The Child School/Legacy High School Celebrates Annual Dinner

New York, N.Y.  An amazing opportunity was given to three of the nine newly summer interns from J. Luce Foundation. They were able to experience one of the most humbling and touching events of the summer the Child School/Legacy High School annual dinner. Everything took place at the Battery Garden located in a beautiful and very cozy premise with a breathtaking view of the Statue of Liberty. The Child School opened its doors in 1973.

13391616_1436411376384390_4874683194682229710_oHappiness and joy all around. Photo: Mangala Weerasekera.

Before we get to the annual dinner it is important to acknowledge how everything started for this amazing school. Founder, Maari de Souza, born in India and holder of a psychology degree filled a tender opening in public education when she began teaching children with learning disabilities in a very personal location, her own apartment! In 1973, she assembled her outstanding curriculum and created The Child School. Later, in 1991, a middle school was added to provide much needed help for middle school students with learning disabilities.

13350290_1436412143050980_2872742940448767629_oJim Luce congratulating a graduate for his outstanding achievements.
Photo: Mangala Weerasekera.

Furthermore, in 1996, The Child School took things to a whole new level when they integrated to their resources a high school; this significant addition added even more educational diversity to the school which later was renamed The Child School/Legacy High School. The first graduating class from the high school graduated in 2001. Currently, established in four edifices on Roosevelt Island since 2003, this caring and wonderful private school is now led by Executive Director Vishu Grover.

13308511_1436410769717784_5296451285930551829_oInvited guests having a good time at the open bar. Photo: Mangala Weerasekera.

The Child school/Legacy High School annual dinner started at 6:00pm with the cocktail party in the first floor which served as a good opportunity to engage in social networking and for the invited guest to enjoy of the open bar and eat some of the cuisine freshly made. After an hour of great laughs and interesting conversations the guests were invited upstairs to the second floor to proceed with the genesis of the event.

13320523_1436410766384451_5150689953779794352_oJim Luce (right) and Curtis Newman discussing important issues at the gala.
Photo: Mangala Weerasekera.

Once upstairs the J. Luce Foundation interns were mesmerized with what they saw.  As a member of the internship program for J. Luce, I described what I witnessed, “As one of the most touching events you can possibly be a part of to see so many people gathering for such a great cause it shows you that there is still wonderful people in this world that care and love others.”


Former New York City Gov. David A. Paterson (middle) spotted at the gala.
Photo: Mangala Weerasekera.

After all the invited guests were accommodated to their respective tables it was show time! The first part of the ceremony program was the intonation of the national anthem and the formal welcoming of the invitees. Continuing the program individuals in attendance had the opportunity to see and enjoy of a brief speech given by Executive Director Vishu Grover.

Where grateful parents, students and a gathering of supporters at the dinner were touched with many anecdotes from her inspiring career as well as giving awards to some students who had already graduated from the school and have gone to pursue superior education at different colleges around the city, one of them graduating with a marvelous 4.0 GPA average at her respective college. Mia Lazarus, senior intern and global advisor for J. Luce Foundation, expressed with glee, “This academic achievement shows you that human capacity has no limits.”


Executive Director Vishu Grover sharing anecdotes from her career.
Photo: Mangala Weerasekera.

Once, that especial moment came to an end a graduate took the stage and led his band that sustained his graciously composed lyrics, his songs combined with lively dialogues about the experiences he has had for being different in a world where so many people struggle in a day to day basis just to be accepted by who they are. After his performance he received a standing ovation by every soul in the premise. For many it was the highlight of the night.

Performance by a previous graduate. Photo: Mangala Weerasekera.

What these graduates displayed at the gala exceeds any expectation you can possibly imagine. The cleverness and passion shown by these students validates how far we’ve come as a society. It just proves once more that New York City is the home of amazing and loving people.  The race might be long and exhausting but, we are definitely getting there!

As guest speaker David Price, from the NBC 4 News said, “The Child School is an example of the best that we are” as a culture. “We need more of this.”

13350232_1436411859717675_8454562841288641629_oDavid Price guest speaker for the gala. Photo: Mangala Weerasekera.

Price was a skillful and humorous speaker voiced his regrets about arriving late – after all the food was gone, particularly the salmon. Price interchanged with relevant references to his own family. “We need to take care of each other in this city,” was his message, linking to The Child School’s astonishing educational achievement. The Child School/Legacy High School has a graduation rate of 94%, exceeding what’s expected of public schools.

The night came upon the guests and a fundraiser auction began, where many people got involved with bids starting at $25 going all the way to $1000. A variety of goods were presented including two tickets with backstage access for a Wicked show in Times Square. After the auctioning concluded the room became a cheerful dancing place with everybody dancing with each other including the graduates who were awarded earlier in the event. There were dance offs, selfies being taken and just happiness and positivity all around. As Valentine Camano also a member of the internship program for J. Luce, said, “It was one of those moments you wish would never end.”

13323246_1436412133050981_6089890264491857919_oMathew Luce (right), son of  Jim Luce, takes pictures with former classmates.
Photo: Mangala Weerasekera.

Roosevelt Island is privileged to be home for The Child School/Legacy High School. As a vital part of their community, they contribute to the betterment of all. It is almost impossible to come to these events and not get emotional; these are the type of good deeds that must be encouraged across cities and nations. We need more love and less hatred, more understanding and less judgment because at the end, all we got is each other. These are principles I truly believe we should all live by. Just as Muhammad Ali once said, “Services to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”

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Israel Santana
Journalism, Events & Social Media "Young Global Leader"at The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation.

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