Joni Alter, VP Marketing & Sales, Seaview Investments
Recognized Donor & Honoree at the MOSTE Annual Fundraising Luncheon
Hi everyone. It’s a pleasure to be here and I want to start by saying thank you to Cindy, and to all of you, for this honor. Bob and I both feel extremely privileged to be here and have the opportunity to engage with you and especially to share some of our thoughts and feelings about MOSTE.
When Cindy first told me that Bob and I were going to be honored here today, I remember thinking, “honored for what?” and while I was excited about the idea of speaking to you, I was a little apprehensive about the idea of being recognized for any contributions we made. There was a little voice inside my head saying “it’s easy for some of us to just write a check, but what have we really done to deserve this honor?”
In fact, in all the years that Bob and I have contributed here, I’ve always felt like we should be doing more. I find myself often trying to think of new ways to help this establishment, beyond just giving financially. Every chance I get, I try to brainstorm with Cindy or even on my own, to come up with new program initiatives to add new layers to the wonderful work that’s already being done.
We know that there’s potential for greatness here. Just look at the existing scholarships and especially, the programs and their success. For one, I’m happy to be directly involved with A Day in The Life. Each summer, my husband and I, and our entire staff are excited to host a group of students at one of our hotels for a day. They engage in shadowing every single department, and they get a real sense of what it’s like to work in that industry. I know that other companies are doing the same thing, so the girls are getting diverse exposure to the workforce. This is only one of the many great initiatives here.
Another is the Campus Tours Program, also excellent! Nothing like a sensory experience to help you decide where you most feel like you belong. It’s fun and exciting and important to the process.
And we all love this one: I think the initiative I’m most proud of is Project Warm Dorm. This initiative is a stroke of genius by this organization. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Project Warm Dorm provides an allowance to qualifying students for outfitting and furnishing their dorm rooms with necessities like blankets and towels, and also a few decorative items to make it feel like home. After all the work that we put into getting the girls through junior school, through high school, mentoring and coaching them, preparing them for the big day... it would be a disappointment if that day were to be just another harsh reminder of their struggles. To face an empty dorm room would be a stressful start to their college experience.
The students here already have so much to overcome just to get to that moment in the first place. That big day. The challenges start earlier than many of us can even fathom.
I feel silly even telling you this, but it’s such an important point: I was already an adult before I realized that for a vast number of young girls, going to college is not actually likely. I didn’t know this. For me, growing up, college was a given. I did not think I was fortunate or privileged. My attitude was, of course, I’m going to college. We all go to college. It’s what you do after high school! It was a stunning realization for me the day I came to recognize that for far too many young girls, that perception is completely foreign, and bears no semblance of reality. To them, college is something other people do. They know it exists, they hear about it, they see it, but it’s not meant for them. They grow up just naturally believing they won’t go. They grow up with no intention of even trying. Because it’s not what you do after high school. You get a job and help your family pay the bills. For these girls, college is considered a luxury. This thing that I had taken for granted my whole life, I had no idea was completely out of reach for thousands of my peers.
When I realized this, it made me so sad. By popular standards, I didn’t grow up privileged, and college wasn’t a luxury, but now I can really see how it would be perceived that way for these girls.
More than anything, I want us to change that mentality. Because every young woman who grows up thinking college is not for her represents a future generation of children, her children, who will be raised with that same flawed mindset. I call it flawed because that’s how we should be seeing it. That mindset should not be accepted, let alone prevalent.
So how do we change it? I understand that the families of those girls are trying to keep their children’s dreams realistic, but I also understand that it’s up to those of us who can't even relate to their mindset, those of us considered privileged, to first recognize it, then stand up and speak up. Reach them and teach them. Help them believe that it’s not a privilege, but an attainable goal. And then once we’ve got them on board with the thinking, we must not let them down... We can and must help them attain it.
Bob and I have a combined four children who all grew up with that same mindset that college is a given, and they all went to college and there were no struggles getting them through it. That is how we want it to be for as many young girls as possible.
The programs here at MOSTE are a fabulous start, and the success of those programs is remarkable. But there’s more work to be done.
For many of us, these programs are just part of the college experience. Visiting campuses is a fun family day trip. Decorating our dorm rooms to look like a page out of a Pottery Barn catalog... All just part of the whole experience! Right? But for the students here, these experiences represent stressful barriers, roadblocks in their progress. Real worries like “what if I can’t afford to go on campus tours, how will I decide where to apply”, “will I have the furniture I need in my dorm room,” or “what if I get accepted but can’t afford the tuition.”
And for the organization, these same experiences represent sizeable but necessary expenses to really do the job they’ve set out to do, to meet the mandate.
Which brings me full circle. I mentioned how I felt when Cindy asked me to speak, but as I started to process everything there was to say, I realized that every form of giving is equally valuable. Your time, your ideas, a service you provide, and yes, a check. Because when we do come up with the next brilliant program idea, we will need the money to make it happen, just like we need the money to continue what we’re already doing, and we need the money to keep the scholarship program strong.
So speaking for Bob and myself, as we strive to find additional ways to help, we’ll always include a monetary contribution. Given what this place has done and is doing, we know it’s money well spent.
I want to encourage all of you here today to do two things. One, think about what MOSTE does, and the possible ways that you can help. And the second thing is give. Give what you have and what you can, knowing that we are all collectively working toward the continued success of MOSTE, and also new goals and new initiatives, all of which represent our collective efforts. And no matter how small or insignificant your donation may seem to you, it’s a game-changer for these girls. When we put it all together, what we are really talking about here is a mindset-changing, life-altering proposition that will have a positive impact today, and for generations to come.
So Cindy, my dear friend whom I met in college, thank you! Our thirty-five-year friendship is an example of how life-enriching the college experience really is, and I’m privileged to call you a friend for life. Thank you for what you’ve created here and for letting Bob and me be a part of it.
And thank you for putting me on the spot like this... It prompted me to think about what it means to give and to help from perspectives different than my own. It also reminded me of one of my lifelong beliefs... that we are what we give back, and that our lives have far greater meaning with each helpful gesture that we put out into the world. We need to be more aware of what life can be like for other people. And those of us who never needed a program like MOSTE, we must value it as much as the girls who do need it and truly appreciate it.
Thank you everyone.