Bob Martz knows the challenges many gay, lesbian and transgender youth face navigating the sometimes-rocky seas of adolescence.
Now, building on his decades of work as an LGBTQ activist in Delaware, Martz recently created the first Delaware Community Foundation scholarship specifically designated for LGBTQ students.
The Bob Martz Scholarship Fund is a legacy fund, meaning it will be funded with money from Martz’s estate after his death. At that time, the fund will begin to provide a $5,000 renewable scholarship to four students each year who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, or transgender.
In his role with the United Way of Delaware’s Pride Council, Martz has spoken to more than 4,000 teachers, counselors and others in the state about how schools can better support their LGBTQ students.
“I have become passionate about supporting gay kids. They have huge hurdles to overcome – they have to overcome themselves, their parents and maybe their friends,” Martz said. “It’s always a challenge being different.”
About 13 percent of teens in Delaware self-identify as LGBTQ. Statistics point to some of the challenges these youth can face, including 29 percent of LGBTQ teens who say they don’t have an adult to talk with about personal problems. Nearly 40 percent report being bullied. And those issues are in addition to the academic and family demands many students are facing.
A supportive school environment – buoyed with the addition of a gay-straight club – can help mitigate the bullying and social pressures that gay and transgender students may experience in middle school and high school.
In working with the DCF, Martz realized he could create a scholarship to help encourage the next generation of LGBTQ activists to continue some of the work he and others have started in Delaware.
“I don’t care whether they know my name or not,” he said. “I just wanted to help and I didn’t want to do it $1,000 at a time.”
The scholarship will be available to two high school seniors from New Castle County and one each from Kent and Sussex counties. To qualify, students must graduate from a Delaware public or charter high school with at least a 3.0 grade point average and be enrolling full time at either the University of Delaware or the University of Maryland College Park.
“The cost of education has gotten to the point that people with means really ought to look at how they can support people in ways more than just giving to a college,” Martz said. “I really do hope it encourages others to think about doing the same.”
To create a scholarship fund at the DCF, generous people make immediate gifts or planned gifts of $25,000 or more in cash, stocks, real estate, or other assets. To learn more about creating a scholarship fund, contact Joan Hoge-North, vice president for philanthropy, 302.504.5224.