Becoming Exceptional: BC Foundation holds annual fundraising luncheon

Chris Toomey/The Watchdog
Chris Toomey/The Watchdog

On May 1, the Bellevue College Foundation’s fourteenth annual Become Exceptional luncheon was held at Meydenbauer Center from noon-1:30 p.m. This is BC’s biggest fundraising event of the year, and serves to increase awareness about BC and its accomplishments in the field of higher education as well as raising funds.

The event was emceed by Deborah Horne of Kiro 7 Eyewitness News, and featured speakers included BC President Dr. David Rule; former Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna; BC Foundation scholarship recipients John Manino, Fred Wood and Lacey Gray; and keynote speaker Gerald Chertavian, the founder of Year Up, an organization which provides professional and technical training to urban young adults to help them transition into higher education.

The event began with a presentation on the history of BC. The presentation emphasized BC’s dependency on gifts from donors by highlighting the fact that the state of Washington only funds 27 percent of the college’s $113 million budget. 38 percent of the budget is funded by student tuition, and donors fund the remaining 35 percent. The target contribution per individual in attendance was $200, and all donations of $500 were to be matched by “Angel Donors” to help the BC Foundation with their fundraising goal.

After the presentation, Rule took the podium. “Simply put, my vision for Bellevue College is to fulfill the vision the college has established for itself, and that’s to be the premiere institution, the college of choice, not only in Bellevue and the region, but a national reputation,” he said. In regards to the purpose of the luncheon, Rule said, “With every policy we consider and every budget we examine, in every potential new program, the core question, the core issue is, ‘How will this affect our students? How will this help them to succeed? Will they be able to afford it?’ And that’s what today is all about. Your support for Bellevue College allows us to continue on this path of excellence with our focus on the students, both with their access to the college and their success once they’re in and once they leave.”

Rule enumerated the accolades BC has received in the past year, including being a finalist for the national Climate Leadership Awards and an $11.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

“Your support today in this room allows us to continue to do what we do best, and that is to serve our students and our community,” concluded Rule.

After Rule, BC Foundation scholarship recipients John Manino, Fred Wood and Lacey Gray gave short, three-minute testimonials on how receiving aid from the Foundation helped them reach their educational and professional goals.

Rob McKenna spoke about why he supported BC: “We’re all believers in the transformative power of education. Whether you work at BC, a student at BC, a graduate of BC, you’re here to support scholarships for BC students, we all believe in the transformative power of education. We know that in order for that transformation, that transformative opportunity to be available, education has to be accessible. And for nearly 50 years on the eastside of King County, BC has been making higher education accessible to students.”

Keynote speaker Gerald Chertavian was the last to speak.  He talked about his own experiences working with disadvantaged urban youth and how those experiences led him to found Year Up. He said he’d been encouraged to work with BC because of its reputation for excellence. Like McKenna and Rule, Chertavian urged attendees to donate and help BC reach its full potential.

In conclusion, Chertavian said: “Where are the innovations going to happen that will take our country forward? Who is going to be at the forefront of that? It is institutions like Bellevue College. The country is counting on you to lead the way.”

“More than anything it’s about being able to focus on my education. Outside factors…take away from being able to utilize your education and be fully committed to it,” said John Manino, one of the student speakers after the keynote ended. “I’ve met people with incredible stories and incredible lives that have helped motivate me to do more than get my degree from Bellevue College… I wouldn’t have ever gotten that motivation or confidence if it wasn’t for the incredible people I ‘ve met.”

Like Manino, ASG President Takhmina Dzhuraeva also benefitted from the help of the BC Foundation. She has received three scholarships from the foundation, which fund half of her tuition as an international student. “I’m not sure I’d be here today if it wasn’t for the Foundation,” she said. “It means a whole lot to me.”