Friday, May 20, 2022

On Wednesday, May 11, the Carole Robertson Center for Learning hosted our 2022 Annual Celebration – an uplifting, inspiring evening that brought together all parts of our community. It was the first in-person event since 2019, and we were thrilled to have more than 200 longtime partners and new friends together again – along with our Board and members of our staff — to celebrate the Workforce Behind the Workforce and all they do to educate, enrich and empower children, youth, families, and communities.

The energy in the room at Venue West was magical, embodying the authentic, loving spirit of the Carole Robertson Center for Learning and the workforce at its heart.  

A huge thank you to our generous sponsors, particularly our presenting sponsor PNC, which helped make this year’s program possible. In total, we raised more than $225,000. We are so appreciative of the many donors and funders, elected officials, community partners, staff, and other individuals who attended and contributed to the success of the evening in many ways. 

Please take a moment to watch event videos featuring our inspiring staff!  


Program Highlights


From Xavier Ramey’s inspiring keynote delivery that reminded us to relentlessly keep love and our sense of humanity at the center of our work, to emcee Jacoby Cochran’s well-timed humor that filled the room with laughter, and the powerful words spoken by Secretary Grace Hou on the importance of grounding ourselves in community – the evening featured memorable moments that left a lasting impact. Below are a few quotes from the evening:

Xavier Ramey said, “Give according to capacity. Receive according to need.” and “This work must be done at the pace of those who are unsafe, not those who are uncomfortable.”


Scott Swanson, 2022 Event Chair, and Presenting Sponsor, PNC, were instrumental partners and truly helped to elevate the event. We are deeply grateful for PNC’s ongoing commitment to the work we do at the Center. Scott Swanson’s remarks rooted us all in our common vision for “the possibility that exists for our communities when resources and investments are made in our children’s potential and their future” and our shared belief that “a small group of people can create transformational change.”



Adams Street Partners was an exemplary Corporate Partner of the Year and generous event sponsor. Since 2015, Adams Street’s relationship with the Carole Robertson Center has flourished and the firm has contributed to various initiatives, including individual employee contributions and firm matching programs, back-to-school and winter coat drives, holiday gift giving campaigns, and annual celebration sponsorships.



Our President and CEOBela Moté’s heartfelt and inspiring remarks during the evening were a tribute to our staff:“During a period of our lives when nothing seemed certain, we proved that with the right combination of commitment, passion, resolve and luck – and dedicated partners – the most incredible things can happen. . . And we never lost sight of our workforce. They are the backbone for our families, children, and communities, and the Center MUST be there to support and celebrate them.”




2022 Award Recipients


2022 Curba Merrill Friend of The Center: Secretary Grace Hou, Illinois Department of Human Services, for her fierce advocacy for equitable access to early childhood education and youth development. Secretary Grace Hou is pictured above with Bela Moté, President and CEO. 



2022 Corporate Partner of The Year: Adams Street Partners, for the company’s longtime and robust support of the Center through financial, in-kind, and volunteer contributions rooted in the firm’s emphasis on service and responsible corporate citizenship. Carolyn Flanagan, Partner and Head of Human Resources, accepted the award on behalf of Adams Street Partners. Carolyn is pictured above with Carter Culver, Board Chair. 



2022 Carole Robertson Memorial Scholarship: Brianna Hernandez, a sophomore at Von Steuben Metropolitan High School and former Center participant in early childhood and out-of-school-time programs, for her academic achievements. Brianna is pictured above with Jacoby Cochran, 2022 Annual Celebration Event Emcee. 

Event photos can be viewed here.

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Since 1976, the Carole Robertson Center for Learning has been dedicated to educating, enriching, and empowering children and families through comprehensive child and family development programs.