DCA Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl and NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina presenters at 2014 Sloan Public Service Awards

The Fund for the City of New York 2014 Sloan Public Service Awards event this week at the Great Hall at The Cooper Union was a true celebration of six individuals who have devoted their lives and careers to making New York City a better place.

By Jenny Clarke

President of the Fund of the City of New York, Mary McCormick, opened the event by describing the 2014 awardees as a group of individuals who transcend the ordinary and extraordinary, representing the “best of the best” of those working on behalf of the people of New York City.

Among those honored was Kathi Hughes, Assistant Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs, whose award was presented by DCA Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. In his introduction, Commissioner Finkelpearl spoke about the impact Hughes has had on the process that currently provides $32 million to more than 900 arts organizations annually.  “Nobody has done as much as Kathi for the Arts in New York City,” he said.

During a video recorded for the award event, Hughes described the range of work and disciplines funded by the programs unit at DCA and the rigorous peer review process that ensures an in-depth and fair assessment of applications – a process she introduced during her 32-year tenure.

As the award was presented to Hughes, a cheer rang around the Great Hall and only Hughes could coax the audience back into their seats. During her acceptance speech, she talked about the important role of the arts in NYC schools, adding “it is essential that all kids have an arts experience” and how honored she is to work on behalf of “the City I love.”

Also receiving an award was April Leong, Principal of Liberation Diploma Plus High School, a New York City transfer high school in Coney Island that serves 200 at-risk students ages 16-21. NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, a recipient of a Sloan Public Service Award in 1989, spoke of Leong’s dedication to the students that other schools won’t take and the high rate of success against all odds.

In a video recorded at Liberation Diploma Plus High School, Leong describes the school’s goal “to better serve students who have not had success in other schools.”  She described a world where many students are plagued by violence in their communities and her goal of helping students make positive choices. Leong said her satisfaction comes from seeing a student who initially is unlikely to succeed leaving ready and hungry for success.

The Sloan Public Service Awards give all of us a glimpse of the hard work and skill the “best of the best” bring to so many New Yorkers and who make the City what it is for us all.

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