On April 11, 2016 I was fortunate enough to attend the 2016 Point Honors Gala. The Point Honors gala recognizes individuals who have demonstrated leadership and courage and stand as role models for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer young people.
Point is the nation’s largest scholarship- granting organization for LGBTQ students of exemplary academic achievement. At its origin in 2001, the foundation changed the lives of 8 students. This year, Point, through scholarship funding, mentorship and leadership development, was able to support 84 scholars.
The gala was held in the beautifully blue-lit ballroom of the New York Public Library, and was hosted by comedian Michelle Collins. Throughout the evening, the audience was introduced to many Point alums whose lives had only been changed for the better by the support of the organization.
Tiffany Barillas, the featured Point scholar of the night, attributed her change from trouble maker in Los Angeles, California to being the first member of her family to graduate high school and college.
“I’m proud to be a Point scholar,” Barillas said, ending her inspirational speech by saying that she was “here today because someone believed in me – because of the Point Foundation.”
The gala had other celebrated guests, including Pete Nowalk, who was presented with the Point Leadership Award. Nowalk is a Brown University Graduate and the executive producer of the ABC series “How to Get Away with Murder.”
Nowalk spoke about growing up without any role models, adding that the foundation, along with his job, “allows him to create role models,” as well as “push the needle forward a little bit more.” Nowalk left the audience with a very fitting encourage to “live out loud.”
The other honoree of the night was Olympic Gold Medalist, as well as best-selling author, Greg Louganis. Louganis was presented with the Point Legend Award for his contributions to the LGBTQ community by being a gay athlete at a time where those didn’t exist and for his courageous 28-year battle with HIV.
The teary-eyed gold medalist told his story, of realizing he had something to offer the world by coming out, and explained the importance of the Point Foundation.
“Make everywhere you go better,” he said, “that’s what the Point Foundation does.”
Between the inspiring stories, the honoring, and the great musical performances by Bill Gilman, Bright Star’s Maddie Shea Baldwin, and Lena Hall, the foundation made sure that the audience did not forget the goal.
The Point Foundation held an auction where the money went towards sponsoring LGBTQ student advancement. The auction included trips all over the world, spa days, and even a rare collectible Wheaties box with Greg Louganis on the cover. After the auction was over, attendants were allowed to donate to the cause by paying for anything from an entire year’s education for a scholar ($13,000), which one gentlemen kindly did, to paying for a scholar’s books at $700.
Nearly one-third of LGBTQ drop out of high school to escape violence, harassment and isolation. That dropout rate is 3 times the national average. The Point Foundation is doing something about this tragic statistic and the 2016 Point Honors Gala was an example of the greatness these students can achieve with the help of organizations like the Point Foundation.