Ambassadors of Education

Photos by Drew Altizer Photography

Bay Scholars Executive Director Caitlin Curran Kavanagh.

A lone table set with festive Thanksgiving-themed decor was the sole sign of a soiree on November 20 in the Julia Morgan Ballroom at the landmark Merchants Exchange Building. Seated were cardboard cutouts of Bay Scholars.

Like most 2020 events, the 7th annual Bay Scholars online fundraiser unfurled wit supporters beaming in from home while partaking in a traditional Thanksgiving meal from Credo Restaurant. Emceed by radio host Brian Copeland, the program kicked off with a prayer of thanks and an academic update by Bay Scholars Executive Director Caitlin Curran Kavanagh. “Resilience is taking the steps you can and finding light in the darkness,” she said. “But there are beacons of light: our scholars— and the joys and triumphs they experience in the sacred communities where they learn.”

Founded in 2007 by Clint and Janet Reilly (owners of the Nob Hill Gazette, Gentry and Credo), Bay Scholars annually provides 500 low-income high school students with four-year scholarships to 13 Bay Area Catholic college preparatory school partners.The event featured a Zoom conversation between Janet Reilly and California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who grew upon “food stamps, free school lunches and government cheese.” Thurmond now leads a system with 6 million students. Their lively discussion touched on educational diversity, literacy initiatives, teacher compensation and the digital divide — a disparity between students of means and those without computers or broadband access — recently underscored by remote learning.

CNN correspondent Van Jones addressed the Bay Scholars via video, joking that he was the inventor of TikTok. “OK, that’s not true,” he said with a laugh. “I’m the guy who believes you can create the next TikTok. You’re a Bay Scholar. What a tremendous blessing of support — to bring your genius to life, to chase your dreams and change your reality. We expect you to not just download apps. We want you to learn to build apps that will change the world.”

Bay Scholars supporter Brenda Wright.
Clint Reilly, founder of Bay Scholars.
Bay Scholar Rejai Palmore.
Janet Reilly with Superintendent Tony Thurmond.
Emcee Brian Copeland.
Event supporters Leon and Sallie Huntting.
Supporters Nanci Nishimura and Joe Cotchett.

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