Monday, June 8, 2009

Year End Dinner 2009

Last Thursday marked a very special anniversary for me. Having attended the Cabrini Connections 2008 Year-End Dinner, which was my first official event as a future Cabrini Connections employee, the coming and going of this year's Year-End Dinner meant that I've been involved with this remarkable organization for over 1 year! As inspired as I was last year, attending the dinner with my girlfriend, Alyssa, and meeting many of the students, volunteers, board members and their families for the first time, I left this year's dinner with an even greater sense of the importance of our program. Though last year's event was moving, bringing together over 100 people in one room, public housing residents, fortune 500 company executives, students and their families who would never otherwise shared a meal together, this year's event drew well over 200 folks and left everyone who attended with a true appreciation of the importance of our program on not only the kids we serve, but the entire Cabrini-Green community.

We began the evening with a delicious meal of chicken, salad, pasta, rolls, cookies...etc which got everyone talking at the 20+ full tables we had set up for the event. Next the Youth Leadership Council and I premiered our new documentary, simply entitled "Cabrini Connections", which you can stream in its entirety here. If you haven't already checked it out, I would strongly encourage you to follow the link because this movie, which I produced with help from 2 very generous volunteers Matt Lauterbach and Dinesh Sabu as well as Sean, Savon and DeSean of the Youth Leadership Council, features current students interviewing 30 year veteran volunteers, program alumni and concerned community members about the role of our program in the lives of the people we touch.

Next we heard from 3 parents who spoke about the impact that our program has had on their children. DeSean's mother Ms. Norrine Rhodes, Arden's mother Ms. Rhonda Wright and Savon's father Mr. Rodney Clark all gave moving testimony to the effectiveness and importance of our program, which was great to hear directly from the parents. Following the parents' remarks, a couple of our recent graduates, Jonathan Summers and Kenneth Chapman, spoke about the impact their involvement with our program continues to have on them and how much the program means to them. This was one of my highlights of the night because, though it was clear that they weren't 100% comfortable addressing a crowd of 200+ folks (which is completely understandable for young college students), their commitment to our program allowed them to overcome their anxiety and speak from the heart. Similarly, our Administrative coordinator El Da'Sheon Nix, went without a preprepared speech and wrapped the evening up beautifully with a touching play-by-play of some of his personal highlights from the year.

Some other highlights from the night were a dance performance from Yolanda, Breonca, Cierria and Shante, a hilarious play with a positive message performed by the Cabrini Connections Writing Club, a brave & honest poetry reading by 8th grader Ashaunti Roby, an incredible musical performance by 6th grader Ana Tate and a great keynote speech by Dan. Also, I don't want to forget to mention the wonderful job that our student emcees, Raheem, Vontesha and Victoria, did hosting the event.

All in all, last Thursday was truly a night to remember. This year's Dinner served its job of sending us into the summer months with the momentum we need to keep drawing more and more passionate individuals into our organization that will both sustain us and catalyze our constant quest to offer the best, most comprehensive tutoring/mentoring program possible to the kids we serve. They deserve it.

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