By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com June 15 2010 1:10 PM ET
Like a scout for scholars, the Point Foundation searches out the best and brightest LGBT students. The Los Angeles-based organization grants tens of thousands of dollars in tuition to dozens of collegians each year, some cut off financially from their families because of their sexual orientation. Following a six-month search, the Point Foundation recently announced its 25 scholars of 2010. The diverse group includes a former janitor, a young man who underwent an exorcism at his mother's hands, and a woman, previously fired for being gay, now entering her third year of law school. Meet the future:
- from Minneapolis
- pursuing a BS in economics at Augsburg College
- Wells Fargo Point Scholarship recipient
Adam is a Minnesota transplant, having emigrated from Kenya as a Somali refugee in 2004. In the short time that he has been in the United States, he has been involved in social justice issues. After being hired at 16 as a janitor for an LGBT youth center, Adam went on to lead efforts to find stable housing for his peers. In addition to his community organizing for homeless youth initiatives, he is a leader at his school’s gay-straight alliance.
Adam attends Augsburg College in Minneapolis. He is studying quantitative economics with minors in mathematics and communication studies. He is an active amateur photographer, and two of his photos ended up being postcards promoting the Minnesota Runaway and Homeless Youth Act, on which he worked. Adam hopes to go to graduate school to study either statistics or economics, and he plans to use quantitative tools to help inform policy making at the federal and state level.
Adam is interested in extending the privileges afforded to him to others who haven’t been fortunate enough to obtain higher education. Adam speaks three languages and also hopes to use his international experiences in policy-making efforts. Currently, he is interested in issues surrounding health policy, security policy, and international economic development. His thesis on health policy has been accepted for an oral presentation at a national undergraduate research conference. Adam is a McNair Scholar, Martin Olav Sabo Scholar, a Soul Essence Community Leadership Award winner, a North Star Stem Scholar, and a Pfund Scholar, honors that recognize both his academic achievements and his volunteerism. Currently in his junior year, he is preparing himself for entry into a Ph.D. program.
- from Baltimore
- pursuing a BS in Nursing at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing
- Paul W. Speier Point Scholarship recipient
Born in upstate New York, Andrade moved to Syracuse, fell into retail management, and after a while began asking the well-worn question “Is this all there is?” That question has pursued her through the following two decades, first across the country to Denver and into Metropolitan State College of Denver, where she founded the Feminist Alliance and organized the first National Coming Out Day celebration on campus. Off-campus, she was a founding volunteer with the Anti-Violence Project, an LGBT victims’ assistance organization, of which she later became the first paid director. After working with LGBT victims of crime for three years, her motivating questions changed to “Is this all I can do to change things?” With an eye toward systemic changes, Andrade went to the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs for graduate school, focusing on gender, policy, and development. Her studies were augmented with a summer studying housing, human rights, and Arabic at the University of Birzeit Ramallah, West Bank and Palestine.
Back in the U.S., Andrade was awarded a congressional fellowship from the Women’s Research and Education Institute. She completed this fellowship in the late senator Paul Wellstone’s office, working on immigration and civil rights issues. After leaving Washington, D.C., Andrade first worked with the Minneapolis Youth Coordinating Board, a collaboration of public and private agencies serving young people, and then with the Maryland Governor’s Office for Children, Youth, and Families as a child welfare and maltreatment analyst. Believing that change occurs from multiple angles, during this time she also founded the Charm City Kitty Club, a queer variety cabaret that won a Lesbian Theater Award from Curve magazine and a mention in The New York Times. With a mission to create a unique social and cultural niche for lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and transsexual women and all allies, the Kitty Club has hosted over a hundred artists and performers and reached well over 5,000 audience members. On June 1, Andrade started an accelerated BS degree program in nursing at Johns Hopkins University. She looks forward to combining her policy skills with nursing to provide change for fragile communities, families, and people.
"When I was accepted at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, I experienced two completely opposing reactions," Andrade says. "The first was, Yay, I got into Hopkins! Which was quickly followed by, Oh, crap,I'm going to live my life in poverty trying to pay for Hopkins. Coming from a blue-collar rural family, I am already in debt from the first time I went to college. I've been lucky that my family has always been utterly supportive of me. With the support of the Point Scholarship, the fact that they happen to be working class–poor doesn't mean I have to be straddled with unsustainable debt."
- from Fontana, Calif.
