The saying goes: “Education is the great equalizer.” But access to education is far from equal.

A group in South Florida is working to change that.

A few years ago, four gay friends came up with the idea for the Broward LEADS Scholarship. LEADS stands for Leadership, Education, Achievement, Diversity, and Scholarship. Today they continue to bring their vision to life, one student at a time.

“All four of us [founders] are retired,” Terry Gaw tells SFGN. “One of the things you think about when you’re entering retirement is there’s activity which is learning to play bridge, long road trips, whatever. But then there’s purpose or value. What are you doing with your time?”

They saw the need to help young students in the LGBT community that are long on determination, but short financially. What helps set this scholarship apart is that they work to help students in community college continue pursuing a four-year degree.

While they set the criteria and raise money to fund the scholarships, they teamed up with the Point Foundation to select worthy candidates.

“It’s hard enough to be LGBTQ+,” Gaw says. “It’s nice every once in a while to have some extra energy put in your direction. A little helping hand.”

That reflects their goal to promote positive change through education, mentoring, leadership development and community service.

“I want to see people who are underserved and maybe struggling and might not see a way forward to help impact and hopefully create a road so they can get on it and be successful,” co-founder John Ferrari said.

To help raise money and let donors see how their money is put to use, the group likes to hold fundraisers so the students can meet their benefactors. Now that COVID is receding enough to have big gatherings again, they hope to restart those meetings and help more students.

“There’s a sense of giving back,” Ferrari says. “There are many ways you can go about that, and one of the ways is by impacting others. We might never know the full impact that small donations and scholarships make on a person’s life. But you have to think that somewhere along the line that that kind of work makes an impact.” 


The group is about to award its fourth round of scholarships. To learn more about their efforts and the students they’ve helped, visit Broward-LEADS.org.


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