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Joshua Lee is a news and science reporter. He has been one of the leading cannabis reporters in New Mexico for the last five years, and his work has appeared in Weekly Alibi, Right Where You Are Sitting Now and the Disinformation Company.

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The Central New Mexico Community College Foundation recently announced the Dakota Powell Rainbow Scholarship Endowment to assist LGBTQ students attempting to complete college. The scholarship fund of $20,000 was gifted by local philanthropists Marc Powell and Pamela Weese Powell. The endowment is named in honor of Marc’s late son Dakota Powell, who created a glass-blowing school for at-risk, disadvantaged youth in Albuquerque’s International District.

Scholarships can be awarded for any number of reasons. Some are based around academic performance, but many are designed to help members of specific communities or those who come from a specific background. The idea behind these gifts is to help elevate those who may have had less opportunities available.

This is reportedly the first LGBTQ scholarship to be offered at CNM. Many students in the community are now finding themselves in dire straits because of the pandemic and are looking for ways to make college more affordable while avoiding heavy student loans that will need to be paid in the future. This scholarship could be the answer to their problems.

The scholarship will be awarded annually based on the academic year to students to help pay for tuition, books and educational equipment. Students looking to apply must self-identify as members of the LGBTQ community. They must maintain a 2.5 grade average while taking a minimum of six hours at the college. The students must also submit a letter of recommendation from a faculty member or an achievement coach, along with a personal statement on their goals and how the scholarship will help them achieve those goals. The scholarship can be awarded to the same student in successive terms, if they still meet the guidelines and are progressing toward a degree. The scholarship will reportedly allot around $800 a year from the fund, which will be matched by the donors.

The donors who made the fund possible are also the founders of the Dakota Tree Project, a local effort to bring conservation awareness and more trees to Albuquerque. The project plants native, drought-tolerant trees and maintains community gardens in the International District while providing conservation training to Albuquerque residents. Its mission is to plant as many trees as possible in areas of the city that have suffered from under-investment and neglect. The tree project is also named after the donor’s late son Dakota.

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