What is the OPALGA+
Student Scholarship Fund?

The OPALGA+ Scholarship Fund provides financial support for continuing education of local, Cook County Illinois, LGBTQ+ students and allies who have demonstrated service and advocacy to the LGBTQ+ community and/or the larger community. Scholarships are $5,000 each paid directly to the college or program you plan to attend.

OPALGA+ recognizes that young people in the LGBTQ+ community face unique challenges in high school, college, and trade school programs. We are committed to providing support for the next generation of activists and leaders who are self-identified members and/or allies of the LGBTQ+ community from Oak Park and surrounding areas. Since 2014, we have awarded over $220,000 in scholarships. 

APPLICATIONS FOR 2025-’26 SCHOOL YEAR SCHOLARSHIPS ARE DUE BY FEBRUARY 15, 2025.  The Application window will open in October 2024. If you have any questions, please send an email to scholarship@opalga.org.

TO QUALIFY, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS MUST MEET THESE CRITERIA:

  1. Identify as an LGBTQ+ person, the child of an LGBTQ+ person, and/or be an LGBTQ+ ally.
  2. Be a graduating high school senior in Cook County, Illinois who resides in one of the following municipalities: Bellwood, Berkeley, Berwyn, Broadview, Brookfield, Chicago, Cicero, Elmwood Park, Forest Park, Forest View, Franklin Park, Harwood Heights, Hillside, La Grange, La Grange Highlands, La Grange Park, Lyons, Maywood, McCook, Norridge, North Riverside, Northlake, Oak Park, River Forest, River Grove, Riverside, Rosemont, Schiller Park, Stickney, Stone Park, Summit, Westchester, or Western Springs.
  3. Have applied or been accepted to a 4-year or 2-year degree program or trade school/certificate program.
  4. Have (or will have) an outstanding balance for that program for the 2025-’26 school year. Scholarships are only paid to the school on behalf of the winner up to the student’s unfunded balance due. Any unused portion may be carried forward to the following school year.

HIGH SCHOOL APPLICANTS ARE REQUIRED TO SUBMIT BY FEBRUARY 15, 2025:

  1. Scholarship application found at www.opalga.org/scholarship-application/
  2. One essay describing your service/advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community or larger community. Please note that your essay will be one of the most important criteria used in evaluating your application. In addition to reviewing its content, your essay will be reviewed for grammar, neatness and professionalism.
  3. Two or more letters of recommendation from those with knowledge of your service and character.

Scholarship recipients will be chosen based on the strength of the essays, recommendations, demonstration of dedication to service, involvement in other activities, and their unique personal circumstances. (Recipients will eventually also need to submit an acceptance letter from a degree or certificate-granting institution before funds are awarded.)

RETURNING SCHOLARS

Prior-year recipients of OPALGA+ scholarships may be eligible to receive the Jan Grillos Memorial Scholarship Award for Continuing OPALGA+ Scholars while they are still enrolled in their program. For students applying in 2024-’25, the scholarship amounts will also be $5000 with up to 3 returning students selected per scholarship year. The Jan Grillos scholarship can be awarded up to three (3) times per individual (for a maximum of four awards).  

TO QUALIFY, RETURNING SCHOLARS MUST MEET THESE CRITERIA:

  • have received an OPALGA+ scholarship in the prior year;
  • be currently enrolled in and attending a 4-year or 2-year college degree program or trade school certificate program;
  • maintain continued involvement with OPALGA+ as demonstrated at least two of the following:
    • Supplying a video testimonial when requested to do such
    • Attendance at the annual OPALGA+ Scholarship Gala 
    • Participation in one or more OPALGA+ activities (social events, volunteer activities, educational seminars, advocacy work) during the prior year
  • continue to have a permanent address in the geographic area defined by OPALGA+; and
  • be involved in promoting LGBTQ+ programs and experiences while enrolled in the college degree or trade school program.

Applications should be submitted in writing to scholarship@opalga.org by January 31 each year.  Please include:

  • Name/contact info
  • School Name and ID number
  • Current areas of study
  • A list of OPALGA+ activities you have participated in or contributed to since receiving your scholarship.
  • A list of extra-curricular and/community activities you have participated in during the current school year promoting LGBTQ+ programs and causes. 
  • Please provide short answers to at least three of the following questions. You are welcome to answer more, but you are not required to answer every question.  
    1. What have you learned or gained from your association with OPALGA+?
    2. If your extra curricular activities include involvement with a school or community LGBTQ+ group, what has your involvement been and what have you gained from that involvement ?
    3. How has the OPALGA+ scholarship benefited you this year and/or how would a new scholarship help you as you continue your education?
    4. Are there any activities or services you would like to see OPALGA+ create for local high school or college students?
    5. What, if any, challenges have you experienced/met this year due to your LGBTQ+ identity?
    6. As you continue your education, have your career goals changed? If so, how have they changed?