Safe Schools South Florida celebrated the achievements of a unique and talented high school student on July 17 in Kendall, as Asa Hussain received the Miami non-profit’s coveted Robert E. Loupo, Jr. “Legacy of Change” Scholarship Award.
The scholarship award is given to a Miami-Dade County Public School graduating senior who is an advocate and/or activist dedicated to upholding the dignity, rights, and equality of the entire LGBTQ community — both in school and at large. The $1,000 award is to help cover costs associated with college or post-secondary education.
“Our 2017 winner embodies all of the qualities that this award was designed to honor,” says SSSF Board Chair Martha McGuire. “Asa Hussain is an amazing young man who is deeply committed to LGBT+ rights and we are thrilled that he was chosen to receive this honor. We are also excited that he will be able to immediately put this financial support to work in furthering his college education.”
One of the highlights of the scholarship awards dinner was a special appearance by Dr. Larry Feldman, chairman of the School Board of Miami-Dade County, who will present Hussain with a medal of honor. The awards presentation and dinner took place at The Melting Pot Fondue Restaurant of Miami at 11520 Sunset Drive, Miami FL 3317.
“What better way to keep the Legacy of Change than to be that change agent, and Asa is certainly that,” said Feldman. “There is much to be proud of as Asa takes the role of a lighthouse, so that when others are in the darkness of doubt and despair, they’ll be able to see how truly bright the beam of light can shine.”
Hussain is a recent graduate of the School for Advanced Studies, Homestead Campus/Miami-Dade College where he concurrently earned a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree at only 16 years old. He is pursuing a career as a marine veterinarian specializing in rehabilitating marine mammals, reptiles, and seabirds, while continuing to serve as a social activist on behalf of the LGBT+ community as well as Muslim and Arab immigrants.
“It’s such an honor for me to be receiving Robert E. Loupo’s Legacy of Change award,” says Hussain. “My ambitions to make a broader impact on my community as a college student continue to grow, not only for the LGBT community but also for other marginalized social groups.”
Hussain says that this achievement only encourages him to keep moving forward, or as he says, “keep following the rainbow, despite any obstacles I may encounter. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me as I enter college as a legacy of change in my own right.”
The scholarship is provided to students who, like the award’s namesake Robert Loupo, have worked hard to overcome challenges as well as educating and providing support for LGBTQ students in their school and community.
Founder of Safe Schools South Florida, Robert E. Loupo, Jr. was a teacher and counselor who worked tirelessly to make lasting changes in support of LGBTQ students in South Florida after a personal experience as a young man 26 years ago during which he was brutally attacked on South Beach simply for being a gay.
Since that incident, and because of Robert Loupo’s commitment to social change, SSSF’s mission has been to create safer schools where all students can learn and thrive, regardless of real or perceived sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression, their own or that of their parents/guardians.
Following are excerpts of Hussain’s 500-word essay:
“Unfortunately, we still live in a world where kids are still afraid to let their true colors shine through, sometimes to the point that forces them choose between living a life to be ashamed of or simply not living at all.”
“Becoming a positive symbol for queer youth by becoming the first Out and proud class president in my school’s history has allowed me to continue my leadership efforts in participating in the creation of a Gay-Straight Alliance – also a first in my school… I don’t plan on stopping here…”
At the award ceremony, Dr. Feldman shared his belief that being lonely is much different than being alone. “And yet they both simultaneously reside in the hearts of many young students.
“The struggle between ‘who’ and ‘what’ is something that has divided the human race since we began. Intimidation by others and the loss of self can cripple and diminish the beauty and wonderment living before one becomes an adult,” he said.
“Asa Hussain teaches us that the depth of sensitivity, the courage to accept differences, and the understanding of the heart can free our inner soul and allow ourselves to truly flourish. Asa leaves high school with 60 university graduate credits and a path that will make him happy and a contributor to the well-being of our society,” Feldman added.
For information about Safe Schools South Florida, visit www.safeschoolssouthflorida.org or call 305-576-2126.