Last year, the Point Foundation piloted a community college scholarship program with 12 students from New York and California.
This year, applications were open nationwide, and one of the 25 recipients is a Georgia student.
Bryant Couvillon, who uses the singular “they” pronoun, first heard about the Point Scholarship when they were 15, embroiled in a lawsuit with their high school. The Southern Poverty Law Center represented Couvillon and a staff member there was a former Point Scholar, who told Couvillon about the program.
“She definitely was encouraging me and motivating me to apply when I was old enough,” Couvillon told Georgia Voice. “I guess it was a young little dream of mine that actually came true.”
This is a one-year scholarship, but recipients are able to apply to become Point Scholars as well, said Eugene Patron, communications and marketing director for the Point Foundation.
“We look for people that have had some activity in the LGBTQ community, maybe with a gay-straight alliance in their high school,” Patron said. “Community colleges … there’s less of a support network you would find on a traditional campus and so this is a way of also helping them connect with each other, and with Point Scholars and alumni so that they feel like part of a community and they can continue to do their work as open LGBTQ people, knowing that people have got their back.”
Couvillon studies at Georgia State University Perimeter College, where they are working to obtain an associate’s degree in political science.
“Then I’m going to get a bachelor’s at Georgia State University main campus in public policy, with a minor in economics in international relations. Then I plan on going to law school,” Couvillon said. ”I plan on running for public office back in Atlanta once I finish law school.”
They feel the community college atmosphere is perfect for a future political candidate because of its diversity and inclusiveness.
Choosing to run for public office at a young age was a career choice spurred on by Couvillon’s myriad interests: education, environmental science and everything else involves policy that needs reform, they said.
“Every single aspect of who I am just goes back to social justice work,” they said. “When I was 15 and I had to take up charges against my high school, I wore a T-shirt that said, ‘Gay, fine by me.’ … I’d always been accepted by my friends and family, however, I did live in Alabama. I quickly realized the world wasn’t as picture-perfect. Through being oppressed and being silenced by my community and my school, I started getting a passion to make sure that didn’t happen to me.”
They said it was almost a blessing in disguise that the lawsuit happened.
“If my school hadn’t oppressed me or hadn’t done what they did wrong, then I possibly wouldn’t have been sculpted into the person I am now,” Couvillon said. “I want to be the first non-binary, trans state representative.”
The Point Scholarships are more than just financial aid, Couvilon said.
“You become part of a family of networks all over the country and somewhat all over the world,” they said. “Everyone’s rooting for everyone. It’s almost like a gay fraternity. … I think it’s really, really great to have almost like, reparations for the oppression. Having some sort of equilibrium to balance that out, to offer LGBT people scholarships, really helps create more diversity in the work field and places that matter.”
They encourage other LGBT students to apply for the scholarships in future years to help further strengthen that sense of community.
“Being young and being queer is hard. It’s valid and oftentimes you feel unseen or unheard. But I feel like we need more representation. We need our community to be uplifted and we need our community to succeed,” Couvillon said. “We need to love each other as a community to get there.”
A number of factors stood out about Couvillon, including that they were an applicant from the South, Patron said.
“Bryant wants to go into nonprofits and study public policy,” he said. “It’s not just giving somebody some money and say, ‘Have a good life.’ It’s, we’re going to keep hearing from you in the community. You’re going to be changing society.”