- pursuing a master of professional studies in interactive telecommunications (theater directing emphasis) at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts
- Dr. Joan Shelley W. Fernandez Point Scholarship recipient
Banzon is a theater artist, director, and producer with an academic background in government and gender studies. A first generation Filipina-American born and raised in Fontana, Calif., Banzon now lives in New York City but also calls the many islands of the Philippines her home. Banzon deeply believes in cultural production as a force for social change, and her experiences as a queer woman of color have helped her join her two passions: art and social justice. She seeks to facilitate the visions of female artists, queer artists, and artists of color, and develop inter/trans national and inter/trans cultural collaborations. Enthusiastic about producing and directing new and contemporary work and developing works-in-progress, Banzon strives to do her part in broadening the scope of commercial theater and exposing audiences to new and underrepresented narratives.
Banzon was a 2007-2008 U.S. Fulbright Scholar to the Philippines in theater arts, and she has worked with several multicultural theater companies, such as New WORLD Theater, Kinding Sindaw, Ma-Yi Theater Company, the National Asian American Theatre Company, and INTAR's Hispanic Theatre Collective. Banzon is currently attending the graduate program in interactive telecommunications at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. At NYU, she is working to discover new ways of storytelling through imagining, exploring, and challenging the future of technology in theatrical performance as well as the direction of entertainment and media as a source of artistic and creative cultural production.
"I believe in theater and art for cultural production, and shifting culture is one way to social change," Banzon says. "I want to create theater that will enrich the cultural landscape of the United States, and I hope to diversify our nation’s stages and audiences, and expose viewers to new and underrepresented narratives. The theater’s ability to confront the audience with the stark truth of their own difficult feelings, and its ability to hurt and heal at the same moment, is why I use the stage as place to voice injustice and to envision a brighter and more hopeful future.
"With the Point Foundation's support, I hope to represent more queer people on stage and tell our stories, especially queer people of color who feel marginalized from many different directions and are invisible even in their own communities. With Point's help, I hope to tell the queer community's many and varied stories so we can see each other, because seeing our own diversity is believing in it, and that is nurturing a queer culture and community based on social justice, equality, and compassion."
- pursuing MD and MPH degrees at University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle
- Rand Skolnick Point Scholarship recipient
Blechinger believes in medicine as social justice. Growing up gay in rural Minnesota provided him an important perspective into the struggles of stigmatized populations. Blechinger struggled with his sexuality in school, in church, at home, and even in his doctor’s office. The community in which he was raised believed that homosexuality was deeply wrong and could be “cured.” Lessons learned from coming out during that time provided Blechinger with insight into the varied issues with which many minorities grapple. During college Blechinger cochaired the GLBTA student group, helped establish a GSA at a local high school, and actively fought to remove a reparative therapy movement starting on campus.
After an internship at District 202, an LGBT youth center in Minneapolis, Blechinger started his career in HIV services at the Minnesota AIDS Project. Two years later he took a position at the Red Door Clinic, Minnesota’s largest HIV/STD clinic, where he provided HIV testing and counseling services. At the clinic, he developed online outreach programming, ran a syphilis elimination project called "StopSyphilisNOW," and facilitated several inpatient and outpatient support groups for gay and bisexual men living with HIV and struggling with addiction. The powerful role a physician can play inspired Blechinger to become a doctor — not only an exemplary diagnostician, but a compassionate healer for those marginalized by their sexuality or gender. He plans on using his education at University of Washington Medical School to launch a public health clinic offering culturally specific medical and mental health care for LGBT people.
"For years, I worked in gay/bi men's health doing HIV/STD testing and counseling, with an increased focus on the dramatic rise in HIV in young gay/bi men," Blechinger says. "As a doctor, I will be able to do so much more for LGBT individuals. As a medical director of an LGBT public health clinic, I will be able to better serve the community. And as a Point Scholar, I will be able to increase the scope of my advocacy and make a real impact."
- from Sewickley, Pa.
- pursuing a BFA in fashion design at the Art Institute of Chicago
- Phyllis Mandler & Gary Elden Point Scholarship recipient
Brilmyer was raised in a suburb of Pittsburgh. After she came out at 15, her relationship with her family deteriorated, ultimately resulting in her leaving home and beginning her life as a financially independent adult.
As a high school senior, Brilmyer founded her school’s first GSA. With the club, she led the school in days of action, such as the Day of Silence, Transaction Week, and others, all of which visibly changed the climate of the school and the community. During high school, Brilmyer also served on the board of GLSEN Pittsburgh and volunteered extensively at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Pittsburgh.
Brilmyer’s passion has always been creating art, and she is currently studying fashion design and fine arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Before this, she had been creating clothing for herself and others since a young age, and in 2006 she developed an online business selling queer-positive apparel of her own design.
