Did you know that less than 2% of teen mothers earn a college degree before age 30? Generation Hope, the only community-based nonprofit organization solely focused on college completion for teen parents is changing that statistic, among others, in the DC area. Founded in 2010 by Nicole Lynn Lewis, Generation Hope provides monetary support, one-on-one mentoring, case management and more to participants in its Innovative Scholar program until they earn their college degree. Through its annual fundraiser, “Pep Rally Under the Stars,” Generation Hope is able to further their mission of reducing poverty one family at a time.
“We wanted to drive home the college theme given our mission of helping teen parents become college graduates. We also love events that mix fun with glitz and glam so it was a nice way to marry the two,” explained Nicole of the evening’s origins. Guests are encouraged to decorate their cocktail attire with a piece of memorabilia from their alma mater to emphasize the theme. This year’s event took place at the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center, located at the heart of the historic Georgetown University campus. With valet service provided by Atlantic Services Group and volunteer’s stationed in the lobby to welcome guests, as well as easy check-in through the Social Tables, one certainly felt glitzy and glamorous. Sponsors were recognized as Head Coaches, Cheerleaders and Mascots adding to the college theme and actual mascots, including sponsor GEICO’s beloved Gecko, mingled with guests and posed for photo opportunities. Along the corridor outside the dining room countless silent auction items were assembled neatly on tables, with everything from a Bliss Spa package to children’s toys and a movie night basket. The Crush Funk Brass band led guests from the corridor into the dining room with a lively rendition of recognizable collegiate tunes. Inside the dining room, the contributions from countless supporters of the program came together to create an atmosphere of celebration and hope: Event EQ for technical production; DC Rental for the table linens; Reingold for providing marketing and promotion support; Deloitte employees for volunteering to help prepare for the gala; Artist Nancy Hannans for donating her time and service to the birdhouse project. Linder Global Events was proud to offer event support and looks forward to continuing to do so for future Generation Hope events.
Founder Nicole Lynn Lewis and Scholars Joseph Yusuf and Alyssa Bullock provided us with personal insight on the importance of this event:
Interview with Nicole Lynn Lewis
Linder Global Events (LGE): How has the gala evolved over the past few years? What are some components you have found to be most effective?
Nicole Lynn Lewis (Nicole): It has definitely grown in size. Our first year, we had about 100 people. Our fifth year, we had about 430. So the sheer size and popularity of the event has changed significantly in a short period of time. I think the most effective part of the evening has always been hearing about our Scholars’ journeys to and through college. Many of them have experienced such heartbreaking challenges like foster care or domestic violence, and our guests always leave inspired and moved by their stories. On the fun side, we like to make sure our guests have a good time so we have a great DJ, a fun photo booth (donated by Photo in a Box), a diverse silent auction, etc. People leave the event having had a great time but also being very inspired by Generation Hope’s work. That’s the goal.
LGE: How does this fundraiser directly affect your mission?
Nicole: “Pep Rally Under the Stars” is our principal fundraising event. Its financial success allows us to bring on more students each year and to provide them with stellar one-on-one mentoring, tuition support, academic, life skills, and career training, case management, and free tutoring to ensure that they graduate. We could not fulfill our mission without this fundraiser.
LGE: How do you measure the return on investment for this type of event?
Nicole: The first thing we look at is our expenses vs. revenue. We have done a great job over the years of keeping our expenses low, and that has really helped to bring in more funding for the students. We also know that many people in the room continue to donate, volunteer, or support Generation Hope throughout the year. So the dividends of the event continue well afterwards. There are other intangibles like celebrating our graduating Scholars in a very special way. There is no price tag for that, but it’s vitally important.
Interview with Scholar Alyssa Bullock, a member of this year’s Innovative Scholar Program graduating class. In May, Alyssa graduated summa cum laude with a degree in computer science from Howard University and has secured a job with the federal government:
Alyssa’s quote from this year’s Pep Rally Under the Stars Program: “I want to succeed so I can provide for my son and prove all the people wrong [who] said I would never go far in life because I’m a teen mom.”
LGE: How did you first hear about Generation Hope?
Alyssa: A friend of my mother worked with Elizabeth Link* and she spoke of the program, which got back to my mom who instantly called me and told me to apply immediately.
LGE: What does the gala mean to you?
Alyssa: It’s a place for us scholars to really get together and have fun in a new light. [It’s] one thing when getting to know someone at a training or field trip. But you really connect after a long night of good food and dancing.
Also being able to physically see the amount of people who support us and seeing how much money can be raised in just one night to continue this program for others in our situation is amazing.
LGE: What’s your favorite part of the gala?
Alyssa: Definitely when everyone comes together at the end of the night for dancing!
Elizabeth Link was a former board member who passed a year and a half ago. Generation Hope has named their Scholar award after her – the Liz Link Scholar of the Year Award.
Interview with Scholar Joseph Yusuf, a member of the Innovative Scholar Program, class of 2014 and the Scholar Speaker of this year’s event. Joseph will be transferring to American University in Fall 2016 and will be studying Audio Production:
From Joseph’s speech at this year’s event: “I just want to thank all of those individuals and organizations who support Generation Hope and help young parents succeed. I am living proof of what that support can do.”
LGE: How did you first hear about Generation Hope?
Joseph: I heard about Generation Hope through a mentor of mine at the Latin American Youth Center.
LGE: What does this event mean to you?
Joseph: The Gala and Hope conference is a time of celebration. I get to see all the scholars (past, present, and future) and have the opportunity to socialize. It’s like a family reunion filled with a lot of cousins though.
LGE: What is your favorite part of the evening?
Joseph: My favorite part of the gala would have to be sharing my story. Being able to tell hundreds of people where I came from and how Generation Hope helped me was an awesome opportunity.
To learn more about Generation Hope, visit their website at supportgenerationhope.org. Follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube. All photos in this write-up were taken and produce by Erika Layne Photography.
CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE to receive posts like this and special news exclusive to subscribers direct to your inbox
< Back to The Scope