13th Annual Youth Leadership Awards Dinner
"Now a cherished tradition at UCAN, the Youth Leadership Awards Dinner is celebrating its 13th year this evening... In 2012 alone, UCAN has worked with nearly 550 thirteen-year olds and over 2,000 teenagers. These are teens who share many of your teenage hopes and dreams. But they are hoping and dreaming in the face of nearly impossible odds, "said event emcee LeeAnn Trotter of NBC 5 Chicago at this year's Youth Leadership Awards Dinner.
On June 14th more than 400 people attended UCAN's 13th Annual Youth Leadership Dinner at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel in Chicago. To date, we are thrilled to announce we have raised more than $600,000! Thank you to all who contributed to our mission.
This year's award recipients showed incredible courage and resilience in their quests for personal and academic achievement. Their stories drive home UCAN's vision that youth who have suffered trauma can become our future leaders.
Eric Parks Jr. shared his future goal of becoming a CEO of his own nonprofit and to open up a community resource center that will bring safe haven and good jobs to local communities.
John E. Rooney scholarship winner Davina Bridges (right), who aspires to work for criminal justice, was grateful. "With this scholarship I have been given the opportunity to achieve my hopes and dreams."
Brian Lane's twin sister Brianna Lane accepted his award on his behalf and read a speech written by him: "I am extremely honored to accept this award, and to say I am proud to achieve this much and come this far would be a major understatement. Receiving this award has given me a new sense of hope."
Da'Angela Shepard, who plans to pursue a degree in radio broadcasting, shared what it meant to her to receive a scholarship: "I am here today receiving a scholarship to college. No one in my family has ever gone to college and I will be the first. You don't know how proud I am of myself to make it this far."
Britney Evans, a winner and LGBTQ Host Home youth, "Whenever I find myself reverting to my old habits of thinking, I remember the support system I have around me. I am honored to be one of the five recipients to be honored tonight... Thanks to UCAN I am one step closer to fulfilling my dreams."
Click here to read more about this year's winners.
Additional highlights from the event included:
- Michael McDermott, singer/songwriter and UCAN President's Board member, opened the evening by performing a fantastic rendition of "Amazing Grace."
- Steve Campbell, CFO of U.S. Cellular, talked about U.S. Cellular's long partnership with UCAN: "It has been a pleasure learning from our former CEO Jack Rooney, and many others, about the enormous positive impact that UCAN makes in communities across Chicago. Jack's dedication to UCAN, and to the youth and families whom it serves, made it an easy decision for me to agree to serve on the President's Board."
- John Gremer, Director of Community Affairs for Walgreens, accepted the 2012 Corporate Leadership Award for Walgreens' work to provide fresh healthy foods, fruits and vegetables to underserved communities.
- UCAN Advisory Board member Colleen Bradley presented the John E. Rooney Dynamic Youth scholarship to Davina Bridges and paid a glowing tribute to her father: "Many of you knew my father; he cherished stories of adversity and challenge, and my family is so proud of him and all he did to serve UCAN."
- UCAN CEO Tom Vanden Berk: "When we really drill down to the core of UCAN's vision - youth who have suffered trauma can become our future leaders-the most important thing to understand is that everyone has a voice. Everyone deserves the opportunity to be heard." Watch this year's video here to learn more.
- Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy handed out awards to this year's awardees: "In my relatively short time in Chicago, I have encountered some remarkable nonprofit organizations, and UCAN is certainly a leader in violence prevention and youth empowerment."
- Keynote speaker and author of A Chance in the World, Steve Pemberton sharing his personal struggle and giving advice to our youth: "I realized that today it's not what I should talk about but who I should talk to. I want to tell the students at UCAN that their strength, courage and conviction are what our country needs." Listen to Steve's words in this year's video.
As the evening came to a close, Steve summed it up best: "The answer comes from you, the children of UCAN, the children of foster care. You were born in circumstances that no one asked for. You have been through more than most of us have been in a lifetime and yet you stand here proud and daring to change your life and that of future generations."
A tremendous thank you to all of our incredible attendees and UCAN supporters!