Her current interests lie in developing and designing clothing for gender-queer and gender-fluid individuals, as she understands the importance of gender expression for all people. In college, Natalie also leads the School of the Art Institute’s Queers and Allies Club, and volunteers for various LGBT organizations in Chicago. She plans to continue to devote herself to LGBT activism and hopes to integrate these experiences and her love of art in promoting expressions of gender and sexual identity in the queer community through art.
-from Mansfield, Texas
-pursuing an MBA at Tuck School of Business Management at Dartmouth College
Casebolt was born in Elyria, Ohio, and his family moved to Fort Worth, Texas, while he was in elementary school. Casebolt remained a north Texas resident until his recent relocation to New England to attend the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. The son of dedicated, loving parents, Casebolt learned from an early age that all people should be afforded the opportunity to achieve their full potential without fear of discrimination or marginalization — no matter their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Even though his upbringing included a focus on inclusivity and tolerance, Casebolt did not come out until after college. While in high school Casebolt served as student body president, and in his final year he was elected president of the Texas Association of Student Councils. Representing over 1,300 high schools throughout the state, Casebolt helped shape education policy. During his tenure as the association's president, he was named a William Randolph Hearst Scholar and United States Youth Senate Award recipient.
Attending Texas Christian University for his undergraduate degree, Casebolt received a BS in political science. While an undergraduate, he served as president of his fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, and led a team of bicyclists on a transcontinental ride for children with disabilities. After graduation, he entered the real estate development business and enjoyed a successful career that allowed him to also serve as director of a local affiliate of the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership organization. Currently, he is an MBA candidate at Tuck and serves on the national board of the Reaching Out LGBT MBA conference. Coupling his passion to build for-profit businesses with his experience in the nonprofit sector, Casebolt intends to build his career at the intersection of business and society.
"In conjunction with the Point Foundation, it is my personal mission to help create an environment that develops LGBT business leaders," Casebolt says. "Currently, I serve on the board of the Reaching Out LGBT MBA Conference (ROMBA). ROMBA is a professional organization for MBA graduates from the LGBT community. Our purpose is to ensure LGBT MBA graduates are afforded a fair chance to succeed in the workplace through enriching employment and challenging work. Every person on this earth deserves a fair chance to live, love, and learn. I hope I am able to bring these opportunities to more people through my work and my life."
-from Salt Lake City
-pursuing a BS in sociology at Westminster College
-Phyllis Mandler & Gary Elden Point Scholarship Recipient
Cerise was raised in Salt Lake City by her gay father and his loving partners. Having grown up in an LGBT-headed household in a very conservative and strictly religious state, marginalization has always been a familiar part of her life. Although this has been challenging, she has learned to overcome heterosexism by being engaged in her community. At the age of 16, Cerise became the president of her high school’s social justice club, BOND (Building One New Dream), and simultaneously founded the Utah chapter of COLAGE: People with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Parents.
Cerise sits on the board of directors for the Inclusion Center for Community and Justice, a local nonprofit dedicated to eliminating bias and bigotry. She has a strong passion and commitment to activism; when she’s involved in her community, she feels supported and has hope for a better future. As an undergraduate at Westminster College, Cerise intends to pursue a degree in sociology and Spanish. Her hope is to go on to receive a master’s or a Ph.D. in social work. Ultimately, she plans to work directly with the queer community and other marginalized populations in order to connect them with the resources, support, and opportunities they need in order to succeed.
"I plan to make a difference in the LGBT community by standing up against heterosexism, transphobia, and all other forms of bigotry," Cerise says. "I will work hard to make my school and community more inclusive places; this will be reflected in my speech and actions. I am confident that I can effectively reach these goals with the additional skills and training I’ll receive from the Point Foundation."
Gene de Haan
-from Portland, Ore.
-pursuing MD and MPH degrees at University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine
-Johnson & Johnson Point Scholarship recipient
De Haan grew up in a small farming community outside of Salem, Ore. Beginning in middle school, De Haan learned to deal with homophobia on a daily basis. At age 14, de Haan was the only out person in a high school of over 2,000 students. Determined to escape conservative Salem, she graduated in three years as valedictorian.
De Haan left Salem to study English at Reed College in Portland. While at Reed, she was very active in the Queer Alliance and the Feminist Student Union. In 2004 she helped mobilize Reed students against a statewide amendment banning gay marriage. After graduating from Reed in 2005, De Haan accepted an internship at the Trans/Identity Resource Center, where she facilitated gender-based support groups, staffed a hormone-needle exchange, and worked with the ID Project, assisting transgender clients as they legally changed their names and sex designations. De Haan later served as the coordinator for Portland’s newly established LGBT community center. She developed five core programs: arts and culture, youth, seniors, families, and health and wellness. While developing the health and wellness program, De Haan witnessed countless testimonials regarding barriers to health care for LGBT people. After organizing a conference geared toward educating health care providers about the needs of LGBT patients, De Haan began the prerequisites for medical school. In 2009, De Haan received a BS in biology from Portland State University. She will begin medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, this year, pursuing a dual MD and MPH through the program in medical education for the urban underserved. She plans to practice family medicine and conduct clinical research focusing on the specific needs of LGBT communities.
