BOSTON -- Every school day, more than 4,000 students in 82 of the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston don their uniforms, clutch their backpacks and get to do something extraordinary: learn. Each of their stories is different, but all of these students receive partial scholarships from the Inner City Scholarship Fund (ICSF), a scholarship program overseen by the Catholic Schools Foundation.
Armani Lamin, a junior at Cathedral High School, is one of those students. On April 12, Lamin addressed over 1,000 guests at the Marriott Copley Plaza at the 28th Annual ICSF Dinner Gala.
"On behalf of over 4,000 ICSF Scholarship recipients whose lives you have impacted, thank you," he began. "You are giving us an opportunity that our parents dreamed of -- an opportunity many of our parents did not have themselves: a great start in life through an excellent education."
Lamin told the audience that he is one of five siblings raised in a small inner-city apartment in Mattapan.
"My parents understand the importance of a good education and were determined to make sure that I went to a Catholic school," he said. "They wanted to give me an opportunity they never had. When they found out I received financial assistance and would be able to attend a Catholic school, they were overjoyed."
He spoke of his experiences attending Catholic elementary school and high school, noting that he spent the past two summers at a live-in summer program at Harvard University -- something that makes him "one step closer" to realizing his dream of graduating college.
"My story and the story of thousands of other students would not be possible without you. I could've easily fallen a victim of violence or dropped out of school. Instead, I am here, telling my story. A story made possible by all of you in this room," he said.
This year's ICSF Dinner Gala helped raise a record $3.3 million -- money which will be used to give partial scholarships to needy students. The event was chaired by Bill Achtmeyer, Founding Partner of EY-Parthenon, and honored Bob Reynolds, President and CEO of Putnam Investments, with the Carolyn and Peter Lynch Award. Reynolds was honored for his decades of commitment to providing young people an opportunity for a high quality education through the Catholic schools. The emcee of the evening was WCVB-TV Channel 5 anchor Ben Simmoneau.
The night began with several schools, including Lowell Catholic High School, St. Patrick School in Roxbury, St. Raphael School in Medford and Malden Catholic High School, displaying some of their students' work as guests arrived.
The official program began with a step routine performed by students from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Mission Grammar School.
Following the performance, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley spoke of the importance of Catholic education before beginning the evening with a prayer.
"Catholic schools have lifted more individuals and families out of poverty than any other single institution in America," he said, noting that the ICSF "continues to provide a better future by giving a child a chance at a Catholic education."
Michael Reardon, director of the CSF, then addressed the crowd.
"Tonight it's about the students and their families, about our honoree Bob Reynolds, and about celebrating the 4,000 students who have had their lives changed because of your generosity," Reardon said.
Gov. Charlie Baker who made a surprise appearance addressed the audience as well. Baker recognized his "good friends" Bob Reynolds and Bill Achtmeyer and the effectiveness of Catholic education in Massachusetts.
"There is an incredible legacy that is left by Catholic education in our Commonwealth, and the work that is done by the Catholic Schools Foundation is to be commended," Baker said, noting that the 100 percent graduation rate of Catholic schools is "nothing short of miraculous."
The evening concluded with Peter Lynch delivering some remarks, and inviting everyone to attend the May 9 "CSF Bus Tour," which will lead participants to Cathedral High School in the South End.
"The students of the Inner City Scholarship Fund are our future," he said.
Following the dinner, Alli Achtmeyer, wife of the dinner chair Bill Achtmeyer, spoke highly of the ICSF.
"I feel fortunate that I can enable children less fortunate to have what I was able to have," she said. "There is no other place or educational system that I know that gives such opportunities and fosters such a love of learning."