‘Stay in School’ gala toasts MacKenzie Scott’s gift + beloved friend

More than 600 friends of a cherished nonprofit recently gathered to celebrate the life and legacy of a tireless advocate for local students in need — and toast a landmark gift from “the world’s most powerful woman.”

Supporters of Communities in Schools (CIS) packed The Post Oak Hotel for the “Stay in School” fête that raised more than $730,000 — marking the second-highest-grossing gala in the organization’s history. Philanthropists Mary and John Craddock, Illa and Will Gaunt, Sarita and Bob Hixon, and Cassie and John Milam chaired the successful event. 

The announcement of an unprecedented, $13 million gift from philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott drew thunderous applause from the crowd.

Scott, the ex-wife of billionaire Jeff Bezos, gifted 10 percent of her $133.5 million donation to the Communities In Schools Network and National Office to Houston. The donation came after Scott’s rigorous research into CIS of Houston’s longstanding and proven track record. CIS’s high school graduation success rate is 99 perfect, Mary Craddock notes.

CIS primes Houston-area students for success by providing crisis intervention, trauma and mental health counseling, and basic necessities. The foundation plans to disburse the funds raised to some 255,000 students on nearly 170 campuses in the Houston, Spring Branch, Alief, Aldine, Fort Bend, and Spring school districts, as well as Lone Star Colleges this school year, per a press release.

A chorus in the room was the name Julie Crosswell. A devoted CIS board member and supporter of the organization for more than 24 years, Crosswell was beloved for her hands-on approach as a volunteer, social worker, and mentor to students at Lamar and Wisdom high schools.

“It was very easy to attract donors to honor Julie Crosswell,” Mary Craddock tells CultureMap. “She has been on the board and very active from the 1980s and brought in new board members.” Crosswell especially championed homeless kids at Lamar — including one found spending nights on the gym floor. She passed suddenly away last year after a brief fight with pancreatic cancer.

Her family — Jewel Crosswell Stone, Will Crosswell, Bettina Crosswell Barrow and her husband Markley Crosswell — stood in for Julie to accept honors.

Following poignant speeches and CIS success stories, the night culminated with a trip to the dance floor; guests pulled off totally rad moves to ’80s tribute band The Spazmatics.

Seen in the crowd: Bonner and George Ball, Soraya McClelland, Jack Craddock, Richard Helfman, Elaine Hixon, Lauren Hixon, Dr. Peter Kaldis, Kirby and Scott McCool, Amy Mueller, Capera Nrinksy, Lisa and David Sambrooks, Charles Tate, and Linda Gale White and Harry Jones.

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