In order to complete their secondary or tertiary education, The Pinnacle Foundation provides scholarships and mentoring for marginalised and disadvantaged lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) students.

The Pinnacle Foundation recognise that some young LGBTIQs can face a tough time coming out to their families, friends and schools, with some finding themselves without the money and support needed to keep up their studies.They also know how important it is to have role models for young LGBTIQs to look up to.

Alex Blackwell, vice-captain of the Australian Women’s Cricket Team, is one of the Pinnacle Foundation’s latest ambassadors. Alex remembers how it felt as a child to look up to someone in the public eye and be able to relate to them.

"I remember watching world champion pole vaulter Emma George representing Australia on TV and being amazed that she held the world record and kept on breaking her own world records. It seemed like she was loving what she was doing and was being completely herself. As a kid what really impressed me about Emma was learning that her favourite hobbies were fishing and camping because I love these things too! I spotted her walking down the street in my home town of Griffith and with a little coaxing by my mum I went up to her to say hello."

Young LGBTIQs often have a tough time and need support to achieve their goals. Having someone to aspire to, someone whose values you admire and who has pride in themselves, is especially an important part of figuring out personal identity. Sometimes just having someone else proudly being themselves is all that it takes to find the courage to be yourself.

“From the moment I met my partner Lynsey Askew, I was so happy that all I could think of was telling my family. They were fantastic about it and I was very open from that moment on with my teammates and colleagues. However there was some hesitation from me regarding speaking publicly about being gay because I wasn't sure this was the best thing for my sport. On Valentine's Day 2012 I experienced homophobia at a cricket event and I felt completely crushed. That moment made me realise individuals need to stand up to help eradicate out homophobia in sport and society at large. Magda Szubanski came out on The Project that night and listening to her sparked a change in me. She chose that day to be public about her sexuality and her visibility made all the difference to me on one of my lowest ever days. Like Magda, I decided from that day on that I would not only be open about my sexuality but I would also be public about it to demonstrate to LGBTI people that they need not be ashamed of who they are.”

As a new ambassador for the Pinnacle Foundation, Alex is taking the opportunity to be out and proud and to talk about her experiences as an out lesbian in sport,using her profile to raise awareness of the work the foundation does.

I feel it is really important for me to stand up and be visible as a gay person to show others they have nothing to be ashamed about. As an ambassador for the Pinnacle Foundation I hope to send a strong message to LGBTI youths that that can aim high like I have done and they can reach the pinnacle of their chosen fields.”

All recipients of a Pinnacle Foundation scholarship are matched with mentors of the same gender and sexuality. This mentoring relationship with a successful person in the same field as their studies provides advice and guidance to the scholar throughout the scholarship year.

The Pinnacle Foundation has just commenced their 2016 mentoring and funding drive. This year, they awarded 26 scholarships to students all across Australia, bringing the total to $284,000 which they have awarded to marginalised and disadvantaged LGBTIQ students since 2010.

If you would like to get involved with Pinnacle, you can make a donation, apply for a 2016 scholarship or apply to be a mentor via their website.