2022 Determined To Educate, Inc.
Virtual Awards Fundraising Gala
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Determined To Educate, Inc. 14th Annual Awards
Fundraising Gala – Thursday, November 10, 2022 at 7pm
James ‘Talent’ Harris
Reverend Dr. Alfonso Wyatt
Founder of Strategic Destiny
And this year’s honorees…
Recording Artist • Dancer • Choreographer • Television Personality • Actress
Global icon PAULA ABDUL is a music superstar, dancer, renowned choreographer, and TV personality, most notably recognized as an original judge on American Idol. She has sold 60 million records and earned numerous awards and recognitions including 17 MTV Video Music Awards nominations with five wins, two GRAMMY Awards, three American Music Awards, two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Choreography (The Tracey Ullman Show, and her performance on the American Music Awards), two People’s Choice Awards as Favorite Female Music Performer, and five Juno Awards. She was the first entertainer to receive the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards Hall of Fame Award and you can find her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
She began her illustrious career as one of the first Laker girls at the age of 18. Her amazing talent led her to become the head choreographer for the renowned squad. The recent attention that the Lakers are getting on film and television have affirmed her impact and longevity. While performing and choreographing the Laker girls, she drew the attention of many superstars who were just the beginning of a long list of clients for whom she has choreographed both music videos and live shows, including Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, The Jacksons’ Victory Tour, George Michael’s Faith tour, Dolly Parton and ZZ Top, to name a few. Her talent has also been credited for choreography for numerous box office top grossing films including “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “The Running Man”, “Coming to America”, The Doors” and “Action Jackson”.
Her vocal gift soon became apparent to music executives at Virgin Records, who signed her. Paula’s first studio album, Forever Your Girl, sold over seven million copies in the U.S. alone and, with four singles topping the charts, “Forever Your Girl”, “Cold Hearted”, “Opposites Attract”, and of course, “Straight Up”. She set a record for the most #1 Billboard charted singles from a debut album. “Straight Up” continues its impact to this day. The recent Virgin Orbit launch named its mission “Straight Up” using the anthem as its theme song. In her sixtieth year (yes, the ever-youthful Paula Abdul turned 60 this year!), Paula’s career continues to skyrocket, keeping her as busy as she’s ever been.
Her second album, Spellbound, scored two more #1 singles, “Rush Rush” and “The Promise of a New Day”, tying her with Ariana Grande and Diana Ross for the seventh most #1 singles for female performers.
In 2002 she was part of television history as one of the original judges on American Idol, which pioneered the contemporary trend of talent competition shows. If anyone lived in an audio vacuum and didn’t know Paula, she immediately became a household name. After seven years, she left that show and has since served in the same capacity on The X Factor, So You Think You Can Dance and was a panelist on The Masked Dancer.
In 2018, she made a triumphant return to touring, joining Live Nation’s Total Package Tour of 45 cities with Boyz II Men and New Kids on the Block. A solo Straight Up Paula! national tour followed. Paula launched her Paula Abdul: Forever Your Girl Las Vegas residency the following year in the Flamingo showroom.
Most recently, as active as ever, she is acting, choreographing and performing constantly. She has a recurring role on Made for Love (HBO), her MC Skat Kat character is featured in the Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers film (Disney) and she recently guest starred on an upcoming Muppets show.
Always interested in giving back, Paula’s philanthropic efforts are broad. She is an active advocate American Humane Society, National Guide Dog Month, Turnaround Arts, the African Community & Conservation Foundation, Wigs & Wishes cancer charity, to name a few of the causes she supports. She received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2019 for her contributions to our country. Add her Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and her legacy is ensured but certainly remains on a continuum!
Michael H. Levine is an internationally recognized social entrepreneur with a track
record driving early childhood and K-12 education reform and transformation at public and private companies, foundations, and government agencies. 20+ years of experience researching educational, developmental, and socioeconomic implications of the emerging media and learning landscape to inform policy and legislation, fuel innovation, promote educational equity, and influence educational program decisions. He is an author of 40+ publications and policy briefs, co-author of Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens, keynote speaker, and board member for non-profit and double bottom-line social
venture organizations. Named one of US’ most influential leaders in family policy by Working Mother magazine.
