CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In an effort to expand its involvement in the local LGBTQ community, Charlotte Pride has announced that it is launching a scholarship program to aid LGBTQ youth and allies in their journey to attain higher education. The scholarships will award each selected student up to $2,000 over four years and the number of accepted applicants depends upon the volume and qualifications of applicants.

The organization said in a recent release that its scholarship program is intended as part of a growing effort to address the needs of Charlotte’s diverse LGBTQ community year-round. Though best known for its annual Pride weekend and parade in Uptown Charlotte, Charlotte Pride has been working to expand its programs for continuous involvement and contribution to the local LGBTQ community.

“Since 2001, Charlotte Pride has successfully built visibility for the LGBTQ community,” said Charlotte Pride Board President Craig Hopkins. “Over the past three years, we have also striven to create new opportunities to enrich, empower and strengthen our community. We’re excited to begin this new effort to support lower-income LGBTQ and straight ally young people.”

The scholarship program “marks a continued focus by the organization on intersectional and collaborative programming benefiting a wide range of Charlotte’s LGBTQ community,” according to the news release.

In order to ensure that the money reaches youth most in need of aid, one of the qualifications for scholarship applicants is “a significant unmet financial need.” Other requirements for the scholarship are that the student “has demonstrated service to the LGBTQ community or a desire to serve the LGBT community,” and is from Mecklenburg County or one of the surrounding counties.

Academic stipulations include a 2.8 GPA on a a 4.0 scale and having completed the SAT or ACT. However, the scholarship site emphasizes that “while we consider your GPA and test scores, we place greater emphasis on your passion for education and demonstrated service to the LGBT community or a desire to serve the LGBT community.”

A Charlotte Pride board member leading the scholarship project, Kacey Grantham, says that the scholarship is one effort to contribute to a city-wide problem with economic mobility.

“Charlotte struggles with economic mobility, ranking 50th out of 50 cities,” said Grantham. “At the same time, LGBTQ youth often face steeper economic and educational challenges. Access to higher education is a key pathway toward increasing economic opportunities for young people. We are proud this effort will be among our first steps in joining the current groundswell working toward increasing the well-being and economic opportunity of this city.”

The struggles of LGBTQ youth are well-documented. The Human Rights Campaign reports that 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, and the Charlotte Pride scholarship aims to help those who may lack the opportunities or resources to achieve their academic goals.