LGBTQ+ Youth Leadership Awards

May 10, 2025
Awards Available: 6

Scholarship Description

SMYAL’s scholarships recognize outstanding and unapologetic LGBTQ+ student leaders who have demonstrated personal growth and a commitment to creating change in their school or community.

Founded in 2015, SMYAL’s LGBTQ+ Youth Leadership Awards (YLA) provide a total of up to $30,000 to 5-8 student leaders each year. YLA winners receive up to $5,000 each for their extraordinary leadership and impact in their communities.


In order to qualify to apply for this scholarship, you must:

  • Self-identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community
  • Be 24 years old or younger
  • Have either attended high school or completed GED in the D.C. Metro Area*
  • Be starting your first semester of post-secondary education (2 or 4 year college, university, trade school, technical school etc.) by Fall
  • *The DC Metro Area includes Washington D.C. and the surrounding areas in Maryland and Virginia. If you live in the DC Metro area but attended high school out of the area, you may still be eligible.

What Counts as Leadership?

  • Participation in/ leadership of a school’s GSA or other student group
  • Supporting your community or friends through the pandemic
  • Working in the community to increase knowledge and awareness on social, artistic, or educational issues
  • Involvement in social justice movements like BLM, climate action, gun control, etc.
  • Hosting conversations at a religious or community-based organization
  • Involvement in political advocacy
  • Arts activism

Applicants should also demonstrate personal growth and the desire to make a difference in the world.

What Do I Need to Apply?

To apply for the Youth Leadership Awards and Sophie’s Live Out Loud Award, you will need:

  • A personal essay (maximum 1,500 words)
    • Your essay should address the following prompt: “Tell us about your journey as LGBTQ+ leader: what obstacles have you overcome, how have you positively impacted the lives of those around you in your school or local community, and how do you hope to continue to grow in the future?”
    • Make sure your essay answers all 3 components, although it does not necessarily need to go in that order.
  • Two letters of support from individuals who can speak to your suitability for this award
  • A list of programs where you have submitted active applications and any acceptance letters you’ve received

Things to Consider

Eligible applicants include graduating seniors, youth who took a gap year or two, youth who are completing a GED this Spring, etc.– as long as you are planning to start continuing education this upcoming year. Students returning to higher education (such as upperclassmen) are not eligible for this award.

We encourage all applicants to seriously consider their level of comfort being publicly out about their identities, as winners will have their picture and biography publicized. Scholarship Search