Ann Tisch and CBI Celebrate 15 Years of College Bound Kids
By Lydia Liebman
The College Bound Initiative, founded by Ann Tisch in 2001, celebrated its fifteenth anniversary at their annual gala held at Jazz at Lincoln Center. This year, the star-studded list of honorees included America’s favorite weatherman, Al Roker of The Today Show fame and his wife ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts, New York Mets Outfielder Curtis Granderson and Calamos Investment CEO John F. Koudounis.
The celebratory mood was palpable at Jazz at Lincoln Center, where graduating CBI students joined with honorees, guidance councilors, teachers, principals, donors, and friends to share in the excitement over delicious hors d’oeuvres. Bronx High School Student Kelby Perez, who is president of his school’s National Honors Society chapter and also the student body president, is bound for Wheaton College come September. “CBI has truly motivated me to get where I am at now,” he said.
The ceremony, which was held in the glass-walled Appel Room at Frederick P. Rose Hall, featured remarks from emcee Ian Genao, senior at Central Park East High School, founder Ann Tisch, and the Senior Managing Director of CBI, Jon Roure, who praised Ann for giving him a platform to execute his life’s work. Roure shared some startling statistics: CBI graduates achieve four-year college degrees at nearly four times the rate of their peers, 94% of CBI graduates are accepted to college and CBI has generated over $300 million dollar in financial aid and scholarships.
The Honoree Awards kicked off with finance man John S. Koudounis, who praised “the organization that has touched so many young adults.” He congratulated the graduates on what they have already achieved and what they will accomplish in the future. He also shared some personal insights: like many CBI graduates, Koudounis was the first of his family to go to college. “Quite a few of you have overcome obstacles and adversity to reach this point. Many of you are the first in your family to go to college and that resonates with me,” he said.
The ceremony continued with broadcast journalists Al Roker and Deborah Roberts. Both have been involved with CBI for some time; Roberts has given graduation speeches for CBI school, donated prom dresses and given sizable donations. Roker arranged a surprise college acceptance to Gettysburg College live on the Today Show for Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem senior Tyra Riedemonn. Upon receiving their awards, the dynamic duo shared words of encouragement and praise. “I am humbled to just bask in the glow of these shining stars here tonight… you inspire us and you have been for a long time,” said Roberts while Roker nodded in agreement.
The final honoree was Curtis Granderson of the New York Mets. Granderson is no stranger to helping young people. He is the founder of the Grand Kids Foundation, which strives to aid positive youth development via education, physical fitness and nutrition. In his acceptance speech, Granderson brought attention to the principals and teachers. “You are the ones that often get overlooked,” he said, “…getting the chance to motivate and mentor these students day-to-day no matter what ends up going on… you guys are the big heroes!”
Like in previous years, the 2016 graduates will go on to attend an impressive array of prestigious colleges including New York University, Lafayette College, Brandeis University, Trinity College, and Gettysburg College, among others.
“We’ve been at this now 15 years and the reason it works is because of those kids and the principals who support us and those college guidance counselors,” said Ann Tisch. “This is work that is not for the faint of heart. Each one of those kids applies to at least fifteen schools, casts a very large net for their financial aid… it’s a huge undertaking. But in fifteen years we can say that we’ve sent 10,000 to college and secured more than 300 million dollars in financial aid and scholarship… it feels very good.”#