CONNECTIONS STUDENTS CAN COUNT ON: BIG CHEESE GALA RETURNS IN-PERSON, RAISES OVER $466,000 FOR BPIE YOUTH MENTORING
Technology entrepreneur Dr. Ken Bajaj honored, Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia delivers keynote address
May 5, 2022 – Boston Partners in Education (BPIE), a nonprofit organization that matches Boston Public Schools (BPS) students with volunteer mentors, raised over $466,000 at its 2022 Big Cheese Gala – the organization’s first in-person fundraiser since 2019. Nearly 200 supporters attended the event’s return to the ballroom – including sponsors DMI, Liberty Mutual Insurance, and Salesforce – to celebrate the many types of connections that reinforce student-mentor relationships.
The event honored entrepreneur Dr. Ken Bajaj for his commitment to youth education and technological innovation, and was highlighted by a keynote address from Boston City Councilor Julia Mejia. The Chair of Boston’s Education Committee, Councilor Mejia shared how a single classroom visit from former WBZ-TV anchor Liz Walker changed the course of her path when she was a student.
“I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a woman who was a special speaker at my high school,” said Councilor Mejia. “Liz Walker took the time to share what life was like for her as the first African American news anchor in Massachusetts. I hadn’t seen anyone who looked like me [with] a career that I could get excited about. That interaction exposed me to what was possible. When you think about mentoring, and you think about the role that you play, recognize that that interaction can literally save a life or get someone on the right track.”
The event also featured a moving address from Boston Arts Academy sophomore Imani Christou-Fuller. The Gala saw Imani meet her mentor Brian for the first time, after two years of working together online.
“What I love about the relationship Imani and Brian have built is that it started as a way to support Imani in math and science and became so much more,” said BPIE Executive Director, Erin McGrath. “Our goal at BPIE is to help students build as many of these sustaining connections as they can – and this incredible showing of support from our partners will allow us to bring our services to so many other BPS students.”
Funds raised from the Big Cheese Gala will ensure that hundreds of BPS students are matched with academic mentors of their own in the 2022-23 school year. The event’s $466,000 in funds was reached through sponsorships (49%), individual contributions (39%), and auction and raffle proceeds (12%).
The Big Cheese Gala program was hosted by Crystal Haynes (Boston 25 News), and also included remarks from BPIE Board Chairman Michael McKenna (DMI), John Heveran (Liberty Mutual), and Mayor Michelle Wu (City of Boston).