Cornerstone is "On Point" for LGBT Texas Youth
Underwritten by Merrill Lynch and sponsored by Host Committee members, the Point Foundation held its inaugural Cornerstone Event in Dallas on Wednesday, Mar. 6, in a private gathering at the stylish art-filled home of Charles Marlett. Point Foundation’s Executive Director and CEO Jorge Valencia welcomed donors, alumni and current scholars as he shared his passion to "impart the rich background and history of the LGBTQ community" in Texas through his leadership in the nation’s largest scholarship-granting organization for LGBTQ students of merit.
"Having grown up in Texas, it’s wonderful to come back and find a strong and growing base of supporters for Point in the state, notably in Dallas, who are committed to helping LGBTQ young people" pursue their higher education degrees and "become engaged leaders in society," said Valencia.
He recognized Texas as a vastly "important state" where gays and their straight allies continue to "impact and empower young people through education." In recognition of the ongoing need to empower LGBTQ supporters and allies, Valencia said, "Point is proud to have a growing number of current scholars and alumni who have Texas roots and connections."
Point Scholarships Create New Generation of Gay Leaders
Far more than a scholarship granting entity, Point provides a network of reliable mentoring and support designed to engender sustainable leadership through education, community service and LGBTQ advocacy. Selection as a Point Scholar "comes with the responsibility of using this opportunity to help strengthen the LGBTQ community," stated Valencia, stressing leadership as a significant trait that recipients and alumni must be interested in culling.
"I feel called because of the immense impact Point has had on my life," said successful Point alum, Foundation Trustee and Texas native Ryan A. Miller. As Associate Director for Campus Diversity and Strategic Initiatives at The University of Texas at Austin, Miller embodies the recognizable leader Point seeks to fashion in the lifelong pursuit of LGBTQ equality. Miller credits his experience as a Point Scholar for guiding his career in higher education at the policy level.
"Navigating higher education as a student or administrator seeking to create change can be difficult, so I could never have enough wisdom and guidance from my peers and role models at Point," he said.
The founding co-chair of the LGBT Network of the Ex-Students’ Association of UT (Texas Exes), Miller acknowledges Point for connecting him "to a national community of scholars, leaders, role models and activists who gave me support and visibility for my work and the opportunity to regularly tap into the wealth of knowledge and encouragement from everyone involved." This "interconnected community is poised to work toward social justice and equity, now and in the future."
"Point changes lives," Miller stated. "I can certainly say it changed mine for the better."
Not Just Money, But Emotional Support for Future Leaders
In addition to financial assistance, the Point Foundation provides systematic and thorough emotional support to the leaders of tomorrow’s LGBTQ community by honoring the totality of their situations. In consideration not only of financial need but also of the emotional impact that a lack of support has on LGBTQ youth, Point strives to preserve and honor their life stories while nurturing their academic and professional journeys.
"None of what I’m doing right now would be possible without the Point Foundation," said Current Point Scholar Brennan Peters, who is poised to achieve her BA from Loyola University this May. Peters refers to Point as "a second family of brilliant scholars" who give her "advocacy and action" a purpose. The "immersion, guidance and intergenerational support" of the Point mentoring program provide scholars with "tested pathways to success and people we can emulate."
"I don’t know of any other scholarship organization that engages and supports recipients to the extent that Point does."
Mission Focuses on National Advocacy
Through the impact of strengthening local activism to improve the lives of LGBTQ youth and their communities, Point broadens the reach of national advocacy. In this way the Point Foundation’s mission is nothing less than a national paradigm shift. One in which "those who are often the most vulnerable members of our communities have a safe, inclusive place at the table in higher education," stated Miller.
"Far too many sectors of higher education remain behind the curve, lacking basic non-discrimination protections, partner benefits, adequate campus resources, inclusive curricula, and diverse programming, among other pressing needs," said Miller. "Even the most progressive colleges and universities run the risk of placing LGBTQ people and topics on the margins."
To fight this marginalization, Point seeks to "create pathways to success" for the "multiply marginalized such as queer students with disabilities, LGBT students of color, and poor, working class and first-generation LGBT college students," stated Miller. For those who cannot solely advocate for themselves, Point sustains their quest for an equitable present while renewing their ambition for a just future.
While the reality of the educational climate in Texas for LGBTQ students varies, inequity from peers, teachers and administrators thrives on the back of institutionalized discrimination. For this reason, Point is a necessity, since rarely do kids openly advocate for themselves as LGBTQ youth. Fear is often a pervasive part of their schooling and home lives, a tangible presence managed with silence or acquiescence. Therefore courage is an everyday necessity while support is an ongoing need.
For example Peters, who was estranged from her family at the time of her application to Point, was a child of enlisted military in a family plagued by "financial hardship and mental illness."
"A four-year degree seemed financially impossible" for this bisexual single mother and activist, said Peters. "I didn’t come from a family that had the means of supporting me." Thankfully, Point gave her the means to expand her knowledge and engage her activism.
"Point stays true to its mission to provide financial assistance, leadership training, mentoring and hope to LGBTQ students in need through the nation," Miller told EDGE. Last year alone, Point inducted 29 new recipients into the ranks of LGBTQ leadership and advocacy. The Foundation has invested more than $14 million in the support of over 220 scholars since its inception in 2001, including 76 current scholars, 12 with Texas connections.
A vibrant national organization, Point has Cornerstone Events planned nationwide in cities such as Seattle on Mar. 13, New York on Apr. 15, and Washington, D.C., on May 9. To fund its scholarships and related programs, the foundation relies on donations and fundraising events.
To make a donation or apply for Point’s highly selective mentorship program, visit their website www.pointfoundation.org or http://www.youtube.com/user/UTubePointFoundation.