Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

'New Orleans in the Hamptons'

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

'New Orleans in the Hamptons'

Article excerpt

Foundation fundraiser brings together movers and shakers to lend a hand to college students and raises more than $220,000

Hollywood and Wall Street came together last month to support the educational aspirations of several students who needed a little financial boost to make their dreams come true. The Soledad O'Brien and Brad Raymond Foundation held its first official fundraiser Aug. 12 in Bridgehampton, N.Y., bringing together actors such as Cicely Tyson, who stars in the blockbuster, "The Help," Melissa George, jazz master Ron Carter, TV personality Star Jones, media mogul Russell Simmons and jazz musician Irvin Mayfield, who is the foundation's board chairman.

CNN journalist O'Brien held the event with her husband, Brad Raymond, at the private residence of one of the foundation's board members. With 225 attendees, the foundation raised more than $220,000.

"One of the reasons to start a foundation is to make the kids understand you have a lot of really terrific opportunities," says O'Brien, who has been informally funding the education of financially struggling students since 2005.

The foundation, which was established early this year, will be doling out grants to assist six deserving girls with college expenses. In the past, O'Brien has chosen the students personally by learning of them through friends or her reporting on Hurricane Katrina, education, and other issues. However, now that she has launched a foundation, there will be a more formal selection process, says Rica Trigs, executive director of the organization. Students can find out more about the application process through the foundation's Web site, http:// obrienraymondfoundation.com.

"What has happened in the past is that the girls have actually found Soledad through her brand of stories," says Trigs.

This summer was not only the first time the foundation held an official fundraiser, but it was the first time grant recipients went on a "Summer Experience" where they met O'Brien, toured around their hometowns, and discussed their career goals. All of the girls are from New Orleans or New York City.

"We wanted to make sure that we didn't turn this into just a scholarship," says Trigs. "We wanted to be mentor-based, and we wanted to stay very individualized."

Kim Bondy, a foundation board member who emceed the event, says the foundation hopes to eventually award no more than 20 scholarships per year. …

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