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Profile: Lee Taube (they/them) – Pinnacle alumnus

Tell us a little about your journey and how you became involved with The Pinnacle Foundation.

I applied for The Pinnacle Foundation scholarship program 11 years ago, while I was studying my Diploma of Liberal Arts course. I was 20 years old at the time, and I was a scholar for three years. I applied for the scholarship upon the recommendation of a youth worker who encouraged me as it would be a program that I would benefit quite a lot from. I finished my diploma and then undertook a Bachelor of Arts and majored in Psychology. Pinnacle supported me for the first two years of that degree. I am still connected to The Pinnacle Foundation and attend events when I can. I find it important to stay connected and in touch with what is happening with the Foundation and to witness the growth of the Foundation from when I was a scholar.

The Pinnacle Foundation supported me when I was going through some challenging times, and I felt worthy and validated not only in my career goals but also as a person. This support was so important to me at the time. It was vital in encouraging me to continue my studies all the way through to a master’s in psychology.

I believe in giving back and supporting our community and I am currently creating a service called Trans Space which is a private mental health service that provides trans affirmative counselling to trans and gender diverse (TGD) people and their families, using the informed consent model. The mental health therapists at Trans Space will consist of a team of psychologists experienced in working with TGD people and TGD mental health therapists with lived experience. I am hoping to launch Trans Space by mid to late this year and create a space for TGD people to be able to access the support and care they need. Currently there is no private mental health service for TGD people and the waitlists in the public system are between one to three years for a first appointment.

Since being a Pinnacle scholar, I have published four peer reviewed publications which use strengths-based approaches to improve mental health for TGD people. I started this research in my fourth year of university while writing my thesis. While I was conducting research, I found that there was a huge gap in research identifying and using the strengths that TGD people already must improve psycho-social outcomes. Previous research showed a focus on the negative aspects of what life as a TGD person entails, and how hard it is to be TGD, and there was little research on the strengths shown in our community, and there are many strengths us TGD people have! I wanted to showcase what we do really well, and the ways that we thrive, despite the hardships that we face, which has been the focus of my four publications.

What did you gain from being part of the Pinnacle scholarship program?

The practical support that I received from the scholarship was really valuable. The funds helped me buy my first ever laptop, which helped me to complete my assignments and course work with greater ease and comfort. I no longer needed to book library computers to do my work. I could study at my own pace and at times that were convenient for me. I grew up in a low socioeconomic household with limited resources, so having the financial support of Pinnacle was life-changing at the time because it removed a lot of the barriers I was experiencing. With the financial support, I was able to purchase university books which helped me be on more even-ground with my university colleagues.

At the time I was also experiencing a lot of challenges so the community that I found as part of my scholarship was so valuable to me in my development as a person. Having a community of people championing you, supporting you and believing in you is really impactful on the success of a person, so having that during a time when I really needed it was extremely valuable.

What was your experience with your mentor like?

My mentor was a great support to me during my time as a Pinnacle scholar. I felt that we were matched well, and I learnt a lot from him. My mentor helped me to navigate different challenges that I faced at the time, such as applying for my bachelor’s degree. He also drove me to, and accompanied me at, university information sessions, which was very helpful as I did not have a car or a licence at the time. My mentor also helped me to understand what the academic world entails and that was very use useful for me being the first person in my family to attend university and thus did not have anyone else to help me navigate the world of academia.

What advice would you give to a young person who is thinking about applying for The Pinnacle Foundation scholarship program?

You have got to be in it to win it! To be considered, you will need to apply! If you need support and help to apply, please find people who can help you. Sometimes there is embarrassment or shame around asking for help, especially if you come from a background where asking for help is frowned upon. I remember when I wrote my application, I asked some of the youth workers I knew to read through my application, and they give me advice on what to include and language and terminology to use before I submitted it. This support likely helped me get across the line when I was applying. Sometimes it can be hard to advocate for yourself and express why you need support, so having someone else to guide you and help you is really important.

I would also encourage you to not be disheartened if you apply and do not make it through. It is so important to try again and reapply as the decision is not always based on you or your merits, but on the timing of what scholarships are available when you do apply. Putting yourself out there and the possibility of rejection can be scary and can be a barrier, but the worst that can happen is that you hear a ‘no’ that leaves you with an opportunity to try again.

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