Spirit of Dru Scholarship Winner: Courtney Ring

Throughout the month of July, we will be sharing the inspiring essays from our Spirit of Dru Scholarship recipients. Please enjoy Courtney Ring's - she will be attending the University of Central Florida (UCF) this fall.

Courtney Ring

Over the past four years, I’ve been very involved as an activist in the LGBT+ community. I created a panel of LGBT+ guests to speak and preform at my public library in an event called “The ABC’s of the LGBT” and when the library pushed back, I petitioned to continue the event, and was successful. I then suggested we read an LGBT book for our summer book club. We chose If I was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, a book written and featuring a trans girl. At my school, I founded a Gay-Straight Alliance, which was disbanded three years before. I held the position of president, and lead participation in the Orlando Come Out with Pride Parade, our school’s Homecoming parade, a spirit night fundraiser that raised $700 for the club, Ally Week at the school, and an educational Family Night. The Family Night, which included LGBT+ information for families, food, decorations made by the club, and a panel of guests from PFLAG and the Zebra Coalition was the first event of its kind in the Seminole County School System. While President of GSA I also represented the club at the Human Rights Campaign Time to Thrive Conference, where I met the leaders of the Central Florida GSA Network. Soon after, the club was inducted into the Network. I myself am now the Network Editor and leader for District 4 in the Central Florida GSA Network and will continue to work closely with the Zebra Coalition in the future.

I’m very proud of my work at my school, which I have seen bring people together, show young queer kids that they have allies in their schools, and spread awareness of acceptance within the school system. Though I’m graduating this year, I’ve worked with my club to plan future activities, including a co-created Open Prom, a dance dedicated to LGBT+ students in the community to have a safe prom experience, with a GSA at our sister high school, as well as a book drive over the summer and into the next academic year to find diverse books for elementary schools, middle schools, and the city’s public library.

I’m so happy I’ve gotten the chance to do impactful work in my community. Creating public events for allies to learn about the LGBT community are very important, and I would like to continue those events in the future. I have also seen my work effect those who struggle as an LGBT+ individual, whether from bullying, hate messages, or acceptance at home. Working with an organization like the Zebra Coalition allows me to reach out to other areas and LGBT+ kids who need support.

Spirit of Dru Scholarship Winner: James van Kuilenburg

Throughout the month of July, we will be sharing the inspiring essays from our Spirit of Dru Scholarship recipients. Please enjoy James van Kuilenburg's - he will be attending Dickenson College this fall.


James van Kuilenburg


My leadership and service have brought a new visibility to young LGBTQ+ people in my town and school.

I've been involved in my community since I came out as transgender at 12 years old. I was fortunate to come out to an accepting family, but school was the opposite. I wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom or even participate in gym class. I was bullied by students and teachers and eventually had to leave. After the horrible experience of losing my friends and struggling in school, I have been a community organizer and activist.

At school, I am the founder and president of my GSA, which has over 100 members. In the past, I have led projects for the club like creating affirming posters for the hallway, and organized dozens of events, like picnics and vigils, with hundreds of participants. My club is now the most popular club in the school, and the fastest growing in the county. I’ve helped students at three other high schools and four middle schools start similar clubs.

On a national level, I was part of a panel of trans students who spoke to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in 2015 and helped the creation of the trans-inclusive Title IX guidance released in 2016. In 2016, I spoke at the Bullying Prevention Summit at the White House and the Department of Education.

As an individual, I have written and hosted three professional development training for teachers, “Gender and Sexuality 101”, and “How To Be An Ally”. This has helped both teachers and students to create safe environments to learn. I also speak to the public about my personal story as a young trans person and have held my local community accountable to its promise of including all.

I'm the founder of a grassroots advocacy group called Support Frederick County Public School Trans Students, made up of trans students, family, teachers, and community members. I was the lead organizer of the first trans rights rally in my county of Frederick County, Maryland, and led a campaign to create a school policy welcoming and affirming trans students. I led email writing efforts, rallies, and hours of public comment. The policy, now called Policy 443, was passed in June of 2017, almost unanimously, thanks to the work of trans students and their allies.

Following this success, I organized a social media campaign titled #IAmFrederick. I encouraged people to take pictures of themselves and write a reason they support trans youth using the hashtag. The campaign was part of an effort to normalize trans people in my town. Our participants have ranged from friends, community members, state and local politicians, and representatives from national organizations.

My achievements have had local and national impacts. Overall, I have helped make my school system a safer place for everybody; where everyone is encouraged to be themselves and able to pursue their education without any boundaries. My goal is to stop what happened to me from happening to anyone else.

Spirit of Dru Scholarship Winner: Kristin Moorehead

Throughout the month of July, we will be sharing the inspiring essays from our Spirit of Dru Scholarship recipients. Please enjoy Kristin Moorehead's - she will be attending the University of Florida this fall.


Kristin Moorehead

I never knew Drew. He was the founder of my school’s GSA, and his legacy impacted me in ways I don’t think he could have ever imagined, but I never knew him. And for that, I am truly sorry.

When the Pulse nightclub massacre happened, I didn’t hear about it until a few days after. My grandparents had taken me on a graduation trip to London, so I didn’t have Internet access. I remember sitting in a boat on the Thames, wondering why I saw a rainbow flag at half-mast. I was oblivious.

But I found out. And I found out that one of the 49 was none other than Drew, the man who had given me something I could now never thank him for: a place where there were some people who were just like me, and some who weren’t. It was a place where I could figure out who I was.

This place gave me a second family, and now, as president of the organization, I can give that to others. I wanted to be president to give back to the place that gave me so much. If I can make a difference in even one person’s life, if I can give them information or encouragement, or simply an ear to listen, then I will know I have succeeded. I joined GSA to find out who I was; I stayed because I felt a genuine connection to the people, and to the ideals that Drew set in place.

Through the GSA, I have met so many amazing people with so many amazing stories. Some of them are funny, others not so much. But we all share that connection to each other, and to our community. I have learned so much about the LBGTQ+ culture through GSA, and now I can pass that information on to future members. Knowing that I am participating in a legacy that has withstood so much hardship is a humbling experience, and I cherish it every time I walk through the door.

Because of Drew, I have been able to accomplish so many things that I never would have thought were possible. I helped fundraise over a thousand dollars to build a memorial dedicated to Drew and his gift to my school. I have helped lead numerous leadership conferences and cultural awareness meetings in Pinellas County. I have become more confident in who I am, and I hope that I inspire others to find that confidence in themselves.