On Saturday, April 28, more than 350 guests gathered at eSpace in New York City for Big Night Out!—Manhattan Country School’s annual gala to raise critical funds to support our sliding-scale tuition program. It was also a chance to honor the legacy of MCS founder Gus Trowbridge, whose influence can still be felt by generations of MCS students, families and teachers. The public scope of the vision Gus shared with his wife, Marty, now extends well beyond the walls of our school.
The theme of the evening was the intersection of sports and social justice. The event began with a cocktail reception with music performed by pianist Nick Colt ’82 and saxophonist Adam Ramsay. Carla Shedd, associate professor of urban education at The Graduate Center of the City of New York and an MCS parent (Benjamin ’26), served as the emcee. Our Living the Dream Mentor Award ceremony celebrated the following changemakers:
- Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, Founder, Muslim Girls Hoop Too and Dribbling Down Barriers
- Harris Friess ’98 and Lyle Friess ’00, Co-Executive Directors, Brooklyn Youth Sports Club
- Jermaine Lloyd, Founder, Back 2 Basics Academy
Teresa “T” Edwards, an MCS coach and five-time basketball Olympian, presented the award to Bilqis. Accepting the honor, Bilqis spoke about having to choose between the sport she loves and her faith when the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) prevented her from playing professionally because she wears a hijab. Choosing her faith put her on an unexpected, yet influential path that has continued even after FIBA dropped the rule banning hijabs. “I realized that through that struggle, there were three things I couldn’t change—number one: that I was a woman; number two: that I was a black woman; and number three: that I was a Muslim black woman,” she said. “And in society’s eyes, we’re put at the bottom and a lot of people don’t think we can make it to the top. But I’m here standing now saying that I was able to break down that barrier, break down that wall for all the other girls who look like me.”
Like MCS, Jermaine is dedicated to providing opportunities for children through Back 2 Basics Academy, a basketball training and development program. “When we get these kids coming in off the street, it’s almost the same story every time...,” said Jermaine. “Getting cut because someone’s too short, not given an opportunity because they don’t have street credibility. It’s sickening because they are breaking down these children, they’re pulling the rug out from underneath them before they’ve even had a chance to realize their potential.” Jermaine said he strives to build children up by meeting them where they are.
Watch the Living the Dream Mentor Award Honorees' Acceptance Speeches
Lyle Friess '00 and Harris Friess '98
Harris and Lyle, both MCS alumni, were strongly influenced by their elementary school experience and the school’s founders. “MCS is a school that is so unique and so inclusive that every single graduate leaves knowing, believing, understanding that your skin color, your sexual orientation, your gender, your status as a refugee or an immigrant has nothing to do with your human potential,” said Lyle, whose organization works with underserved youth in Brooklyn and boasts a 100-percent track record in participants graduating from high school and being accepted to college. (BKYSC participants have received more than $3 million in college scholarships collectively.)
“At the high school I attended, there were five MCS students. Tim Hagamen went to Harvard, Franchesca Medina and Maceo June went to Brown, and one of the speakers coming up tonight, Daniel Altschuler, is a Rhodes Scholar. I think that paints the picture,” Harris said, illustrating the impact of MCS.
“If you want your child to be a kind, open-minded person,” Harris continued. “If you want your child to be a thinker and a doer, MCS is still a rare place where opportunity is afforded to all. A place where MLK’s dream is alive. If Brooklyn Youth Sports Club is an extension of that dream, I can proudly say thank you for this award.”
The ballroom at Espace was filled with friends of the honorees and MCS sponsors, trustees, parents, faculty, staff and friends. Among the many alumni supporters in the room were Katharine Trowbridge ’72 and Stephen Trowbridge ’74 and many of their classmates who attended MCS in the early years. These pioneers and the generations of MCS graduates who follow in their footsteps inspired a generous response to the evening’s Fund-a-Need appeal, which solicited $61,821 and participation in an online auction, which brought in $23,708. Through the generosity of our community, the event raised more than $243,551 overall—the most for a Big Night Out! event yet. We anticipate this number to be even higher as we are still tallying contributions.
Thank you to all of the generous underwriters and donors, and those who contributed auction items and experiences. The dedicated efforts of MCS’ Advancement Team; Amy Weinstein and Jody Perlberger, who provided leadership of the Big Night Out! Benefit Committee; and the hard work of a host of volunteers came together to make the event a success. It is a stellar example of what can be accomplished when we come together as a community.