"Compassionate health care, free of judgment and criticism, is a basic right," De Haan says. "For many LGBTQ people, accessing culturally competent health care represents a daunting barrier to care. As a primary care physician, I intend to participate in a global movement promoting LGBTQ cultural competence within health care settings."
-from Chapel Hill, N.C.
-pursuing an MFA in film arts and video at the California Institute of the Arts
-HBO Point Scholarship recipient
Growing up in Chapel Hill, N.C., Ernst dropped out of ninth grade due to ostracism and queerphobia, opting instead for a self-directed high school education. During these years, he pursued art and activism, working with North Carolina Lambda Youth Network, Rainbow Youth Coalition, Youth Voice Radio, and Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. He studied photography at the University of North Carolina, jazz at the Berklee College of Music, and art history in Spain, and he received his high school equivalency diploma at 16.
Ernst earned a BA from Hampshire College in 2004. While he was an undergrad, his film The Drive North earned international recognition, screened in over 30 film festivals, and won numerous awards, including the Gold Plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival and a Princess Grace Award honorarium.
After graduating, Ernst moved to New York City to begin a career in film and television. He held numerous positions, including producer and editor for MTV Networks, associate producer for Masterclass (HBO), associate producer for Coming Out Stories (Logo), and adjunct professor at Queens College, and he was president of the jury at the Izmir Short Film Festival in Turkey. Later, in Los Angeles, he was secnd unit director for Cheryl Dunye's new feature film, The Owls. For the past two years he has been pursuing an MFA in film and video at the California Institute of the Arts near Los Angeles, where he recently led a campuswide Trans Awareness Week and gender-neutral bathroom campaign. Ernst uses experimental narrative, animation, and video art as strategies to discuss transgender identity, representation, and history. His goal is to bridge his artistic and professional backgrounds in order to bring issues of transgressive representation to as wide an audience as possible.
-from El Dorado, Ark.
-pursuing a BA at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with the aim of studying medicine
-Time Warner Point Scholarship recipient
Hansen began telling people of his sexuality at the end of his junior year in high school. By the time he was a senior, the word began to spread, and his parents had heard the rumors. He told them he was gay in August of 2009. They didn’t take the news as well as he had expected — they took him to speak to a preacher and tried breaking down his spirits by telling him that he would never accomplish anything as a gay American. They told him that they could never support him in anything he did as long as he was gay. The conflict soon resulted in violence after they heard rumors of him having an older boyfriend.
Living in foster care for the next several months, Hansen found himself in a new and strange environment. During this time he felt worthless and became suicidal. Hansen has people such as his sister, close friends, a partner, and teachers to thank for helping him push forward. He stayed focused on his academics to keep his mind off his difficulties and prove to the people who doubted him that he could and would reach his full potential and accomplish all his goals. Hansen was voted senior class president, National Honor Society president, and varsity football captain during this time, and he graduated valedictorian of his senior class.
Hansen continues to strive to push forward in everything he does. He wants to take what he has been through to help and support others who are going through the same experiences and struggles by showing them how to never give up or stop believing no matter how many people doubt them. Hansen also hopes to show everyone that being gay is not a disadvantage and that they can accomplish just as much as anyone else, if not more.
-from the Bronx, N.Y.
-pursuing a bachelor of social work at New York University Silver School of Social Work
-Bob Fennell Point Scholarship recipient
Henriquez was born in New York City and spent much of his adolescence in foster care. After permanent placement with his birth mother at the age of 13, Henriquez realized he was gay. Lacking outlets for expression and fearing negative feedback, he repressed his attractions and would only explore them two years later when he learned of an after-school program run by the Hetrick-Martin Institute. Inspired by the comfort level and safety provided within the institute, Henriquez and his best friend started their school's first GSA.
Although things were going well at school and within his social circle, other aspects life began turning sour. Henriquez's mother was anything but accepting of his sexuality, and within the year he ended up homeless, unemployed, and out of school. Henriquez, then 19, was forced to abandon his academic journey for one of survival. In October 2008 he found a shelter serving LGBT youths who had suffered the same injustices he faced.
In the trenches of tragedy he found hope. Henriquez returned to school while living in a shelter run by the Ali Forney Center. He returned to his pursuit of higher education through the City University of New York, where he maintained a GPA of no less than 3.9 and created a mentorship program to help LGBT students transition to college life with as little stress as possible. Henriquez is currently seeking ways to improve the support that homeless LGBT youths receive while in the Ali Forney shelters. He wants to better serve the population and help others succeed as he has.
