Before Victor Salinas started his nursing degree program at Phoenix College (PC) this fall, he spent the spring looking for scholarships. "I couldn't find anything, and then I came across the Equality Maricopa Prism Scholarship Fund. I applied and, thankfully, was awarded the scholarship."
With a full-time job in the medical field for six years, Victor's colleagues inspired him to pursue nursing. "I found a love for patient care. I felt it was a calling to give back to the LGBT community that has helped support me for so many years." Two aspects of the Phoenix College Nursing Program particularly appealed to Victor. First, he chose PC because of the educational environment. "It's so welcoming. We are all like one big family in class. I'm in cohort B, and I look forward to the next two years with my cohort." But he also noted the importance of safety. "I wanted to come to an institution where I felt safe and free to express my personality."
One of the most significant barriers to Victor's return to school was financial. To attend school full-time, he had to shift to part-time work and needed to find resources that would help. Victor is using the PRISM scholarship to help “with transportation, books, and food resources," he said. Victor's employer also supported his return to school. "They went to great lengths to accommodate my school schedule," he said. "Since my work is in the medical field and my degree is in nursing, they were willing to keep me on as a part-time employee and will transfer my title to RN once I receive my degree and become licensed."
Bilingual in English and Spanish, Victor is eager to pursue the Bilingual Nursing Fellowship Program (BNFP). He also hopes PC will add a bachelor's of nursing program so he and his cohort can stick together with their current PC professors. A first-generation college student, Victor was fortunate to have a mother who worked tirelessly at two jobs to provide for her family. "She always instilled the importance of education in me, even in the midst of our struggles." Drug addiction was a prevalent issue in Victor's family, which made it difficult for him to focus on his education. His uncle overcame adversity to become a successful engineer and served as a source of inspiration and motivation for Victor to pursue his academic goals in nursing. "Being able to provide care and support to those who are sick or in need of medical attention is an honor that I do not take lightly."
Equality Maricopa is one of seven Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) affinity resource groups. They serve and represent the LGBTQIA+ community across the District. Erick Tanchez, who goes by E, has been the group's president since 2017 and started the Pride of Maricopa conference for LGBT students in 2019. "The work that we are doing supports queer and trans students and employees across the district. You have to find people passionate about the work, and I have the honor of working with some awesome people."
This dedicated group of employees raises funds for the PRISM scholarship and the Up and Out Scholarship, advocates for district policies that make campuses more welcoming to LGBTQIA+ students and employees, including all-gender bathrooms and being able to change one's legal name to a preferred name in district and college-related systems and documents, and serve as a resource for campus LGBTQIA+ clubs. Phoenix College is home to the Rainbow Spectrum Club for LGBTQIA+ students and their allies.
In collaboration with the Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation, Equality Maricopa created the PRISM Scholarship Fund in September 2021 with $3,000. That year, 80 students applied for the scholarship, and two were awarded scholarships. In two years, Equality Maricopa has raised over $40,000, which will allow them to increase the scholarship amount—currently $500–and award scholarships to more students. Earlier this year, they partnered with Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. to create PRISM Brew: Prickly Pear Lager with a launch party on June 10, 2023, which raised $3,000. In 2024, they will present the Arizona LGBTQIA+ specialty license plate to the state legislature. Once implemented, $17 of the $25 plate fee will support a continuous revenue stream for the Prism Scholarship Fund.
On Friday, November 17, Equality Maricopa will host the PRISM Drag Ball at Phoenix College. Featuring Willow Pill and other performers, the event begins with food and festivities at 5 p.m., a VIP meet and greet at 6 p.m., and the show at 7 p.m. in Bulpitt Auditorium. General admission is $25; VIP tickets are $50. All funds raised benefit the Equality Maricopa PRISM Scholarship and LGBTQIA+ students attending any of the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges.