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Students M.C., Cook, and Perform at Education Nonprofit Gala

By Anna Sekula April 19, 2011, 3:10 PM EDT

Photo: Jeffrey Holmes Photography

Pencil's Spring Gala
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Dedicated to improving public education, 16-year-old nonprofit Pencil facilitates partnerships between schools and the private sector, and each year honors supportive business leaders and companies with a gala to showcase the impact of such efforts. For the organization's internal marketing, events, and development departments, that means not just bringing students to the fund-raiser, but incorporating the skills the kids acquired through corporate sponsored programs into the evening's lineup. To push that concept further this year, Pencil's spring gala included an eighth grader as the M.C., an onstage culinary demonstration by high school students, schoolkids as newscasters and roving reporters, and a musical performance by two teenagers.

Held at Cipriani Wall Street on Wednesday, the sold-out event gathered 850 guests and raised almost $1.8 million. The participating students were selected from programs initiated by the night's honorees, supporters including Taconic Investment Partners' co-founder and co-C.E.O. Charles Bendit, EMC Corporation, and Sana Q. Nasser, principal of Harry S. Truman High School.

Benefiting from his school's partnership with marketing and ad agency OgilvyOne, as well as the journalism program with digital media consultant We Grow Media, Mahalia Jackson/P.S. 123 eighth grader Boubacar Bah was a natural fit as the M.C., and the youngest person to fill that role. Bah's colleagues at the school's newspaper, The Harlem Tribune, participated in the cocktail hour by acting as roving reporters, while newscasters-in-training from Rose E. Scala School/P.S. 71 manned a red carpet.

Pupils from Harry S. Truman High School's culinary arts academy illustrated the skills they learned in a curriculum developed in part by Paul Neuman of catering company Neuman's, and in one-on-one sessions with Cipriani's chef. At the reception, the students served sushi they made, and during the dinner portion held a cooking demonstration onstage, a two-minute exhibition of how the evening's main course was prepared. More entertainment was supplied by three more students. The play Fancy Dante, written by Tianna Osbourne, a third grader from the Talented and Gifted School for Young Scholars, was adapted and performed by arts and creative writing organization the Story Pirates, while East Side Community High School's Priscilla Diaz (also known as P-Star) and Leslie Luna sang two original songs they composed.

In addition to student involvement, the elements of which were captured on video for the organization's site, the gala integrated supporter JetBlue by auctioning off 50 pairs of round-trip tickets.

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