The Midtown Educational Foundation’s (MEF) 27th Annual Reach for Excellence Dinner provided an electric energy as roughly 450 new and old friends converged at the Four Seasons on a brisk October night. The familial atmosphere was evident to each guest, mirroring the feeling one feels when walking into one of MEF’s centers. As Executive Director, Glenn Wilke, said, “what we teach at the centers, we practice at our events.”
Wilke went on to explain MEF’s motto, that everyone who walks into its centers is A VIP, A Very Important Person. At MEF, the slogan means more though. The A stands for Academics, the V is for Virtues, the I is for Individual attention, and the P is for parents. This motto is MEF’s tried and true formula in enabling student success.
With this motto, MEF has served more than 23,000 students over the last 53 years, instilling the importance of academic success, virtue development, one-on-one attention, and parental involvement. And the formula works, with 19 consecutive MEF senior classes achieving 100% high school graduation and college enrollment. Taylor, a current student of Metro Achievement Center for Girls one the stars of the event, perhaps summed it up best, “What Metro teaches us, helps us all of our lives.”
Both honorees, Kristi Ross of tastytrade and Charles W. Mulaney of Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom LLP, expressed their love and passion for MEF. Mulaney, a longtime MEF board member, told two stories about students at Metro & Midtown, describing the hardship both endured and the success they both have found in joining the MEF family. In a word, Mr. Mulaney described the students as heroes.
Ross had an emotional take away of how safe the girls of Metro feel while in the center, noting that Metro is a safe place to learn, play, and grow. Recounting her first tour of the Metro Center, Ross spoke of walking through the halls of the center and how individual personalities were evident as well as encouraged. The word Ross chose to describe the atmosphere at MEF centers was infectious.
While Mulaney and Ross were remarkable with their praise of MEF’s programs and students, the true stars of the evening were MEF students themselves. Taylor, a 7th grader from Metro, and Josiah, a 7th grader from Midtown, shared the stage for the annual MEF skit. The pair drew laughter while mentioning many of the night’s sponsors and further explained the impact of the MEF’s programs. Each student also shined on their own during interview portions of the program.
Many other MEF students and alumni also joined the event, including recent Dan Jorndt and Patricia McDonnell Jorndt Leadership Award winners (MEF graduates who received a full-ride college scholarship upon graduation thanks to the generosity of Dan & Pat Jorndt), as well as Midtown students donning Bears’ gear and selling raffle tickets. Another Midtown alumnus, Juan Vasquez, joined his company, CyrusOne, as a premier sponsor of the event.
All at MEF are extremely grateful for the many contributions of Kristy Ross and Charles Mulaney, as well as their respective companies tastytrade and Skadden, Arps, Meager & Flom LLP. Without their support, as well as others like Tyson Foods, Hollister, Boeing, the Chicago Bears, Walgreens (who have supported the Reach for Excellence Dinner and the programs at Midtown & Metro for nearly 30 years!), MEF simply could not continue to enable students to overcome the odds stacked against them.
MEF counts every guest as A VIP, as a hero whose infectious support will help MEF’s impact continue for kids like Taylor and Josiah for years to come.
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