The Crowd: Luncheon moves attendees to help with literacy

The Literacy Project Foundation called on the Newport-Mesa crowd this summer to learn "What Dreams Are Made of." This second annual luncheon supporting the goals of the Literacy Project Foundation unfolded in the dining room at Big Canyon Country Club, Newport Beach.

Chaired by Sue Tucker and Doug Freeman, the $100 per ticket luncheon sold out the dining room, attracting an audience of people who understand and care about the importance of educating our broad and diverse population. Most important, the luncheon featured an address by keynote speaker Chauncey Veatch, the 2002 National Teacher of the Year. By the end of the afternoon about 100 donors helped the foundation raise $20,000.

The event began with a late morning reception that featured a special introduction of students meeting with guests and sharing their personal goals and dreams for their future. The young students were paired with community role models each working in the specific field of interest expressed by the student.

Deputy Dee Dee Kurimay, from the Orange County Sheriff's Department, who is also a part of the Mounted Division, represented 8-year-old Danielle, who would like to be in law enforcement when she grows up. William Manclark, a respected retired veterinarian, mentored 10-year-old Salice, whose love of animals propels her to seek knowledge in a career in veterinary medicine Jennifer, 11, is involved with serious music study and was mentored by Dana Freeman, a local music teacher and violinist with the Pacific Symphony Orchestra.

In the field of real estate, one of Southern California's most prominent executives, Lee Ann Canaday, owner of Re/Max Fine Homes, shared her 30 years of business experience with 9-year-old Jordan. Finally, 9-year-old Brandon was mentored by geochemist Deba Bhattacharyya, a paleontologist from Discovery Science Center, Santa Ana. The young students all displayed projects on easels in the lobby of the country club, joining their mentors greeting the donors.

Tucker and her husband, Steve, are passionate about improving the state of America's public education system. Sue Tucker delivered an address welcoming the crowd and sharing statistics on some of the more pressing challenges in education. She and her committee worked to bring together many of Orange County's most prominent educators, including Marian Bergeson, former California secretary of education, Daniel Aldrich, III, interim vice chancellor of development at UC Irvine, Deborah Vandell, department of education dean and chairwoman at UCI, Frank Crinella, UCI professor, and William Habermehl, superintendent of Orange County schools.

Also involved with the foundation supporting the luncheon were Newport Coast philanthropist Liz Merage, Lee Hausner, and another former California secretary of education, Dave Long. The educators joined local donors including Bette Aitken, Catherine and James Emmi, Jo Ann Fanticola, Mary Frome, Marshall Kaplan, Jeannie Lawrence, Gary Matkin and Virginia Mangione in raising awareness and funds for the cause.

Veatch was a spellbinder. The crowd sat in rapt attention as he shared his life's path. In 1995, following retirement from active duty service in the U.S. Army, Veatch, who came from a family of teachers, decided to pursue a career in education. He a bachelor's degree from the University of Pacific, J.D. from the University of Notre Dame as well as teaching credentials from Chapman University.

Veatch, rather than seeking a position in higher education with a potentially lucrative salary, went to work in the school system in the Coachella Valley, teaching at the seventh- and eighth-grade level. He learned Spanish, and dug in reaching his students on visceral levels, relating to them and encouraging them to stay with education and ultimately improving their lives.

While his honors are many, including being recently named as international ambassador for education by La Prensa Hispana, Veatch remains dedicated to the day-to-day work in the classroom.

The crowd departed Big Canyon Country Club inspired, and with new-found purpose to work and improve education in America for all students. It was indeed an afternoon of discovery, learning "what dreams are made of." For more information on the Literacy Project Foundation, go to http://www.literacyprojectfoundation.org.

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