‘Starry Night’ event honors stellar Youth Achievement

Bernice and Joe Idlette with Jackye and Dr. A. Ronald Hudson [Photo: Denise Ritchie]

Everyone involved with the Gifford Youth Achievement center recognizes that education is the key to success. That point was emphasized at the recent Starry Night fundraiser, held in an elegantly transformed GYAC gymnasium, to support the numerous programs and activities they offer.

“The proceeds from this evening will help us continue to provide our cultural, educational, social and recreational activities for both youth and adults,” said Angelia Perry, executive director. She said that at last year’s event, construction had just begun on the 14,000-square-foot classroom expansion, which was officially opened this May.

“The donations that you provided have helped enable us to complete that expansion, so give yourselves a round of applause,” said Perry. “But we’re not done yet, guys.”

She noted that of the original $7.4 million need, $3 million was for construction, $4 million for an endowment for operating expenses, and $400,000 would help manage those operating expenses over a three-year period. She said that monies in hand and pledges to date total $7.1 million, adding that space is still available on their beautiful donor wall.

“We would love to have you continue to help us provide programs and services for vulnerable students. We know we’re making a difference,” said Perry.

“GYAC is a place where I grew up; I definitely learned leadership and work ethic here,” said Meyka McKinney, now a regional manager at Senior Life Services, the evening’s Platinum Sponsor. She added that it was an honor to give back to the place that had given her so much.

Freddie Woolfork, director of public relations and facilities operation, pointed out and acknowledged Chairman Emeritus Dr. A. Ronald Hudson, GYAC founder with the late Dan K. Richardson and the late Dr. William Nigh, adding, “I cannot believe that it was 22 years ago that I started on this venture, here at the Gifford Youth Achievement Center. Never in my wildest dreams could I have visualized such a successful endeavor.”

Education has always been front and center for new GYAC board chairwoman, Deborah Taylor-Long, Ed.D.

Currently the Indian River County School District’s coordinator of equity and instructional support, she has also served in numerous other educational and administrative roles.

“I was born and raised here, I was on the original board when the (GYAC) building was built, and I’ve been with the school district for 35 years,” said Taylor-Long. “My focus is certainly education, because we know that if you have a great education, that’s a better start in life for our young people. We want to make sure they know that this is a place that they’re wanted, they’re loved, and that they can get the support that they need in order to be successful in life.”

The evening’s festivities included a finger-licking-good dinner catered by Wilke’s Fourteen Bones, followed by dancing to the music of Tarleshia Jerger and Company.

For more information, visit GYAC.net.

Photos by: Denise Ritchie
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