Point Foundation ( "Point" ) held its annual Chicago Cornerstone Society fundraising and awareness raising reception at Plante Moran Oct. 16.
Since 2001, Point Foundationthe nation's largest LGBTQ scholarship-granting organizationhas provided financial and mentoring assistance to 243 students of merit. This year 23 students were added to that number from a pool of 2,100 applicants.
Among the 150 attendees were Point Foundation scholars and alumni Bridgette Davis ( scholar ), Bryan Blaise ( alumni ), Emily McWilliams ( alumni ), Abbey Muzatko ( scholar ), Alyssa Mandula ( scholar ) and A.J. Singletary ( scholar ).
Guests noshed on hors d'oeuvres from J & L Catering and cocktails from Grey Goose ahead of remarks by Davis, Blaise, Point Foundation Board of Trustees member Jason Decker and Point Foundation Corporate and Foundation Development Manager Claire Walsh.
Decker noted that this event is about celebrating local scholars and recent alumni while Walsh spoke about how impactful and critical Point Foundation's work is in helping deserving LGBTQ people achieve their dreams.
Daviswho is working toward a graduate degree in social work at the University of Chicago School of Social Administrationspoke about what brought her to Point, her students and their pursuit of college access and success. For the past 10 years, Davis, a first-generation college graduate, has been working in low-income schools helping first generation African-American and Latino students get into and graduate from college.
"One day in 2011, I was trying to build a database of scholarships that would appeal to various parts of my student's identities ... and I found Point's scholarship," said Davis. "That evening, I was enthusiastically describing the scholarship with my wife, and I told her that with Point's rigorous criteria there were only a few students I thought could likely qualify. Then she said 'Well you should apply'."
Davis said she didn't think that of herself as a marginalized person and had done everything in her power to prevent it, however, after ruminating about her situation for two years she realized that her path had changed because of her identity. While an undergrad, Davis said she was encouraged by some of her professors to attend graduate school but she declined because she lacked financial stability and didn't know if she would have a network of support once she came out.
"I realized that I had been one of the kids I was seeking to help, and I could no longer hypocritically tell my students to get over their intimidation to attend a tier one institution while I sat back and avoided my own potential achievement," said Davis. "So I used all of my college counselor knowledge and advice and applied it to myself and earned the opportunity to pursue my graduate degree ... I am able to post photos of my study locations, so my almost 1,000 students who are now in college can remind themselves that we're all climbing the mountains to and through college together."
Blaise, a Columbia Business School in Manhattan graduate and a senior consultant of strategy and analytics at IBM, noted that Point not only reduced his student debt burden it also gave him access to resources, individuals and concepts.
"Four years ago, I was like any other Chicago gay cisgender man who had been raised in the South in a family of the strictest Christian values and a community as narrow and Red as a Louboutin heel," said Blaise. "I had found a false security and validation in performance and achievementin my career as a brand communications consultant, in my hobbies and in leadership roles, like the four I had at Willow Creek Chicago church. Yet one Sunday, despite my being out for the two previous years. I suddenly found myself directed to the back pew at Willow, welcomed but unworthy of serving in any leadership capacity."
Blaise noted that the incident at Willow Creek was his first visceral experience of discrimination and from that moment on he became conscious of how much his white cisgender male privilege had carried him. Since then Blaise said he has been listening and seeking out stories of friends and colleagues who weren't able to be their authentic selves at their offices, homes, places of worship and social circles.
"I wanted to change that. I felt called to change my career and use my passion for people and equalityand my current innate privilegeto improve the cultures, organizational structures and talent strategies of the most privileged system in the worldcorporate America," said Blaise. "I dream of a time when individuals can fully participate, thrive and lead within their organizations and circles, regardless of any characteristic."
Blaise spoke about the work he's done both in graduate school and beyond including securing one of only 12 seats in Columbia Law's Diversity and Innovation Seminar, co-leading a team of 30 students to conduct and publish the first ever study of gendered experience at Columbia Business school, collaborated with partners and professionals at Deloitte to create a free one day conference at Columbia for LGB TQ under privileged youth for his Point Community Service Project and working 20 hours a week as the first fellow for Out Leadershipa strategic advising firm dedicated to cultivating LGBT and ally senior leaders globally.
Davis and Blaise encouraged everyone to seek out more scholar's stories and make a contribution to Point Foundation so the organization's work can continue.
See www.pointfoundation.org for more information .