Faculty Publications

I've Completely Changed: The Transforming Impact Of The Matthew Shepard Scholarship

Document Type


Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of Advanced Academics





First Page


Last Page



This article describes the impact of receiving the Matthew Shepard Scholarship (a 4-year, full scholarship) on 8 students who were openly gay or lesbian in high school. Previous literature, while limited, paints a decidedly bleak picture of the prospects for gay and lesbian youth. However, this previous research is often based on students in therapy or otherwise exhibiting maladjustment and ignores those youth who are successful. Through a narrative structure, the 8 students described their experiences with harassment, fear, social isolation, and other difficulties before overcoming these challenges and being selected as a Matthew Shepard Scholar. In addition to the experience of coming out, receiving this award represented a further point of transformation in their lives. The honor and recognition of receiving the scholarship further magnified their confidence, aspirations, and educational opportunities. Educators often fail to recognize the talents and promise of gay and lesbian students. The narratives of these students serve to highlight the achievements, as well as the struggles, of gay and lesbian youth in our nation's high schools. The students’ accounts of the scholarship suggest that educators and researchers should not be derailed by debates about sexual orientation, but rather, they should focus on their obligation to develop the potential of all students. In particular, educators should establish safe and nurturing educational environments by addressing harassment issues and establishing awareness workshops for faculty and staff. Through these efforts, the talents of students can be developed and their promise realized.


Department of Educational Leadership and Postsecondary Education

Original Publication Date


DOI of published version