Community in Action
Point Foundation provides scholarship, mentorship & support to LGBTQ students
By Jessie Wagoner
Point Foundation is the nation’s largest higher education scholarship-granting organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students. But the organization doesn’t just hand out scholarship money and then send students on their way.
Point is committed to helping LGBTQ students achieve their full academic and leadership potential, despite the obstacles they often face. Point provides a range of support and education opportunities, including scholarship funding, mentorship, leadership development and community service training.
Point Foundation was founded in 2001, with the first scholar class debuting in 2002. The principal founder, Bruce Lindstrom, wanted to provide scholarships accompanied by mentorship to LGBTQ scholars. Now in its 16th year, Point Foundation counts more than 300 scholars as alumni.
Corporate partners such as Estee Lauder Companies, HBO, Hilton, HSBC Bank, Wells Fargo and others help support scholars. Supporters include thousands of people from across the country. Point Foundation also provides an opportunity for donors to designate a scholarship that recognizes and acknowledges a specific source, whether it be the donor, an individual or an institution they wish to honor.
Industry leaders also partner with Point Foundation to provide mentorship opportunities and leadership training to Point Scholars. Many alumni have stepped up to give back to the foundation that has given them so much, continuing the cycle of support and education.
“As our alumni population grows, they are also giving back, serving as mentors, serving on our board, reading applications,” says Eugene Patron, Point Foundation’s communications and marketing director. “It is really nice our alumni are now helping advance the organization.”
Scholarships and more
Mira Patel, Point Alum, obtained her MBA from The Wharton School while she was a Point Scholar. While a scholarship helped her financially, she also cites the leadership training and mentorship opportunities Point Foundation provides as important factors in her success.
“Point has really specific leadership training geared to LGBT experiences and voices and I think that is really valuable,” Patel says. “There is nowhere else that provides that perspective or approach. They are teaching how you can be a leader in your specific field and how to do it as an LGBT person who wants to forward LGBT rights.”
Because of the mentorship and leadership training provided by Point Foundation, the impact continues long after students graduate. Each Point Scholar has a dedicated mentor who is a leader in their industry. The mentor is available to the scholars to answer questions, provide guidance and serve as a positive example of leadership.
Workshops and additional leadership training are available, as well as community-building and networking opportunities designed specifically for Point Scholars. Alumni, like Pete Subkoviak, refer to the community as their “Point family”.
“I’m connected to a whole bunch of interesting and inspiring people who are doing lots of different stuff in all parts of the country,” Subkoviak says. “Point really is a way to connect and build great relationships with other LGBTQ leaders and it really helps you stay inspired and energized to do the work that you’re doing.”
Patel also counts her Point family as extremely valuable and says the experience of being a Point Scholar is rare and exceptional.
“The Point family is critical, as critical as the scholarship itself,” Patel says. “By that I mean, it is rare in this world to have the opportunity to collaborate and work with other out queer people who are as passionate and dedicated about ensuring the rights and opportunities for our community. Every other year Point brings us together at a conference where we are able to connect and collaborate and build our own networks.”
Success is plentiful among Point Foundation Alumni. Alex Morse, Point Alum, is the current mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts. He was elected in 2011 at the age of 22, making him the youngest mayor in Holyoke history. Rhys Ernst, another Point Alum, is a producer and director, known for Transparent, This is Me and We’ve Been Around. Point Alumni are running for political office, working at NASA, practicing law and sharing their talents in a multitude of industries and platforms.
Patron says scholars are not the only ones finding inspiration in the Point Scholars program.
“Mentors give the scholars an example of what they can be,” Patron says. “But for the mentors, I think they find it reinvigorates them. They are connected with another generation. Very few LGBTQ people grow up in LGBTQ families, so it is rare to grow up surrounded by generations of queer people. This intergenerational community strengthens both the younger person and the older person. That is long lasting. These kinds of relationships add potential for their entire lives.”
As the foundation looks to the future, they want to dig deeper into research about LGBTQ students and their higher education experience. Developing a clearer, more meaningful understanding of the experiences of students and the barriers and successes they experience will help Point Foundation continue to develop a program focused on success.
Additionally, Patron says that in a world that can often be cruel to LGBTQ youth, Point Foundation will continue to stand with them, advocate for them and support them.
“Given the world we live in, as an organization, we want people to know we aren’t just handing out scholarships and watching from the sidelines,” Patron says. “We really are concerned about the community and stand with the community and we intend to stand up for these young people.”
Applications are now being accepted for the next class of Point Scholars. The application period closes on January 28, 2019. To apply visit pointfoundation.org/point-apply/apply-now/.