Loeb Fetes Prep for Prep Students Bound for Harvard, Yale, PennBy
Lawrence Golub honored at benefit raising about $3 million
High ambitions, challenging beginnings are event themes
"My main goal right now is to get to the top, and the best part is, I get to define what that means," said Steward, who’s from Canarsie, Brooklyn, and is interested in nursing.
Ah, those freshly minted high school graduates with their hopes and ambitions, headed to schools including Yale, Harvard, Williams, Amherst, Kenyon and Carnegie Mellon. Who wouldn’t want to spend an evening with them? Those who did Monday included Dan Loeb, Lawrence Golub, Paul Taubman, Dick Cashin, Larry Leeds and Anson Beard.
But there was some edge to the celebration.
"As the son of struggling immigrants, I’m not supposed to be in the position I am today when the world is my oyster," said Trevor Nunez on stage in front of about 1,200 people in the ballroom of the New York Hilton Midtown in Manhattan on Monday night.
Immediately guests sat up straighter at the articulation of what draws so many of them to support the program: to help even the playing field for a diverse group of kids from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Nunez’s parents came to the U.S. from Guatemala and Trinidad "looking for liberty and opportunity. They found neither," he said. "What they did find was an unstable economic landscape which led me to be born to an unemployed father and an underemployed mother."
When his sister enrolled at James Madison, a public high school in Brooklyn, she found metal detectors at the entrance. The school may have once been a bastion "of learning and mobility" for Chuck Schumer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Nunez said, but not now.
So what gave this boy his shot at the American Dream? Prep for Prep, which provided academic course work and other support that helped him thrive at Poly Prep Country Day School. He was on the varsity football team and the lead in "Pippin." He traveled to Turkey and interned at Wachtell Lipton. This week he began an internship at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. He’s headed to University of Pennsylvania.
"I love the enablement that Prep provides to smart, high-powered students," said Golub of Golub Capital in an interview before he was honored on stage. Golub said his support for Prep for Prep is motivated by his own family’s story of benefiting from a helping hand.
"During the Depression, my grandfather was broke," Golub said. "My father was about to start college -- he was very bright, he’d gone to Boston Latin School, got into Harvard. But my grandfather couldn’t pay the tuition. He borrowed from a childhood friend from the old country, the Ukraine, and that’s how he had the money to send my father to college."
The private secondary schools the students attend provide $35 million in tuition assistance, said Scott Bok, Prep for Prep’s chairman. The organization’s budget is about $12 million. The benefit raised more than $3 million. And the the ripple effect the students have as they go out in the world is unquantifiable.
"It’s very easy to lose sight of the long-term impact, the compounding value of enabling and empowering and activating people who are going to pay it back 100-fold during their lifetime," said Bok, CEO of Greenhill & Co.
Steward is well aware of the responsibilities that come with her opportunities.
"I feel obliged to be a role model, a leader, to make sure little black girls can look up to me and say, ‘If she can do it, I can.”’
She’s especially devoted to championing the rights of marginalized people.
"At my school, I led a self-love march on campus. We went to students of color, unidentified students, members of the LGBT community and we had a march in middle of day, playing awesome music and chanting slogans: We matter, we’re great, we deserve to be here. As daunting as the future may be, I also have a lot of hope."