Rural Youth Empowerment (RYE) Fellowship
The Rural Youth Empowerment (RYE) Fellowship is a one-year leadership program designed to equip young LGBTQ individuals (aged 18-28) from rural North Carolina with the skills to create positive change in their local communities. Fellows receive a $1000 stipend to tackle a diverse range of projects that address a specific set of needs for their community. Fellows also engage in leadership development and mentorship opportunities throughout the course of the program.
For the 2018-2019 fellowship cycle, Equality NC selected five fellows from under-resourced pockets of our state to envision and execute ideas to transform the culture of their local LGBTQ community. These projects range 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.
Through the generous support of Bank of America, Equality NC is partnering with the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), a Greensboro-based global authority on evidence-based leadership programs, to offer ongoing support and training for Fellows.
2018-2019 RYE Fellowship Class
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 incorporates 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.
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 focuses on resource excavation and development for queer youth, as well as a live event that brings 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.
Levi Grayson Stubblefield, 21 (he/him/his): A junior in college, Levi’s work will address what he sees as a stark lack of community connection and access to resources among transgender youth in the Guilford and Randolph county areas. By creating intentional space that regularly brings trans youth together, Levi hopes that young trans people and their families will gain better access to the information and community that they need. Levi envisions these community sessions focusing on topics such as Hormone Replacement Therapy, Gender Affirmation Surgeries and navigating educational institutions as a person of transgender experience. They will also involve community initiatives, such as clothing drives, in order to help young queer people alleviate dysphoria through greater access to affirming resources.
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 finds it difficult to cultivate LGBTQ community spaces outside of East Carolina University – where he recently graduated. His project will focus on the needs of LGBTQ youth of color and people living with HIV in the Greenville area. Karter J wants 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, 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 to contribute to an important conversation about the unique challenges that transgender North Carolinians face through his work. His project tackles 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 will accomplish 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.