Joni Alter, VP Marketing & Sales, Seaview Investments
Recognized Donor & Honoree at the MOSTE Annual Fundraising Luncheon
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.
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