In September 2023, the LIGHT Awards celebrated a remarkable milestone – a decade of empowering educators and inspiring transformative change within their communities. The anniversary celebration, hosted by the Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation, brought together grant recipients from the very first cycle of the LIGHT Awards to recipients from the most recent cycle to mark a decade of commitment to education and community-building.

Karen Leshner, Intrepid Philanthropy Foundation Founder and President, kicked off the evening, by highlighting that the LIGHT Awards are about building a community – a network of educators with a shared sense of belonging, created to support, encourage, and grow with each other. She and Intrepid Foundation Advisor, Jenny Maehara, also shared the LIGHT Awards origin story and some of the exciting findings from the recent retrospective report on the impact of the first decade of the LIGHT Awards.

Inspiration Across the Years

To hear multiple perspectives about the LIGHT Awards experience, Intrepid Foundation Advisor and LIGHT Awards Alumni Paula Mitchell facilitated a panel interviewing three LIGHT Award recipients. Panelist Deanna Slaton, a current LIGHT Awardee from the Equity Learning Walk team at Bancroft Middle School in San Leandro, reflected on how the LIGHT Awards had a meaningful impact on her professional development. Samantha Borg, a LIGHT Awards Alumni recipient from the Berkeley High School World Language Makeover team, shared how working as a team was instrumental in the creation of her team’s project and resulted in lasting ties among team members. Emma Zevin, a LIGHT Awards alumni recipient from the Si Se Puede: (Re)Building Community Through Teacher Development team at Paul Revere School in San Francisco, shared that working on her project renewed her sense of purpose and passion to help multilingual learners. All panel members shared inspiring stories and key lessons learned from their projects.

Elevating the Impact

The event also provided a space for award recipients and interested applicants to connect and share their project goals and dreams. Attendees enjoyed a meal and connected over their current school contexts and what they were excited about for the upcoming school year.  Interested applicants could also ask past award recipients about their LIGHT Awards projects and share ideas that they might pursue. Teachers were also able to meet others from different districts, schools, and subject areas and grow their networks. The evening was filled with valuable connections, both old and new.