"In conjunction with Point, I intend, in time, to start several projects focusing on three specific LGBT groups in the New York area: the grossly overlooked and underserved transgender population, young LGBT high school students, and the homeless LGBT population," Henriquez says.
-from Boulder, Colo.
-pursuing a BFA in film studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder
-Wells Fargo Point Scholarship recipient
Inselman grew up in Eugene, Ore. But even in that liberal climate, he was not met with acceptance when he came out as transgender. At home, he was not allowed to express his gender identity, and his Catholic high school, though sympathetic, did not allow any LGBTQ student groups for support. Despite this, he organized an annual Day of Silence and worked to connect the Catholic belief in social justice to queer activism.
Inselman was finally able to begin his transition almost four years after coming out, when he moved out of state to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder. He immediately immersed himself in the campus queer community, facilitating the transgender support group not even two months after he arrived. Throughout his three years in college, Inselman has held leadership positions in five LGBTQ student groups and organizations and volunteered to organize events with the university’s GLBT Resource Center, where he is now a student staff member. He has also served as an executive board member of his school’s chapter of Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity and is a member of a cross-campus organization advocating for transgender issues in universities throughout Colorado. Now in his senior year, Inselman is finishing his BFA in Film Studies with a minor in linguistics and certificate in LGBT studies. After graduation, he plans to combine his passions for activism and film to advocate for and give voice to LGBTQ people by exploring personal narratives of their everyday lives as well as continuing his work within local LGBTQ communities and beyond.
"When I met the other finalists for the Point Scholarship, I met some of the finest LGBT student leaders and activists in the country," Inselman says. "All of us are playing our part and making differences on campus, at local, and nationwide levels. I know that working with my fellow scholars and everyone in the Point family, I will be able to flourish as a leader playing my part for the larger movement, and encourage my fellow scholars to accomplish the same. This truly is a community of support and encouragement, and having it gives me the confidence to pursue my individual and collaborative goals, whether they are through my film work, advocacy, or more."
-from Athens, Ga.
-pursuing a JD in law at the University of Georgia Law School
-Joan R. Heller Point Scholarship recipient
Growing up in the South, Johnson often witnessed brazen hostility toward queer people. In 2006 she was asked to resign from her job when her supervisor discovered she was gay. When she refused, she was terminated and denied her right to appeal. Johnson’s experience fighting her employer’s decision and working with local equal rights organizations to test her city’s commitment to queer rights fueled her desire to go to law school and become an equal rights advocate.
Johnson is now entering her third year at Georgia Law School, where she continues to be an active equality advocate and community leader. She is currently the president of her school’s OUTLaws and American Constitution Society chapters and an active volunteer with Georgia Equality. Because of her commitment to equal rights, Johnson was awarded the QLaw grant and interned with Lambda Legal, where she assisted with ongoing and potential equal rights cases. Johnson was also selected as a Holley Law Fellow with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force to help promote pro-LGBT legislation.
Johnson has also been an Equal Justice Foundation Summer fellow and a member of the Equal Justice Works Summer Corps. She hopes to continue working in equal rights advocacy after finishing law school.
-from Riverside, Conn.
-pursuing a JD in law at Yale Law School
Koritz grew up in Connecticut, graduating as valedictorian of her public high school in 2002. While an undergraduate, Koritz ran the Columbia Political Union and cofounded Project Democracy at Columbia University, a no-partisan campus organization devoted to politically empowering and engaging young people.
Though Koritz long knew she was gay, she had resisted coming out for many years for fear of alienating her family. When Koritz graduated from Columbia summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in history and departmental honors, her family did not allow her girlfriend to attend the ceremony. While her family initially struggled to accept that she was gay, Koritz is tremendously proud that in the years since they have come to understand and support her.
After college Koritz worked on Wall Street for three years, doing private equity for an investment bank. She was actively involved with the bank’s LGBT employee organization and served as president of Columbia Pride, Columbia’s LGBT alumni group. While Koritz found her work engaging, she was spending her Saturdays at LGBT law conferences and becoming increasingly certain that she wanted to devote her career to the fight for LGBT equality. Koritz announced her resignation and headed to Yale Law School, where she is copresident of OutLaws (the LGBT student group), is involved with the LGBT Rights Litigation Clinic, and runs the Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project’s LGBT efforts.
