Meet This Year's Inspiring Point Foundation Scholars
BY Sunnivie Brydum
June 20 2014 6:30 AM ET
Growing up gay in conservative rural Arkansas, A.J. became a clean energy and environmental advocate because nature often provided his only source of refuge. While coming to terms with his sexuality, A.J. overcame significant hardships at home and school. A first-generation college student, he achieved his BA in Earth and Planetary Sciences, and spent five years in Washington, D.C., working to advance clean energy and environmental strategies across both the public and private sectors.
A.J., the survivor of a hate crime, chaired Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), D.C.’s LGBT Anti-Violence Task Force, and helped lead a march of hundreds across the city in protest of hate violence plaguing the LGBTQ community. A.J. also spearheaded GLOV’s successful efforts to garner support among city leaders for hate crime reduction and to effect reforms in the Metropolitan Police Department.
A.J. is pursuing a JD/MBA at Northwestern University, focusing on environmental law and clean energy entrepreneurship. He works to ensure that a protected environment is available for all people and to advance LGBTQ rights in the legal and business sectors. A.J. is Copresident of Northwestern OUTLaw, pursuing initiatives including improving LGBTQ diversity in the legal profession and bringing awareness to transgender legal rights.
Erika Sommer was born in Mobile, Ala., and grew up in Lexington, Kentucky. In 2013, she came out as transgender and began her transition.
Erika’s commitment to advocacy started her sophomore year at Henry Clay High School, when she took over leadership of the Gay-Straight Alliance. In 2013, she began working with a group of like-minded activists in the Lexington area to create a chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) in Central Kentucky. GLSEN Bluegrass received its accreditation on February 27, 2014, and Erika was officially voted cochair of the chapter in April 2014. She graduated from Henry Clay in June 2014 as salutatorian of her 500-person class and is attending Oberlin College.
Erika aims to turn her passion for working with and empowering queer youth into a career, providing services similar to and beyond those she was fortunate enough to enjoy thanks to the strong LGBTQ+ presence in Lexington.
Audrey Stewart is a seven-year Army veteran who has served multiple tours overseas, rising through the ranks to Captain. She has earned a BS in French from the United States Military Academy and an MA in Leadership from the University of Texas at El Paso. After attending Columbia Business School, she plans to develop operational and financial experience in the private sector before returning to public service and help give back to her communities.
Born in Houston, Texas, Audrey became aware of what it means to be marginalized from a young age. As a child, she grew up in a multi-racial family and was often the only minority child in her classes and extracurricular activities. At the United States Military Academy, she studied under the smothering effects of the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy and saw first-hand the effects it had on her classmates. Today, as a trans woman of color, she is acutely aware of the intersectional marginalization felt every day by so many of her sisters and other members of the LGBTQ community.