'Like a Homecoming'

Rundell Hall
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Lee College Foundation Gala Returns, Raises Nearly $143,000 for Student Support

Ja­son Rich­ie grew up in a fam­ily that didn't val­ue edu­ca­tion as a pri­ority. But when Rich­ie learned he was about to be­come a fath­er, his at­ti­tude quick­ly changed. He left his past be­hind and en­rolled at Lee Col­lege.

"I took an in­ternal as­sess­ment of my life and the world around me and real­ized the key to achiev­ing my goals was to get an edu­cation," Richie told a crowd of more than 250 guests at the 35th an­nual Lee Col­lege Founda­tion Gala on Friday, Sept. 23.

Richie was the key­note speak­er at the event, which raised $142,860 through spon­sor­ships, ticket sales, out­side dona­tions, as well as the si­lent and live auc­tions of the even­ing. The $22,460 raised from both auc­tions will be directed toward the Stu­dent Re­source and Advo­cacy Cen­ter (SRAC), which pro­vides sup­port for un­met basic needs to stud­ents, such as text­book assist­ance, food, emergency aid, and child­care ser­vices.

Jason Richie
Jason Richie

Richie, a single father to a three-year-old daughter, is a direct beneficiary of the SRAC.

"We were able to pro­vide Jason child­care assist­ance and a sin­gle-pa­rent scholar­ship so he could fully focus on his stud­ies," said Dr. Lynda Villa­nueva, Lee Col­lege presi­dent. "Help­ing Lee Col­lege stu­dents like Jason stay on track to gradua­tion and achieve their great­est poten­tial is what events like the Foun­da­tion gala are about for me."

After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the gala returned to Sylvan Beach Pavilion in LaPorte. Generations of donors and new donors were in attendance, and many said it felt like a homecoming.

"Everyone was thrilled to be there and just grateful to come together under one roof on behalf of the students," said Patti Ranzini, vice president of college advancement and executive director of the Lee College Foundation. "This gala is a time to recognize the legacy of support from our donors and honor their generous contributions and passion for education."

Richie, who himself went from being passive to passionate about education, is set to graduate from Lee in December with his third associate degree in analytical instrumentation and a 3.9 GPA. His two other degrees from the college are in electrical technology and instrumentation technology. He hopes to be in a position in the future where he can pay it forward and help a Lee College student like himself achieve the same success.

"Being a single father and finishing college is no easy task, but the support system and generous donors allowed me to accomplish my goals that in the past would have been deemed simply impossible," he shared. "Lee College helped me find solutions not excuses and these hard lessons learned through diligent study, hard work and dedication have already improved my life immensely."

Learn more about the Lee College Foundation and the services available through the Student Resource and Advocacy Center.