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Rural Youth Empowerment (RYE) Fellowship

RYE 2019 Fellowship

The Rural Youth Empowerment (RYE) Fellowship is a year-long program in which LGBTQ youth living in rural parts of North Carolina receive mentorship, leadership development and a stipend to develop resources for queer, rural North Carolinians.

Over the course of a year, a cohort of RYE Fellows 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.

For the 2018-2019 fellowship cycle, Equality NC selected four fellows from under-resourced pockets of our state to envision and execute ideas to transform the culture of their local LGBTQ community. These projects ranged from addressing the unique healthcare needs of transgender North Carolinians to forming a peer-to-peer LGBTQIA+ sexual health squad that educates young people aged 16-20 about queer sexuality, health and wellness.


2018-2019 RYE Fellowship Class

Adrian Parra

Adrian Parra, 28 (he/she/they): Adrian is the co-Executive Director of Youth OUTright WNC, an advocacy and leadership nonprofit committed to the empowerment of queer youth in Western North Carolina. A “jack-of-all-trades” living in Asheville, their project incorporated the work of Youth OUTright by forming a peer-to-peer LGBTQIA+ sexual health squad that educates young people aged 16-20 about queer sexuality, health and wellness. An organizer at heart, Adrian prides themselves in breaking down accessibility barriers when it comes to information and resources for LGBTQ youth. You can download the "LGBTQIA+ Youth Resource Guide" developed by Parra throughout the course of their fellowship below.

Ashleigh Jackson

Ashleigh Jackson, 21 (she/her): An organizer of Hendersonville’s "March for Our Lives," Ashleigh is a visible and active community leader in her mountain town. She works as a preschool teacher and is invested in the leadership development of LGBTQ youth from all walks of life. Her project through the RYE Fellowship focused on resource excavation and development for queer youth, as well as a live event that brought together LGBTQ-affirming faith leaders, community health resources, local business leaders and the general public from around the Hendersonville area to cultivate community and enhance localized queer visibility.

Maurice Jamell Carter 'Karter J,'

Maurice Jamell Carter “Karter J,” 28 (he/him/his): With a passion for Diversity, Social Justice, Activism, and Egalitarianism, Karter J is all about bringing people together. But living in Greenville, he found it difficult to cultivate LGBTQ community spaces outside of East Carolina University – where he attended college. His project focused on the needs of LGBTQ youth of color and people living with HIV in the Greenville area. Karter J wanted to create a place for these vulnerable groups of LGBTQ people to gather and talk about the unique needs they face within the larger LGBTQ community, while also potentially fostering leadership development. He hopes this project will assist in breaking down “the stigma, dehumanization and other issues that hinder people from being themselves and express[ing] who they are publicly.”

Sterling Bentley

Sterling Bentley, 25 (he/him/his): Having grown up in a small town in Western North Carolina and relocating to Durham in 2017, Sterling knows the diverse tapestry of this state very well. With a passion for social justice that he says permeates all aspects of his life, Sterling hopes his project will contribute to an important conversation about the unique challenges that transgender North Carolinians face through his work. Through his work, Sterling tackled the intersection of healthcare and transgender identity by working with healthcare providers in the Triangle area to better understand how to compassionately and adequately serve patients of transgender experience. He accomplished this by leading workshops and giving presentations to medical providers in order to help bridge the gap between the transgender population and the healthcare network of the Triangle. You can download the "Healthcare Support Plan" developed by Bentley throughout the course of his fellowship below.

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