At Tuesday’s sixth annual New York spring reception for Bottom Line, a mentoring program for low-income and first-generation-to-college students, guest of honor Brooke Shields spoke about her passion for education.
“As a native New Yorker, I am so excited to see the positive impact these students can and will have on our city,” Shields, 51, tells PEOPLE of the New York branch of the organization that has served thousands of high school and college students through one-on-one counseling since its inception in 2011.
Shields, who is mom to daughters Rowan and Grier, presented the Community Impact Award to Bottom Line alumna Zobaida Hossain.
“I had the pleasure of honoring an extraordinary Bottom Line alumna using her degree to give back to the city she calls home,” says Shields. “It was so inspiring to see Bottom Line supporting thousands of New York City high school and college students just like her, tirelessly working to complete their degree and break the cycle of poverty, for themselves, their families, and their communities.”
Hossain graduated from Fordham University in spring 2016 and now uses her experience as a first-generation, low-income student to give back to New York City through DonorsChoose.org, which connects teachers in high-need communities with donors who want to help.
“Tonight reminds me of how far I’ve come,” Hossain tells PEOPLE of accepting the award. “Freshman year was so difficult, but I remember when my Bottom Line counselor helped me turn everything around. She believed in me from the very beginning. During my first semester of college, my counselor visited me on campus. I wanted to cry right there in the student lounge, but she was so comforting and helped me move forward.
“I am proud.”
Close to 80 percent of Bottom Line students have graduated with a bachelor’s degree, according to board member Bill Oplinger.
“That’s what I call impact!” Oplinger tells PEOPLE.
“We celebrate the incredible efforts and hard work [of our students] getting into college; celebrating their dedication to successfully graduate from college,” he adds. “And, most important, celebrating Bottom Line alumni returning from college and transforming their family’s lives, as well as the fabric of the communities in which they live.”