Prep for Prep Lilac Ball Raises $4.2 Million for Academic, Leadership, and Professional Development
This year's gala celebrated the Class of 2022 and Lilac Ball Honoree Eric Rothfeld, CEO of REI Capital, LLC
Prep for Prep’s Lilac Ball, held Tuesday, June 14, at the New York Marriott Marquis, raised $4.2 million to support educational and leadership development opportunities for New York City’s most promising students of color.
This year, the annual fundraising and student graduation event honored Eric Rothfeld, CEO of REI Capital, LLC, a private equity and venture capital firm that operates and invests in a diverse range of businesses. Rothfeld has been on the Board of Prep for Prep for more than 20 years and has been involved with the organization’s Professional Advancement Committee, the Institute for Entrepreneurship, and many travel-abroad initiatives. He is also the sponsor of the Prep for Prep Alumni Prize, which recognizes dedicated service to the organization.
“My greatest pleasure in being involved with Prep for the last 20-plus years has been getting to know so many alumni,” said Rothfeld. “These personal relationships truly enrich my life.”
“Eric, with your commitment and unwavering support of Prep, we have been allowed to dream big,” said Ruth Jurgensen, Chief Executive Officer of Prep for Prep. “You have taught us the value of risk-taking, truth-telling, community, connections, and family. Thank you for all you do for Prep.”
Eric was presented with an original artistic rendering of 328 West 71st Street, Prep for Prep’s headquarters, created by artist and alum Erick Teran (XXIV/Saint David’s ’04, Browning ’09, Pomona ’13).
Being a student during a multiyear pandemic hasn’t been easy for the middle schoolers and high schoolers in our community, but they have persevered, illustrating why they are among the brightest in New York City. Their experiences in Prep and at their respective schools have changed who they are and the trajectory of their future. Three students shared their stories at the Lilac Ball.
Sixth grader Benjamin Brown (XLIV/Browning) entered Preparatory Component as a math guy who preferred solving problems over analyzing passages. “My greatest victory has been developing a love of reading…,” said Benjamin, reflecting on his time in Preparatory. “My Prep English teacher taught me to appreciate how characters grow through a story and I owe that to my Prep Journey.” Benjamin will start seventh grade at The Browning School this fall. “I look forward to smaller classes at Browning where my voice can be heard and my ideas can explode.”
High school senior Jasmine Kaur (XXXVIII/Poly Prep ’22, Johns Hopkins) recalled the difficulty she experienced at her independent school before she found her voice. “I was thrust into a community in which no one looked like me, no one shared experiences similar to mine. I tried to ignore these changes until they became so prevalent that it was impossible to ignore.” Her Prep counselor encouraged her to be the change that she desired. Joining Poly’s debate team gave her the courage to advocate for change in her community. Among her accomplishments, she created an affinity group for South Asian students and helped organize her school’s first Diwali festival. “By learning and giving back to my community, I found joy in my life.”
Senior speaker Catherine Uwakwe (P9 XXXI/Exeter ’22/Bowdoin) shared the growth she has experienced along her Prep 9 journey. She entered Exeter feeling joy, pride, excitement, and most of all fear—fear that she would lose her sense of self and that Exeter would not feel like home. In the years that followed, she found community through the school’s African Students Association and the track team. “As a senior, I was able to help wash away the fears of new students who may have been in the same situation that I was in during my freshman year. In my roles as captain, co-head, dorm proctor, and most importantly, friend, I was able to help make Exeter a home for others. That is what it was all for.”
The Next Chapter
This fall, many Prep for Prep students will head to top liberal arts and business schools, women’s colleges, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Top college choices include:
Cornell (8 students), Lehigh (5), Emory (4), Ithaca (4), Syracuse (4), University of Rochester (4), Washington University of St. Louis (4), Bowdoin (3), Brown (3), Columbia (3), Duke (3), and University of Southern California (3)
Since 1986, the Lilac Ball has served as Prep’s signature annual fundraising event. It honors leaders committed to education and youth and celebrates Prep’s graduating high school seniors. All funds raised through the Lilac Ball go directly to Prep programming; event-related expenses are underwritten by the Board.
The Prep for Prep 2022 Lilac Ball was supported by Harriet & Eric Rothfeld; The Rothfeld Family Foundation; Megan Sheetz & Trevor Price; the John and Barbara Vogelstein Foundation; Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Kratz: Susan & Martin Lipton, Karessa L. Cain & Michael Hay, Abby & Jonathan Moses, and Jeannemarie O’Brien & Yves-Achille Casimir; and many additional donors. Proceeds from the event support Prep’s mission of creating a more diverse national leadership pool.