Niagara Pride Announces 2024 Jean Hopkins Memorial Scholarship Winners


This month, Niagara Pride, Inc. awarded the Jean Hopkins Memorial Scholarship to Cayla Mendetta, of Lockport High School, and Olivia Bugbee, of Starpoint High School.

This year had several strong and deserving applicants, however, the Board of Directors of Niagara Pride were incredibly impressed by Olivia and Cayla’s accomplishments, character, and commitment to the LGBTQ+ community.

Bugbee demonstrated a great deal of character, having overcome a number of physical injuries, which she described as a process that required mental fortitude to work through the physical aspects of injury while also not giving up.  Bugbee also volunteered her time with developmentally disabled youth, saying it was an incredibly rewarding experience.

When asked to define what success meant to her, Bugbee wrote, “Love is also a measure of success. No matter how much money or status you have, nothing will amount to how love can make you feel. Knowing that if you lost all possessions, you could still be rich with happiness if you had someone you loved. I have learned that loving the right person, loving what you do, and loving who you are is the greatest measure of success.”

Mendetta, has also shown a strong commitment to helping others and giving of her time; “Volunteering is truly nothing new to me. Growing up I have volunteered for Rapids Fire Hall and the SPCA. But the organization that I have volunteered with the most and the longest has been Diamonds In The Ruff (DITR) Animal Rescue. I started fostering for DITR in 2016, where we have taken in countless disabled animals.”

With a love for animals and nature, Mendetta plans to be an animal educator, where she hopes to be able to bring animals that cannot be released back into the wild due to illness or injury to the public and create situations where individuals will be able to interact and learn about those creatures, inspiring folks to be stewards of the environments and wildlife.

The Jean Hopkins Memorial Scholarship was established in memory of Jean Hopkins, a life-long resident of Niagara Falls, NY and fierce advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. Jean devoted her life to helping other people, from helping her friends and relatives with projects around their houses, to being active in church and community activities, to working with several LGBTQ+ organizations. She served on the Board of Trustees at First Congregational United Church of Christ, as a Deacon at Riverside Presbyterian Church, and as President of the Eagles Club. Jean became involved with the Heart, Love and Soul soup kitchen and food pantry which was the organization she was most honored to serve.  Jean was instrumental in the formation and ultimate creation of two WNY LGBTQ+ organizations, Rainbow Seniors Visible and Proud and Niagara Pride, Inc., where Jean served on the Board of Directors until her passing.  Jean was particularly proud of Niagara Pride’s work to assist LGBTQ+ youth and with its work with Niagara County churches and agencies. Jean Hopkins made Western New York and particularly Niagara County, a more inclusive community, and a better place for all people to live, be respected, and accepted for their authentic selves.

The Jean Hopkins Memorial Scholarship was established in 2021 and consists of an annual $500 award to help aid in the costs of pursuing educational opportunities beyond high school. This scholarship is aimed primarily at benefiting those WNY LGBTQ+ young adults, and allies, who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing social justice, reducing inequities, and increasing the overall health of their community. Niagara Pride will be accepting applications for the 2025 award starting in Spring 2024.

Niagara Pride is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization serving LGBTQ+ individuals and families in Niagara County and WNY.  For more information about Niagara Pride and their services/events, check out their website at, email them at, or check them out on Facebook, Niagara Pride (serving all of WNY).

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