As we head into a new year, now is the perfect time to pause for reflection, and ask ourselves: what do we aspire to? In the spirit of reflecting on aspirations, Community for Youth kicked off the new year with our 19th Annual Aspire Gala, live streamed on Saturday, January 29th to over 150 virtual attendees!
This year’s Aspire Gala theme was Discovery, and as we embarked on a joyful night of fundraising, our theme compelled us to ask ourselves:
- Who am I?
- Who do I want to be?
- How do I get there?
Executive Director Stephen Song opened the evening by introducing Program Manager Yleana Benitez and Program Coordinator Tally Teodosio, who shared a bit about all of the exciting new CfY programming and activities coming up in the next year, including our new pilot program, CfY Duos.
Sue Van Haren, CfY Founder and CHAMPION supporter, awarded this year’s Corporate Leadership Award to Aspire Gala Presenting Sponsor, Amazon. Accepting the award on behalf of Amazon were Regan Zeebuyth, Senior Manager of Corporate Affairs and CfY Board Member, and Cambria Pardner, Employee Relations Manager and longtime CfY Mentor.
Throughout the evening, CfY Mentees Naomi Kirori and Zech Hipp popped in to share their favorite CfY memories and future aspirations. Zech deeply valued his experience at CfY’s 2021 Camp Weekend, and talked about the immediate openness and connection between program participants. Naomi reflected on the joyful memory of meeting her mentor, and shared that she was waiting on responses from the rest of the nine colleges she applied to, five of which she already received acceptance letters from!
Aspire Gala attendees also had a chance to hear from the winners of this year’s Your CfY Story campaign, Andrew Ku and West Hatae. Andrew, a junior at Cleveland High School, was paired with his mentor, West, three years ago. Over the past three years, Andrew and West have developed an immensely impactful relationship that has cultivated growth and new potential in both mentor and mentee.
“I first heard about CfY from my mom, and honestly, I was pretty reluctant to join, because I was like ‘man, I don’t really need this,’” said Andrew. “But, obviously that’s not true, because it ended up being one of the best decisions of my life.”
“I know over the summer, we talked about how Junior year will be full of new demands on top of the ones you’ve already been dealing with,” said West. “But I don’t want you to worry, because like I have been the last two years, I’ll be there to support you through it all…Even though I signed up to share my life experiences with you, it’s been you that has not only made me a better mentor, but a better man.”
You can watch Andrew and West share their incredible story here.
Between speakers and beautiful photos of CfY’s 2021 Camp Weekend, Host Ian Lindsay carried the night’s programming in partnership with DJ Calico, who brought energy and momentum with excellent music and eye-popping graphics. By the end of the night, our Gala attendees, sponsors, and matching donors came together to raise over $120,000 in support of CfY’s transformative mentoring program!
We want to extend a huge THANK YOU to all of the wonderful supporters who came together to make this year’s Aspire Gala a huge success, including:
- Amazon, Presenting Sponsor
- KPMG LLP, Platinum Sponsor
- Slalom Consulting, Gold Sponsor
- The Community for Youth Board of Directors
- The Community for Youth Staff Team
- The Ricky Rudine Memorial Endowment Fund
- Sue Van Haren
- Ian Lindsay Live
- Synchronicity Events
- DJ Calico
Did you miss this year’s Aspire Gala? Relive the fun and excitement here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LStQEIyoXw&t=54s