay recognition, and she was invited to help organize Tahlequah’s first Pride event under the banner of “TahlEquality.” The event was a massive success and garnered widespread public support from not only figures from Oklahoma, but on a national scale through news outlets like The Huffington Post, MSNBC, and Headline News. TahlEquality has continued to organize events, including a town hall meeting discussing marriage equality in Oklahoma, an equality fun run, and annual Pride celebrations. Having enrolled at the University of Oklahoma’s Honors College, Jay is majoring in microbiology and has plans to conduct research on HIV and AIDS.
Brittany Ellenberg grew up in La Porte, Texas, where she graduated valedictorian. After coming out and grappling with prejudice that threatened to overshadow her achievements, Brittany transformed her experience with the intolerance of a few into a passion for social equality for the LGBT community. Brittany graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in political science from the University of Texas at Dallas. During college, she created the Diversity Council, a forum for improving diversity and inclusion on campus. Brittany also served as political liaison for PRIDE, an LGBTQ student organization. After founding the university’s College Democrats chapter, Brittany was appointed vice-chair of the LGBT Caucus for the national organization, College Democrats of America. During college, Brittany traveled to developing countries conducting international human rights research and providing aid to indigenous, refugee, and LGBT populations in Costa Rica, Peru, Jamaica, and Thailand. In 2013, Brittany received the Archer Fellowship, under which she worked at the U.S. Department of State on issues of civilian security and democracy in the Middle East and North Africa. At the University of Chicago Law School, Brittany is the events coordinator for OutLaw and on the executive board of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago. She was named the 2014 Grant Folland Scholar for her commitment to LGBT rights. In summer 2014, Brittany received the International Human Rights Fellowship to work at Minority Rights Group International in London doing impact litigation for minority populations around the world. She represents LGBT refugees through the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project and serves as an advocate for immigrant children through the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. She hopes to continue to work on LGBT and immigration issues in her career as a litigator.