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New York's ritzy Hamptons suburb might not be the first location that comes to mind for a tech-industry gathering, but one organization proved that the summertime vacation destination can also be ideal for learning about new technology—which just happens to created by teenagers.
All Star Code, a nonprofit that prepares young men of color for full-time employment in the technology industry, hosted its third annual benefit to raise funds for and awareness of its cause. The benefit, which raised more than $740,000 for the organization, took place August 6 at the private Lewis residence in East Hampton. The event also showcased interactive tech demonstrations created by students and alumni from the first three years of its educational Summer Intensive Program.
“The inspiration for the summer benefit is our mission to foster entrepreneurial talent as described in our three programmatic pillars: 'Dare Greatly', 'Celebrate Failure', and 'Tell Your Story,'” said Christina Lewis Halpern, the founder and executive director of All Star Code. “The event brings together a powerful and unique community of New York finance and media executives, civic philanthropists passionate about education, and tech entrepreneurs. Our goal is to nurture and grow the connections between these different communities into a force for social change.”
Halpern noted that in its third year since it began as a cocktail party in 2014, the benefit has added two hours and 50 additional tickets, as well as a wider variety of student exhibits. WCBS-TV New York anchor Maurice DuBois served as master of ceremonies for the event, which presented Elliott Breece—product manager for Google Play and co-founder of Songza—with the Community Award.
Michael Schwartz, All Star Code's director of events, said the benefit's color palette and theme complemented the organization's new look. “Since All Star Code unveiled all new branding this summer, featuring mischievous mascots and bright red, green, purple, and orange-yellow accent colors, we decided to go more tropical and playful in palette and decor,” said Schwartz. “There were colorful and textural ocean elements on the seaside tablescape, and small arrangements with tropical greens and floral accents in the brand's signature colors.”
Just as important as the decor and ceremony, the interactive demos during the event's cocktail hour allowed guests to test out stations and mingle with students and alumni.
“Too often at galas, the very people the nonprofit are serving are relegated to the sidelines. We unquestionably wanted our students front and center, engaging with guests and showcasing their quickly developing skills and talents,” said Schwartz. “We wanted to help materialize their ideas and make their dreams heard. So the idea of the 'Maker Fair' was born, which doubled as cocktail hour. This allowed guests to drink, nibble, and chat, and get to know our students prior to the main program as well.”