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A Harvard student was among the first to receive a scholarship from the only national organization devoted solely to assisting bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgendered (BGLT) individuals in completing their educations, the organization announced last week.
Travis S. Wright, a first-year student at the Graduate School of Education (GSE), was one of eight recipients chosen by the Point Foundation from a nationwide pool of more than 800 applicants.
Wright said he was extremely grateful for the open-ended scholarship, which offers students near-total financial and personal support until the completion of their academic careers.
“The experience has both created exciting new opportunities for me and removed barriers to taking advantage of opportunities I’d gotten for myself,” Wright said.
The foundation endowed the scholarship in order to support students who it believes may become leaders both within and outside the BGLT community, according to Carl T. Strickland, the organization’s founder, executive director, and vice president.
Strickland said the connection between Wright’s activism and academic interests made him a strong candidate.
“Travis first of all is an outstanding student,” Strickland said. “One of the things that impressed the entire board most, though, is his goal to return to Tennessee and work on a state level affecting policy and education to hopefully stem what some perceive as a brain-drain in the South, particularly in the [BGLT] community.”
The first person in his family to graduate from college, Wright has served in leadership capacities in both BGLT and community activist groups since high school.
After graduating summa cum laude from the University of Tennessee, he was an openly gay sixth grade and high school teacher in Washington, D.C. public schools.
And currently, Wright is the president of Pride, the GSE’s BGLT student group, and program advisor for all BGLT programs at MIT.
Wright’s research focuses on the effects of homophobia in relationship development.
“The idea is that homophobia plays a central role in the construction of masculinity and presents challenges to men in relationships,” he explained.
“I want to be a scholar-activist working on these issues and then also get involved in public policy…as an elected official,” he said.
Wright said his childhood in the South gave him special insight into the hurdles faced by the region.
“I feel like the South is a community I really understand and a part of the country that is still really challenged by some of these issues,” Wright said.
According to the foundation, the awarding of Point scholarships is intended to prevent BGLT students, who often find themselves disowned by their families, from failing to pursue their educations due to a lack of financial and emotional support.
The foundation also provides its scholars with mentors who are already leaders in their fields.
“There aren’t necessarily many role models for young [BGLT] folks who are looking for ways to integrate who they are with what they want to do,” Wright said.
“This way they have people who have had that experience and can share that. It’s really important,” he added.
The foundation will begin its next round of applications online on Feb. 15.
—Staff writer Tamara L. Somasundaran can be reached at
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