THE Pinnacle Foundation, a national charity that provides scholarships and mentors to disadvantaged LGBTI students, has welcomed Paul Zahra, Fran Kelly and Geoff Selig to its board.

Zahra is the former David Jones Limited chief executive and current PricewaterhouseCoopers Diversity Board Member, while Kelly is a high-profile ABC Radio presenter. Selig is a former NSW Liberal Party President and IVE Group Chairman.

[showads ad=MREC]“Having well respected community members like Paul, Fran and Geoff join our board is enormously influential,” Pinnacle chairman and co-founder Sean Linkson said.

“Firstly and most significantly, they are powerful role models for our young scholars whose self-esteem can be crushed by bigotry and discrimination. They often have no concept of success.

“Secondly, they bring a wealth of experience and connections that will help grow our support base among the community and corporate Australia.”

Linkson added that the abuse, bullying and homophobia directed towards young people who are out or coming out can have a : “devastating effect” and is an issue largely unrecognised by the wider community. Often ostracised by their families, schools or communities, these young people experience a much higher prevalence of anxiety and depression, with suicide rates eight to 15 times higher than the general population. For many, education becomes secondary to survival.

These are the some of the reasons why Zahra, who is also a Cornerstone benefactor for Pinnacle, feels strongly about joining the board.

“I found the stories of past and present scholars not only inspiring, but it resonated for me personally too,” he said.

“I want the next LGBTI generation to enjoy the empowerment that education and a fulfilling career can bring, hopefully without the grief.”

Kelly echoed Zahra’s sentiments: “Education is the key to a better life for so many of us, so anything I can do to help young LGBTI Australians get access to the transformative powers of education and help them overcome the hurdles that might be placed in their way by society’s prejudice is a privilege.”

For Selig, joining the Pinnacle team “is a wonderful opportunity to make a contribution to an organisation that is clearly focused on providing disenfranchised youth in the LGBTI community with tangible support and encouragement at what is most often a seminal point in their lives.”

Twenty-six students across Australia received scholarships this year across a range of academic disciplines including arts, science, architecture, teaching, law, astronomy, social work and fashion design.

Applications are now open for Pinnacle’s 2016 scholarship program and students can apply via www.thepinnaclefoundation.org

The Star  Observer is a media partner of The Pinnacle Foundation
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