At UMES Gala, the real stars are students
No names are up in lights, but their work is amazing
|UMES Hotel restaurant management students Bryan Martin, right, Derrick Gibson, center and Mary Stewart hang decorationson the wall for the 13th annual University of Maryland Eastern Shore Gala on Saturday. / AMANDA RIPPEN WHITE/THE DAILY TIMES
You might think the big stars at the 13th annual University of Maryland Eastern Shore Gala, "Lights, Camera, Action," are 5th Dimension stars Billy Davis Jr. and Marilyn McCoo, S. Epatha Merkerson of NBC's "Law and Order," CNN's legendary Larry King, Tippi Hedren, who starred in two Alfred Hitchcock classic movies or perhaps master of ceremonies Antonio Fargas, who played Huggy Bear on "Starsky and Hutch" in the 1970s.
You would, however, in one sense be mistaken.
The stars --and they're all legitimate celebrities, make no mistake --are what make the connection with Hollywood glamour and fame, but this gala is really all about the behind-the-scenes figures who make it happen. These movers and shakers are some 200 UMES students. While it's not uncommon for university students to gain practical experience in their chosen fields, it must be pointed out that few enough seasoned veterans in any profession have the opportunity to present their work to Hollywood celebrities, much less novices who are still working toward a degree.
As a student, how nerve-wracking would it be to plan and present a meal for some 450 guests who have paid between $175 and $500 for the privilege, in addition to the celebrities? How self-confident a young singer would you need to be to deliver a live performance of songs made famous by the 5th Dimension --in front of two of the original band's singers?
The big-name celebrities might be what draws guests to Saturday's main event and tonight's smaller meet-and-greet receptions, but it's truly the UMES students who are the real stars. The university, through its programs and other support, help make it possible for these young stars to shine so brightly. Hotel and restaurant management freshmen begin a spring semester's work in the kitchen, much as they would as entry-level chefs. Over the course of the four-year program, they work up to supervisory and management positions --a career in a microcosm.
Expectations are high --and are met.
Honors Program participants act as ushers -- meeting, greeting and putting people at ease by engaging them in conversation -- ensuring that the evening's events unfold smoothly. Student musicians provide music for dancing -- and yes, some brave, talented drama students will perform a live tribute to Davis and McCoo.
The entire campus supports this important fundraiser, which provides scholarships to deserving UMES students --in the classroom, by providing for the security and environment that make the gala possible and with publicity, for example.
Last year's event raised a whopping $250,000 for the scholarship fund. The celebrities are not paid by the university to attend --corporate sponsors cover any necessary expenses incurred in bringing them to Delmarva for the weekend. In fact, although actress Melanie Griffith found herself unable to attend after accepting the invitation, she will instead donate $20,000 to the fund.
On this year, which marks the campus's 125th anniversary, everyone involved must be proud to see such big dreams come to life.
This editorial and photograph originally was published March 2, 2012 in The (Salisbury, MD) Daily Times newspaper, a corporate sponsor of the 2012 UMES celebrity Gala, and is reproduced with permission.