"Raising Pittsburgh's Promise"


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A perfect summer evening Thursday lasted almost until dawn, with waves of revelers gathering at Stage AE for the multitiered "Raising Pittsburgh's Promise." The event celebrated the four-year anniversary of the scholarship program that promises to provide up to $40,000 for higher education to qualifying Pittsburgh public school students.

A founding grant of $100 million from UPMC has grown by another $60 million, but the real success has been the 400 Promise scholars who graduated from college this year, plus another 200 who completed two-year degrees. Five of the students gave thanks to some of the corporate sponsors -- UPMC, PNC, Highmark, Giant Eagle and BNY Mellon -- who were recognized after a dinner for 500 catered by Aramark. Penn State student Joshua Devine spoke on behalf of his fellow students, delivering moving remarks on what the Promise meant to him. But the most anticipated speech came from Sasha Heinz, a doctoral candidate in developmental psychology at Columbia. Mrs. Heinz arrived with her husband, Chris Heinz, and his mother, Teresa Heinz, and credited the late Sen. John Heinz for labeling Pittsburgh "a city with guts." The stylish young couple added a note of glamour to the night, which began with cocktails in an adjoining tent and continued with a dinner of heirloom tomatoes with arugula, beef tenderloin, seared walleye and a chocolate hazelnut crunch.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl welcomed guests along with public schools superintendent Linda Lane and Pittsburgh Promise board president Franco Harris. He chaired the gala with his wife, Dana, and co-chairs Anne Lewis and Jim Zeszutek, David and Cindy Shapira, and David and Nancy Malone. Grant Oliphant, president of the Pittsburgh Foundation, introduced Mrs. Heinz. Saleem Ghubril, executive director of The Pittsburgh Promise, gave a terrific overview of the program. In the crowd were David and Dawne Hickton, Art and Greta Rooney, Debbie Demchak, Ritchie Scaife, Eva Blum, Dan and Shelly Onorato, Bobby and Ruth Anne Vagt, Marty and Ann McGuinn, Jim and Mardi Royston, the Rev. Michael McDermott, Bill and Helana Pietragallo and Greg Peaslee.

When the evening ended for most, some elected to stay on for the concert featuring Ashanti, G Love and Special Sauce, DJ Zimmie and DJ Bonics and a Dance-a-Thon chaired by Mike and Kiya Tomlin. The second half attracted another 500 guests and went on until 4 a.m. And on a school night!

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