By: Lauren Walleser/TRT Assistant Editor—
PROVINCETOWN, Mass.—Point Foundation—the nation’s largest scholarship granting organization for LGBTQ students—was founded in 2002 and provides scholars with mentorship, leadership development and community service training, including many students who hail from the New England area.
There are 78 current Point Scholars, including Alejandra Salinas, a second year law student at Boston College who came to national attention in 2012 at the Democratic National Convention when she came out as an “LGBT Latina” on live television.
“The support from the Point Foundation is one that can’t be quantified, because Point is so much more than just a scholarship fund,” Salinas said. “As a member of the Point Foundation, I know that I’m part of a family of hard working and accomplished LGBT individuals that continuously inspire me to do more in my community.”
Salinas described some of the challenges she has faced as a student and since coming out.
“I grew up in a predominately Latino conservative community,” she said. “While I am very grateful for the love and support from my family in my decision to come out, my experience has not been one without hate or ignorance. During one of my legal internships an attorney told me that I would lose all respect in this field if I disclosed my sexual orientation. These kinds of comments remind us as a community there is more work to be done to continue to build visibility and change minds.”
Eugene Patron, communications and marketing director for Point Foundation, explained why the scholarships are particularly important for LGBTQ students.
“According to research by GLSEN and others, LGBTQ students drop out of high school at a rate higher than their straight peers,” Patron said. “Many, even if they do complete their degree, have no plans—or delay—pursuing a secondary education. Of those that do decide to go to college, nearly half tell us that they lack any familial support to help them, often because their families are unhappy with their sexuality or gender identity.”
“According to research by GLSEN and others, LGBTQ students drop out of high school at a rate higher than their straight peers,” Patron said.
In addition to scholarship funds, Point provides mentors to serve as role models. They assist scholars with annual community service projects and to advise them on career decisions and job opportunities after graduation.
“The basis for the mentoring program comes from the experience of Point’s founder, Bruce Lindstrom,” Patron said. “As a young entrepreneur in the 1970s, Bruce realized the importance of mentoring and leadership when he worked closely with the founder of a company that would go on to merge with Costco. He attributes much of his personal success to having had a mentor and wanted to make that experience available to Point Scholars.”
Erika Turner, a Point alumna who is working at a digital marketing startup in Boston and has hopes of entering the publishing world as a
writer or editor, said she applied to Point after coming out to her family and becoming active in the queer community.
“I felt very comfortable in my own skin and had become knowledgeable and passionate about LGBTQ issues, especially as they concerned people of color and trans* identified individuals,” Turner said. “I applied, because I was ready and willing to become involved in the wider LGBTQ community and felt like I genuinely had something to contribute.”
She shared how the Point Foundation’s support has made a difference in her life.
“Because of the Point Foundation, I have graduated from Wellesley College without being saddled with debt,” Turner said. “I don’t feel stuck in a certain profession, location, or general life situation because of dire economic straits. That’s a profoundly different course than the one I grew up navigating.”
Point Scholar Taylor Clarke is a senior at Columbia University double-majoring in Political Science and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies who said she plans to bring the queer and feminist perspectives she has learned to her work after graduation.
“Most LGBTQ fundraising events have a disproportionate number of men, but it is important for female scholars to network with professional women in both an informal manner and in more formal ways, such as mentoring,” said Point Foundation Trustee Cydney Berry.
“Point’s financial support enables me to focus on being a student,” Clarke said. “After becoming a Point scholar, I’ve gotten better grades, had two truly wonderful internships, and made many meaningful relationships. In addition, my Point family challenges me each time I have the opportunity to spend time with them. They teach me, expand my horizons, and make me a better leader for my community.”
A women’s event was held in Provincetown, Mass. on August 17 for the second year in a row as both a fundraiser and opportunity to increase awareness about Point Foundation among professional women in the community.
“Most LGBTQ fundraising events have a disproportionate number of men, but it is important for female scholars to network with professional women in both an informal manner and in more formal ways, such as mentoring,” said Point Foundation Trustee Cydney Berry. “Events like this one in P-Town help create an environment that brings more professional women into the organization, especially given that around 42 percent of current Point Scholars are female and gender-affirmed female.”
The online application for the 2014-2015 academic year will open in November 2013.
For more information on Point Foundation, including how to donate or become a mentor, visit www.pointfoundation.org.