Pinnacle Foundation 2013The Pinnacle Foundation celebrated its latest group of scholars at a function last week where openly-gay businessman and outgoing David Jones CEO Paul Zahra was the guest of honour.

The event held inside the Pyrmont offices of multinational giant Accenture on October 16 saw Pinnacle’s 2013 scholars officially welcomed while also acting as a fundraiser for new inductees.

Since being founded in 2009 to help disadvantaged and marginalised LGBTIQ youth, Pinnacle has provided 45 scholarships and $200,000 in grants.

Pinnacle chairman and co-founder Sean Linkson said the charity helped fulfil an “extraordinary need” across Australia.

“We’re the only organisation in Australia that provides scholarships and mentoring to disadvantaged and marginalised LGBTQI youth,” Linkson said.

“We came into existence because there is a younger generation out there that is extremely vulnerable. They’ve been bullied at school, rejected by their families or church, they’ve suffered from depression – there is a whole range of things that can happen to these young people because of the lack of acceptance by society.

“It’s a marginalisation that can crush their young souls.”

One of the 2013 scholars, Daniela Barisic-Sprem, who is working part-time and studying at Macquarie University, paid tribute to the holistic nature of the assistance provided by Pinnacle to help young people achieve their goals.

“With the help of the Pinnacle Foundation I have had so much stress lifted off my shoulders to help pay for essential things to get through university. The financial support has just been amazing,” she said.

“The mentor aspect of the Pinnacle Foundation is just incredible as well … The mentor probably helps more than the financial side because a mentor is great to have as you relate to them so much and form such a bond.”

Fellow scholar Matt Russo, who is hoping to build a successful career within the Catholic education system, said despite the discrimination he had faced while studying, he believed with the help of Pinnacle he will be successful in helping change attitudes of LGBTI people within religious schools.

“From the get-go, Pinnacle were supportive, loving and caring. It was like entering another family,” he said.

“I feel privileged to help train the future of Australia.”

Zahra – who only a few days following the event made a shock announcement he was soon leaving David Jones – told the gathered scholars to never be afraid of turning to friends and family for help as they built their careers and to not let perceptions of their sexuality hold them back.

“You need to believe in yourself, to never give up ever and believe that you can be as successful as anybody else regardless of your sexuality,” Zahra said.

“Often a lot of the issues we perceive others to have of our sexuality are in our own head and that plays a part in limiting your ability.”

Photo: Pinnacle Foundation co-founder Sean Linkson welcomes 2013 NSW scholars (Serkan Ozturk)

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