"We have come a long way over the last several decades, but events like the passage of Proposition 8 demonstrate the march of progress is not inexorable," Koritz says. "I plan to practice LGBT rights, impact litigation, making sure that not only do we win cases, but we do so on the most advantageous grounds. Until our government grants us equal rights and protections, it is difficult to believe our colleagues, bosses, and neighbors will. I hope to spend my career first helping to secure fundamental equal rights for people in our community and then enforcing those rights."
-from Forsyth, Mont.
-pursuing a BS in business from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
Livermont grew up in the small town of Forsyth, Mont., with his twin sister, mother, and her boyfriend. During the first semester of his freshman year, he was outed by his twin. Despite a few negative initial reactions, he worked to help his family and friends understand his identity. He gained the acceptance of his peers, and with the support of his school behind him, Livermont took the initiative to take on leadership positions within the school and greater community. He found his greatest successes in the Business Professionals of America, a student organization focused on preparing students for business careers. Livermont was elected to both state and national positions within the group, and with these positions he worked to maintain and spread the accepting environment within his own school.
Livermont will be attending the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in the fall. He will also serve as the national vice president of Business Professionals of America. During his time at Wharton, he hopes to become involved both inside and beyond the LGBT community in order to clear up common misunderstandings surrounding sexual orientation and gender expression. Upon graduation, Livermont plans to pursue a business career while remaining active in the political realm with hopes of running for office later in life.
"The Point family has limitless opportunity because it brings people together from so many backgrounds and unites them under one cause: compassion," Livermont says. "If there is one true way that I can make a difference with Point, it is by showing other people the compassion that I've found with this family."
-from Findlay, Ohio
-pursuing a BS in sociology at Yale University
Miller spent the first two years of her undergraduate education as a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Though she was ranked in the top 1% of the corps of cadets, designated as a distinguished cadet, received the Superintendent’s Award for Excellence, and graduated from the U.S. Army Airborne School, Miller’s feeling of repression under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy ultimately undermined her personal growth. In response, Miller began advocating for the policy’s repeal. She also became a member of the LGBT West Point group Knights Out and the Service Academy Gay and Lesbian Alumni Association. During her second year at the academy, Miller interned with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute. In addition, she designed a social network research project, “A Network Evaluation of Attitudes Toward Gays in the Military in Preparation for the Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’” She will present her findings in July at the International Network for Social Network Analysis conference.
Miller plans to resign from West Point in August and attend Yale University. She will continue studies in sociology with the hope of ultimately improving the military’s social policies, especially with respect to “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
"Prior to discovering the Point Foundation, I had never been part of a community that supported my sexuality, institutionally or socially," Miller says. "And despite committing myself to academic, physical, and military development at the U.S. Military Academy, an entire portion of my identity has remained largely unexplored. I believe being part of the Point community will allow me to now focus on holistic personal development, which will be integral when I deem myself properly prepared to rejoin the military."
Sarah "Izzy" Pellegrine
-from Madison, Miss.
-pursuing a bachelor of arts in social work and a BS in sociology at Mississippi State University
Pellegrine is a queer youth activist in Starkville, Miss. After spending 10 years in strict Catholic schools, Pellegrine (as she prefers to be called) transferred to a residential public school where it was safe to be out. While there, she led the only high school GSA in the state and attended the National GSA Network Gathering. After graduation, Pellegrine became involved with numerous nonprofit organizations, acting as chapter leader for the National Organization for Women, National Young Feminist Task Force, and eventually becoming board secretary for Unity Mississippi and helping found the first and only organization in Mississippi dedicated exclusively to queer youths, the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition. She is currently a junior at Mississippi State University and is working toward degrees in sociology and social work.
"School safety is my top-priority issue," Pellegrine says. "Having seen the devastating effects that unsafe school environments can have on young people, I hope to work in conjunction with Point to change schools through policy and student activism."
-from Tinley Park, Ill.
-pursuing a degree in social work from the School of Social Service Administration of the University of Chicago
Price was born and raised on the south side of Chicago. She grew up in a working-class family in which difference was not acceptable. She attended Catholic schools, where she excelled academically and realized that education would open a new world to her. For her undergraduate degree, Price attended Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Ind., a small all-women’s Catholic college where she majored in social work. Price quickly became a leader and eventually came out as a lesbian on campus. However, she quickly learned how homophobic her school was and watched as students used religion as a weapon to justify marginalization of LGBT people on campus. Price truly began to learn what it felt like to be marginalized after losing her job as a resident adviser and being verbally attacked by another student for supporting the LGBT community. While this was difficult for her, it gave her the motivation to work to set up programs on campus to ensure that no student would ever have to go through what she did. As president of the straight and gay alliance on campus, Price began to gain acceptance and tolerance for gay individuals on campus.
