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Redwood Bark

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Senior wins award for leadership in LGBT community

Senior Ivan Shaw received the Marin County Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award for his work in the LGBT community
Senior Ivan Shaw received the Marin County Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award for his work in the LGBT community

Shortly after he came out of the closet, senior Ivan Shaw began to think about creating an LGBT youth coalition to provide an understanding community and raise awareness of LGBT issues.

Nearly three years later, he was one of several youths to receive the Marin County Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award, which recognized him for his work with the Bay Area LGBT community this Thursday, Jan. 24.

The award is given to students who are entering college and who have done significant humanitarian work in their communities. It includes a scholarship of an undisclosed amount.

Shaw was nominated for the award by Redwood counselor Randel Kelly, who noticed Shaw’s dedication as he was writing recommendation letters.

“I realized how much time and effort he’d put into his community service,” Kelly said. “That’s when the nominations came around, and I put his name in.”

According to Shaw, he has been working with the LGBT youth in Marin since late 2009, building a community that allows for frank conversations and organized outreach for members.

“Since then, we’ve been building floats with the goal of activism,” Shaw said. “We want to show the community that there are people like you and me who support them no matter who they love or who they are.”

Building floats for the annual pride parade, something Shaw’s coalition has done since 2010, is meant to bring attention to the issue of sexuality, according to Shaw.

“The whole message is to have community members asking why there are so few LGBTQ youths out of the closet, relative to the percentage there are in the population,” Shaw said.

This was the same question that inspired Shaw to create the coalition.

“I wanted to create a support group to share the experience of coming out, because there was such a lack of support in the community as a whole,” he said.

While Shaw wrote up a proposal, applied for grants, and recruited members himself, he credits his mentor Sally Matsuishi for helping focus his energy.

“She gave me the drive to keep going, and when I got the money I needed, she helped me stay on track,” Shaw said of Matsuishi, who founded Next Generation Scholars, an academic and personal mentorship program for youths in the Bay Area.

Shaw said his experience has helped him to decide on a college major and future career.

“I want to study public policy and public health to make our communities better,” he said. “I want to focus on cultural topics with doctors, because frankly, many doctors aren’t all that culturally competent.”

This realization hit Shaw during a visit to the doctor shortly after he came out.

“Around the time that I was starting to think about creating this program, when Prop 8 was a big deal, I had a doctor who had a ‘Yes on 8’ sticker on her car — as in, ‘yes’ on banning gay marriage in California,” Shaw said.

According to Shaw, the sight of the sticker brought to his attention how important it was for patients to feel comfortable with doctors who are advising them on their health.

“If I’d been thinking about talking to my doctor about my sexuality, that would have made me uncomfortable,” Shaw said. “Lots of LGBTQ individuals and their families feel the same way.”

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