Opportunity Network honoree Trevor Noah shared a piece of business advice at the 16th annual Night of Opportunity Gala on Wednesday night.
“Sometimes you don’t realize that you’re taking an opportunity away because you don’t see yourself in that other person,” Noah told the fundraiser’s dining hall. “My honest advice to you would be just to see yourself beyond yourself. Deconstruct yourself to your core parts — what makes you who you are — and then find people like that because they will walk the path that you did.”
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“They won’t be your gender, they won’t be your race, they won’t be your nationality,” he continued. “But you will find the bald white man in every Black young woman.”
Emceed by ESPN analyst Richard Jefferson at Cipriani Wall Street in New York, the gala commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Opportunity Network, an organization that aims to close the opportunity gap for underrepresented students.
“We have students who come in at 15 and 16 years old, and some of our alumni are now 35,” OppNet co-founder Jessica Pliska told Variety. “It’s the full spectrum. It’s watching their careers take shape, watching them figure out their passions, watching them excel in their careers, watching them give back to OppNet students, and really watching them change the world in so many ways.”
OppNet presented its Student Opportunity Award to four members: alumni Joy Funmi Akinfenwa and Shun Ping Huang, as well as OppNet fellows Luqmaan Bamba and Alan Perez. In addition to Noah, the night’s honorees included CEO of American Express National Bank Anré Williams, Blue Owl and Michael Rees, co-founder and co-president of Blue Owl.
“The work that we do really connects to them organically,” OppNet co-founder Brian Weinstein said. “Anré Williams from American Express and Trevor Noah, these are two incredible individuals deep seated within our world in sports, media and entertainment, who really relate to this cause.”
At the end of the evening, OppNet president and CEO AiLun Ku announced on stage that the event raised over $4 million for the organization.
Asked what OppNet’s goals are for the next 10 years, Pliska replied, “We’re gonna be growing our program in New York City; we’re in 25 cities across the country now. We want to expand in the cities we serve, the number of organizations and students that we serve, and really make a big difference in terms of helping our country create the capacity to provide the services that these students deserve.”
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