NYC’s Top Business and Education Leaders Gather to Support Public Schools at PENCIL’s 2011 Annual Spring Gala

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Students Tell The Story of How PENCIL Is Changing Their Lives

PENCIL, the leading education nonprofit facilitating relationships between business leaders and public schools, will hold its 2011 Annual Spring Gala: Imagine What We Can Do, this evening, Wednesday, April 13 at Cipriani Wall Street. With more than 800 guests in attendance, the sold-out event will raise nearly $1.8 million to support public schools.

PENCIL’s 2011 Gala will honor the following individuals and companies for their contributions to New York City public schools:

  •     Charles Bendit, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Taconic Investment Partners, LLC; Member, New York State Board of Regents; and PENCIL Board Member;

Paul Neuman, President, Neuman’s;
Sana Q. Nasser, Principal, Harry S. Truman High School. (PENCIL Partnership Award)

  •     EMC Corporation, Accepted by Joseph M. Tucci, Chairman, President and CEO. (PENCIL Corporate Partner Award)
  •     Matthew Higgins, Executive Vice President of Business Operations, New York Jets (New York City Public School Alumni Award)

The Gala is chaired by New York City public school alumnus Frank J. Bisignano, Chief Administrative Officer, JPMorgan Chase & Co.; with co-chairs Howard Chatzinoff, PENCIL Board Member and Partner, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP; Stephen J. Meringoff, PENCIL Board Member and Chairman, Meringoff Properties; Paul E. Pariser, Co-CEO, Taconic Investment Partners, LLC; Bill Hughes, Chief Communications Officer, CA Technologies; William J. Teuber, Jr., Vice Chairman, EMC Corporation; and Curtis Martin, Future Hall of Fame Running Back, New York Jets.

The cocktail hour and dinner program features students from Partner schools around the City whose lives have been touched by PENCIL Partnerships. Throughout the evening, guests are treated to artwork created by student artists from IS 24 and The Essence School. During cocktail hour, student journalists from PS 123 and student newscasters from PS 71 are reporting on the evening and conducting interviews from the red carpet, while students from Harry S. Truman High School’s culinary arts program prepare and serve sushi to guests.

The dinner program is emceed by Boubacar, an eighth-grade student from PS 123, and features original musical performances by students from East Side Community High School, an onstage cooking demonstration and presentation by Truman’s culinary arts students, and an original sketch performed by students from Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation. Finally, The Story Pirates are performing a play adapted from a story written by a third-grade student from Talented and Gifted School for Young Scholars.

“This is truly a great night for PENCIL,” said Michael Haberman, PENCIL President. “It’s more than a fundraiser to us. It’s an opportunity to celebrate the work of our supporters, see the impact of PENCIL programs on students and schools around the City, and recognize some outstanding individuals and companies that have shown we can transform our schools together.”

Since 1995, PENCIL has been leading the effort to improve public education by engaging the private sector in innovative, impact-driven Partnerships with principals at public schools throughout the five boroughs. The PENCIL Partnership Program builds and supports customized relationships between private sector leaders and principals, providing a flexible yet structured way for members of the business community to contribute and leverage their unique expertise and resources to help meet school needs. Today, the Partnership Program has expanded to reach over 350 New York City public schools, as well as dozens more through affiliate PENCIL Partnership Programs in Rochester and Baltimore. And through the PENCIL Fellows Program, more than 500 successful, career-minded juniors and seniors in New York City public high schools have been provided with full-time, paid summer internship positions.

2011 Gala Honorees

PENCIL Partnership Award
This year’s PENCIL Partnership Award will be presented to Sana Q. Nasser, Principal, Harry S. Truman High School; Charles R. Bendit, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Taconic Investment Partners, PENCIL Board Member, and member of the New York State Board of Regents; and Paul Neuman, President and Founder of Neuman’s. PENCIL Partners since 2002, Mr. Bendit and Principal Nasser have worked together to create smaller, career-themed “academies” within Truman, which today include legal studies, media studies, pre-engineering, and culinary arts programs. They also formed an academic advisory board of experienced professionals in each field who oversee the curriculum and structure of each program. In 2005, Paul Neuman joined the Partnership as a member of the academic advisory board focusing on Truman’s culinary arts program. Over the course of his Partnership, Mr. Neuman has enhanced the culinary curriculum by guiding the conversion of a defunct school kitchen into an instructional classroom, helping the program earn its certification from the Culinary Institute of America, and providing student internship opportunities. Today, Truman boasts a 95% teacher retention rate, and students in the academies outperform their peers in every metric, including attendance and graduation rates. The improved academic environment has also led to increased applications to the school, especially from nearby Co-Op City where applications increased from 0% to 22%.

PENCIL Corporate Partner Award
This year’s Corporate Partner Award will be presented to the EMC Corporation, in recognition of their outstanding Partnership with Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation (UASWC) in the Bronx. “Investing in education in the communities where we do business is a big part of EMC,” says Joseph M. Tucci, Chairman, President and CEO of EMC, who was recently named one of the “World’s Best CEOs” by Barron’s. “Our PENCIL Partnership gives our employees here a unique opportunity to help shape the leaders of tomorrow and connect in a truly personal way.” Since beginning their Partnership in 2008, Joe Profeta, Vice President of EMC’s NY/NJ division, and Principal Mark Ossenheimer have created career-awareness and mentorship opportunities for students at UASWC, which currently serves grades 6-9 and is growing by a grade each year. Through their Passionate Professionals program, small groups of students join EMC employees each month for lunch to discuss different aspects of employees’ jobs and career paths. To reach at-risk students, the Partners created a one-on-one student mentoring program with employees. “At the end of the day, the lives of our students have completely changed because of these programs. I don’t know if people entirely know what that means in the life of a young person,” says Principal Ossenheimer. “EMC has allowed us to create opportunity in a place where there were once very few opportunities.”

NYC Public School Alumni Award
Matthew Higgins, Executive Vice President of Business Operations for the New York Jets, is this year’s recipient of the New York City Public School Alumni Award. One of four boys raised by a single mother, Mr. Higgins grew up in Bayside “literally, dirt poor.” At the age of sixteen, Mr. Higgins had to drop out of school to begin working full-time so that he could help support his family. He completed his GED, worked by day, and took classes at night to earn his Bachelor’s Degree, also from Queens College. At 26, Mr. Higgins was appointed Press Secretary to Mayor Giuliani, the youngest in City history to hold that position. He later went on to work for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, where he helped oversee the rebuilding of Ground Zero, before joining the Jets in 2004. Mr. Higgins’ commitment to education led him to become a PENCIL Board Member, maintaining two Partnerships with schools he attended as a child, Alley Pond Elementary School and Benjamin N. Cardozo High School. A proud father, a cancer survivor, and a remarkable business leader with a dedication to giving back, it is no coincidence Mr. Higgins has found a home with the team he fondly calls “the team of second chances.” “That’s the thing about Matt,” says Woody Johnson, Chairman and CEO of the New York Jets. “He’s the comeback kid. And nothing makes him happier than seeing other kids get that chance, too.”

PENCIL inspires innovative solutions to the challenges facing public education by providing results-driven opportunities for the private sector to actively participate in transforming public schools. Our programs share a common premise: by bringing together the best ideas, talent, and resources across sectors, we can create real change in our schools. To learn more about PENCIL or to get involved, visit or call 646-638-0565.

Additional information about tonight’s honorees is available on request.


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