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Attorney wins 2023 January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Award

The annual awards for LGBTQ+ leadership are named in honour of a New West resident who was killed in 2012.
Clockwise from top left: James Clare, Sharon Sehrai, Rod Charlie Delos Reyes, Sharon M. Matthew, Yasmine Madan and Weam Charaf Eddine are the winners of this year's January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Awards.

A former UBC student has taken this year’s top prize in Sher Vancouver’s eighth annual January Marie Lapuz Youth Leadership Awards.

The awards are presented annually to young leaders who have demonstrated involvement, commitment and leadership in the LGBTQ+ community.

They’re named for New Westminster’s January Lapuz, who died after being brutally attacked in her New Westminster home in September of 2012.

Lapuz’s life inspired the award-winning documentary My Name Was January. Her legacy also led to the founding of the annual youth leadership award by Sher Vancouver, an organization for queer South Asians and their allies and friends; Lapuz had served as the group’s social coordinator and was the first trans person to serve on its executive.

This year’s top winner of the award is also transgender: Sophia M. Matthew, an attorney in New York City who formerly studied at the University of British Columbia.

“Sophia’s contribution to the LGBTQ+ community is really remarkable,” said Sher Vancouver founder Alex Sangha in a press release. “It was a very difficult and tough decision for the seven-member jury because there were so many amazing youths doing incredible work.  I am sure January Marie Lapuz, who the award is named after, will be very happy that another transgender person was the overall winner, since January herself was also a proud trans person.”

Matthew’s work as an attorney includes championing LGBTQ+ cases pro bono, including fighting Arkansas’ transgender health-care ban.

Ontario activist, Surrey kindergarten teacher among runners-up

First runner-up for the award was Weam Charaf Eddine of North York, Ont., a queer activist who works with companies and organizations across Canada to promote diversity equity and inclusion initiatives.

Second runner-up was Sharon Sehrai, of Delta, a kindergarten teacher in Surrey who works with Sher Vancouver.

Honourable mentions went to Yasmine Madan of Oakville, Ont.; Rod Charlie Delos Reyes of the Philippines; and James Clare of Agassiz.

Emerging Youth Leader Awards were presented to James Svoboda of Toronto; Viplav of Vancouver; Lucas Laird of Aldergrove; and Ethan Joshua Persyko of Thornhill, Ont.

The awards come with cash prizes, with $1,000 for the top winner, $600 for the first runner-up, $400 for the second runner-up, and $200 apiece for the honourable mentions and emerging leaders.

Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
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