CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The eighth annual UNCF Charlotte Mayor’s Masked Ball is set to honor a pair of the city’s legends while focusing on raising awareness and scholarship money for historically Black colleges across North Carolina and the students who attend them.
"I don't know any better investment that you can make than in a young person's education," former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl said.
UNCF’s goal this year is to raise more than $1 million. Party With a Purpose tickets are on sale where you can also make donations online. The ball will take place Saturday, March 19 at The Westin Charlotte in Uptown and WCNC Charlotte anchors Fred Shropshire and Vanessa Ruffes will emcee. This is the first time since the pandemic started the event will be in-person.
UNCF will honor McColl along with his wife Jane and former Charlotte Mayor Harvey Gantt and his wife Lucinda at the event for being trailblazers in business and civic engagement in their support for raising money for UNCF over the years.
"It's an institution that has my heart," Gantt told WCNC. "All of us can point to kids who have benefited by those scholarships. That's the real reason why we do what we do."
Saint Augustine’s University student Mackenzie Estep is the kind of UNCF scholarship recipient Gantt is referencing. The 22-year-old political science major is the first in her family to graduate from high school. Estep had a 1.2 GPA her senior year of high school but drastically turned around her motivation when mentors pushed her to pursue higher learning.
"I did come from a toxic community," she said. "I came from low-income socioeconomic standards. I wasn't from the most affluent background, so I had to work with what I had ... Upon graduation, I do want to attend law school, go into the United States Air Force to serve as a Judge Advocate General, and then one day possibly become a congresswoman."
Estep will be one of several distinguished speakers at this year’s ball -- with intentions to pay forward all the help she’s received with her education thus far.
"If someone wants to help see you succeed, allow them to pour into you," Estep said. "And just make sure that you return that investment by sowing those seeds into the next person."