Tonight over 2,000 people will come together in the Washington Hilton Hotel ballroom to join in Fight for Children’s Fight Night, the premier fundraiser in the nation’s capital. I’m especially excited to attend because Fight for Children’s chief operating officer Keith Gordon declared recently in the Washington Business Journal that this year’s event will be like no other. “You have to do more than give it just a fresh coat of paint,” Gordon said. “You have to really look at all the aspects — the experience, the programming, all of the entertainment, all of the individual attendees — and you have to really make it something that is never going to be replicable.”
Mr. Gordon also asserted that Fight Night will raise $5 million, a record in its 26 year history. In 2014 the gala brought in $4.6 million. For the third time in a row Kevin Plank’s Under Armour is staging the festivities.
Fight Night comes at a special time for its parent organization. Fight for Children has re-focused its mission on strengthening early childhood education. In fact, all of the proceeds from the event will go toward leading Washington, D.C. to nothing less than having the best preschool offerings in the nation. Commented Fight For Children chairman and vice chairman Monumental Sports & Entertainment Raul Fernandez, “Through the generosity of our partners, including Kevin Plank and Under Armour, Fight For Children is able to support programs like Joe’s Champs, which improves the quality of early childhood teachers and school leaders in the region’s highest need neighborhoods.”
But this evening’s celebration marks another important milestone. Right now moving through Congress is the five year re-authorization of the Opportunity Scholarship Program, the plan that provides private school scholarships for children living in poverty in the District of Columbia. The late Fight for Children founder Joseph E. Robert, Jr. championed this legislation, leading its original passage over a decade ago through the introduction of the Three-Sector Approach that provided equal funding for school vouchers, charter schools, and DCPS.
House Speaker John Boehner made continuation of the OSP one of his last priorities before stepping down. Moreover, this past September, it was announced by the U.S. Department of Education that a new group, Serving Our Children, would become the plan’s administrator. Headed by a board of directors that includes former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams, former D.C. Councilman Kevin Chavous, and Friendship Public Charter School’s chairman and founder Donald Hense, and run by Rachel Sotsky, former Senator Joseph Lieberman’s legislative director, the OSP appears to be in extremely competent hands.
Just yesterday, before a Senate Committee, Mary (Beth) Blaufuss, the head of school for Archbishop Carrol High School, testified in support of re-authorization of the OSP. She explained:
“Since the OSP began, Archbishop Carroll High School has graduated 221 Opportunity Scholars. Internal data from the DC Children and Youth Investment Trust indicates that high schools with OSP students safely deliver 88% of them on to college—compared to a national rate of 49% for low-income families. Archbishop Carroll’s OSP graduates have gone on to colleges such as Dartmouth, Columbia, Georgetown, George Washington, Penn State, Mt. St. Mary’s, Morehouse, Spelman, and a host of other institutions. We currently serve 198 Opportunity Scholars. While we often tout loudest those who go on to colleges with national reputations, many of our OSP graduates of whom I am the most proud are those who came to us reading two or three years behind grade level but who still completed a rigorous college prep curriculum; or those like Mark, a student who admitted to me last week that he wasn’t really even thinking about college as an option before he came to our school; or the graduates I know who to have endured periods of homelessness or state custody while in high school. The numbers and the anecdotes tell the same story: the Opportunity Scholarship changes lives.”
So too heroically does Fight for Children. Later today we will proudly join in their charge.