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Dec 4, 2019

Equality NC Foundation Announces 2019-2020 Rural Youth Empowerment Fellowship Cohort

Empowering Young LGBTQ Leaders in Rural North Carolina


The Rural Youth Empowerment (RYE) Fellowship is a year-long mentorship and training program for LGBTQ young people in rural areas of North Carolina. The program supports RYE Fellows to successfully execute a social justice project serving rural communities while developing leadership skills.

Over the course of a year, a cohort of six RYE Fellows will attend day-long leadership institutes in three different locations throughout the state, attend major Equality NC community events, participate in monthly video conferences, work one-on-one with community mentors, and receive fellowship stipends to help offset costs associated with their project.

2019-2020 Rural Youth Empowerment Fellowship Cohort

Hailey Ruby Hernandez, 18 (she/they)

Ruby is passionate about the intersection of art and activism. Through the RYE Fellowship, Ruby’s project will create a collaborative zine that forges a safe space for LGBTQ folks (with a focus on youth of color) to express themselves in the forms of poetry, visual arts, photography, creative writing and many other embodiments of art. Ruby seeks to establish a connection with those in the Clayton community and, in general, wants this invitation to extend to the LGBTQ community in the South. Ruby is here for those that exist in spaces that weren’t meant for them. We belong here and we’ll thrive here. This zine is a love letter to the Clayton community and to the South in its entirety.

Liam Waller, 20 (he/him)

Liam is a United States Air Force veteran who is deeply passionate about issues of inequity. He separated from military service to pursue a career in Social Work. He is now a Social Work Student at Appalachian State University who is focused on advancing LGBTQ+ liberation with an intersectional lens in North Carolina.

Rebecca Snavely, 28 (they, she)

A Western NC native, Rebecca is passionate about dismantling metronormativity and supporting rural LGBT people. Rebecca's work centers the needs of rural queer youth. They currently host a community-based GSA in an area that still lacks this support. They will begin working with local businesses and healthcare providers to produce a Tri-County LGBTQ+ Community Resource Guide for the support of queer youth and adults alike in this region. Because most rural communities have similar needs, but each has its own unique social fabric, Rebecca will be generating work that can be easily shared and collaborated with.

Gray Rodgers, 24 (they/them, he/him)

Gray is an MPH student at Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC Chapel Hill in the department of Health Behavior. Their research interests include LGBTQ adolescent mental health, LGBTQ peer support and LGBTQ aging. Growing up in a rural area of North Carolina, Gray appreciates the need for accessible, queer spaces. Their project focuses on connecting younger and older queer folks in the community and addressing the needs of the aging LGBTQ population. Gray thanks their family (biological and chosen) for supporting this project and encouraging them to live their truth loud and proud!

Asher Warg, 20 (he/him)

Having grown up in a rural area of North Carolina, Asher is no stranger to navigating the varied beliefs of the state. Upon doing work in his hometown with an HIV/AIDS service organization, Asher was inspired to get involved with activism that would aid his community in personal ways. He began work at Appalachian State University to see what policies and protections could be put into place to better serve the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming students. Asher is dedicated and focused on creating meaningful space for transgender and gender non-conforming folks on his college campus and growing the number of accessible resources available to professors, administration and medical professionals.

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