BVH senior wins $500 Tracie Jada O’Brien Transgender Scholarship

Bonita Vista High (BVH) senior Artemis Divine was awarded the Tracie Jada O'Brien Transgender Scholarship on April 2, 2021. The scholarship is meant to support the education of transgender youth in San Diego after high school.

Evan Abutin

Bonita Vista High (BVH) senior Artemis Divine was awarded the Tracie Jada O’Brien Transgender Scholarship on April 2, 2021. The scholarship is meant to support the education of transgender youth in San Diego after high school.

Evan Abutin and Lucia Rivera

This month, on the annual Transgender Day of Empowerment (TDOE), Bonita Vista High (BVH) senior Artemis Divine joined dozens of local transgender students in receiving the Tracie Jada O’Brien Transgender Scholarship. 

In order to support and recognize transgender youth in San Diego County, founder and custodian of the TDOE and the Tracie Jada O’Brien Transgender Scholarship Program, Tracie Jada O’Brien herself, has awarded 500 dollar scholarships to qualifying youth for seven years.

“The scholarship fund is one of the first scholarships of its kind focused on transgender student success in San Diego. We believe that strong community support can give our local transgender students the confidence to beat the odds,” San Diego Pride explains on their website

This year, Divine helped San Diego Pride reach a total of 123 scholarships, which they awarded to transgender student applicants from San Diego County as long as a complete application was submitted. While this scholarship is less than a decade old, TDOE has been held for 18 years in union with O’Brien, who is a black trans woman and advocate. She announced the scholarship winners during an April 2 livestream.

“As TDOE stands as an event, it’s to let [the transgender community] know that they’re important for who they are and how they identify and that they can do anything,” Philanthropy Coordinator Melanie Viloria said. “It’s the idea that you don’t provide direct services to people, but you’re like ‘Hey, I think you should be in school, and if you’re in school that can be vocational [or] a traditional university.’ ”

Divine first learned about and applied to the scholarship in March, despite a lack of confidence in scholarship applications. She first heard about the scholarship from BVH senior Alicia Verdugo, a “good friend.”

“She [directly messaged] me on Instagram and she sent me the screenshot from the BVH counselors’ Instagram page,” Divine said. “Personally, I don’t like applying to scholarships because I don’t think I’m going to get scholarships at all. I just did it on a whim because I was bored at the time.”

In order to apply for the scholarship, Divine filled out a Google Form that asked for basic information, such as the high school she went to, where she committed for college as well as an essay. She explained how deciding on a topic for the essay was the most difficult part of the application process. Ultimately, she wrote about how her “experience as a transgender woman” related to her majoring in gender studies. 

“I never really won anything in my life, so I wanted to win something. I wanted to do a good job, so I did take some pieces of my admissions essay for the college [I’m] going to [and put it] into the [scholarship] essay. I wanted to make it as professional, correct and personal as I could,” Divine said.

As somebody who has faced a multitude of personal struggles, Divine felt proud of herself for earning the scholarship. Although she admitted that she has “lacked motivation” in the past, this was an opportunity that she believes she put a lot of effort into. 

“I worked so hard, especially this year, so I can make sure the people in my life that said I was never going to do anythingI wanted to prove them wrong, as well as my inner demons in my life,” Divine said. “I’m happy that it paid off and that I was being recognized for being a transgender woman that did well in their studies.”

I’m happy that it paid off and that I was being recognized for being a transgender woman that did well in their studies.”

— BVH senior Artemis Divine

As stated by O’Brien during the April 2 livestream, a main goal of the scholarship is to help transgender students achieve academic success. She places immense value on education due to the opportunities that it can offer transgender youth.

“Education is so important. One thing that they cannot get you for is your ability to make things better, your ability to thrive in this world. So I am really proud of all of our students. Stay in school and we will be here to support you,” O’Brien said during the event.

Viloria described how the most fulfilling part of being involved in the scholarship process was its open, collaborative nature. Furthermore, they were able to work with people who were unique yet shared aspects of their identity.

“Being able to work with Tracie on this scholarship makes [the TDOE Planning Committee] feel really connected to the community and listen to what the community needs,” Viloria said. “It’s an interesting dynamic because our TDOE Planning Committee is super diverse. All of them, except for my boss, are trans or non-binary, and it’s really unique to be in [that] room and know that they’re […] volunteering their time to make the scholarship happen.”

After only “a few months” of transitioning, the scholarship was symbolic for Divine, especially considering that it was the first non-institutional scholarship she earned. She believes that receiving it says a lot about where she currently is in her life and what she will be able to accomplish in the future. 

“This scholarship meant the world to me. It allowed me to personally know for sure, 100 percent, that I am in a better place in my life and that I’m going to continue to go places that I don’t even know yet,” Divine said. “To know that I am able to receive a scholarship like this gives me hope that I’m going to be okay and lets me know that I’m going to be the light in my life that I always wanted to be in other people’s life.”