Honorees include: Transgender Activist from Arkansas Fighting Anti-Trans Legislation;
Queer, Non-Binary Health Advocate & Black Lives Matter Activist;
and Youth Founder of The Empathy Alliance Who is Creating Safer Schools for LGBTQ+ Youth

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Colin Higgins Foundation is proud to announce its 21st Annual Youth Courage Awards will be given to three outstanding LGBTQ+ youth activists including: Willow Breshears (18), Jaz (18) and Sameer Jha (19). The award recognizes extraordinary leadership and advocacy on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) youth and includes a $15,000 cash award. This year, the nonprofit organizations that nominated the top three Youth Courage Award recipients also received a $5,000 award, including: The Center for Artistic Revolution, Community Healthcare Network-Teens PACT and the Tyler Clementi Foundation.

VIDEO: Watch the emotional reactions when the honorees are told they have won $15,000. Watch here:
The 2021 Youth Courage Awardees:
Willow Breshears is 18 years old and from Maumelle, AR
Identifies as: White, Bisexual, Transwoman; Pronouns: She/Her/Hers
Nominated by: Cynthia Martinez at The Center for Artistic Revolution

Earlier this year, transgender youth activist Willow Breshears bravely testified before lawmakers as part of an effort to try to stop the passage of a proposed Arkansas law that would ban doctors from providing gender-affirming care such as puberty blockers and hormone therapy to youths under 18. Although the Arkansas governor vetoed the law, the Republican legislation overrode the veto and it is now state law.

Jaz is 18 years old and from Brooklyn, NY
Identifies as: Caribbean/Black; Queer, Lesbian; Gender-fluid, Femme, Non-binary; Pronouns: They/Them
Nominated by: Oskar Sinclair & Currie Blackwell at Community Healthcare Network-Teens PACT

As a queer, nonbinary, sexual health educator, Jaz merges creativity and intersectionality with advocacy. They helped their local nonprofit healthcare provider revamp their curriculum in order to ensure it addresses the disparity in queer representation in sex ed. Plus, Jaz was active in supporting Black Lives Matter protests by using their artistic skills to garner funds for four Black Trans collectives.

Sameer Hussain Jha is 19 years old and from Fremont, CA
Identifies as: South-Asian American; Queer; Nonbinary; Pronouns: Any pronouns
Nominated by: Jane Clementi of the Tyler Clementi Foundation

After being bullied throughout elementary and middle school, at age 14, Sameer founded his school’s first-ever GSA club. His efforts evolved into what is today called The Empathy Alliance to make schools safer for LGBTQ+ youth by educating the educators. Their efforts soon expanded to include the entire school district serving over 42 schools & 35,000 students.

“As we’re feeling more optimistic with a new administration in the White House, we’re also seeing a backlash in the form of an unprecedented anti-transgender legislation and the rise in racist, homophobic and transphobic hate crimes,” said James Rogers, board president of the Colin Higgins Foundation. “This year, we wanted to acknowledge LGBTQ+ youth that are on the front lines of creating change in their local communities and across the country. In addition, we wanted to honor the nonprofit organizations were have been helping to support our youth activists.”

Hollywood filmmaker, Colin Higgins established the Foundation in 1986 to support his humanitarian vision, with special focus on the LGBTQ community. Since his death in 1988, the Colin Higgins Foundation has awarded more than 600 grants totaling more than $5 million and since 2000 has honored more than 68 Courage Award recipients.

About Colin Higgins Foundation / Youth Courage Awards
Colin Higgins is best known as the screenwriter of the classic films Harold and Maude and as the co-writer and director of 9 to 5 and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The Youth Courage Awards were established in 2000 to further the spirit and lifework of Colin Higgins. All his films celebrate courage and integrity in the face of adversity: Harold and Maude find love despite the objections of family and society, the brave heroes of 9-5 find fulfillment and save the company by learning to appreciate their individual talents and differences, and the shunned madam of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas transforms the lives of many through her kindness and generosity.


Media Contact:
Calvin Fleming
(323) 484-6707