Seven Iowa high school students who are “openly gay” were recognized with scholarships in Des Moines this morning.Four of the students are getting 25-thousand dollar four-year scholarships to any of Iowa’s three public universities. The other three get 500-dollar grants. Des Moines businessman Rich Eychaner helps to underwrite the awards and explains why he thinks they’re important.Eychaner says the scholarships show there are gay and lesbian students all over Iowa in small towns and big cities. He says the students who applied this year were routinely harassed both verbally and physically in their schools. He says “gay and lesbian students are typically not safe in Iowa schools which is a great tragedy.” The larger scholarships are named after Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming college student who was beaten to death in 1998. Eychaner says ten Iowa students wrote essays this year to apply for the scholarships. He says the students chose were willing to be open and risk being attacked for being open about their lifestyle. The Matthew Shepard Scholarships went to: Jerryn Johnston of Gilbert, Michael Bowser of Waterloo, Scott Spilger of Iowa City and Jonathon Darby of Washington. The 500-dollar awards went to: Michael Lokken-Hopkins of Eldora, Brian Dailey of Cedar Falls and Todd Schockemoehl of Cascade. Three other Iowa students, from West Des Moines, Davenport and Bettendorf, were presented with “Anti-Homophobia Awards” for their efforts to promote diversity in their schools.
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