As a diverse and ever-visible community, many organizations strive to create opportunities for LGBTQ youth to better themselves and their community. Perhaps none do that more effectively than Point Foundation, a group that provides financial support, mentoring, leadership training and hope to meritorious students who are marginalized due to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
The 2012 Point Scholars are a highly diverse group: 45 percent self-identify as non-white, 41 percent are female and 28 percent are first-generation college students. Unfortunately, some have experienced blatant discrimination, or were abandoned by their families because of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. Yet they all have demonstrated academic excellence, leadership skills and a strong commitment to community involvement.
The 29 new scholarship recipients join 47 current Point Scholars, for a total of 76 students who will receive financial assistance and programmatic support from Point during the 2012-2013 academic year. Point scholarships help pay for tuition, room and board, books and other expenses—in addition to professional mentoring, community service projects in the LGBTQ community and leadership training.
Winners are based all over the United States. Meet the recipients from Southern California.
Los Angeles / Candidate for a Ph.D. in Sociology / Stanford University
Jeff Sheng is a photographer, artist and sociologist whose artwork has been internationally exhibited. He first attained recognition for his photographic series "Fearless," a project on out lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes on high school and college sports teams. Sheng's other photography series "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," focuses on more than 80 closeted service members affected by the government policy known by the same name and was hailed by various national media outlets.
Nicholas Orozco, Minton-Spidell Point Scholar
Los Angeles / Candidate for an M.H.S-M.D. / University of California, Berkeley & U.C. San Francisco
Nicholas Orozco is a medical student earning his MHS‐MD degrees in the UC Berkeley‐UCSF Joint Medical Program and Program in Medical Education for the Urban Underserved. He is spearheading the development of a free clinic to serve homeless, low‐income and uninsured LGBTQ persons, as well as developing an LGBTQ Health course for his medical school’s curriculum. Nick’s goal is to become a Family Medicine physician who can serve and advocate for disadvantaged and underserved populations.
Nicole Opper, NBC Universal Point Scholar
San Diego / Candidate for an M.F.A. in Film / San Francisco State University
Nicole Opper is committed to doing her part to inspire LGBTQ acceptance within families through her work as a filmmaker and an educator. Her work to date includes the Emmy‐nominated 2010 feature documentary Off and Running which aired on the national PBS series, P.O.V. Her hope is to expand to narrative storytelling while in graduate school, further explore the notion of family and identity, as well as to present nuanced and challenging portraits of our community to a wide audience.
Los Angeles / Candidate for a B.A. in Political Science / University of California, Berkeley
Isaias Guzman was born and raised in a predominantly low‐income community in Southeast Los Angeles to Mexican immigrant parents; through hard work, he's the first in his family to attend college and there became president of his school’s Gay‐Straight Alliance Club and joined the national Gay‐Straight Alliance Network. Isaias has helped empower hundreds of youth as they work to fight homophobia in their schools, and he has lobbied for legislation in Sacramento that would create safer schools for students.
Shane Du, Wells Fargo Point Scholar
Los Angeles / Candidate for an M.D. / SUNY Upstate Medical University
Shane Du grew up in conservative rural China, and there battled incessant harassment because of her gender expression. Shane obtained a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering and came to the U.S. with a graduate engineering scholarship. Shane is deeply concerned about the lack of access to compassionate healthcare for LGBTQ patients and plans to work as a primary care physician for LGBT patients.
Carey Crall, Wells Fargo Point Scholar
Temecula, Calif. / Candidate for an M.D. / Harvard Medical School
Cary Crall was born into a devout Mormon family; however, the Mormon Church’s involvement in California’s Proposition 8 served as a turning point for Cary as he transitioned to become an advocate for LGBTQ rights within his religious community and then nationally. He was named one of the “Forty Under 40” by The Advocate magazine for an opinion piece he published in Brigham Young University's student newspaper, defending gay and lesbian equality. He continues to fight for nondiscrimination ordinances in his conservative Utah community and make BYU a more safe and supportive college for its LGBTQ students.
Ved Chirayath, Wells Fargo Point Scholar
Los Angeles / Candidate for a Ph.D. in Aeronautics & Astronautics / Stanford University
Born to Belgian and Indian immigrants in Arizona, Ved Chirayath grew up in Southern California with a passion for human space exploration. In 2003, he modified a consumer digital camera and telescope to detect a new extra‐solar planet, 150 light years away and roughly twice the size of Jupiter. Later that year, Ved received the MIT Lincoln Laboratory Distinguished Scientist Award and enrolled as the first American at Moscow State University's Physics Department. He is determined to challenge the status quo, stand up for LGBTQ rights and become the first openly LGBTQ identified astronaut, as well as a spokesperson for the LGBTQ community in aerospace and the natural sciences.
For extended bios and more information on the class of 2012 Point Scholars, visit pointfoundation.org.