ABC7 Top Scholar: Casey Leonard

June 28, 2013 7:00:08 PM PDT
Every year, ABC7 chooses seven Bay Area high school seniors as our Top Scholars. Each one gets a $1,000 scholarship. The honor is based on exceptional achievements in academics and extracurricular activities.

Top Scholar Casey Leonard attends Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek. This fall, he is going to UCLA to study political science and Spanish.

Casey is an outstanding student. He excels in speech and debate, mock trial, and a long list of sports, but the activity closest to his heart is Boy Scouts. He says, "Boy Scouts has played a role in shaping the moral compass that guides me." Casey is an Eagle Scout who spearheaded the extensive restoration of an outdoor theater and campsite on Mount Diablo.

Scouting has given Casey a lot, but it's also sent him a mixed message because he's gay. Casey's own troop allowed him to be a member but officially, the scouts banned gay boys until just a few weeks ago. They still ban gay adults and now that Casey is 18, that includes him.

Casey says, "It's painful and it's also puzzling. It almost seems as if they treat homosexuality like it's some sort of teenage phase, which hurts."

Casey found comfort at his school's Gay Straight Alliance. He was president this past year, spreading a message of tolerance. He says being a gay teenager is tough, adding that "Statistics don't lie. I mean, you can see that gay teens are more likely to commit suicide. They are more likely to get into fights. They're more likely to bring weapons into school. The list is endless. My own personal experience, it's been tough."

As Casey struggled himself, his teachers say again and again, he helped others as a role model and devoted friend. English teacher Lori Gieleghem says Casey "lifts others as he climbs. If Casey is rising, other people are rising with him because he's pulling them along."

Even though Casey is disappointed with some Boy Scout policies, he wants people to focus on the good things. "I feel like being a gay scout has overshadowed all of the other things that scouting has given to me, you know, like all of the leadership lessons, the awesome camping trips I've gone on. Nobody ever talks about those."

Casey plans to be a teacher but for now, he just can't wait to get to UCLA. "I am very excited. It's hard for me to keep my feet on the ground," he says.

Congratulations Casey Leonard, ABC7 Top Scholar!

Join ABC7 on Sunday, June 30, at 3 p.m. for a special on all seven of this year's Top Scholars.


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