The Power of Opportunity - NAF’s 16th Annual Benefit

The Power of Opportunity - NAF’s 16th Annual Benefit

Success, at least from my observation, is the result of perseverance, dedication, and the ability to learn from past mistakes. However, success may not be achieved in isolation. Even the strongest, most hard working individuals need support from others to realize their goals. Unfortunately, egregious economic disparity plagues this country: nearly one third of US citizens live at or below the poverty line, and as a result, millions of teenagers face unjust obstacles as they attempt to fulfill their dreams. Thankfully, NAF, a nationwide non-profit organization, is dedicated to investing in today's youth.  

Chief Executive Officer of NAF, JD Hoye and NAF alumna, Luisa Mendoza

Chief Executive Officer of NAF, JD Hoye and NAF alumna, Luisa Mendoza

NAF was founded in 1982 with the goal of improving education in the United States. NAF achieves systematic betterment through providing high school students with guidance from industry professionals and by equipping them with a robust skill set. Students who join NAF work with their peers to design projects. Through these projects students expand their knowledge in science, technology, engineering, and math. Thus, these projects help students acquire relevant quantitative skills. Additionally, they are taught necessary soft skills through the NAF curricula. Moreover, students in NAF are able to connect with accomplished businesspeople and community leaders as they navigate their way through the professional world. Ultimately, NAF’s approach to learning is centered on work-based experiences that include career awareness, exploration, and preparation activities, eventually leading to internships.

Chief Executive Officer of NAF, JD Hoye, Founder and Chairman of NAF, Sandy Weill, and President of NAF, Lisa Dughi

Chief Executive Officer of NAF, JD Hoye, Founder and Chairman of NAF, Sandy Weill, and President of NAF, Lisa Dughi

On May 8th, I attended NAF’s 16th Annual Benefit held at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. Students, NAF alumni, and professionals came together to enjoy breathtaking views of Central Park while sampling tasty hors d’oeuvres.

Student presenting her project

Student presenting her project

The focal point of the event were the students that came from all across the country to share their projects. I was extremely impressed by all of them. From every group of students I learned something new. I was especially taken aback by a group of girls from McKinley Tech High School in Washington D.C that created a miniature prototype of a car completely powered by water. This method of power is called fuel-cell energy, and it provides a efficient, affordable, and sustainable solution to un-renewable energy sources such as fossil fuels. They were able to develop this because of the funding given to them by NAF.

Three students from McKinley Tech High School demonstrating their project

Three students from McKinley Tech High School demonstrating their project

Sanford Weill, the chairman and founder of NAF, gave an moving speech on the importance of empowering future generations. Additionally, a short yet powerful fireside chat was held by NAF CEO JD Hoye and the president of Lenovo Matt Zielinski, along with two exceptional high school students. Both of the student speakers demonstrated great curiosity, intelligence, and aptitude. Hearing them speak further illustrated the significance of having organizations that give young people the tools to jump start their careers.

JD Hoye, Matt Zielinski, with student panelist: Rushawn Johnson, and Dakota Reynolds

JD Hoye, Matt Zielinski, with student panelist: Rushawn Johnson, and Dakota Reynolds

The Benefit was a huge success, generating nearly $1.5 million. Additionally, Matt Zielinski, announced Lenovo’s four-year, $1 million-dollar commitment to create internships for NAF students at post-secondary institutions in North Carolina, one of Lenovo’s worldwide headquarters.

President of Lenovo North America Intelligent Devices Group, Matt Zielinski’s

President of Lenovo North America Intelligent Devices Group, Matt Zielinski’s

The high school students I spoke with gave me the extra motivation I needed to power through my finals. I left the event eager to work and excited about my future in the business world.

The Flying Cock Pub

The Flying Cock Pub

Spring Soirée - North 3rd Street Market

Spring Soirée - North 3rd Street Market