Students Meet Benefactors in Annual Diversity Dinner

Posted: October 24, 2013 at 5:01 am, Last Updated: October 28, 2013 at 10:44 am

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By Buzz McClain


Erica Adegbite, EIP and STEP alumna, and President Ángel Cabrera at the 2013 Diversity Scholarship Dinner. Photo by Will Martinez

Erica Adegbite, EIP and STEP alumna, and President Ángel Cabrera at the 2013 Diversity Scholarship Dinner. Photo by Will Martinez

It was an evening when benefactors met with those who benefitted from their generosity, and students in George Mason University’s Early Identification Program (EIP) and Student Transition Empowerment Program (STEP) could thank the regional industry leaders who helped fund the scholarships that made their successful college careers possible. But it was a former EIP beneficiary who summed it up in one tearful sentence from the podium following Monday’s dinner at the Mason Inn.

“By believing in this program, you believed in me,” said Fatima Pineda, BA Psychology ’10, MEd Counseling and Development ’12.

Diversity scholarship dinner

Benefactors and the students they helped attended the 2013 Diversity Scholarship Dinner. Photo by Will Martinez

Pineda, who is now a counselor at an elementary school in Woodbridge, Va., and Erica Adegbite, BA Sociology ’05, a business manager for a defense contractor, spoke for many of the students who have benefitted from EIP and STEP. STEP is operated by the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Multicultural Education, and both programs are directed by University Life.

As a first-generation college student, Adegbite said, she discovered in STEP “a family that never let go,” and advised current students in the audience to “rely on these people because they are invested in you, you are the investment. And I am a return on that investment.”

EIP, founded in 1987, assists first-generation, college-bound middle- and high-school students in navigating the path to higher education; seven-year-old STEP supports students once they’re in college to develop best practices in college life and academics.

The annual Diversity Scholarship Dinner was attended by about 100 business leaders and students, and 29 current EIP and STEP students were there. They were joined by, among others, George Mason President Ángel Cabrera and his wife, Beth Cabrera; City of Fairfax Mayor R. Scott Silverthorne; University Life Advisory Board Chairman Jim Green; and Executive Vice President of Commercial and Retail Banking for Sandy Spring Bank Jay O’Brien. Sandy Spring Bank is the title sponsor of the University Life Diversity Scholarship Golf Classic, one of the sources of funding for the programs. On Monday it was announced the bank will continue in that role. Last year’s golf tournament netted a record $45,000 for the scholarships.

“We’re just scratching the surface of what’s possible with these programs,” O’Brien told the audience. “We’ll continue to do our part, but I ask that we work harder to cast the net wider and deeper” for donors.

“As a businessman, it hurts me to see talent that doesn’t get to college,” said Cabrera, pointing out that some 600 applicants are turned away from EIP and STEP for lack of funding. “Anytime there is a smart kid with talent who doesn’t get to school, we all lose.”

Ángel President Cabrera and Jay O'Brien

President Ángel Cabrera awards Jay O’Brien, executive vice president of Sandy Spring Bank, the Event Sponsor Award. Photo by Will Martinez

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