Two Texas Students Receive Point Foundation Scholarships
The Point Foundation has chosen two Texans as members of their 2011 Scholar Class.
Nicolas Martinez from Corpus Christi and Timothy Pyles from Houston were both granted the award, an honor given to only 34 out of about 1,700 applicants.
"I am excited to now be a part of the Point Foundation family because their goals parallel my own desires to help empower LGBT people to become self-fulfilled individuals and leaders," said Martinez.
Based in Los Angeles, Point provides financial support, leadership training and mentoring to LGBT students all over the country and even overseas. This year’s scholarship recipients hail from states including California, Louisiana, North Carolina and Florida. Point also awarded scholarships this year to a student from Malaysia and another from Morocco.
Point has helped more than 160 undergraduates, graduates and postgraduates with more than $5.3 million in direct financial support. The foundation’s stated purpose is to guide and protect future LGBT leaders from the too-often occurrence of anti-gay bullying in schools. "I think the goal for any nonprofit-related cause is that one day we only hope for our nonexistence," said executive director Jorge Valencia. "The truth is that the reason our scholarships are so important is because the statistics are still pretty scary."
Valencia explains nearly a third of LGBT students drop out of high school because of anti-gay violence, and this particular drop out rate is three times the national average of straight students. And as a result of this bullying, students will shy away from college for fear of additional harassment or violence. "That’s why supporting and encouraging all young people, especially LGBT youth to get higher education, is really important," said Valencia.
Texas lawmakers have taken steps to strengthen the state’s existing anti-bullying legislation.
State Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) in March introduced Asher’s Law, which is named in honor of Asher Brown, 13, who took his own life in 2010 after he suffered persistent bullying. Asher’s Law would mandate annual incident reports and the implementation of comprehensive suicide prevention programs in junior, middle and high schools. Legislators approved the measure last month, and it is currently awaiting Gov. Rick Perry’s signature.
What also sets Point’s scholarship apart from others like it is its mentorship program, which assigns a volunteer mentor to each awarded scholar who sees them through their time in college. The mentors - who are exemplary professionals in their own respective industries - keep in touch with their students, and give them invaluable advice and service as the individuals navigate career and educational waters.
"Let’s face it. When I was in school, mentorship wasn’t really talked about. You went to your school advisor, made an appointment... and it was very impersonal in that way," said Valencia. "We make sure they have that support; which we find is incredible for them, not only for the time when they are Point scholars, but when they form friendships - lifelong friendships - that help them throughout their lives with networking and career opportunities."
Martinez, who grew up in Corpus Christi, also recognizes the value of the mentorship program.
"As someone who aims to pursue a career in LGBT policy, I am extremely grateful that the Point Foundation will not only help me finance my education..., but that they will also provide me with an opportunity to learn from a mentor who has already forged a similar path," he said. Martinez added he plans to use the resources given to him to begin a career that will allow him to combat anti-LGBT discrimination and advocate for LGBT people of color in particular.
Valencia said Martinez and other 2011 Point scholars give him hope for the future.
"The more people know that we exist, the more we’re going to be able to change society," said Valencia. "Our scholars are in every field imaginable. They’re attending law schools, medical schools, studying art, philosophy, you name it... We believe in continuing to provide support to them because they’re the ones who are out there."