The evening of Thursday, June 2nd was the 3rd Annual Rising Stars Youth Leadership Gala. The last two years the event was held at the Northbrae Community Church in Berkeley, but this year the lovely folks at Hotel Shattuck Plaza partnered with BOSS to host the event in their ballroom.
A localized power outage had the beautiful room socked in darkness for much of the evening, but the quick thinking of Angela Paradiso, Senior Catering Sales Manager from Hotel Shattuck Plaza, brought small battery-powered lights and oil lamps to the tables. The result was a fun, cozy, warm-lit atmosphere. We all took a cue from our youth and persevered in the face of obstacles, and had a blast in spite of the difficulties.
Rising Stars is not your typical Award Gala. The nominees receive awards, but they also get the recognition and support of their peers and community, as well as local government organizations and elected officials. They receive gifts donated by local businesses such as Berkeley Stamp & Engraving, AC Transit, ROSS Dress For Less, Whole Foods Market on Gilman, and Oaklandish. Most importantly, however, four youths are additionally recognized with $1000 in scholarship funds.
Twenty youths were nominated by BOSS, Berkeley High School, Berkeley Technology Academy, and Berkeley Youth Alternatives in the areas of Caring for Family, Community Involvement, Consistency, New Direction, and Role Model. The youths nominated are not the students typically recognized for traditional measures of excellence such as GPAs, attendance, or athletic achievement. The achievement of these youth is their perseverance in the face of hardships, and staying hopeful when circumstances are trying to hold them back – they are still in school, still dreaming about a better life, and still doing their best in the face of multiple challenges.
The biographies of these youths outline the hardships of family addiction and mental health issues, homelessness, crippling poverty, immigration status concerns, as well as the loss of loved ones to violence. All while continuing to stay in school, understanding the value of education, and a true dedication to studies, family, and community.
There was a full house of attendees — youths, their families, and the community as support. Jada Imani, a local spoken word artist, lead the room in a call-and-response, sing-song spoken word piece that got people moving, smiling, and laughing. Lia Lacy, an honoree from the 2015 Rising Stars cohort was the Youth Keynote Speaker and she highlighted the need to keep on working toward your dreams no matter the naysayers.
Dr. Jowel Laguerre, Chancellor of the Peralta Community Collage District was the Keynote Speaker. He stressed the importance of education and that we should all accept help when it is offered. To highlight his speech and drive home the point, he offered $500 in scholarship funds, as well as guaranteed acceptance to a Peralta Community College School to the first awardee to stand up and claim his offer. There was a short lull of uncertainty, when finally a young man stood and walked to the stage to accept the offer! Not to be out done, Kevin Williams of BYA matched Dr. Laguerre’s $500 scholarship offer to the first awardee to claim it. A young woman, still somewhat stunned by the offer, stood up and walked over to claim the scholarship. She was already the recipient of a $1000 college scholarship. With $1500 toward school, as well as the life-lesson of standing up to accept an offer of assistance, she is on her way to success!
There was so much support and affection in the room that one guest did a truly beautiful thing. After reading all the Awardee Profiles contained in the program, she was deeply touched by the biography of one of the Awardees. She approached Gwen Austin and asked if there was anyway she could be introduced to a young woman whose story touched her. After the awards had been handed out, Gwen brought the two together. The guest spoke briefly with the young woman, there were a few tears, they embraced, and the guest gave the young awardee $100 and her contact information, “If you need anything.”
All-in-all it was a lovely evening full of laughter and tears, recognition and appreciation, joy and satisfaction. We at BOSS are so proud of this year’s Honorees, and have the greatest hopes for them in the future! We want our Rising Stars to soar!!
One of our generous Media Partners, Berkelyside, had a representative at the event, and they wrote up a lovely story about it. We are so appreciative of their support for this important endeavor! More pictures form the event can be found on the BOSS Flickr and Facebook pages, as well as the official video available on YouTube and Facebook.
BOSS wants to thank:
… and the entire community for coming out and spending a lovely evening recognizing some truly spectacular youth!
This is impacting lives, changing outcomes, fostering community, Turning Lives Around!