Pinnacle Foundation: Supporting queer youth
The Pinnacle Foundation supports LGBTI students across Australia. Brodie McGee talks to the new chair of the SA regional committee, Richard Yates.
The Pinnacle Foundation is an emerging helping hand for Australian queer tertiary students. The foundation offers scholarships to high school and tertiary students that show a commitment to their studies despite marginalisation, and have assumed or demonstrate leadership qualities within their local communities. The scholarship offered is in the form of both financial assistance, as well as the partnering of the scholar with a queer mentor in the local community. Alan Smith has recently stepped down from the role of chair of the South Australian Regional Committee, and has passed the legacy to a younger, fresher player, Richard Yates.
Yates originally became involved with the Pinnacle Foundation several years ago as a mentor, and has since set his aspirations on growing Pinnacle regionally to link young queer students in South Australia with successful leaders. “I love seeing gay people do well,” Yates says. “I really like how the program aims to link successful leaders with disadvantaged youth. Being a student can be hard enough and sexuality can complicate things. When times are tough, the scholarships can assist in easing some of the pressures.”
Yates has been involved with local queer groups since his days studying law at Adelaide University in the early 2000s, where he was a founding member of the “Ten Percent” LGBTIQ social group. “I saw first hand that linking students into the LGBTIQ community could be really beneficial in giving them a context in society that they hadn’t appreciated before.” Now Yates says he can see the importance of services like Pinnacle within the community. “I see Pinnacle as a really important part of our community. I've been humbled to see the support for the foundation during my time here.”
The foundation itself relies heavily on donations of money and time from community members, and it is now Yates’ job to facilitate these donations. His voluntary role includes coordinating the fundraising activities, fostering the foundation's links with the program’s existing mentors and fostering partnerships with new mentors, as well as promoting the scholarships to high school and tertiary students. Despite the constant call for help to the community, Yates says his primary goal of growing the foundation here in South Australia is undoubtedly achievable. “We are always looking for additional support but it never ceases to amaze me how much time and effort the gay community has been willing to contribute,” he says.
The Foundation itself started in the Eastern states, and the first South Australian scholars were announced a few years ago. Since then, the number of South Australian scholars has been on the rise and Yates passionately fights for them. “I'm a fiercely proud South Australian and I dislike seeing promising young gay people leave,” Yates explains. “I think we should be saying to the young gay members of our community ‘not only can you survive and do well in SA, but we'll support you and we'll all be better off in the long run’.”
The scholarships also have a learning aspect associated with them, with each scholar receiving a mentor for the duration of the year. This mentoring is designed to assist the scholars in recognising that there are many successful gay leaders in the wider community, and that these leaders are ready to help the next generation achieve their goals.
This year’s Pinnacle Scholarships have been awarded to three South Australian students including Max Cooper, 19; Renee Pope, 18; and Caitlyn Georgeson, 19; all from the University of Adelaide.
“I’ll never forget the feeling of absolute awe and disbelief when I found out I had been selected as a 2014 Pinnacle Scholar,” Pope told Pinnacle. “It is such an honour and a privilege, and for me it is life changing. As an activist and a young member of the LGBTQI+ community I have so many visions for the future, and with the help of Pinnacle and my mentor I can strive to achieve my goals and help make the world a better place for young people struggling with their identity and sexuality.”
With the Pinnacle Foundation aiming to expand their reach and provide both financial and mentoring assistance to even more students in the upcoming years, they are always looking for more community members to get on board. “There are several ways people can get involved,” Yates says. “The first is financial. It's really easy to set up a once off or ongoing tax deductible donation by credit card on our website. The second is by way of becoming a mentor.
We are always looking for mentors from all walks of life and industries. The third way is by spreading the word. There are a lot of disadvantaged gay students out there and we want to know about them and encourage them to apply for scholarships.”
[Top image] Current Pinnacle scholars with the foundation’s Philip Comans (left) and Sean Linkson (right). Photo supplied.
For information on scholarship or how to contribute, go to thepinnaclefoundation.org