Last night I was privileged to be with people who are really making America great — proud immigrant worker parents and their first-generation children now heading off to four-year colleges, thanks to the counseling, after-school tutoring, and other programs offered by Neighborhood Youth Association, a non-sectarian organization which has long enjoyed the support of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

Our honorees at the annual scholarship gala at The Parish of St. Matthew – The Episcopal Church in Pacific Palisades were five members of the class of 2024 as well as recipients of 20 separate scholarships supported by NYA’s family of benefactors. Canon for Common Life Bob Williams, NYA’s devoted president and CEO, presided along with site director Sonia Hernandez and a supporting cast of charming student MCs. NYA board vice chair and event chair Sarah Newman offered bilingual greetings while also fronting the Sultans of Sing, house band for our annual gala as well as for St. Matthew’s, specializing in cool California country rock standards.

As board chair, I was along to offer an opening prayer and a few words of welcome. Kelly Bautista, who hasn’t chosen her college yet but will take along a handful of scholarships wherever she goes, was eloquent class speaker. Her similarly eloquent elder sister, Litzy, the alumni/ae speaker, is attending Hobart College in New York, eyeing law school and a career in pursuit of immigration justice. A range of other NYA alums and scholarship winners contributed to a moving video. We rose to our feet as one after a tribute to beloved 37-year teacher Abigail F. Vibiano, who retired in March.

I sat between NYA stalwarts Lynne Brickner and my board colleague Adri Butler, a retired TV script supervisor who serves as board secretary. NYA-supporting parishes St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Mar Vista, St. Augustine by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica, and St. Alban’s Westwood were also aboard — St. Bede’s represented both by rector the Rev. Jennifer Wagner Pavia and former rector the Rev. Canon Jim Newman, who has an NYA scholarship in his name. The St. Matthew’s rector, the Rev. Bruce A. Freeman, consecrated a bishop by whomever made out his name tag, welcomed us with warmth and love as usual.