Social Innovation Incubator Profiles: Russ Finkelstein, Founder of All Your Possibilities
Imagine that you’re a high school or college student grappling with feelings of isolation, or trying to cope with bullying. Most of us probably won’t have much trouble summoning that scenario. Now imagine that you are seven times more likely than other students to be threatened or injured by a weapon while at school and that you may not even be able to rely on the support of your family. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) youth face a level of harassment and lack of support that make them three times more likely to drop out of school than their non-gay peers, and four times more likely to attempt suicide . For LGBT youth, a clear path to a brighter future can be not only life-changing, but life-saving.
All Your Possibilities (AYP), a planned 501(c)(3), will link LGBT youth with resources to help them succeed in life. Russ Finkelstein, AYP founder, remembers clearly when he first saw the need for such an organization:
I spent 15 years at Idealist.org helping individuals of all ages and backgrounds pursue work in the nonprofit sector. Upon leaving the organization, I was asked to serve as a college mentor by the Point Foundation, which sponsors 20-30 LGBT young people who would not otherwise be able to attend college or graduate school. My mentee was a senior at a local college and also transgendered. I spent a lot of time trying to show him that he had far more options than he realized. It struck me that here was someone who had all these support systems in place and yet struggled to see what he could do or be. At around the same time, there had been a spate of suicides by LGBT young people. Because LGBT young people lacked identifiable role models and struggled to share who they were, it seemed necessary to help them create a path to success.
All Your Possibilities will offer narratives detailing the career path and working lives of LGBT professionals, organized by race, ethnicity, disability, and other identities; career guides and job information; free, short-term career counseling; and training and materials for supporters of LGBT youth. Revenue from international graduate school fairs organized by AYP will help support the organization, but grants and individual donations are also being sought.
LGBT youth are only one of the groups that AYP will help. Russ plans to expand the organization’s services to immigrant populations, individuals with physical or mental handicaps, and anyone struggling to reconcile their identity with their limitless potential in life. AYP seeks to create a different path for youth at risk, helping them imagine a future of opportunity and promise—and giving them the tools and support to make that future a reality.
To learn more, or to help All Your Possibilities become a reality, please click here to email Russ Finkelstein.
 Lambda Legal: http://data.lambdalegal.org/pdf/158.pdf