A new scholarship program in, of all places, Arizona, will offer gay youths whose lives have been ruined by family rejection a chance at post-secondary education. The Out and Up Endowed Scholarship Fund will soon reward its first recipient with $5,000 worth of tuition, enough to cover a two-year degree at one of 10 Maricopa Community Colleges.

The Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation (MCCF) formed a committee to reach out to the young LBGT community and found that many teens are rejected by their parents when they realize they’re gay, and in some cases, kicked out of their homes and deprived of family support. Consequently, according to Mental Health America, 28 percent of gay and lesbian students nationwide drop out of high school. (This video makes clear the awful plight faced by so many young people with intolerant parents.)

Out and Up, funded entirely by donations to MCCF, is the first district-wide effort in Arizona to counter prejudice by offering an exclusive scholarship for rejected gay youth. Each student will have a faculty member from the gay community as a mentor, as well as a peer mentor from their campus. Nine of the 10 Maricopa campuses have gay-straight alliances.

The foundation has raised nearly $90,000 of the $200,000 needed to endow two full scholarships annually. Click here for information on applying for or donating to the Up and Out scholarship.