Giving Thanks

By Jennifer Blot

Bay Scholars fundraiser goes virtual.

Just as Bay Area schools are convening remotely this fall, the much-anticipated 7th annual Giving Thanks by Giving Back fundraiser for Bay Scholars will also go virtual this month. As in years past, the gathering takes place the Friday before Thanksgiving; only now, guests have the flexibility to tune in from home or the office — and the option of ordering a traditional turkey meal kit in advance from Credo restaurant.

With students adapting to remote learning this year, secondary education has been one of the country’s top concerns, and Giving Thanks by Giving Back is more timely than ever, emphasizing the impact of scholastic opportunity. The program features uplifting words and a performance by high school students, a keynote speech by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, and a video with verbal high-fives from local celebrities. Back in the role of emcee this year is dynamic playwright, actor and radio host Brian Copeland, whose own alma mater, Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward, is one of the high schools the nonprofit Bay Scholars partners with to provide four-year scholarships for low-income students.

Bay Scholars works closely with 13 partner schools in five Bay Area counties to identify students in need of additional tuition support to enable them to attend a private college-prep high school. Each year, 500 students receive scholarships for their high school journey, providing a bridge between what their families can pay and the financial assistance offered by their school. For the current 2020–21 school year, Bay Scholars has committed $1.5 million in scholarships; over the years, it has benefited nearly 2,000 Bay Area students. Notably, 100 percent of donations to Bay Scholars goes directly to these scholarships. Stephen Pezzola, president of Salesian College Preparatory in Richmond, stresses the value of the program that has touched many of his students. “We regard Bay Scholars as more than just tuition assistance. They work with our students and provide opportunities not otherwise afford-ed to them. Bay Scholars makes ourstudents know that someone outside ofour school community genuinely cares about them,” he says.

Bay Scholars founders Clint and Janet Reilly (owners of the Gazette), together with Bay Scholars Executive Director Caitlin Curran Kavanagh, strive to ensure the program meets the changing needs of students. Earlier this year, when San Francisco’s Mercy High School closed, scholarships that had been given to Mercy Bay Scholars were carried over to the students’ next schools. And recently, when remote learning presented problems for students without Wi-Fi or a dedicated space to study, they helped coordinate a learning hub for Bay Scholars at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School, offering a dedicated safe and physically distanced learning space for students four days a week, as well as providing meals for those in need.

Nov. 20: Giving Thanks by Giving Back, a virtual lunchtime event, kicks off at noon on Zoom. Free; donations encouraged. For details and to order a Thanksgiving meal kit, go to NHG Sponsored. 

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