Monday, March 7, 2011

Jeffrey Gural is Making Education Count

Tioga Downs Chairman and Owner Jeffrey Gural is featured in an article in the Wall Street Journal

The article highlight's Mr. Gural's involvement with a charity in New York City that's helping to change the lives of 80 inner-city youths.

Here's the full text of the article written by Melanie Grayce West:

Through the I Have a Dream Foundation, Jeffrey Gural is making dreams come true for 80 children living in New York City.

Mr. Gural, 68 years old, is chairman of Newmark Knight Frank, a full-service commercial-real-estate firm based in New York. The I Have a Dream Foundation seeks to provide long-term academic support to underprivileged children, including guaranteed college tuition.

Mr. Gural is part of a sponsorship team, including other individual supporters, corporate sponsors and the New York City Housing Authority, for 80 children who live in the Chelsea-Elliott public houses in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.

Mr. Gural recently made a $200,000 donation to the foundation, an annual contribution that goes toward providing college tuition for the children. He contributes nearly half of the $3.2 million needed to send a class of "Dreamers" to college.

"Everybody recognizes from the president on down how important education is," says Mr. Gural. "If kids can graduate college now the likelihood is that they're going to have successful careers and a family of their own. And their children will be successful."

About 20 years ago, Eugene M. Lang, founder of the I Have a Dream Foundation, approached Mr. Gural to sponsor a group of students in the Chelsea houses. That group of Dreamers, now in their mid-20s, include a disc jockey, a social worker, an actress and a fund-raiser for a large international nonprofit. Watching the children go from first grade to young adulthood is "pretty unique in philanthropy," says Mr. Gural.

The current crop of 80 children are sixth- and seventh graders, an impressionable, tough time. The program aims to surround the children with opportunities, including tutoring, mentoring and counseling—whatever it takes to make sure the children graduate and go on to college. Mr. Gural looks at it as "leveling the playing field" and providing the same kind of help common to children who grow up middle class.

That help also includes getting to know the children personally. Mr. Gural hosts a monthly birthday dinner, trips to his upstate home, baseball and basketball games.

For his older group of Dreamers, he tries to be there "when they run in to trouble, like a parent would," helping to land internships, coach through an interview or underwrite a security deposit on an apartment.

"It's really been the most rewarding thing I've ever done," says Mr. Gural. "I look at my life and I know that on my deathbed that I've changed the lives of these kids."