Scenes from the 2022 Big Cheese Gala

After two years apart, we knew the return of the Big Cheese Gala would focus on reconnecting. We set out to celebrate the many types of connections that have kept our mentoring relationships going – and together we witnessed the impact of them all in one extraordinary evening.

Indispensable human connections, like BPS sophomore Imani meeting her mentor Brian for the first time after two years online. Technological innovation made possible by visionaries like our honoree, Dr. Ken Bajaj. And Big Cheese moments – how one interaction can change the course of a student’s entire path, like it did for City Councilor Julia Mejia.

We called on you to help us continue providing students with connections they could count on – and you delivered. Thanks to your generosity, the 2022 Big Cheese Gala raised over $460,000 in support of Boston Partners in Education’s in-class and online mentoring programs! Dr. Bajaj urged us to judge our lives not by what we’ve achieved, but by how many lives we’ve touched. Because of you, hundreds of students will benefit from working alongside a caring mentor for the entire school year. We think you made him proud. Thank you for supporting our work in the Boston Public Schools – we couldn’t do this without you.


Dr. Ken Bajaj

Technology Entrepreneur • 2022 Gala Honoree

 “The education of our children is very close to my heart. My parents could not afford to send me to school – someone in my community helped me go to school and on to college. That opportunity prepared me to get a PhD in electrical engineering from Michigan State.

Our kids are the best assets we have in this country. Education of our youth should be our top priority. Education is an equalizer and I’m proof of it. For a kid who could hardly afford clothes and shoes, this kid can now afford every good thing that life has to offer. Thanks to hard work, education and this great country. I still believe if you dream it, you can accomplish it. My message to our kids is this – get a good education, work hard, and you can achieve anything in this great country.

Educational support and permanent community connections with our youth will enhance and enrich our lives and bring special purpose to our lives as well.

Let’s not judge our lives by what we have achieved but by how many lives we have touched.”

Imani Christou-Fuller

Sophomore, Boston Arts Academy

“I have always struggled with math and science growing up. In my freshman year, I was struggling when it came to understanding my math and physics assignments. When my teacher noticed how much I struggled, she offered the opportunity to get help from an academic mentor. I agreed, expecting to just get help in academics, but I got so much more. I was not expecting to get help with my future career, organization, and personal guidance.

When my mentor Brian and I first met, instead of starting work right away, he took the time to get to know me. This made it feel like a safe space to grow. I knew that whatever I said, would not be judged. Because of this, I was not afraid to ask questions or to say “I don’t know”. Whenever I told Brian that I was struggling he said that it was okay and paused the lesson to go over what I was confused about. This made math and science so much more clear for me. This style of teaching, pausing to make sure I get each part right, really fit my learning style.

Even though he was good at being a mentor over Zoom, I am really happy to finally, after 2 years, have met him in person today!”

City Councilor Julia Mejia

City Councilor At-Large

 “I was the first person in my family to graduate high school. I wasn’t even going to go to college, let alone graduate. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a woman who was a special speaker at my high school. I had already skipped school probably three times that week, but I was in the auditorium when Liz Walker – the first African American news anchor in Massachusetts – took the time to share what life was like for her.

I was like ‘Wow, I could do that?’ She defined for me what I could do because 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. I would not be a City Councilor had it not been for that one interaction that changed my entire life. My entire cycle of poverty was disrupted by that one moment. Her story inspired me to want to do more. So 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.”