|(photo by Alex Hughes, IDS)|
After three years at IU, she was going to drop out.
In May 2012, the end of her junior year, her parents said they weren't paying for school anymore.
They found out she had a girlfriend.
The 21-year-old spent the summer figuring out how to support herself.
"I met with a counselor who told me to drop out of school based on my financial situation," she said. "I went to class those first few weeks without knowing if I was going to be able to pay for them."
Come August, unpaid bills began piling up. Her dream of getting into law school and becoming a child advocate would be just that - a dream.
For the student who came out, the role of scholarship money was more than a financial boost. It was hope.
To students paying their way through school, a scholarship can mean the difference between graduating and dropping out.
The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Alumni Association's Emergency Scholarship is given to students who lose financial support when they reveal their sexual orientation to their families. Major fundraising is in the process to strengthen the program for future recipients.
Within the past two years, the scholarship awarded more than $6,000 to IU students, said Rachael McAfee, director of IU alumni programs.
"Our goal is to never turn anyone away from this award that needs it," McAfee said.
The student ran into difficulties at the start of her search.
She found options in a visit to the GLBT Student Support Services office.
Many students in her situation turn to federal aid. She said counselors at the office helped her organize legal papers to file a dependency appeal form.
Questions on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid determine whether a student is classified as self-supporting and thus entitled to financial aid from the government, according to the Office of Financial Assistance's website.
But her appeal never came through.
The site says a parent's unwillingness to pay tuition costs is not considered sufficient grounds alone to constitute a viable appeal.
"They told me that the situation with my parents was just an argument," she said. "That we were going to get over it."
The costs of tuition, room and board were impossible to handle alone, she said.
She found support in the GLBT SSS office, ultimately leading to the financial aid she desperately needed.
"It's hard when your life falls apart like that," she said. "You don't want to reach out. I just wanted to be done with it."
She said without her girlfriend's support she never would have found the money to stay in school.
The scholarship paid for a portion of her tuition and books for the fall semester. She said this year the funds covered law school applications.
To graduate on time, she juggles classes and a full-time job to pay for expenses that used to be covered by her parents.
"If this scholarship didn't exist I would not be in school right now," the student said. "They saved me."
When IU alumnus Sheldon Raisor left home for school in 2008, his father had one last thing to say to him.
"As I was getting in the car, my dad proclaimed, 'With your recent declaration, I don't feel that you are worth the resources.'"
This wasn't the first time his parents disowned a son for being gay. They did the same thing to his older brother.
"I felt that my parents maybe would have changed and moved on from the need of disowning their second son," he said.
This was something he talked about in his essay when he applied for the emergency scholarship.
On the GLBTAA's website, the Emergency Scholarship guidelines state that any full-time or part-time undergraduate student is eligible to apply. Potential recipients must then contact the GLBT SSS to personally discuss their financial situation with Doug Bauder, the office's coordinator.
IU's financial aid has dried up, making it harder for students claiming independent status to find monetary resources, he said.
In response, the GLBTAA aims to strengthen its scholarship program.
"It helps to ensure that students need not choose between their education at IU and living life openly and honestly," the guidelines state.
Bauder said more money would be put toward non-need based academic scholarships as well as the emergency scholarships.
Recipients are awarded a maximum of $1,500 each semester, according to scholarship guidelines. An individual can receive the award twice.
Raisor received the emergency scholarship during his junior year.
He also found that support from the community put him on a pathway to financial
"The Residential Programs and Services Billing Department accommodated my situation so I wasn't evicted from lack of payment," Raisor said.
He went on to become a founding member of Out at Kelley, the school's first undergraduate GLBT organization.
"The scholarship is an emotional and financial safeguard for students when they feel like the entire world is against them," Bauder said.
Raisor said the scholarship kept him in school and led to paid internships and a job after graduation.
"Through my independence, I could work to improve my relationship with my parents," he said. "They came to my graduation."
Photographs of the student and her girlfriend, siblings and friends line her crowded fireplace mantle.
Mom and dad are missing.
The student spent the past six months reaching out to her parents through phone calls. Her attempts led to an occasional phone conversation and visits home for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The holidays were the first time she saw her parents since they cut her off at the beginning of summer.
"The real heartfelt conversations between us are left for someone else now," she said.
She said she hopes that someday they'll be able to talk to her parents like that again.
"For a while, it was really hard to admit that they weren't going to help me or be a part of my life," she said.
Her parents' attitude has improved since she achieved complete financial independence from them. She said their communication no longer revolves around her finances.
"Since I'm independent, I can call when I want, tell them what I want, and if they act a certain way to me, I don't speak to them," she said. "It's a healthier relationship."
Tacked on the wall of her living room are the words "never give up."
"The community here is really supporting," she said. "If you have questions or fears, go to the office and talk to someone."
She said she wants to be an advocate for children everywhere.
"I want to step in and be the person to help victims of domestic violence or other tragedies," she said.
It's her way of giving back to the people at IU that saved her.
"I've never been happier than now," she said. "It's experiences like this when you find out who really cares about you."