Press Release: Big Cheese Gala Class Reunion Raises Nearly $300,000

Boston, MA – May 10, 2023 – Boston Partners in Education (BPIE), a nonprofit organization that matches Boston Public Schools (BPS) students with volunteer mentors, raised nearly $300,000 at its Big Cheese Gala: Class Reunion – a fundraiser celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Big Cheese Reads initiative.

Established in 2004, the Big Cheese Reads connects middle and high school students with Boston leaders who visit BPS classrooms to discuss their career paths. To date, the initiative has introduced over 20,000 Boston Public Schools students to 600 of Boston’s brightest corporate, civic, and community leaders. Nearly 250 supporters attended the anniversary celebration – including dozens of Big Cheese alumni and longtime sponsors like Liberty Mutual Insurance, Deloitte, and KPMG.

The event was highlighted by remarks from two Big Cheese alumni: BPS Superintendent Mary Skipper and NAACP Boston Branch President Tanisha Sullivan. “Public education is about the public,” said Sullivan in her keynote address. “It is the responsibility of all of us. There is no more important investment than deeper investments in BPS and the children we serve.”

The celebration also featured a moving address from former BPIE mentee Sara Bautista, who overcame her fear of math and achieved her dream of graduating from Boston Adult Technical Academy with the support of her mentor, Greg.

“There was a point in my life when I said, ‘I don’t think there is any more hope for me,’ admitted Bautista. “One day, I said, ‘I think this is going to be the last day I’m going to come to school.’ But then, I see a piece of paper attached to the wall with information about [BPIE]. I did not think twice about getting involved in the program. It gave me the confidence to participate in class; it gave me the confidence to speak to all of you; it gave me the confidence to improve my grades. I accomplished my dream – I graduated from high school thanks to this program.”

Funds raised from the Big Cheese Gala: Class Reunion support BPIE’s weekly mentoring programs, which focus on improving school connectedness and mitigating the mental health crisis for students in the Boston Public Schools right now. The event’s nearly $300,000 in revenue was reached through sponsorships (56%), individual contributions (19%), ticket sales (15%), and auction and raffle proceeds (10%).

The 20th anniversary event was hosted by Vanessa Welch (Boston 25 News), and also included remarks from BPIE Board Chairman John Heveran (Liberty Mutual – retired), BPIE Executive Director Erin McGrath, and Mayor Michelle Wu (City of Boston). If you didn’t have a chance to donate at the Gala, you can still make a gift here to support the program and help BPIE cross the $300,000 threshold.

We met Sara Bautista, who overcame her fear of math and achieved her dream of graduating high school with the support of a mentor. She even got the chance to reunite with her mentor, Greg. Read about Sara’s journey here.

We heard from some of the leading education champions in Boston, including Tanisha Sullivan and Superintendent Mary Skipper, who spoke to the power of mentorship and community in opening doors for young people.

Longtime Gala host Vanessa Welch retuned as emcee for the Class Reunion, and our friends at Boston 25 News were there to cover the story. You check out their segment on the Big Cheese 20th anniversary celebration here.

We turned the page on the Big Cheese Reads after two inspiring decades, and began an exciting new chapter under Pathfinders. We hope you’ll join us and become a Pathfinder!

Mayor Michelle Wu helped us commemorate this milestone by officially declaring May 5, 2023 as Big Cheese Day in the City of Boston. You can see the Mayor’s video message here.

And, finally, we were joined by the creator of the Big Cheese Reads initiative, Steve Biondolillo. We presented Steve with the official Big Cheese Day proclamation.

About Boston Partners in Education
Founded in 1966, Boston Partners in Education is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) through our in-classroom academic mentoring services. We are a longstanding and trusted partner of BPS, responding to the needs of students and their teachers. We prepare volunteers of all ages and backgrounds from Boston’s diverse neighborhoods to serve as academic mentors to students. Our trained academic mentors work with students directly in the classroom during the school day for at least an hour each week. This consistent support helps any student fill academic gaps and build the self-confidence necessary to achieve their goals.