With a crowd of over 500 packed into Gustavino's on March 9, second annual UNIS Gala lived up to its moniker of Aspire to Inspire as guests helped raise over $275,000. Thanks to the generous support of attendees and those who bidded on live and silent auction items, the event raised more than $275,000.
This year's event featured a special focus on the plight of immigrants and refugees. In her remarks, Executive Director Jane Camblin, highlighted UNIS's commitment to these issues and mentioned how the recent UNIS UN conference focused on migration with 600 students from 47 schools. She pointed out that attendance would have been higher but some schools chose not come because of the recent travel ban issued by the Trump White House.
One way UNIS students have been involved in the fight to protect the rights of immigrants is through their work with Picture Justice. The program is a public-private partnership between UNIS, New York City-based human rights organizations and New York public school students. This year's topic, titled '(un)Documented,' focused on immigration issues in the U.S.
We were recognized by the E.E. Ford Foundation for a matching grant of $50,000 on a dollar-for-dollar basis to support and expand 'Picture Justice.'
To secure the grant, the gala featured a special live auction "Fund A Need" electronic bidding. The bidding started after a short video detailing the program and an appeal from students Anoushka Joshi, Saverio Cesaretti, and Sarah Blau, who participated in Picture Justice last summer. With encouragement from auctioneer Joshua Blau, gala co-chair Trish Neve, and Tut House Principal Antoine Delaitre, the crowd responded and we were able to hit the $50,000 mark. This prompted sustained applause.
In addition to the "Fund A Need" section, Joshua Blau served as auctioneer for items such as a trip to Portugal, tickets to the "Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon," and guided tour of the Downtown Eataly.
To show our commitment to refugee relief part of the proceeds from the gala silent auction were donated to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). These items had been donated by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan and included a wooden chess set, a crystal serving platter, and a commemorative pen from the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. This portion of the silent auction brought in $3,896.
Throughout the evening, attendees enjoyed the music of Allegra Levy and the Bootlegger Boys. Levy is a professional singer and the UNIS Music Department Co-Team Leader and Private Music Lesson Coordinator. She was joined by Randy Ingram on piano, John Raymond on trumpet, trombonist Mike Fahie, bassist Matt Aronoff, and Jeff Davis on drums. Every member of the band, aside from Aronoff, also teaches at UNIS.
During their performance the band played a series of 1920's era favorites including Pennies from Heaven and Let's Misbehave.
As the night came to a close some attendees were already looking forward to next year's event.