Local earns big scholarship
Brent Saccucci receives U of A's Lougheed award
Wednesday, Aug 06, 2014 06:00 am
A St. Albert student says he hopes to use a $10,000 scholarship to help gay and lesbian students feel welcome in local schools.
St. Albert resident and St. Albert Catholic High alumnus Brent Saccucci learned last week that he was one of the 10 recipients of the University of Alberta’s 2014 Peter Lougheed Scholarship.
The $10,000 award is named after former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed and given to students who demonstrate superior academic achievement, excellent communication skills and outstanding leadership qualities, reports the U of A’s awards website.
Saccucci, 20, said he learned that he had received the award last week through an email.
“I didn’t think I would get it,” he said, but there it was: a message saying that he had won and asking if he wanted the $10,000.
“Who would ever deny this offer?” he asked, laughing.
Saccucci is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in secondary education (Grades 7 to 12) at the U of A.
“I wanted to address a lot of the inequities in schools that I thought were there, especially around kids of colour and LGBTQ kids,” he said, referring to persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning in terms of sexual orientation.
St. Albert is a tough place to come out as gay or lesbian, Saccucci said. Growing up, he felt as if there were no LGBTQ students or role models around him with which he could share thoughts about his orientation.
“It was so difficult for me as a sexual minority to grow up and go, whoa, there’s nothing here for me to look up to,” he said.
Working with Ben Huising, a family and community support services worker with the City of St. Albert, Saccucci helped create the Men of Honour class at V.J. Maloney Junior High in 2012 to give male students a place to discuss issues such as masculinity, homophobia and racism.
Saccucci also served as a founding member of the Building Assets and Memories (BAM) youth group, which today puts on a variety of activities and public lectures to encourage volunteerism amongst youth.
Once he got into the U of A, Saccucci picked up a job as a counsellor for Camp fYrefly – an LGBTQ camp based out of Edmonton.
“I really like working with kids,” Saccucci said, and the camp experience convinced him to pursue youth work and LGBTQ issues as a career. He now works for the U of A’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, which researches issues involving sexual and gender minorities.
Saccucci said he’s honoured to stand alongside the many distinguished recipients of this award.
Saccucci said that he is currently studying the impact of the Edmonton Public School’s sexual orientation and gender identity policy (which passed in 2011) on local students, and plans to use the scholarship for graduate studies.
No matter what he does post-graduation, Saccucci says he wants it to involve on-the-ground work with real students.
“I’m not going to be in a stuffy office.”
Visit www.giving.ualberta.ca/ for details on the scholarship.