Gala 2014 Celebrates Leadership, Supports Scholarships

Gala 2014 Celebrates Leadership, Supports Scholarships

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Kristin Simonetti
September 30, 2014

Nearly 500 alumni, students and friends of The Washington Center descended on the National Building Museum at the organization’s 39th-annual Gala on Sept. 29.


The celebration coincided with the 25th anniversary of TWC’s Minority Leaders Program, which now encompasses several diversity initiatives. The Gala raised more than $480,000 for student scholarships that will be offered through TWC’s new Fund for Access and Opportunity. President Mike Smith explained that the high cost of college tuition plus the financial commitment required to attend TWC puts its programs out of reach for far too many students.


“This fund allows students who are underrepresented on campuses worldwide to have these amazing experiences,” Smith said.


The three students who opened the Gala program – Jovan Rivera (Institution: Florida International University), Vania Hoyte (Institution: Westfield State University, Mass.) and Galina Bogatova (Institution: Saint Petersburg State University, Russia) – illustrated the kind of diversity the Fund for Access and Opportunity is designed to grow.


“When these students go back to Massachusetts, to Yemen, to Russia, to New Jersey – those places are changed for the better,” said CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley in her opening remarks as the Gala’s master of ceremonies.


The audience – which included 70 TWC alumni, representatives of 30 colleges and eight university presidents – also heard from three distinguished political leaders whom TWC honored for their commitments to leadership, professional achievement and civic engagement.


The senior U.S. Senator from Washington, Patty Murray, received the TWC Pillar Award for Leadership in recognition of her two decades of work on behalf of her state’s families in Congress. Murray, unable to attend the event because of a family emergency, thanked TWC via video message for the recognition and praised the organization for influencing young professionals who become “engaged, civic-minded and ready to face the challenges” the 21st century continues to present.


U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) spoke about the importance of internships to her own remarkable political career as she accepted the Pillar Award for Professional Achievement. Yet she focused most of her comments on what TWC interns have brought to her work in Congress, singling out 2012 alumna Taylor Reidy for special mention.


“It’s not just about what we can provide – it’s also about the energy, enthusiasm and passion interns bring to every corner of our office. What [TWC is] doing is very important,” Ayotte said.


Former NATO Secretary General Willy Claes received the Pillar Award for Civic Engagement to honor of his instrumental role in brokering a partnership between TWC and Belgium. Since 2010, the Flemish Minister for Education has provided 12 scholarships for Belgian students to attend TWC programs each year. In his remarks, Claes outlined the daunting threats the United States, Europe and the world face. But he underscored his belief that exposing young adults to the reality of those challenges through experiential education in a hub like Washington is the best way to promote peace and prosperity worldwide.


“That is the fundamental reason I have encouraged Belgium’s partnership with TWC,” Claes said.


To view photos from Gala 2014, please visit the Flickr gallery.

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