More than 400 guests joined Olympians and stars of stage and screen to show their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) students at the annual Point Honors gala the landmark New York Public Library last night.
The evening celebrated the accomplishments of Point Foundation's (Point), higher education scholarship recipients. More than $500,000 was raised for Point, the nation’s largest scholarship-granting organization for LGBTQ students of merit.
Pete Nowalk, the Creator and Executive Producer of ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder,” received the Point Leadership Award. Point presents the Leadership Award to an individual who has achieved prominence in their professional career and unequivocally supports the LGBTQ community. Jack Falahee and Conrad Ricamora, both of whom appear on “…Murder,” presented Nowalk with the award. In his acceptance speech, Nowalk spoke about how audiences have responded enthusiastically to the LGBTQ characters on the show.
“The relationship between Connor and Oliver is one of the show’s most popular, and it has even encouraged me to write more LGBTQ characters into the show – including Viola’s character who is now one of the only LGBTQ leads on TV,” Nowalk said. “The only reason I had the guts to write any of this is because I had parents who made sure I could go to college. But most LGBTQ kids aren’t as lucky as I was. Most can’t even afford to hope for a college education. Thanks to Point Foundation, now a few more can and they are going to do big, world-changing things with their futures.”
A moving highlight of the evening came when five-time Olympic medalist Greg Louganis received the Point Legend Award, which recognizes an individual who has achieved greatness in their professional career and unapologetically supported the LGBTQ community. Louganis, whose photo will next month join the all-time great athletes appearing on boxes of Wheaties cereal, was presented with the award by fellow Olympian, Gus Kenworthy.
Directing part of his remarks to the Point Scholarship recipients in the audience, Louganis advised them, “Get in the pool – the pool of life; the pool of love; the pool of service. You will find others there, and together those ripples can become waves – waves of higher achievement, of self-acceptance and, just as important, the acceptance of others from all walks of life.”
The festive evening featured performances by Billy Gilman, Lena Hall, and Maddie Shea Baldwin from the cast of Broadway’s “Bright Star.” Other celebrity participants included Laith Ashley, Erich Bergen, Michelle Collins, Mallory Hagan, Julie Klausner, Selenis Leyva, Miguel Marquez, and Sarah Stiles.
Jorge Valencia, the Foundation’s Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, shared the news with the audience about Point’s new Community College Program. Students intending to transfer to a four-year college can apply for a tuition scholarship, along with professional coaching and invitations to attend some of Point’s leadership development conferences. The first year of this new program is generously sponsored by Wells Fargo.
“Thanks to the enthusiastic support of individuals and companies, we are expanding our ability to help LGBTQ students, "Valencia said. “Along with Point’s existing scholarships and leadership development programs, we are also excited to empower promising LGBTQ students in community college.”
Point will announce the recipients of all of its 2016–2017 scholarships in June 2016.