City Colleges of Chicago Foundation’s Seven Strong Inaugural Benefit Raises More Than $500,000, Bringing Funds Raised To Nearly $3 Million in Last 18 Months

As part of a larger and ambitious institutional advancement initiative for City Colleges of Chicago, the City Colleges of Chicago Foundation hosted the Seven Strong Inaugural Benefit Thursday, Nov. 15 at the Geraghty, 2520 S. Hoyne Ave. The event served to herald the revived work of the Foundation to bring in new philanthropic resources and celebrate the achievements of the students from all seven of the City Colleges of Chicago.
Approximately 450 attendees, including some of Chicago’s most prominent business and political leaders, philanthropists, and City Colleges of Chicago students, faculty and staff, attended the event.  More than $500,000 was raised to help support programs that eliminate barriers for City Colleges of Chicago’s diverse student population, including scholarships, support services and innovative academic programs. When added to other funds raised for 2018, this brings the Foundations total to nearly $3 million since May of 2017.
“I want to thank the members of Chicago’s business, civic, philanthropic and education communities who have supported City Colleges – they help us offer our students a pathway to upward mobility, and help us build a more inclusive Chicago economy,” said Chancellor Juan Salgado.
Honorary Chairs for the event were Mayor Rahm Emanuel and First Lady Amy Rule. The event was chaired by Martin Cabrera, Jr. (Cabrera Capital Markets CEO and Founder), Dr. Helene D. Gayle (Chicago Community Trust President and CEO) and Robin Steans (Steans Family Foundation Board Chair). Host committee members were David R. Andalcio (Founder, Wynndalco Enterprises LLC), James Coleman (Partner, Accenture), Cindy Moelis (President, Pritzker Traubert Foundation), Michael Sacks (Chairman and CEO, Grosvenor Capital Management LP), Don Thompson (Founder, Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education), Liz Thompson (President, Cleveland Avenue Foundation for Education) and Abe Thompson (Managing Principal, Captivate Marketing Group).
Guests mixed and mingled against an elegantly designed backdrop created by Kehoe Designs incorporating the City Colleges of Chicago Foundation’s brand and highlighting all seven colleges. Guests were treated to live music by the Harold Washington College Jazz Band, Ancho Coffee Rubbed Smoked Brisket and Chipotle Bourbon BBQ Sauces served by students of the Washburne Culinary & Hospitality Institute, and a selection of passed hors d’ oeuvres prepared by the evening’s caterer, Paramount Catering, a strong partner of Kennedy-King College’s Washburne Culinary & Hospitality Institute.
A procession of mascots representing each of the seven City Colleges signaled the transition into the pre-dinner program, which opened with a welcome byMaster of Ceremonies, former City Colleges student and current host of Amor 106.7 FM, Vicky Aguilera. City Colleges Board Chair Walter E. Massey PhD. then came to the stage to acknowledge Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has been pivotal in City Colleges of Chicago’s transformative success.
An impassioned speech from the Mayor about his belief in the vital role City Colleges plays in the future of Chicago followed. Then Octavia Coaks, a City Colleges Star Scholar graduate of Olive-Harvey College came to the stage. The Mayor launched the Star Scholarship program, which makes it possible CPS graduates with a B average and who are nearly college ready to attend City Colleges for free for up to three years. Coaks spoke of the impact the program has had on her success and joined Chairman Massey in presenting the Mayor with a photo book containing inspiring stories of City College Star Scholars as a sign of appreciation for his support.
Guests had the opportunity to learn more firsthand about the transformative student experience at City Colleges from student and faculty representatives seated at each table. Following dinner, the evening’s program continued with remarks from City Colleges of Chicago Chancellor Juan Salgado, who shared inspirational stories about City Colleges students and City Colleges corporate and educational partnerships. This included Angelica Zamudio, who worked two jobs while at Malcolm X College and still graduated as college salutatorian; Christopher Davis, an Aon apprentice and student at Harold Washington College; and Eric Tobar, who is enrolled in the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Engineering Pathway program at Wright College, which offers him guaranteed admissions to the University of Illinois’ nationally-ranked engineering program when he completes his coursework at Wright, among others.
Event chairs Cabrera, Gayle and Steans ended the evening by presenting the Ella Flagg Young Award to Bill Lowry, Chair of the City Colleges of Chicago Foundatin Board of Directors, in recognition of his impressive history of service and support to Chicago, especially its education community. Lowry is an alum of Woodrow Wilson Junior College, now Kennedy-King College. He has been a pillar in Chicago business and philanthropy for five decades, with leadership roles at Inland Steel, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Chicago Community Trust.
Lowry has served as an advisor and mentor to many, creating pathways for new generations of leaders and offering coaching on the challenges faced by black professionals. For past several years, City Colleges of Chicago Foundation has benefited from his skill and wisdom, and it is under this leadership that new fundraising initiatives have bloomed.

City Colleges of Chicago Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization established in 1971 to provide City Colleges of Chicago with philanthropic support to enhance its educational initiatives and to award its students with scholarships. Governed by an independent Board of Directors, CCCF has awarded students over $2.6 million in scholarships since 2010, which have helped support student persistence and completion. For more information on the City Colleges of Chicago Foundation and to donate, visit