Today's guest blogger is City Year New York Events and Alumni Project Leader, Susan Varghese.

 Cat Greenleaf, Host of NBC's Talk Stoop, interviews City Year New York Student, Bengaly, at the City Year New York Gala.  Photo by David Andrako (@DavidAndrako // www.DavidAndrako.com)
Cat Greenleaf, Host of NBC's Talk Stoop, interviews City Year New York Student, 
Bengaly, at the City Year New York Gala.Photo by David Andrako
(@DavidAndrako // www.DavidAndrako.com)

Hundreds of City Year champions, supporters and corps members filled the ballroom at Mandarin Oriental for City Year New York's Annual Ripples of Hope Gala, in support of our work in NYC Public Schools.

City Year New York Executive Director, Erica Hamilton started the night off by sharing why she is passionate about the organization's mission. "I am also the living outcome of the work programs like City Year do. I am a native New Yorker and product of a school that would have been termed a “dropout factory”- a failing school that produces far more dropouts than graduates."

Shortly after, Cat Greenleaf, Host of NBC's Talk Stoop and USA Daytime, briefly interviewed City Year student, Bengaly. who grinned from ear to ear while talking about his aspirations of a future in math and science and his relationship with his Corps Member, Joey Diaz. Bengaly is a part of Joey's step team at PS/MS 57 in East Harlem, and both got on stage to do an impromptu performance, which shot energy throughout the audience.  Just in time for Joey's testimonial, Bengaly ended by describing Joey as a " great motivator...he is the big man that can move."

Joey Diaz, CM at PS/MS 57 in East Harlem Photo by David Andrako (www.DavidAndrako.com)
Joey Diaz, CM at PS/MS 57 in East Harlem Photo by David Andrako

Joey began describing his difficult childhood and his incredible road to graduating from high school, from college, and then joining City Year. "I joined City Year to help people who look like me, act like me, and have gone through struggles like me," Joey said. "...Every day, I see what extra attention and support can do for a student’s ability to reach their potential."

And, it's through City Year Champions, like Bain Capital, who believe and invest in the work that Joey and over 294 other City Year New York Corps Members do that City Year New York is able to continue to drive impact. Bain Capital, was recognized as City Year's 25th Anniversary sponsor.  In addition to a multi-million dollar gift to City Year Inc., Bain Capital is serving as presenting sponsor of City Year events in 25 cities across the country with a donation of $50,000 to each site, including City Year New York.

The Gala included a keynote address from Josh Bekenstein, Managing Director at Bain Capital.  He shared that his two daughters were also corps members, and that although City Year's work isn't easy, it's essential in making an impact in education.

In addition to Bain Capital, long-time supporters like Stephanie Mudick, Executive Vice President and Head of Regulatory Affairs at JPMorgan Chase & City Year New York Board Co-Chair have helped City Year New York grow exponentially in the past eleven years.  For her dedication and commitment to our organization and support of our students, Stephanie received the Ripples of Hope Award.

Stephanie will be succeeded as chair by Jeremy Kroll,CEO and Co-Founder, K2 Intelligence.  Jeremy, Mike Levine, head of CAA Sports, and Stephanie spent time during the program discussing issues affecting education in our country and City Year's role in changing it.  

Mike Levine, Stephanie Mudick and Jeremy Kroll. CYNY Gala 2014 Photo by David Andrako
Mike Levine, Stephanie Mudick and Jeremy Kroll.CYNY Gala 2014

"City Year is investing a great deal to train and develop corps members to not only serve in schools for their year of service, but to be active leaders in the education sector after their year of service," Stephanie said. Jeremy added that in the past decade, City Year New York has helped roughly 75% of the students we've worked with improve their literacy performance by at least one grade level.

Michael Brown, Co-Founder and CEO of City Year, and 1st Deputy Mayor of NYC, Anthony Shorris, both delivered inspiring speeches. At the end of Deputy Mayor Shorris' speech, he proclaimed May 14, 2014 as City Year Day on behalf of the Mayor's Office.

The night ended with powerful statements from six corps members who shared what they believe in and why they serve.  Anna Reichlin, Corps Member at PS/MS 57 in East Harlem, said, " I believe in the power of mentorship... I know firsthand that these relationships do change lives because I had City Year in my middle school. When I was 13 years old, my corps member was the first person to mention college to me... Without City Year, I would not be graduating with my master’s in sociology and psychology from Columbia University. I believe in being a mentor who empowers my students to go to high school, college, and beyond."     See more photos from last night's gala here. You can find Tweets & photos on Instagram with the hashtag: #cynygala      

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