Big Brothers Big Sisters of LA supporting brighter futures

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“Don’t be pushed by your problems, be lead by your dreams,” was a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote heard during the annual Accessories for Success Scholarship Luncheon for the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles (BBBSLA) on April 22. That philosophy was embraced by everyone at the Beverly Wilshire event where 108 scholarships (a new record for the organization) were presented to college bound youth from the BBBSLA program.

Also in the spotlight were three exemplary women — Tracy D. Underwood, Laurie Zaks and Martha Henderson — honored for their leadership and support for children facing adversity in Los Angeles. Actress and activist Yara Shahidi (Black-ish and Grown-ish) presented the “Excellence In Mentoring Award” to Tracy D. Underwood, Senior Vice President of ABC Signature, and to Laurie Zaks, President of Mandeville Television. Yara noted that Underwood and Zaks are “living proof that women thrive in leadership positions.”

Underwood said, “It is a privilege and honor to carry out a mission set forth by one of my role models, Sherry Lansing and to be a member of the BBBSLA family through the Women in Entertainment mentorship program. Meeting my ‘Little’ Amanda and becoming part of her life’s journey is truly one of my proudest achievements. I am as much her mentee as she is mine.”

Zaks also praised her experience saying, “Working with the Big Brothers Big Sisters Women in Entertainment program has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my career. It’s a tremendous honor to have been chosen to mentor and provide leadership to such outstanding young women.”

BBBSLA Board Chair Laura Lizer, presented the “Innovator Award” to Martha Henderson, Executive Vice President of Entertainment Banking at City National Bank, which helped present the “Big” event. Henderson explained, “This organization is near and dear to my heart because I have personally benefitted from having strong mentors in my life. Mentorship gives kids the guidance and encouragement they need in order to achieve their dreams.”

Olivia Diaz-Lampham, CEO of BBBSLA, said, “Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles relies on an extraordinary group of Bigs who invest time, energy and guidance to positively impact the lives of our Littles. The Accessories for Success Luncheon allows us to recognize those in our community who go above and beyond as champions for our children. Tracy Underwood, Laurie Zaks and Martha Henderson provide tremendous support to underserved youth in our mentoring program.”

Once again stunning model and Revenge actress Amber Valletta returned to host the luncheon and awards presentation. Amber asked, “What’s not to love about an afternoon of fashion, food and inspiration?” And fashion gurus Lloyd Boston and Jenna Fredrique Aponte emceed a very special and thrifty fashion show that featured Big Brothers and Sisters (“Bigs”) with their Little Brothers and Sisters (“Littles”) modeling outfits and accessories they selected in a Goodwill store, with a budget of $30. They all looked great and rocked the runway.

The fashion show was developed as part of an education initiative by Goodwill to emphasize the importance of shopping on a budget. The model pairs received a shopping day fashion assist from celebrity stylist and TV host Kalee Hewlett, who introduced a fun “behind the scenes” shopping video at the scholarship luncheon.

The event honorary co-chairs included Rebecca Campbell, Nancy Daniels, Stephen Galloway, Anne Globe, NJ Goldston, Barbara Lazaroff, Nicole Lorey, Loyola Marymount University, Lori McCreary, Kate Nichols, Charon Harroun Peirce, Nina Shaw, Sandra Stern and Nancy Taylor.

A highlight of the afternoon was a speech from little sister Paola Franco, who thanked BBBSLA for matching her with the Head of Amazon Studios, Jennifer Salke, in the Women In Entertainment Mentorship Program in 2013. A true “Dreamer,” Paola is a DACA student who will graduate Loyola Marymount University in one year, on a full ride scholarship. “Jennifer has been a shoulder to lean on, my biggest cheerleader, and my honorary mother,” said Paola. “If you take one thing away from this, it is that your circumstances and challenges don’t define you.”

Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 35 years and was proud to be half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.

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