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Celebrating Our 213th Anniversary
On May 16th 2019, Graham Windham marked our 213th anniversary and the enduring legacy of our founder Eliza Hamilton with a spectacular celebration at The American Museum of Natural History. Over 480 members of the Graham community joined us for our annual gala that this year raised the most ever – over $2.2 million – to benefit our kids and families!
Our Innovative Graham SLAM Program
Our Chairman of the Board, Georgia Wall, opened the evening by warmly welcoming and thanking all in attendance. Ms. Wall then introduced student speaker Javier Nieves, one of our remarkable young people in Graham SLAM, our innovative program that provides coaches for youth in foster care until they reach the age of twenty-six.
Javier shared the story of his transformative life journey, “Being a youth in foster care made me feel scared, vulnerable, and unprotected; feelings that followed me for years. The Graham SLAM team has shown me what it looks like when people go above and beyond for you. I am proud of the man I am today. I can reach a little higher. I am far from finishing my journey but with those I have around me and my hard work, I know I will get there.”
Ms. Wall began the keynote by reading a poem written by Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet Mary Oliver, entitled “This Morning:”
This morning the redbirds’ eggs have hatched and already the chicks are chirping for food. They don’t know where it’s coming from, they just keep shouting, “More! More!” As to anything else, they haven’t had a single thought. Their eyes haven’t yet opened, they know nothing about the sky that’s waiting. Or the thousands, the millions of trees. They don’t even know they have wings.
And just like that, like a simple neighborhood event, a miracle is taking place.
Ms. Wall stated that, “This miracle that Mary Oliver speaks of, through which young ones learn they have wings with which to soar, is something that eludes thousands of young people who spend their childhoods and adolescence in the New York City foster care system.”
Our Graham SLAM (Support, Lead, Achieve, Model) program that provides youth in foster care with coaches to support them from high school to college to a living wage addresses this urgent need. And, after just four years of operation, the results tell a very good story: Ninety-two percent of our Graham SLAM youth who aged out of care graduated from high school by the age of twenty-one (compared to only twenty-two percent of other City foster care youth).
Ms. Wall stated that, “By partnering with us, by supporting Graham SLAM, more and more of our young people who are so at risk but who have so much untapped potential will have the opportunity to learn how to use those young wings to soar, and, if we can do this together, we will have the gratitude of knowing that, in Mary Oliver’s words, a miracle or many miracles will have taken place in our neighborhood.”
Honoring Board Member Barbara Marcus
We were thrilled to honor our Board Member Barbara Marcus, President and Publisher of Random House Children’s Books, for her commitment to furthering Eliza’s legacy through tremendous financial support and educational initiatives – including the Penguin Random House Employee Literacy Program for our children at Community School 123 and the publication of the beautiful children’s book, Eliza: The Story of Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.
Our President and CEO, Jess Dannhauser introduced honoree Barbara Marcus, “Everywhere she has gone in her illustrious career and today as President and Publisher of Random House Children’s Books, Barbara is a visionary, a change maker, a trendsetter. For the last eleven years, Barbara has blazed new trails here at Graham. Barbara leads our Nominating Committee, helping shape our outstanding Board of Directors. She served on our Program Performance Committee which examines the effectiveness of our programs and sets our course as an organization. She helps lead a soon-to-be-announced effort to ensure Graham Windham remains a vital force for NYC’s kids for years to come.”
Our special guest, the actor and singer Phillipa Soo, who portrayed Eliza Hamilton in the Broadway hit musical, HAMILTON and was a contributor to the children’s picture book about Eliza, joined Mr. Dannhauser on stage stating that, “When I think back to my time with Eliza Hamilton I will always be reminded of her truly fierce strength of spirit and her admirable capacity for love. For me, Graham Windham represents a living, breathing connection to Eliza, as she was one of its original founders. Their work is an extension of her mission—a mission that we are so lucky she set forth to conquer.
We can all agree here that young people are going to save the world. Hope is innate in them. We do our best remind them that the power to change the world for the better does not need to be bestowed upon them, it lives within. Sometimes all they need is a key to unlock their potential. In Barbara’s case, she might say that ‘key’ is a book. Books that inspire and empower young people, books that assure them that they are special and unique, that they are not alone, books that remind them that they are the heroes of tomorrow. Barbara, thank you for your continued support of Graham Windham, for your commitment to broadening the reach of Eliza’s legacy, and for always keeping the children and families that Graham Windham serves at the core of your work.”
Honoree Barbara Marcus accepted the Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton Legacy Award and stated, “ What is most inspiring to me about Graham Windham is the fact that they ensure that families and young people do not fall off the grid——that they have a place in this world to live, to learn, and to thrive. I can not think of a more important mission for us to embrace.
My wish for tonight is that you too can see that without Graham Windham, there would be so many children and families left out—truly left out, who would not be able to integrate into society at large. Graham creates opportunity, and introduces the word “potential” to these children and families.”
Never Give Up
Graham student and talented singer, Dayona Oliver, then moved the audience by singing an inspiring rendition of the song, “Never Give Up,” about the power of persistence in the face of obstacles, “Keep the dream alive – don’t let it die. If something deep inside keeps inspiring you to try, don’t stop, and never give up. Don’t ever give up on you.”
A Graham SLAM!
The evening concluded with Board Member, Ken Bryant, leading an incredibly successful appeal to raise funds to support the Graham SLAM program to provide young people with long-term support from high school through college and into a living-wage career. By the end of the appeal, nearly $350,000 was raised – thanks to an anonymous $100,000 matching gift from a very generous couple – to provide 70 young people with a Graham SLAM coach for the coming year.
Everyone agreed the entire evening was a GRAHAM SLAM!
Thank you to the Graham Community!
With deep gratitude, we thank all of the members of the Graham community who joined us at this important event to support our efforts to help children and families thrive!