Swanson Youth Foundation hosts 1st scholarship gala

by Kia Croom

The Sandré R. Swanson Youth Foundation held its First Annual Black and White 2015 Scholarship Gala Saturday, Feb. 21, at Scott’s Seafood Restaurant in Oakland. More than 325 people attended the event, which celebrated Swanson’s 50 years of community service and raised funds for scholarships to benefit underserved youth.

Sandre Swanson is surrounded by hopeful youth at the gala for his Youth Foundation on Feb. 21. – Photo: Kia Croom
Sandre Swanson is surrounded by hopeful youth at the gala for his Youth Foundation on Feb. 21. – Photo: Kia Croom

Event highlights included a jazz reception and silent auction followed by a dinner and awards presentation with live performances from Bay Area recording artist Lenny Williams.

The foundation honored the Cypress Training Center and East Oakland Youth Development Center for their commitment to enriching underserved youth. The foundation also gave computers to select students at the event and encouraged them to apply for an academic scholarship.

Special guest presenter, Congresswoman Barbara Lee was absent, due to the death of her mother, Mildred Parish Massey. Swanson along with event attendees commemorated Massey’s life with a moment of silence.

The event celebrated Swanson’s 50 years of community service and raised funds for scholarships to benefit underserved youth.

The Sandré R. Swanson Youth Foundation’s approach to provisioning scholarships differs from most other funders. It funds hard and soft costs for non-traditional students, such as those enrolled in trade school, certificate programs etc.

“My goal is to reach the C students. If I can reach them and make a positive impact, I know I can make a difference,” Swanson said.

Swanson continued sharing how the foundation awards scholarships to select participants at the Cypress Mandela to fund expenses such as tools, clothes etc.

“What we try to do is address the most at-risk kids and ones that traditional scholarships might not respond to. For example, the Cypress Mandela Training Center reaches out to formerly incarcerated youth, so we leverage our funds to help youth in that program succeed,” Swanson said.

“My goal is to reach the C students. If I can reach them and make a positive impact, I know I can make a difference,” Swanson said.

Swanson was elected to the California State Assembly in November 2006. He served three successful terms. During his tenure, he was the chair of the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee and was a vocal advocate for growing the middle class with sustainable jobs. He also served on the Assembly Budget Committee, Subcommittee on Education Finance and Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce and was the speaker’s appointee to the state Workforce Investment Board.

He chaired the Assembly Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color. Under his leadership, the committee considered a number of strategies for supporting and improving the lives of youth. To date, the committee’s work informs some of the strategies widely used by the state to facilitate programs impacting young people. As a result of this work, in 2014 Swanson was invited to the White House by President Barack Obama and requested to participate in the president’s “My Brothers Keeper” initiatives.

This year, Swanson hopes to fund 100 scholarships for youth and benefit hundreds more through richly leveraged community partnerships.

If you or someone you know is interested in applying for a Sandré R. Swanson Youth Foundation scholarship, email a short “Letter of Interest” to Sandreswanson215@gmail.com to request the scholarship application. The application will be emailed back along with directions on how to submit it.

This year, Swanson hopes to fund 100 scholarships for youth and benefit hundreds more through richly leveraged community partnerships.

Contributing writer Kia Croom is a published journalist with 10 years of experience writing for publications in California and the Southeast. Follow her on Twitter @newsbykiac or email her at kianews2011@gmail.com.