PBCHRC Announces New Scholarship Winners

Richeley Cajuste. Photo via pbchrc.org.

Florida trends almost daily for their negative news reports. In 2023, it's refreshing to see organizations like Palm Beach County Human Rights Council concentrate on bringing positive news to the forefront. PBCHRC recently announced the recipients of the 2023 Social Justice Award, the Norman L. Stern and August R. Venezio Scholarship, and the W. Rent Steele Legal Advocacy Award.

In April, PBCHRC’s Charitable Foundation announced that the 2023 Social Justice Award would be given to West Palm Beach resident Richeley Cajuste. Each year the award is granted to college-bound graduating seniors that showcased a strong interest in advocacy work concerning the LGBTQ community. Cajuste was born in Haiti, and later immigrated to the U.S. in 2016. During his time at Palm Beach Lakes Community High School, Cajuste worked with Rainbow RAMS to advocate on social justice issues. In the future he plans to attend Palm Beach State College and join the pre-med program. Once he receives his undergraduate degree, Cajuste plans to open a medical practice that will help underserved communities.

“I come from a very religious, anti-LGBTQ+ family that has not supported my work for our community,” Cajuste recently told PBCHRC’s blog. “So PBCHRC’s recognition of my work, the Social Justice Award and the college scholarship mean a lot.”

The Social Justice Awards were created in 2015 and they are administered by PBCHRC Board Member Jasmin K. Lewis, Chair of the PBCHRC Charitable Foundation's scholarship program.

"Richeley has worked as a passionate advocate for the local LGBTQ+ community," said Lewis. "The Foundation is proud to recognize his work by presenting them with the 2023 Social Justice Awards."

PBCHRC has also introduced the Norm and Auggie Venezio Scholarship. The scholarship was created in honor of the Venezio couple. They lived in Boynton Beach and spent close to sixty-seven years as a couple. Before their passing they made several unrestricted requests to PBHRC and to a number of LGBTQ advocacy programs. In tribute to their relationship and unwavering commitment to our community, the Charitable Foundation Board developed the Norman L. Stern and August R. Venezio Scholarship.

West Palm Beach resident Michael Thayer will be the first recipient of the new scholarship.  Thayer received his B.A. from the University of Maine, summa cum laude and was a proud member of the oldest academic honor society in the United States, Phi Beta Kappa Society. Along with his B.A., he holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Missouri. The recipient lives in New York City with his partner and works for an entertainment law firm and serves as volunteer counselor at the Trevor Project. In the fall, Thayer will embark on studying for his second Master’s degree at the Columbia University’s School of Social Work. The scholarship will be for $2,500 per semester. 

“While Florida’s LGBTQ+ community is being challenged on all fronts, the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council (PBCHRC) continues to be up to the challenge”, said Rand Hoch, President & Founder PBCHRC continues to concentrate on Palm Beach County and our local municipalities to expand and protect our rights. “Our work never stops.”

Thanks to the efforts of the Charitable Foundation, they established the W. Trent Steele Legal Advocacy Award, which is a tribute to the decades of pro bono work and as a member of the PBCHRC’s executive board. The scholarship will be awarded to LGBTQ and allied second and third year students with connections to Palm Beach County.

PBCHRC has been Florida’s oldest, independent, non-partisan, political organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression since 1988. They promote equality through education, advocacy, direct action, impact litigation and community outreach.

The PBCHRC Charitable Foundation is organized under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code exclusively for educational and charitable purposes.



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