Scholarship for LGBTQ students and their allies at Clark announced

 In News

by Abigail Soto


Left to right, Christie Soto, Abigail Soto and Raquel Salas Rivera surround framed photos of Sharon M. Keilbarth at reception for Salas Rivera. Photo by Clark College Foundation

For the first time, Clark College Foundation is offering a scholarship specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students and their allies at Clark.

The award is intended to provide funding for Clark students who are actively involved in community and college efforts to advance the principals of inclusion and opportunity related to the LGBTQ community.

The Sharon M. Keilbarth Memorial Scholarship was started by Clark College Foundation employee Abigail “Abby” Soto and her wife, Christie.

“Once Christie and I realized that there were no local donors wholly supporting these communities at Clark through scholarships, we decided to start one. Naming it after Christie’s sister was the most natural choice,” Abby Soto explained.

A formal announcement was made April 30, 2018, during a reception for Philadelphia Poet Laureate Raquel Salas Rivera. The occasion was chosen for the scholarship announcement because Salas Rivera’s poetry touches on many overlapping themes, most notably that robust education and training opportunities for diverse and systemically non-dominant communities are critical for changing the lives of Clark students. Keilbarth, who died in 2012 at the age of 53, was the oldest child of John and Darlene Soto, played a significant role financially and emotionally by stewarding her youngest sister through high school and college.

“Once Christie’s high school graduation picture graced the north wall of her mother’s apartment, her sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews began completing their own degrees as well,” said Abby Soto.

Keilbarth also served as an ally for Christie Soto when she was discovering her own sexual orientation. A child who grew up in the 1960s, Keilbarth struggled with identifying as lesbian. However, in a pivotal moment in her early twenties, Keilbarth made a decision to live her life proudly and with purpose. Because of that choice, her family was uplifted and the trajectory of their lives profoundly changed.

Abby Soto, research and records manager for Clark College Foundation, is also a co-staff adviser for Clark College’s Queer Student Association. Neither Christie nor Abby are alumna of Clark, but they feel it is important to give back within their own community.

“I see, firsthand the amazing work the QSA students are doing on this campus and I am so inspired,” Abby shared. “Sharon would have been thrilled to see the way the college-going experience is so much friendlier toward queer students today than when she was young.”

Christie Soto speaks with Clark College Trustee Jane Jacobsen

Christie Soto (second from left) talks with Clark College Trustee Jane Jacobsen (right) while Abigail Soto and Dr. Loretta Capeheart look on. Photo by Clark College Foundation

Clark College’s Financial Aid Office provides access to scholarships from local, regional and national sources. During the spring quarter, there were two scholarship options available in support of LGBTQ students, the Audria M. Edwards Scholarship and Diverse Student Learners: Scholarships and Grants. Available scholarships change throughout the year. Contact the financial aid office for details.

Scholarship applications for the Sharon M. Keilbarth Memorial Scholarship are available in the financial aid office and Office of Diversity and Equity. The deadline for completed applications is May 18, 2018. Submission should be directed to Clark’s Office of Diversity and Equity.  The first award will be granted this fall.


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