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Abandoned but not alone


FORGET Alan Keyes -- the right-wing tub-thumper, the talk-show noisemaker, the Republican pol, the conservative ''Christian," the dad who abandoned his teenager because she happens to be gay.

The person to care about and take an interest in is Maya Keyes -- the daughter, the young woman who got into Brown University, the kid who spent time teaching in India. Sadly, she is anything but a unique case of a budding scholar instantly impoverished by vindictive parents on the threshold of life.

On the brighter side, it turns out she is not alone, but in the embrace of an organization that was set up a few years ago to help in heart-breaking situations like hers. Thanks to The Point Foundation, she will make it to Brown after all. She will not only have financial aid, she will have at least one adult mentor to confide in as her undergraduate life unfolds.

She will have to work hard to keep her aid, too. She must maintain the equivalent of a 3.5 grade-point average and design a community service program for her ''spare" time. Where higher education is concerned, that is as it should be. It's supposed to be hard, just not impossible because of cruel parents

So will it go for 40 other young people honored a year ago with Point Foundation assistance. Vance Lancaster, the executive director, told me more than 1,000 teenagers applied for help last year, nearly 3,000 this year. What that means is, as he put it, ''Maya Keyes is . . . only the tip of an iceberg, especially when you realize that we are unable to do all that much outreach to kids nationally." The foundation was established by a group of people who as students 30 years ago had also faced parental abandonment because they happened to be gay. They persevered, made it, and then made it big, resolving that they would use some of their wealth to provide the help they lacked. That what happened is still happening is a reminder that the fundamental sources of bigotry remain strong.

At the foundation, there's a story behind nearly every kid they help. One of the most poignant involves a freshman at Boston University, who is from Kentucky. Rummaging through his stuff one day, his father found a diary that disclosed his son's then-secret. When the young man returned home, he was led upstairs to his room, shown a packed suitcase, told his relatives had been contacted to make sure he was shunned, and then kicked out of the house by the father.

After being taken in by kind souls in his community, there was an attempt at partial reconciliation at home, which ended abruptly when the kid's parents cut off his Internet access after they discovered his contacts with the foundation.

Lancaster, who encounters this kind of heartbreak on almost every application, said there are cases of kids being rejected when they sought loans and scholarships in their communities, including young people who were National Merit scholars and graduation valedictorians.

Reconciliation with initially cruel behavior by parents is something the foundation tries its best to encourage, but it is never easy. Lancaster mentioned one case -- of a freshman at UCLA who is only 16 because he skipped two grades as a child -- where the very process of applying to the foundation had given the family a topic to discuss, even though the topic of the kid's very identity was too raw.

The intense pain and anguish of these rejected kids is one reason the Point people are so determined to go beyond merely providing financial assistance. If needed, they provide an adult to be there on the first day of college, so that one of the more joyous rites of passage (the unloading of the car at the dormitory) doesn't take place in solitude. In the summer, there are retreats to expose students to career opportunities and to successful adults.

The idea is to combat the forces of marginalization that face young people trying to cope with sexual and gender identity. The societal forces are ugly enough; it is unspeakable that they would include so many parents.

The good news in the Keyes story is that the real grown-up in the family is going to have her chance. The tougher news is that only 40 such young people can currently be assisted. The foundation ( has an active board, as well as an anonymous angel who underwrites its administrative and fund-raising costs. Every buck donated goes directly to help a young person.

The idea is not to undermine parents; it is to keep parents from undermining their kids' future.

Thomas Oliphant's e-mail address is 

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