NY & LOS ANGELES,
Jorge Valencia, Executive Director and CEO at Point Foundation
Jorge Valencia began his tenure as the Point Foundation’s Executive Director and CEO in January 2007. He brings to Point a wealth of experience in managing and growing nonprofit organizations, a proven ability to design and manage the infrastructure of expanding organizations and extensive experience with, and sensitivity to, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth issues. Jorge served as President and Executive Director of The Trevor Project from 2001-2006.
The Trevor Project is a nationwide non-profit organization established to promote acceptance of gay and questioning teenagers and to aid in suicide prevention by operating the nation’s first round-the-clock toll-free suicide prevention helpline aimed at LGBTQ youth. Under Jorge’s guidance, The Trevor Project increased its operational budget by 800% and its foundation-based grant funds by 900%. He created and managed its major donor program and expanded its volunteer pool to more than 500. Jorge’s leadership contributed to Trevor’s growth as a nationally recognized youth service organization.
Why do you do what you do?
I am the Executive Director and CEO of the non-profit Point Foundation. We are the largest US non-profit that provides scholarships, mentoring, and leadership programming to LGBTQ students. As the Executive Director and CEO, I lead our growth efforts and vision with a small and mighty team based in Los Angeles and New York City.
I am truly inspired by the students I’ve met in my tenure at Point. They’re the reason I personally do what I do, and I know the entire team is motivated by their stories and achievements. Every year, I meet students who share that before Point, they had never had an LGBTQ community, or that they had never been able to fully embrace their own identities. Point creates that community network, where our students can connect with people like themselves, and together embrace their gifts and move forward toward their goals.
Though we have come a long way in our efforts toward equality over the years, LGBTQ cause-based organizations and movements are still absolutely essential. The US Supreme Court is hearing cases that may make it once again legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people in places of business or take our right to marriage away. Anti-LGBTQ hate bills and laws are being passed in record numbers. Schools are enforcing anti-LGBTQ state-policies, such as in Florida, or creating their own hate policies as some religious colleges have done. And worse, our community continues to face real, deadly violence in our businesses like Club Q, or the drag reading protests.
Point Foundation is funding, mentoring, and creating space for LGBTQ students who face these terrible realities on their path to higher education. As the largest foundation that grants LGBTQ students funding, we encourage growth despite the oppression. Continuous growth and community are essential if we are going to continue to protect our people while fostering leaders that can help us as a nation create lasting, positive change.
What does Social Sustainability mean to you and your organization?
As a non-profit, human empowerment is at our core. We strengthen our capacity to empower LGBTQ students in partnership with organizations, foundations, and businesses that care about social sustainability. Our partners work with us to volunteer, create new educational programming that centers diverse LGBTQ populations, or found scholarships to support more students in higher education. In this way, we are a resource for LGBTQ groups or allies within their workspaces to engage with a cause that impacts them, thus furthering their organizational social sustainability goals. Working together, we can leave a legacy in communities across the globe.
Who inspires you most?
The people who inspire me the most are today’s LGBTQ youth leaders. This generation pursues their passions and dreams and works together to create change. They remind me that we’re in safe hands and they give me hope that the world will become a safer, better place for everyone.
I think what sets young LGBTQ people apart is their passion, commitment, and resiliency. I admire their tenacity – despite all the hurdles, all the oppression that they face today – to fight for equity. Youth leaders, particularly in the LGBTQ community, work together to make things happen. They’re constantly networking, reaching out to their neighborhood, or across the world if they need to, to find others who can share their passion and work. They are constantly reminding me of the importance of community and chosen family and the ways we can do more and be better together.
"We also collaborate on research to really understand the LGBTQ student experiences on campuses across America. Through vital funding, support, and research, we seek to provide wrap-around support for LGBTQ student communities".
What’s the purpose of your organization and how do you bring it to life?
The mission of Point Foundation is to empower promising lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students to achieve their full academic and leadership potential – despite the obstacles often put before them – so they can better make a significant impact on society.
We help LGBTQ students access and achieve success in higher education through three scholarship programs, a grant program, plus mentorship, and coaching assignments as well as leadership and educational programming. Our national community of alumni, board members, donors, staff, and students, also provides valuable support and professional networking opportunities for students seeking advice and leadership. We also collaborate on research to really understand the LGBTQ student experiences on campuses across America. Through vital funding, support, and research, we seek to provide wrap-around support for LGBTQ student communities.
Do you only communicate successes or also failures?
Communicating failures is essential to the leadership experience. Failures are such excellent opportunities to learn. Our team is constantly in touch with our students through personal communications, mass communications, and surveys, meaning that we have many opportunities to learn how we can support our students better.
We also have working committees and boards and a large network of Point leaders who come from specialized, professional backgrounds to evaluate and provide solutions to the complex issues we tackle at Point. For example, our board is constantly scrutinizing our applications and student body to ensure that we have a true diversity of students across our scholarship programs. It’s important that we are constantly looking for ways to improve. And to do that, it’s essential to find “failures” or places where we can do better.
"I am most grateful for the human kindness I get to experience throughout my life. This includes the kindness people show to each other, to animals, or as stewards to our environment. These are all things that warm me, give me hope, and make me feel grateful for the endless capacity of people to do good".
How do you integrate Diversity, Inclusion and Equity into your everyday?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are core values for Point Foundation. Not only does our staff all routinely receive training, but all of our board leadership receives training as they are brought into Point, and our scholarship application readers receive rigorous training before evaluating applicants.
We continuously reevaluate what these words mean, and how we can be rigorous about advancing these definitions and integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion into our processes in every area. We are fortunate to have many professionals in our network within DE&I leadership roles in major industries. This network serves as a great touchpoint to continuously advance our practices.
Who are you most grateful for?
I am most grateful for the human kindness I get to experience throughout my life. This includes the kindness people show to each other, to animals, or as stewards to our environment. These are all things that warm me, give me hope, and make me feel grateful for the endless capacity of people to do good.
Social Media Links: @pointfoundation on all platforms. You may find me @jvalencia on Twitter, as Jorge Valencia on LinkedIn and Facebook, and @jvalenciajr on Instagram.