Price plans to continue her work as a social worker and will be attending the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration for her master’s degree. She plans to focus on community organizing and hopes to open a social settlement home someday.
-from Los Angeles
-pursuing a BA in psychology from California State University, Northridge
People say that what does not kill you makes you stronger. Rostovsky fully believes that. As a transgender individual, he has encountered physical, verbal, and sexual violence. Due to losing friends and family, lack of acceptance, and surviving hate crimes, Rostovsky was afraid to be himself. However, through all of that, he has come out strong and unafraid to tackle the world head on. Transitioning through all this oppression at a young age has let him know that he can do anything. Rostovsky wants to take his experiences and use them to prevent other negative experiences for people in this world.
Rostovsky attends Cal State University, Northridge, and is working on his degree in psychology. He hopes to work with the LGBT community and start a nonprofit group to offer support for transgender individuals and their families. One of his goals in life is to help make the world more aware of the struggles transgender individuals go through and to help eliminate the bigotry LGBT people face. By participating in numerous documentaries, appearing on a well-received episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, and making presentations at various high schools and colleges, Rostovsky is well on his way to achieving this goal. The only way that we can see a change in the world is if we help to create it, and that is exactly what Rostovsky wants to do with the rest of his life.
-from Jackson, Miss.
-pursuing an MA in public policy and administration at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Born in Omaha, Neb., Smith spent most of her life in Mississippi. After coming out as a lesbian while attending a very conservative college, she witnessed firsthand the fear and prejudice that still exist in society. After graduating with honors in 1997, Smith became increasingly involved in her community and in politics. In 2004 she cofounded Unity Mississippi, an LGBT nonprofit focusing on education, awareness, and unity.
In 2006, Smith was elected president of the Mississippi chapter of the National Organization for Women, an office she held for four years. She was recently elected to represent the mid-South Region on NOW's national board. Smith holds a bachelor’s degree from Mississippi College in sociology and administration of justice and will be attending the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in the fall to pursue a master's degree in public policy and administration, with a concentration in advanced feminist studies. After graduation, she hopes to work in the nonprofit sector and possibly pursue her doctorate and become a professor. Smith currently resides in Jackson, Miss., with her two cats, Macavity and Trouble.
-from Omaha, Neb.
-pursuing a BA in media studies and sociology at the University of California, Berkeley
Susman was born and raised in Omaha, Neb. As a freshman, Susman attended a social justice and human relations camp where she came out for the first time. Soon after, she volunteered as a service learning intern at the Conference for Inclusive Communities for two years. Susman became even more involved with her school's GSA by serving on the leadership council, and she became the president of Club RISE (Resist Injustice Support Equality). Through her work with Club RISE and CFIC, Susman worked closely with teachers and administrators to increase awareness and acceptance of diversity in her school. As a senior, Susman began her involvement with the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network as a board member of GLSEN Omaha and a student coordinator of GLSEN's Jump-Start National Student Leadership Team. She brought GLSEN’s message of safe schools to the forefront of her own GSA's activities by initiating her GSA's first Ally Week, during which she led training for teachers. Susman also brought her focus on social justice to her school newspaper when she wrote a column on how her school's sociology course required all students to participate in a heterosexual marriage project.
Susman believes LGBT people and other minority groups are often excluded from coverage or inaccurately portrayed in the media. She plans to be a vehicle through which voices can be heard, believing that through ethical journalism, stereotypes can be broken and inclusion can be achieved. Susman plans to continue her activism in college while studying media studies and sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.
"With the support of Point, I plan to pursue a double major in media studies and sociology in college," Susman says. "I look forward to a career in journalism. I believe the LGBT community is often inaccurately portrayed in the media or completely excluded from coverage. I look forward to working as an ethical journalist, shedding light on the injustices in our society. Point will give me the opportunity to study at my dream school and fulfill my career goals."
-from Cary, N.C.
-pursuing a BA in political science and government at Duke University
After coming out during Christmas of his sophomore year of high school, Tobia initially had to hide much of his activism from his now-supportive father. With the support of his wonderful friends, he has since become an advocate for LGBT people in all areas of life. As student body vice president and the president of his high school's GSA, Key Club, and student legislative assembly, Tobia has sought to not only advocate for equality but also to serve as a role model for other LGBT youths. In 2009 he founded the Triangle GSA Council, a group that helps to empower GSA leaders as well as foster a sense of community for young LGBT people in the area. Growing up in the Methodist Church, Tobia has struggled with his faith and in his larger church community, but in 2008 he authored and won passage of a resolution in honor of Lawrence King and in opposition to anti-LGBT bullying at the statewide meeting of the North Carolina Methodist Church. He also strives to make an impact on his church through his participation in the Unity Dialogue, a bipartisan group of Methodists who discuss LGBT issues with the bishop.
