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Shepard scholarship rewards activists

IOWA STATE UNIVERSITY — The Matthew Shepard Scholarship was formed two years ago to honor the slain University of Wyoming student and to provide opportunities for openly gay and lesbian high school students.

Seven students received $250 honorary scholarships and three received full scholarships for up to four years at one of the three state universities in Iowa.

Brian Dix of Burlington, Brett Burkhardt of Knoxville and Joshua Olson of Storm Lake all won the full scholarship this year. Dix and Burkhardt will attend Iowa State in the fall.

The idea for the scholarship was proposed by Rich Eychaner, whose charitable foundation in Des Moines funds all scholarships through a grant.

He said the scholarship will help students who are growing up and realizing the hostility directed toward gays and lesbians.

“All over the state of Iowa, gay and lesbian kids are … trying to figure out if they want to run and hide or if they want to stand up and counter public animosity,” Eychaner said.

The scholarship is funded by the First Friday Breakfast Club, an association of gay men, and its lesbian counterpart, the Lambda Beta Nu Breakfast Club, both of Des Moines.

Jonathan Wilson, president of the First Friday Breakfast Club, said a committee chooses recipients of the scholarships. Wilson said the criteria they look for are being openly gay or lesbian, having high academic achievement, involvement in community service and financial need.

“They demonstrate a remarkable degree of courage for students their age,” he said.

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