2016 Kickoff Dinner Returns to Galleria Marchetti

On June 9th we came together to celebrate the work of Back 2 School Illinois and to thank all our sponsors, partners, family and friends who make our work possible. The festivities got underway with a lovely cocktail reception which allowed everyone, from this year’s college scholarship winners, to Currency Exchange owners who launched B2SI, the chance to mingle and get to know one another.

As the program got underway in the main ballroom, emcee Marley Kayden, NBC5 Weekend Traffic Anchor, introduced Elite Illusions Dance Team of Little Black Pearl Academy as they pumped up the energy of the room with a dance to a medley of songs, including hits from Beyoncé and Missy Elliot. Next up, Monica Haslip, founder of Little Black Pearl, took to the stage to accept her 2016 Education Award and gave a riveting speech on the unthinkable success of her school as well as the importance of mentoring the next generation.

Marley then took guests back to their high school days with a pop quiz testing their knowledge of geography, math, history, and literature. Later in the program, the Chicago Public Library (CPL) received our second 2016 Education Award of the night. Commissioner of CPL, Brian Bannon, accepted the award and spoke of the importance of their 80 branches which allow children from all over the city to have access to programs and opportunities to learn.

Community Currency Exchange Association of Illinois’ Board President Marty Lieberman presented checks to the winners of the CCEA Scholarships. During his comments, Lieberman reminded guests why they came together this evening: to aid children in their educational pursuits in order for them to reach their fullest potential. Emi Kanda, Zoe Kaplan, Kailish Panchapakesan, and Yueting Wang are the recipients of the CCEA Scholarship, and they will be attending Wheaton College, Oberlin College, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Harvard University respectively. The other scholarship awarded at the dinner, courtesy of the Tufano Family went to Devin Montgomery, who plans to attend Dartmouth College in the fall.

Matthew Kurtzman, B2SI’s CEO, told the crowd of more than 200 guests that due the commitments by sponsors and donors along with revenue from the dinner that a commitment to purchase 25,000 Back 2 School kits had already been made but that he hoped to increase that number to 30,000 by the end of the year.