Mission Dolores Academy’s Power Hour
Attendees: 300 attendees, plus 814 YouTube views
Impact: Fund’s raised benefit MDA scholarships and programs.
Following a successful nine-year run of its Top Chefs Lunch Fundraiser (typically held in a sold-out hotel ballroom), Mission Dolores Academy achieved a virtual pivot February 25 as supporters celebrated the 10th anniversary of this independent K-8 Catholic school.
Led by event chairs Mary and Joe Toboni, the hourlong program honored chef Charles Phan — a loyal supporter who dreamed up the school’s fundraiser featuring unique menus created by Phan and his fellow top toques for 500 guests.
MDA was co-founded in 2011 by the Rev. Charles Gagan (an EssEff native, devoted restaurant connoisseur and beloved St. Ignatius alum). This faith-based school serves multiethnic families from the Mission District and other working-class neighborhoods.
“The hallmark of MDA is rigorous academic and technology programs, dedicated teachers and an emphasis on faith, not just on catechism but as a way of life,” said Father Gagan. “Our students will become contributors, not takers, because society has given them this gift of education.”
A majority of MDA students receive tuition scholarships. Eighty-five percent of the school’s eighth graders — some, the first in their families to attend high school — matriculate to the City’s top high schools with further tuition assists from MDA partner schools.
This year’s event turned the tables on Phan, who, instead of sweating at the stoves, was the star attraction. The heralded Slanted Door chef-restaurateur grew up in the Mission District after his family escaped their war-torn homeland in South Vietnam.
Following toasts and tributes from MDA benefactors and board members (including president Sara Duryea, James Sangiacomo, Margie Ellis, Jerome Williams, Bob Lalanne and Michele Meany), Phan was interviewed by senior Vice correspondent-producer Gianna Toboni, a daughter of the event chairs.
“San Francisco prides itself on diversity. And at MDA, we are that diversity,” said Paul Recktenwald, MDA head of school. “We are the families that are working in the offices. We are the families supporting the brick-and-mortar of San Francisco. And these kids are the future of San Francisco.”