"Through the community service component of the scholarship, I hope to work to create a mentoring program for at-risk LGBT youth within the Durham community that surrounds Duke University," Tobia says. "Additionally, I hope to work with the American Red Cross to create a new policy concerning blood donation by gay men. There are just so many possibilities, so many things I can change, and I feel that the Point Scholarship will give me the opportunity to really make a difference."
-from Clute, Texas
-pursuing an MD at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine
Toles was raised in a small town in Texas. She was out only to a select group of friends in her public high school and longed to be in a community that was more accepting of queer people. Homosexuality was a taboo subject, and Toles struggled with feeling different from her family and friends. Upon being offered an extensive academic/need-based scholarship, she enrolled at Pomona College in Southern California. Pomona encouraged thoughtful dialogue around sexual orientation and in this rigorous academic atmosphere, Toles explored her identity as a queer African-American woman and dug her toes into advocacy work for marginalized groups. Toles experienced the sting of racism and homophobia in her hometown and, most devastatingly, within her family.
Toles graduated from Pomona in 2007 with a bachelor of arts in black studies on a pre-medical track, following a lifelong dream to become a doctor. She is now a medical student at the Univesity of California, Davis, School of Medicine in Sacramento. There, she is the head organizer of student group LGBT People in Medicine and was on the leadership team at Imani Clinic, a student-run clinic targeting underserved African-Americans in Sacramento. She also sits on the admissions committee and has an interest in increasing visibility of LGBT issues in the admissions process. Toles plans to practice in an underserved community and continue being a strong advocate for marginalized people.
"Outside of my school work at the University of California, Davis, I've been heavily involved as an advocate for communities of color as well as LGBT folks in the health system," Toles says. "I'm currently the head of our student interest group, LGBT People in Medicine, which is small but very enthusiastic! Of special interest this year has been increasing LGBT visibility in the admissions process as well as improving LGBT curriculum reform at Davis. I hope to impart upon my colleagues the importance of interacting with LGBT patients in a respectful and culturally appropriate manner. In the end, I plan to be an advocate for all of my patients, with special attention to the needs of communities of color as well as LGBT people."
-from Decatur, Ala.
-pursuing a BA in international affairs focusing on Latin America and Spanish at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
Whitt, the son of divorced parents, was raised by his evangelical Christian mother in rural Alabama. He always knew that he was different, and other students knew it as well. Throughout his school years, Whitt was taunted, harassed, and bullied almost incessantly, and not just by; some teachers even joined in. When his mother found out he was gay, she had an exorcism performed on him, then kicked him out and attempted to end the family’s relationship with him, including all financial support.
However, Whitt took those experiences and converted them into the foundation of his determination to protect other students from suffering. Politically involved, Whitt has worked with GLSEN in various capacities, most recently as a GLSEN media ambassador to help promote safer schools. Preston has also started a mentoring community on Facebook called Alabama LGBT Mentors to help support LGBT youths in that state.
Preston attends George Washington University, where he is double-majoring in international affairs and Spanish. He describes his life goal as working to fight all manner of oppression so that every individual has the opportunity to achieve his or her own happiness.
“My personal experiences have given me a passion for activism to improve the lives of LGBT people, particularly LGBT students," Whitt says. "With the support of Point, I hope to continue and expand on these efforts until LGBT people are fully safe, equal, and respected members of society worldwide.”
-pursuing an MA in women’s and gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin
Young is, in her own words, “moving beyond mere survivorship to smile in the face of continuing adversity.” As an adolescent, however, she was far removed from this image of herself. Enduring years of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, Young learned early on to repress her true feelings and, more, to hate herself.
In 1999 these feelings led her to attempt suicide. Thankfully, since that time, she has chosen to affirm life. Realizing that life is to be cherished, Young first came out as bisexual, then as gay, and by 16 as pansexual and gender-queer. Despite her newfound freedom, Young continued to face hardships both in school and at home, which eventually forced her onto the streets in 2003. As a last resort, she turned to prostitution, experiencing firsthand the particular vulnerabilities of life on the streets. Eventually, Young made her way back to school, graduating from the University of Texas, Austin, in 2009 with special honors in anthropology.
Amid writing an 88-page senior thesis, she served as both vice chair for the transgender education network of Texas (formerly TACT) and campus advocacy director for the Queer Students Alliance. That same year, she cofounded TransAction, a grassroots movement aimed at making Austin's homeless shelters more accessible for transgender people. She earned an exemplary commitment award from the Clinton Global Initiative. Today, Young is at the top of her class in her first year at the center for women's and gender studies at the University of Texas, Austin.