Some of the donors to the Bill 7 Award pose at the awards gala for the 2019 Bill 7 Award winners.

Gentle piano music welcomed the 16 winners of the 2019 Bill 7 Award to the 519 Community Centre in downtown Toronto, where they each took the stage to accept their $3,000 scholarships.

For over three decades, the Bill 7 Award has helped sponsor the educations of first-time Ontario college and university students in financial need who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. In 1987, their first year, the Bill 7 Award disbursed a single award worth $500. Over thirty years later, the Bill 7 Award has had their biggest year yet, honouring 16 students with scholarships of $3,000 each — including a new award, renewable each year of the winner's degree!

Here are a few highlights from the night.

Adryan was the big winner of the new, renewable award, and spoke of his appreciation for the open, diverse community we enjoy here in Canada. Mason shared a funny coming-out story, while Olivia McGrath was just happy to have her long flight over with. Raef touched on the learning challenges he overcame to win, and Victoria, busy setting up a conference to combat institutional racism, spoke via video.

Charles threw out his notes when he reached the podium and extemporized, and Olivia van Alebeek proved the power of blind auditions. Aqueel told the story of Alan Turing, and Jesse put "all jokes aside" before opening with a joke! Vanessa, another video caller, said that receiving the award made her finally "feel seen" in her community.

Logan closed his speech with a haiku for the room, while Ava spoke of her ambition to become a human rights lawyer and give back. Madalena told the audience how much she learned at school, both academically and socially. EJ, who'd never used a mic before, proved health class was valuable: now they can put a condom on a banana! Evan, who took a break from school, returned with a newfound passion, and Mehregan, our final winner, had at long last secured an apartment in Toronto's famed Church and Wellesley Village, home to many of the city's LGBTQ+ community.

The event, which also featured speeches from corporate sponsors, was beautiful, with chandeliers reflecting bright, colourful light, and a warm, upbeat mood among all the participants. We wish the best to the winners of the 2019 Bill 7 Award scholarships, and we can't wait for next year!

The 2020 Bill 7 Award opens in early April, 2020. Check back soon to learn more!