Bay Area Dinner 2018: Transforming Communities Through Service

buildOn students and supporters came together on Thursday, May 17th, at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco to celebrate the impact of buildOn’s work over the past year. The celebration raised $400,000 to support buildOn’s mission to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations.

Amnon Rodan

Above: Rodan + Fields Chairman Amnon Rodan speaks about his company’s meaningful partnership with buildOn at the 2018 Bay Area Dinner.

Kaleyah Valley, a buildOn student at Coliseum College Prep Academy in Oakland, and buildOn’s Chief Revenue Officer Marc Friedman served as emcees for the evening, kicking things off by recognizing the members of buildOn’s National Board, the Bay Area Board, and the corporate sponsors who make buildOn’s work in the Bay Area possible. Kaleyah then welcomed a fellow buildOn student from Oakland, Elsy Huidor, to the stage to share her inspiring buildOn story.

Bay Area Emcees

Above: buildOn’s Cheif Revenue Officer Marc Friedman and buildOn student Kaleyah Valley take the stage as emcees.

Elsy spoke about how she has been inspired to show love and support for her Oakland community through service with buildOn. “When I go to service, I work alongside my friends and I meet youth from West and East Oakland—even if we don’t know each other we have a common belief in the power of service,” Elsy said. “Love is what brings these big groups of buildOn youth together to serve, and it’s through service that we make Oakland a better place to live for everyone.”

Elsy Huidor

Above: buildOn student Elsy Huidor speaks at 2018 Bay Area Dinner. Elsy has dedicated herself to raising expectations and serving her Oakland community.

After a rousing ovation, Elsy called buildOn’s Founder, President, & CEO Jim Ziolkowski to the stage. Jim spoke about how buildOn students like Elsy are changing their own communities in Oakland and other major U.S. cities, and how on Trek, buildOn student work alongside local communities in some of the economically poorest countries in the world to build schools.


Above: buildOn’s Founder, President, & CEO Jim Ziolkowski shares how buildOn students are breaking the cycle of illiteracy around the world by building schools on Trek.

Jim’s speech was followed by a generous appeal and dinner. Afterwards, Kaleyah and Marc honored two buildOn students from Oakland who have each dedicated themselves to more than 1,000 hours of service, Bryant and Chris La, brothers from Oakland High School. Bryant and Chris were each given an award for their incredible achievements.

Chris and Bryant La

Above: Chris La (left center) and Bryant La (right center) are honored at the 2018 buildOn Bay Area Dinner for each serving more than 1,000 hours with buildOn.

buildOn’s Partnership Director Anthony Curtis took the stage next to share how buildOn’s Immersion Programs are making it possible for corporate partners to get directly involved in buildOn’s service learning programs. Anthony then introduced Anand Swaminathan, Senior Partner at McKinsey & Co., who spoke about his powerful experiences in buildOn’s Partnership Program.

Anand Swaminathan

Above: Anand Swaminathan shares what it meant to be a part of buildOn’s Partnership Program in Oakland.

Anand’s buildOn student partner, Taheerah McKinney, then shared what it meant to have Anand as her partner, and how buildOn’s Partnership Program has impacted how she sees the future. “I feel really special and important to have Anand as my coach. Anand, I want to thank you for encouraging me to take on new challenges and to be ambitious. Thank you for telling me you believe in me. More than ever, I feel like my big dreams can become a reality,” Taheerah said. “Right now, I’m already serving the next generation in Oakland by doing service with buildOn, and one day, when I am just as successful as Anand, I’ll continue that work by coaching buildOn students from Oakland in the Partnership Program. That’s how we will break the cycle.”

Anand Swaminathan and Taheerah McKinney

Above: Anand and his buildOn student partner, Taheerah McKinney, reunite with a hug at the Bay Area Dinner.

Following Taheerah’s speech, buildOn students Arnetta Olden and Samuel Singleton took the stage to bring the evening to an end with their spoken word poetry, and afterwards, all of the buildOn students in attendance and buildOn’s Founder Jim Ziolkowski joined Arnetta and Samuel on stage to cap off the celebration with a “WE ARE BUILDON” cheer.

buildOn Cheer

Above: buildOn students and buildOn’s Founder Jim Ziolkowski bring the 2018 Bay Area Dinner to an end with a cheer.

Thank you to the Bay Area Board and our corporate sponsors—GE Digital, Jones Day, McKinsey & Co., PwC, Rodan + Fields, Salesforce, Sidley Austin LLP, and US Bank—who made the celebration such a success.