The Team D.C. College Scholarship program has begun to feel the effects of the changes in sports culture as they relate to LGBT athletes.
As the younger generation is aging into their high school years, the fear of competing as an openly gay athlete is beginning to subside. There are certainly still challenges, but in their eighth year of awarding scholarships to openly gay local student-athletes, Team D.C. granted a record nine awards this year.
Scholarship chair Bud Rorison also points to the groundwork laid over the years by the scholarship committee for the increase in this year’s recipients.
“People finally know about the scholarship and are finding it on websites and in scholarship searches,” Rorison says. “We have had great pipeline high schools over the years such as Montgomery Blair and Wilson, but this year we had a nice presence from the Virginia high schools.”
He is quick to point out that one of the reasons Team D.C. gave out so many awards this year is because the nine recipients all had strong reasons to warrant the scholarship.
“It was tough this time as all the kids were amazing,” Rorison says. “They touched on all the relevant factors such as grades, sports, financial needs and compelling backgrounds.”
In another first for the scholarship program, Team D.C. arranged a picnic at Meridian Hill Park where all the recipients met for the first time.
“It was definitely a bonding experience for them,” Rorison says. “We fully expect them to become the role models for the next wave of kids.”
John Ramsey was born in Missouri and grew up in Silver Spring, Md. During his first two years at Montgomery Blair High School, he played basketball and baseball, but chose to concentrate on baseball for his final two years where he played first base.
He came out to his teammates in the fall of his junior year. He would go on to be named captain of the baseball team in his senior year.
“It was much more enjoyable and comfortable for me after I came out. I felt freed,” Ramsey says. “When it came to talk of girls and me giving false output, the two years before it were awkward.”
Ramsay just wrapped up fall ball at Oberlin College where he finds himself at the bottom of the pile looking to build his way up to being a starter for the baseball team. Their season will begin again in the spring.
“My freshman year is going to be a developmental year,” Ramsay says. “I am going to focus on academics first and the baseball stuff will be secondary. I will still be the best I can be athletically.”
Lisa Chen began her sports career at West Springfield High School in cross country and basketball. She grew up in Bowie, Md., and moved with her family to Springfield, Va., before high school.
She was out to her teammates but struggled with the process at home.
“It was kind of a don’t ask, don’t tell situation and it almost felt like the wrong time for me to be out,” Chen says. “I wasn’t ready for the conversations with my mother.”
Finding support for gay athletes from Team D.C. was “just awesome,” Chen says.
Chen has a signature look of wearing bowties and she has taken that look with her to the University of Virginia. Now in her first semester, she has already joined the fencing club and says that her independence is going to be important during her college years.
“UVA is known for being preppy and I am going to embrace that with all my bowties. I am not going to worry about getting my hair cut too short or hiding my bowties,” Chen says. “I am here to learn and I am looking forward to it.”
The scholarship winners will be honored along with members of the LGBT sports community at Team D.C.’s A Night of Champions at the Washington Hilton Hotel on Saturday, Nov. 7.
Team DC Scholarship recipients:
Graduated from: T.C. Williams High School
Attending: Smith College
Graduated from: West Springfield High School
Attending: University of Virginia
Sports: cross country, basketball
Graduated from: West Potomac High School
Attending: Virginia Commonwealth University
Graduated from: Mt. Vernon High School
Attending: George Mason University
Graduated from: Montgomery Blair High School
Attending: Oberlin College
Graduated from: Lee High School
Attending: Potomac State College of West Virginia University
Sports: JV soccer, rec soccer, marching band
Graduated from: Poolsville High School in 2013
Attending: St. Lawrence University
Graduated from: Luke Moore Alternative High School
Attending: University of District of Columbia
Graduated from: Washington-Lee High School
Attending: Loyola University (New Orleans)
Sports: JV soccer, golf, varsity soccer manager, gymnastics team manager