December 2012 Graduates Reflect on their Time with Point

Lauren Beach, a 2009 Point Scholar, and Izzy Pellegrine, a 2010 Point Scholar, both graduated this month: Lauren with a JD from the University of Minnesota, and Izzy from Mississippi State University with BAs in social work and sociology. As they transition into Point Alumni, Lauren and Izzy answered a few questions about their time as Point Scholars:

What were some of the highlights/favorite memories from your time as a Point Scholar?

Lauren Beach

LAUREN: A favorite Point-related highlight I have is interning in the HIV/AIDS Department of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Without Point’s support, I never would have been able to afford the opportunity of accepting this life-changing internship.

Another fond highlight I have from my time at Point is my attendance at all of the Point Annual Scholar Conferences and bi-annual Regional Networking Events. During these events, I was able to meet all of the other Point Scholars and many of the Point alumni, further cementing the power of the Point network in my life.

Izzy Graduation

Izzy Pellegrine with her girlfriend Amanda

IZZY: Some of the highlights for me were the little, thoughtful things that Point did for us as scholars. I remember Vince always calling on my birthday, or getting holiday cards from Point at the end of the year. It really makes you feel valued as a person and like you’re an integral part of the organization. I’m really privileged to have a good relationship with my family now, but I know many of us are not. The sense of belonging that comes with being part of the Point family is just remarkable.

What are you personally going to be taking away from your Point experience?

LAUREN: The most valuable contribution Point has given me is the generous gift of an amazing, talented, international network comprised of the entire Point Family. This network, along with the high-quality undergraduate (2006-07) and graduate (2009-2012) interdisciplinary education for which Point has supported me, are truly invaluable. Already, my Point-supported education and Point Family network have helped me gain national status as an activist dedicated to supporting and advocating for bi/pan/fluid/queer/unlabeled communities. They have also helped me successfully compete for prestigious national fellowships and awards in the law and life sciences. It is my hope that in the future; I can help support other Point Family members to achieve their goals and dreams, too.

IZZY: Of course the first things that come to mind are two degrees that I would not have been able to complete without Point’s support. My time with Point has brought me much more than just academic success though. I have a network of incredible LGBTQ advocates and activists around the country. I’ve travelled all across the US, been included in White House briefings, and met LGBTQ and allied industry leaders, celebrities, and high ranking government officials (including the vice president!).

What was your favorite experience with your Community Service Project (CSP)? With your mentor?

LAUREN: My favorite CSP experience to date has been organizing BECAUSE (Bisexual Empowerment Conference: A Uniting, Supportive Experience). BECAUSE, typically hosted in the Twin Cities, is the largest and longest running U.S. conference dedicated to creating an empowering space for bi/pan/fluid/queer/unlabeled and allied people. BECAUSE 2013, which I am explicitly helping to organize for my CSP, marks the first year the conference will feature not only the traditional community workshop days, but also a day of workshops showcasing interdisciplinary academic research relating to wellness in bi/pan/fluid/queer/ unlabeled populations. It has been extremely personally rewarding for me to organize BECAUSE for my CSP, given that BECAUSE is the first place I ever felt completely understood and accepted in my bi identity. BECAUSE is also the event that inspired me to begin identifying and acting like a bisexual activist, rather than a GLBTQA activist who happens to be bi-identified. I am grateful Point has been supportive of me in this journey.

My favorite aspect of my relationship with my Point mentor has been the individual support she has provided me while I have navigated my way through a demanding Joint Degree graduate/law program. Whenever I needed someone to celebrate my victories or bounce back from my challenges, my mentor has always been there for me.

IZZY: My first CSP didn’t go at all like I had planned. The idea was to create a series of videos highlighting the experiences of rural LGBTQ youth. In the process, though, I ended up having to go through a great deal of organizational bureaucracy and needed to incorporate a non-profit first (which we successfully did). It taught me a lot about how the movement is impacted by non-profit structure and how to really roll with the punches as an activist.

 What advice would you give a future Point Scholar?

LAUREN: First – don’t let self-doubt get in the way of completing an application. Apply, apply, apply! Second, once you’ve received the scholarship, be sure to get to know as many members of the Point Family as well as you can. Point Scholars, alumni, staff, trustees, and regents are all remarkable, well-connected, caring people. Developing and strengthening your Point network will help you succeed in all aspects of your life – personally and professionally. Plus, as you develop in your career, being a part of the Point network will provide you an easy way to give back to the community that has given so much to you.

IZZY: Recognize that this is more than a funding source. Point is interested in scholars as whole people and can open so many doors for you through networking and support. Also, return Jonathan’s emails on time!

What are your future plans?

LAUREN: In the immediate future, I will focus on completing my Ph.D. in Genetics. When I finish my PhD, I will have completed my entire Joint Program in Law, Health, and the Life Sciences at the University of Minnesota. Upon my “complete” graduation, I will apply to become a Fellow in the Food and Drug Administration’s Commissioner’s Fellowship Program. If I have time between my graduation and applying for the Commissioner’s Fellowship, I think it would be fun to work as a science policy advisor for a Congressional representative in Washington, DC My ultimate career goal is to work as a senior administrator at the FDA or CDC, where my leadership position will allow me to craft and enforce science-based, socially responsible, regulatory policies that simultaneously promote research innovation and public health. Additionally, I plan to continue my national leadership involvement in the bi/pan/fluid/queer/unlabeled activist communities.

IZZY: From here, I’m going on to graduate school to pursue a PhD in Sociology. I’m interested in researching advocacy organizations, specifically those in rural areas and related to sexuality issues and how organizational structure impacts the direction of our movement.

This post was written by Lauren Beach
Raised in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, Lauren struggled to find individuals who were accepting of her bisexual identity. To help combat the bi-phobia she experienced, Lauren became an active student leader.  Learn more about Lauren.
This post was written by Izzy Pellegrine
Sarah Pellegrine is a queer youth activist in Starkville, Mississippi. She became involved with numerous non-profit organizations acting as Chapter Leader for the National Organization for Women, National Young Feminist Task Force and eventually participating as Board Secretary for Unity MS and helping found the first and only organization in Mississippi dedicated exclusively to queer youth, the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition. Learn more about Izzy.