The Colorado “I Have a Dream” Foundation celebrated its 26th annual gala October 30th at the Hyatt Regency-Denver Convention Center. The theme for this year’s event was DREAM BIG! and for more than two decades that has been the mission of the CIHAD Foundation, a long-term academic and social mentorship program for youth who live in economically disadvantaged  Denver metro neighborhoods.

Guests were excited to hear from three student award winners and community leaders devoted to advancing education for underserved and at-risk college-bound students. As part of its mission statement, CIHAD tracks and helps elementary schoolchildren academically and financially through a 10-year span to ensure that they pursue higher education opportunities. The organization thus helps a small number of kids over the long haul than many in the short-term.

For their efforts this year’s Summit Award winners are Anastasia Cordova of the Records-Rainaldi Class; Omar Alden of the Weill Class; and Lorenzo Quezada-Pacheco of the Denver Active 20/30 Class. The Summit Award honors a Dreamer who has excelled academically, triumphed over personal obstacles and demonstrated a personal commitment to the betterment of community.

COIHAD executive director Rachael Gazdick greeted supporters throughout the cocktail reception as four life-sized mascots representing Colorado colleges and universities milled around and posed for photos with adults and students. Emcee Reggie Rivers described the nonprofit’s history and an overview of festivities that included Cleo Parker Robinson Dance.

Besides speeches from the Summit Award students and other Dreamers, other speakers included Event Chair Anthony Price, CIHAD Board Chair Eric Sondermann and comments from Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

This year’s CIHAD Community Award recipients are Navin Dimond and Noel and Leslie Ginsburg.

Navin Dimond, founder, president and CEO of Denver-based hotel management Stonebridge Companies, was presented with the 2014 Dream Maker Award.

“Navin Dimond embodies the mission and values of CIHAD,” said Rachael Gazdick. “His deep commitment to providing opportunities for all children to succeed, both in the United States and abroad, are unparalleled.”

“Every human being has the intellectual capacity to thrive,” Dimond says. “It’s just a question of whether they are put into the right environment to flourish.”

Noel and Leslie Ginsburg received the 2014 McHugh Award, established in 2010 to honor individuals for their exemplary efforts to level the playing field in education, as exhibited by Jerome and Anabel McHugh. The couple committed to sponsor the South Lincoln Dreamers, who represent 42 students over the course of 10 years. Leslie is the incoming CIHAD Chair and has served on several nonprofit boards including the CIHAD since 2007. Noel, President and Founder of Intertech Plastics in Denver, was inspired to start an “I Have A Dream” program in Denver after seeing a 1986 60 Minutes segment featuring IHAD national founder Eugene M. Lang.

The best part of the experience, he says, “is watching these kids grow up and overcome obstacles.”

This year’s Presenting Sponsor was Alvarado Holdings, LLC founded by Bob and Linda Alvarado. Other major sponsors for CIHAD’s 26th Anniversary Gala were: Platinum Sponsor AT&T; Gold Sponsor SE2 in honor of Eric Sondermann; Silver Sponsors: The IMA Financial Group, The Rob and Molly Cohen Family Foundation, Richard and Judy Weill, Stonebridge Companies, DaVita HealthCare Partners and Bronze Sponsors: Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, Capital Real Estate, EKS&H, Inflection Energy, Intertech Plastics and Noel  and Leslie Ginsburg, The Piton Foundation, and Valiant Products.

The keynote speaker was North Carolina native Elson Floyd, President of Washington State University. Before taking the helm at WSU in 2007, Dr. Floyd was president of the University of Missouri and Western Michigan University. He holds a BA in political science and speech, an MA in adult education, and a PhD of philosophy in higher and adult education, all from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Through the support of parents, teachers, and other role models Floyd’s personal motto became: “I will prepare myself and someday my day will come,” he said. He saluted all students in the room and urged them to advance their education and chase their highest aspirations. “You can accomplish anything you want…so put your minds to it!”

For more information about The Colorado “I Have a Dream” Foundation please visit: www.cihadf.org