NEED Benefit Dinner lauds 50 years of promoting higher education

| Sunday, March 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Much was being celebrated during the 50th Annual NEED Benefit Dinner at the Wyndham Grand on March 14, where this year's class of scholarship recipients was being lauded for their outstanding academic achievements and pursuit of a higher education.

“It makes me feel like I've had a big accomplishment,” said Propel Andrew High School senior Tamara Butler, who will attend Clarion University in the fall.

Since 1963, the organization has been providing African-American youths with scholarships to further its mission of “Unlocking the Power of Education.” Over the past half-century, more than 19,000 kids have benefited.

Child advocate and author Steve Pemberton did the honors as the evening's guest speaker. A ward of the state during his formative years, Pemberton's determination to rise above laid the foundation for an inspiring rags-to-riches story, living proof of what can be accomplished when you don't pay much heed to the odds.

“I'm very excited. I think he's going to have a lot of good advice for the scholars and their parents,” said Lara Washington, who co-chaired the evening with Evan Frazier.

Amongst the 525 in attendance were interim prexy Claudette Lewis, board chairwoman Candi Castleberry-Singleton, Rhonda Pace and her daughter, Stephanie Pace (Rhonda's husband and Stephanie's father was the late Sylvester Pace, who was remembered for his tenure as NEED prez from 2000-12.), the Rev. Dorsey McConnell, Seldon Whitaker Jr., Pete Mendes, Eustace andShelley Uku, TiAnda Blount, and Sean Gray.

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