UNCF celebrates 75 years of investing in better futures
UNCF (United Negro College Fund) gave back in a positive way by raising tens of thousands at its annual gala to advance its mission and track record of helping students attend college each year and set them up for success through critical programs and tools.
The black-tie masquerade captured the celebratory essence of the organization’s 75th anniversary, as it kicked off with a lively social hour in the garden of the Vibiana cathedral in the heart of Los Angeles where guests mingled in Miami-eqsue cabana tents, noshed on small bites and libations, and reveled over intricate, handmade masks from a local designer before making their way inside the historic venue that transformed into a stunning display of lush greenery amidst purple and pink hues that set the backdrop for a vibrant dinner and dancing.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Arnold Hackett, chairman of the UNCF Los Angeles leadership council, welcomed the crowd with opening remarks followed by an invocation from Rev. Dr. Najuma Smith-Pollard of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement and Word of Encouragement Community Church.
During the three-course dinner, guests enjoyed special performances by Poet Prentice Powell and the Fernando Pullum Community Arts Center.
As the evening called upon its guests of notable business leaders and philanthropists to make an impact, several students took to the stage to share the opportunities they’ve encountered as UNCF scholarship recipients:
Kendalyn Sera Ukiru-Odia, a San Bernardino County native and double-major (African American Studies and Public Affairs) at UCLA who aspires to serve on the California Supreme Court of Federal Supreme Court.
Ommari Beck, a Morehouse College freshman majoring in kinesiology with aspirations of opening his own rehabilitation clinic and non-profit serving students with limited advance opportunities.
Nyla Williams, a graduating senior at Spelman College and political science major who, on her spare time, works as a lobbyist to drive conversations that allow marginalized voices to be heard.
Jennifer adds that organizations like UNCF are extremely important in 2019 because it give young people of color a welcoming space to learn, grow, and figure out how to navigate the world successfully. They also offer kids the opportunity that white students often get by default.
UNCF African American freshman scholarship recipients have a 70-percent six-year graduation rate, 11 percentage points higher than the national average for students of all races, and 30 percentage points higher than the national average for all African Americans.
With a $5,000 UNCF scholarship given to an African American freshman, his/her likelihood of graduating increases by nearly eight percentage points. Ninety-four percent of African American freshmen who received a UNCF scholarship in 2006 returned for their sophomore year. In comparison, the national rate for students of all races is 78 percent.