Tell us a little about your journey and how you became involved with The Pinnacle Foundation.
I lived all my life on a farm near the village of Nullamanna (population 40) and experienced the highs and lows of living in an isolated area. Rural Australia will always be home to me; however, the location necessitated the expensive move of almost 1000km to attend university. I knew that I wanted to attend university, and a determination to overcome the geographical barrier led me to apply for a Pinnacle Foundation Scholarship in 2018. I am now in my third year of a Bachelor of Primary Education (STEM) at the University of Canberra and am incredibly passionate about delivering quality education to disadvantaged students, including rural, Indigenous and LGBTIQ+ students, and students with disabilities. Outside of university, Pinnacle’s support has enabled me to step into many volunteering roles. I will be stepping into the CEO role of national NFP Country to Canberra in September, which delivers opportunities to women and non-binary people in rural, regional, and remote Australia.
What have you gained from being part of the Pinnacle program so far?
Pinnacle provided the financial support that has enabled me to move to university and engage meaningfully in my community through volunteering. Beyond this, Pinnacle’s provision of a mentor has led to major personal growth. When I applied for a Pinnacle Scholarship, I was not yet out to my family or community. Years of internalised homophobia and gender discrimination meant that I was in denial about my identity and was unable to embrace it. Since receiving the holistic support offered by Pinnacle, I have grown to accept myself, and have been able to draw on the community and my mentor for support when I need it. The Pinnacle family has allowed me, for the first time, to experience the unconditional acceptance and vibrant support of the queer community.
What has your experience with your mentor been like?
My mentor has been a fantastic support over my past 2-3 years with Pinnacle. Katja not only works in my field of interest and provides valuable professional insight, she is a kind and supportive person who is willing to listen and assist with issues outside of my studies or career aspirations. We meet monthly for coffee and cake, or a walk, and I really value the guidance she offers. Through COVID-19, Katja has been an enduring connection to my “normal” life, providing reliable support.
What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about applying for The Pinnacle Foundation Scholarship Program?
The Pinnacle Foundation Scholarship Program is so unique in what it offers. A targeted scholarship for disadvantaged LGBTIQ+ youth is a new opportunity for vulnerable individuals, and I would encourage all eligible young people to apply. It is important to reach out to those who can support you in your application, and to draw on their advice and expertise. I would also encourage new applicants to reach out to Pinnacle if they have any questions or queries-the Pinnacle family is always willing to support young queer people who may be having trouble applying for the scholarships.