A new philanthropic foundation hopes to give a leg up to promising gay and lesbian students with mentoring and scholarships.

The GenQ Foundation aims to sponsor two students in 2008, placing them with business and community leaders to gain experience and guidance in succeeding as out individuals in their chosen field.

And they’re hoping those who have succeeded will step up to give something back to the community.

GenQ.com.au founder Andrew Stopps said the deaths of two teenage boys struggling with their sexuality prompted him to take action so young people would know they were not alone.

“Young people coming up need to see leaders they can turn to, and that’s not happening,” Stopps said.

“It’s really important that older members of the community are seen as helpers and guides because they know the pitfalls.”

But that doesn’t happen, Stopps said, because the gap between the generations meant young people had to keep reinventing the wheel.

“For a mentor it’s an opportunity to give back unselfishly and leave a legacy. We can’t all have kids, so this is the next best thing,” he said.

The financial scholarships would be targeted to those with backgrounds where positive role models are few, such as rural areas.

“I’m expecting applications from the regional areas, probably more than from the cities. Very often you really are the only gay in the village,” Stopps said.

“It’s one thing going to work experience in a field of your endeavour but nobody understands where you’re coming from. It’s different if you’ve got an employer who has been through the same social and personal situation.”

Stopps said he hoped that other sponsorship and mentoring programs such as those offered by Twenty10 and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association could work together.

See www.genqfoundation.com.

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