Yankees announce Stonewall Scholars Initiative

Scholarships given to 5 students to honor their commitment to equality

June 26th, 2019

NEW YORK -- On Tuesday, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Inn uprising -- considered to be the birthplace of the modern gay-rights movement -- the Yankees shined a spotlight on the LGBTQ community with the announcement of the Stonewall Scholars Initiative and the dedication of a plaque in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.

The Steinbrenner Family will provide $50,000 in college scholarships to five New York City public high school graduating seniors -- $10,000 per student from each of the city’s five boroughs -- in recognition of their academic achievement, commitment to equality and impactful support for the LGBTQ community.

“Getting to know those kids in those interviews were blow-away moments,” said general manager Brian Cashman. “Talk about the talent, the passion, what they’re going to do moving forward with the scholarship they earned -- I look forward to seeing the difference they make in life. They’re special people, and it was amazing. Even the ones that didn’t cross the finish line, the stories, the people behind the stories and the upside that they have is truly incredible. So, it’s nice that they’re here on the field at Yankee Stadium, it’s outstanding. But if you had a chance to get to know them -- wow, they are really superior individuals.”

Added assistant general manager Jean Afterman: “Time and time again, they spoke about the fear that they had, what they had to face growing up. And hopefully, the Stonewall Scholars Initiative sheds a light on young people who are going through the same thing. There will come a time when people aren’t going to be afraid to be who they are, so that’s one of the hopes of this program as well.”

In a pregame ceremony before Tuesday’s 4-3 win over the Blue Jays, the Yankees publicly honored the five recipients. Ashley Farrell of Staten Island, Hugh Goldstein of Queens and Alex Rosado of Manhattan were in attendance. The other two recipients are Francheska Colon from the Bronx and an anonymous student from Brooklyn.

According to Brian Smith -- the team’s senior vice president of corporate/community relations, who helped coordinate the initiative with the co-owners of Stonewall Inn, Stacy Lentz and Kurt Kelly -- these students and the work they do in the community will pave the way for the future of both the program and the world.

“[It’s] rewarding meeting these young people, I’m super excited today,” Smith said. “But 10 years from now, when we see what they achieve, I’m going to be over the moon. Because I’m going to say, ‘They were the first Stonewall Scholars.’ We’ve moved the needle and we’re going to continue to do that, but we’re going to do it as a team.”

Diana Rodriguez, the founder of Pride Live -- an advocacy group that supports the LGBTQ community -- made the initial introduction between the Yankees and the Stonewall Inn. One year ago, discussion began on what steps the Yanks could take to emphasize their commitment to pride.

As Lentz -- who is also the CEO of the Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative -- made clear, the Yankees went above and beyond any expectations she had.

Richard Carranza, chancellor of the NYC Department of Education, and NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson offered their support.

Monument Park, an open museum in center field where the team houses a collection of plaques and retired numbers for its most distinguished players, is rarefied air for the franchise. In the past, the Yankees have used it to honor Jackie Robinson and Nelson Mandela.

Tuesday, they added Stonewall Inn to that illustrious list, with a plaque that read in part: “This serves to honor the struggle for equality and is a reminder of the richness we gain by nurturing inclusion and diversity. Acceptance forms the bedrock of our community, and let it be known that Yankee Stadium welcomes everyone as a gathering place for all.”

“What they did really shows their commitment to our community,” Lentz said. “… And it really is a symbol of human rights and the civil-rights struggle, because the LGBTQ community is part of that and Stonewall represents that globally.”

“Stonewall is strength in numbers," Kelly added. "The more rocks we have there, the more boulders we have there, the stronger our community becomes. And now the Yankees [club] is one of those rocks to help us stand strong against everyone.”

Even fans in attendance who knew that the Yankees would be celebrating pride were caught off guard. James Serra, who was born on Long Island, and his daughter, Rae, who was raised in the South, came to the game decked out in rainbow colors to show their support of the team, and they were in awe of what they saw.

“It’s incredible that an organization this big is openly making it OK for this community to be out and proud,” Rae said. “… It’s crazy that I’m able to be sitting here talking openly about this, because a lot of the places where I’m from, you couldn’t.”

Added James: “To see how much things have changed from when I grew up to now, in support of this, makes me want to cry. It’s so awesome.”

The Yankees also invited members of the NYPD Gay Officers Action League, which addresses the needs and concerns of LGBTQ law enforcement personnel, to provide an honor guard. They welcomed Adam Bastien and Jerome Bell of musical duo OneUp from “The Voice” to sing the national anthem. And they had Jared Fox, LGBTQ community liaison at the NYC Department of Education, and Hudson Taylor, founder and executive director of Athlete Ally -- an organization that seeks to champion LGBTQ equality in sports -- bring out the lineup cards with manager Aaron Boone.

“You wear this uniform, you work for this organization, it carries a lot of weight,” Boone said. “I think it's important that, as an organization, we welcome everyone, not only to work for this franchise, but from a fan base.

"You want people from all walks of life to feel that this is a place that they can come and feel comfortable, feel safe, feel good about Yankee Stadium and the Yankees as an organization. You walk through our clubhouse and you see people from all kinds of walks of life, and I feel like we're stronger because of that. This is a night that I think honors that. As I talk with our players sometimes, [I say] love somebody that's different from you, I think that's important. The more people, the more walks of life that we can get involved with this organization, all the better.”