NEW YORK - A star-studded crowd of 1500 of New Yorks elite joined UNCF (United Negro College Fund) at the Marriott Marquis in New York City, for an evening of inspiration and entertainment to celebrate “Game Changers” in education and raised $3.7 million to support scholarships and programs that reach more than 60,000 students at over 900 colleges and universities across the country each year.
Actor and Comedian Bill Bellamy emceed the evening, Grammy Nominated singer Ledisi and the world-renowned Tuskegee University Golden Voices Choir performed fitting musical selections that stirred the crowd. The Tuskegee University Golden Voices Choir opened the evening with beautiful renditions of The Star Spangled Banner and Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing. Ledisi graced the stage with “It’s a Wonderful World,” followed by her motivational song “All Right” from her first Grammy-nominated album, “Lost and Found.”
Lowe’s Charitable And Educational Foundation (LCEF) and ExxonMobil helped UNCF exceed its fundraising goal and raise $1 million more than last year’s inaugural “A Mind Is” Gala. The money, earmarked for Campaign for Emergency Student Aid (CESA), will provide emergency education assistance to college juniors and seniors impacted by the changing economy and challenges they face with college expenses that must be paid before they can graduate.
ExxonMobil, who started contributing to CESA three years ago with an initial contribution of $1 million dollars, announced a $500,000 matching grant. Lowe’s Charitable And Educational Foundation announced an additional $1 million contribution to CESA, which brings their giving total to $1.75 million.
In a moving tribute to the legacy of Shirley Chisholm, UNCF president and CEO, Dr. Michael Lomax presented the inaugural UNCF Shirley Chisholm Community Service Award for Innovation in Education to students he called, “the civil rights education activists of our generation. They are gifted, they are driven, and they are committed to succeeding where the education system has failed.” Award recipients were Corp Members of Teach For America who attended UNCF member institutions. They were joined on stage by Wendy Kopp, CEO and Founder of Teach from America who also applauded their commitment to ensuring students in disadvantaged areas have a chance at receiving the education they need to prepare them for the future.
Two-time Super Bowl Defensive End, Justin Tuck was also honored at “A Mind Is” Gala. Justin and his wife Lauran are recipients of the UNCF President’s Award for the literacy work they do through their Tuck’s R.U.S.H. (Read, Understand, Succeed, Hope) for Literacy Foundation.
The New York City crowd knew very well about the work Justin has done on the football field. “If you watched the Super Bowl this year, you saw that Justin had two key sacks that turned that game around,” said Dr. Lomax. “This is a man who changes games! But what you may not know is that behind each one of those sacks is his Foundation’s matching funds initiative. To date, and with accompanying donations, R.U.S.H. for Literacy has raised over $370,000 through this effort! This is the kind of philanthropist that turns accomplishment and charity into active solutions.”
Justin accepted the award and praised his wife, who was unable to attend because she is in graduate school. He said the work they do with R.U.S.H. is fun for them and urged the crowd to give back in whatever way they can. “It doesn’t matter if you are a millionaire or a celebrity. You can always make a difference. Be pavers. Pave the way for kids.”
Tamara L. Harris, Gala Chair and UNCF board member, also urged the crowd to be game-changers. “Speak to everyone in your world about this important cause to change the game for the students who need it the most.”
To help a UNCF student stay in school, visit www.uncf.org and click on the Campaign for Emergency Student Aid icon to make a donation.