Fulfillment Fund spring gala honors UCLA, raises nearly $900k to support forward-thinking leaders of tomorrow
Inside the Sony Pictures Studios lot, between the roasted vegetable and braised short courses, 16-year-old Rosa Lopez, a Los Angeles native and junior at Alexander Hamilton Senior High School, told us about the confidence, ambitions, and newfound connections she’s gained as a beneficiary in one of the Fulfillment Fund’s empowerment programs helping underserved students across Los Angeles build pathways to higher education and success.
Seated beside her, her mother, Cristina Nolasco, gushed over the growth and changes she’s noticed in her daughter, and expressed gratitude for the organization’s support in helping her navigate the complex process of college and financial aid applications.
“Eat · Drink · Be Inspired” is the theme for the organization’s annual spring fundraising event, which initially started in 1995 as the STARS Gala, where guests would gather to support the Fulfillment Fund’s life-changing programs for under-resourced youth in Los Angeles. It has been reimagined as a spring event and this year it drew hundreds of guests to the food-focused festivities that raised nearly $900,000 to advance the Fulfillment Fund’s vision of making college a reality for students growing up in educationally and economically under-resourced communities.
The evening was a light hearted and uplifting celebration with presenters and special guests making light of current events and the massive college admissions scandal facing the elite, but also sharing their own experiences as students and the challenges and uncertainty they once faced of not knowing how they’d be able to finance their college education—further emphasizing the importance of the Fulfillment Fund’s mission in 2019.
The evening also welcomed Allysunn Walker-Williams to the stage in her inaugural event as the Fulfillment Fund’s new CEO.
Champions of change
This year, UCLA was honored with the Educational Visionary Award for their commitment to diversity and providing tangible opportunities for students and their success. NBA legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton shared the stage, each drawing from their experiences as UCLA students and NCAA champions before presenting the award to Chancellor Gene Block, who accepted on behalf of UCLA.
The top-tier university named by New York Times for advancing education and opportunities particularly among students from disempowered upbringings, has been a part of the Fulfillment Fund’s history from the very beginning, when organization founder Dr. Gary Gitnick transformed his annual UCLA staff holiday party into a mentoring opportunity for children with disabilities.
Setting the mood
Entering a green outdoor park setting on the iconic Sony Pictures Studios lot, guests were able to enjoy pre-dinner bites and libations from various local vendors. The lively social hour was a backyard-style, sunset spread that included: El Salvadorian bites from Cafe Panamericana; chicken liver mousse tarts from Tuck Room Tavern; vegan scones from Sconely; tuna tartare cones; and a wide-range of exotic pours from various vinters.
Celebrity chef and famed restaurateur Wolfgang Puck handled the dinner menu of roasted vegetables, braised short ribs and alfredo-style penne pasta.
Legendary comedian Sinbad shined as the evening’s auctioneer and led the giving portion of the event, which received matching contributions from Stanley Thomchin, and Randall and Jana Warring Greer.
After the program, guests made their way to a decadent coffee and dessert bar for El Salvadorian alfajores, guava and cheese rolls, Sprinkles cupcakes, cookies, cake, and mini custard and panna cotta cups.
Fulfillment Fund: By the numbers
Supports more than 2,500 local students through our college access and success programs
100% of their senior students graduated from high school
Of these, 95% enrolled in college compared to 67% of students from low-income communities nationally
77% of the Fulfillment Fund’s college scholars earned a bachelor’s degree in six years or less
Nationally, only 11% of students from low-income families earn bachelor’s degrees