heARTS Wide Open Gala
Overcoming barriers with the heARTS Wide Open Gala
heARTS Wide Open Gala donors raise $48,660 in one night for the Student Barrier Fund
On Simcoe Street in Hamilton, as the sun rises and before school begins, the sound of basketballs can be heard echoing from the gym at Bennetto Elementary School. Here you will find young students, who need a place to go before school starts, engaging in a friendly game of basketball. On the sidelines, a respected teacher keeps a close eye on the students. He opens the gym early every day and dedicates his morning to providing students with a safe space to stay before the rest of the teachers and students arrive to start the school day.
This was the visual fixed in everyone’s minds at the heARTS Wide Open Gala on Dec. 5, 2019 after a video played, dedicated to the teacher on the sidelines, Archie McQueen. He has been with HWDSB for 50 years and has placed the needs of the students above his own for his entire career. Through donations and volunteering his time, McQueen has helped to pay for class trips, new sports equipment and musical instruments for Bennetto.
After the video played at the Gala, the Hamilton Foundation for Student Success reported that Archie McQueen has returned his salary directly to Bennetto and its students over the past several years, which has resulted in his donations totalling over $100,000.
McQueen is one of the many exceptional examples of individuals who volunteer, donate and make a difference with their generosity. Each of the donors who contribute to the Hamilton Foundation for Student Success make positive changes in student lives by providing funds to enhance school programs or helping to fulfill everyday needs, such as clothing or breakfast.
The heARTS Wide Open Gala supports specifically the Student Barrier Fund, one of the many grants and scholarships provided to students through the Foundation. The night, filled with live entertainment performed by students, raised $48,660 for the fund, which helps students in need to overcome financial barriers.
In addition to honouring Archie McQueen for his contributions to HWDSB students, Student Success Mentor and Chair of the Prom Project, Krysta Bucci, was the first recipient of the Circle of Excellence Award. Her contributions to schools and her leadership in the Prom Project have helped students to have equal opportunities to participate in school activities and succeed.
Max Francis, an avid supporter of the arts in Hamilton, also donated his time as the emcee for the evening. Keeping the guests entertained, he introduced the talented students from Glendale and Westmount Secondary Schools and shared his appreciation for the donors and explained he was one of the students who benefitted from help from people like them.
The evening began with a small string ensemble and dramatic performances throughout the venue. Students from Glendale Secondary School shared their respect for the Indigenous peoples with a Land Acknowledgement, which was spoken by students standing throughout the room, echoing one another’s voices. Glendale students also displayed their artistic talent through a dance number and an acapella voice performance during the evening. These performances were followed by Westmount Secondary School who closed the evening with a musical performance from their group, Jazz One.
The Hamilton Foundation for Student Success’ mission is to engage the community and support HWDSB students to overcome barriers so they can thrive and reach their full potential. Thank you to all of the donors for another year of student success.