Over 350 community leaders and philanthropists gathered during the 26th annual Starlit Gala on Sept. 9 to raise money to support student success.
The night was filled with fancy food and exotic vacations up for auction. Attendees were treated to a performance by former Palomar dance students, music performed by the Mark Lessman Band at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa, as well as being emceed by Emmy Award winning news anchor and Palomar alumnus, Anne State from ABC10 San Diego.
Despite all the star power and glitz on display, the night remained centered on helping support Palomar and it’s students.
Over $172,000 in donations and sponsorships were raised by guests in attendance at the event, which was hosted by the President’s Associates, an affiliate organization of the Palomar Foundation.
In contrast, last year the gala managed to raise $220,000 from 400 guests.
The spotlight was set upon Palomar’s newest program for helping the advancement of students, the Palomar Promise, a program that aims to give free tuition assistance to graduates from the 21 high schools within Palomar’s recruitment district.
Only the first year that the program has been offered, over 800 students are already enrolled under the Palomar Promise.
One such student was Rynon Reyes, a graduate of Mission Hills High School and San Marcos local, shared his story of how the Promise has helped him during the gala.
Reyes, a nursing major, was preparing to go straight to a 4-year university after college but was swayed by Palomar’s newest way of making school affordable.
“I had to assess my future properly and in doing so there was no looking past that huge UC price tag, so Palomar’s affordability was one of the biggest reasons,” Reyes said as the audience applauded.
The gala also honored one special guest with this year’s Comet Award. Senior Vice President of Swinerton Builders and Palomar College alumnus Don Adair. Swinerton builders were one of the main sponsors of the event and have been longtime supporters of the college. Swinerton is also the main group responsible for the recent construction on campus.
“Being a part of the Palomar Foundation and what they do is an honor in itself,” Adair said.
Stacy Rungaitis, the new foundation executive director, enjoyed promoting her first Starlit Gala and looks forward to growing the Foundation and its ability to support Palomar students.
“We ask people to just straight out donate to the Foundation so that we can provide more support for the Promise and scholarships and textbooks. That’s what it’s all about. And then we dance the night away,” Rungaitis said.
The night of fundraising was built around three separate events designed to raise the most money possible. A silent auction, offering everything from student made art to vacations in the Caribbean, a live auction, where a week’s vacation in Ireland sold for $5,000 along with other high dollar items, and a raise the paddle event, where guests simply donated directly to the Palomar Foundation with a high donor of $1,000
“We will continue to raise money this year for the program as well as other opportunities that we have… as Palomar says, we are definitely better together,” Palomar President Dr. Joi Lin Blake said in her speech.
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