The stars were aligned at City Year Los Angeles’ Spring Break: Destination Education event on Saturday night.
Hosted by Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer, celebrities including Jennifer Garner and Elizabeth Banks came out to the annual fundraiser held at Sony Studios to celebrate the organization’s ongoing service to the students of Los Angeles and help raise funds for thousands of at-risk students to keep them on track to graduate.
“For those of you who don’t know, I really value my education because I think it has a transformative power,” Spencer told the crowd at the event. “It changes lives, actually. It did change my life. That’s why City Year means so much to me. That’s why I’m here every year in support of this wonderful organization.”
Spencer then introduced guests to the “Starfish Story” about a little girl who found hundreds of beached starfish. One by one, she started throwing them back into the ocean. When the people around her told her that she couldn’t possibly save them all, she responded, “Well, I made a difference to that one.” Inspired, others joined her in tossing the starfish back into the sea and all of them were saved.
“That story exemplifies our Corp members’ perseverance to make a difference in the lives of the students they work with against all odds,” Spencer said of the organization’s AmeriCorps volunteers.
On Friday night, one of the City Year students, 15-year-old Hannah Bell, had been tragically shot and killed in Los Angeles. Bell’s AmeriCorp’s mentor, Eileen Barker, paid tribute to her in a spoken word performance and said she’s her “starfish.”
“No one in Hannah’s family has ever graduated high school, and she’d resigned herself to the same fate,” she said. “Her first words to me were, ‘Miss, don’t even bother. I’m not doing the work. I don’t like school.’ Even though Hannah didn’t want my help, I persisted. I chipped away at the wall she had put up. It was slow, but eventually, we eased into a foundation of trust. Hannah had improved two letter grades in English class. It’s amazing. I always believed she could and for the first time, she was starting to believe it too.”
She added: “I want you all to know that the only reason that I’m standing before you guys here today is because of Hannah. She knew I was going to make this speech and was so excited to have me share all of the amazing things that she’s done and all the amazing things that she could have done and I’m just so proud and honored to have been a part of that journey with her.”
The night concluded with a performance by Charlie Puth, who wowed the crowd with his jams “How Long” and “We Don’t Talk Anymore.”
Among the other stars who came out to support were Zendaya, Anna Kendrick, Abigail Spencer, Julianne Hough and husband Brooks Laich, Troian Bellisario, Darren Criss, Terry Crews, Max Greenfield, Erika Christensen, Jon Huertas, Claire Holt, T.R. Knight, Rami Malek, Eliza Coupe, Holland Roden, Britt Robertson and Steven R. McQueen.