Michael H. Levine, Ph.D. is Senior Vice President of Learning and Impact for Noggin, Nickelodeon’s direct-to-consumer interactive learning platform for young children. An early learning and social policy expert, Dr. Levine is responsible for deepening Noggin’s value to children and families through dynamic content,
partnerships, and interactive experiences developed for learning and impact. Dr. Levine previously spent 12 years at Sesame Workshop where he served as Chief
Knowledge Officer, a member of the senior executive team responsible for driving organization-wide learning, educational partnerships, knowledge exchange, and
policy leadership. He is also the Founding Executive Director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, a pioneering thought leader in the digital media and learning field. Previously he oversaw innovative grantmaking, strategic communications and program design and scaling strategies for Carnegie Corporation of New York, the New York City Department of Education, the Mayor’s Office and Asia Society. Dr. Levine serves on numerous non-profit and double-bottom line boards including the Cooney Center, JumpStart, We Are Family Foundation and Woot Math. He received his PhD in Social Policy from the Heller School at Brandeis University and his Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University.
Daniel Rocky Bucano
Executive Director of the Universal Hip Hop Museum
Rocky Bucano is Executive Director of the Universal Hip Hop Museum. He is a proven executive and goal driven business leader. Rocky established an impressive executive career in television, music label management, digital entertainment distribution and non-profit management. Rocky approaches
all business challenges with an intrinsic flair for innovation, critical analysis, creative problem solving, and measured risk-taking.
Rocky is a lifelong resident of the Northeast Bronx except for a short stint where he moved to Texas in 1979 as a first year college student accepting a position as an FCC licensed television engineer first for ABC affiliate KBMT in Beaumont, Texas and then a year later as technical director for KRIV TV in
Rocky’s passion and desire to work in the music industry brought him back to New York in 1981 where he worked for WWORTV as technical director for many of the network’s top rated programs including Live New York Mets Baseball coverage, The Morton Downey Jr.Show, and Primetime 9 News. Rocky’s work behind the scenes was influential to the network’s success from being known as a local channel to becoming a national Super Station.
In 1987, Rocky Bucano left his television career behind to launch the Bronx based Strong City Records with Hip Hop icon DJ Jazzy Jay. Rocky’s newly formed independent music label quickly became a underground sensation launching the careers of recording artists: Masters of Ceremony, Busy Bee, Ice
Cream Tee, Diamond D, Ultimate Force and many others. Rocky’s creative marketing strategies gave the young upstate music label its first national hit song with the release of the Masters of Ceremony’s “Sexy” featuring the dancehall mastery of Don Barron. Rocky would guide his Strong City music label to global sales channels with distribution in Europe, Japan and Spain.
In 1991, Rocky founded 3rd Rail Entertainment an independent marketing and artist development firm to provide sales and marketing support to major recording companies such as MCA, Virgin, Atlantic, Warner Bros and Sony. Rocky’s new firm quickly became a powerhouse in Hip Hop culture marketing and promotion. The success of Rocky’s company caught the attention of Grammy Award winning producers and songwriters Antonio LA Reid and Kenneth Baby-face Edmund who hired him to manage their new Hip Hop label Rowdy Records. Rocky became the company’s Executive Vice President and helped the new company establish national roots with Hits from artists Monica and Illegal. Monica would become the label’s first Platinum selling artist and Illegal would achieve a Billboard Music Award recognition for Best New Rap Artist in 1992.
In 1993, Rocky joined producer Teddy Riley’s New Jack Swing Production Company as Executive Vice President and General Manager. Rocky oversaw the company’s production work with artists such as Michael Jackson, Patti Labelle, BlackStreet, Bobby Brown, Today, Men of Vision and many others. In 1994 Rocky led negotiations with Interscope Records and Teddy Riley in the formation of a new joint-venture production agreement that would later garner the company’s first Platinum selling group BlackStreet.
Rocky earned his Bachelor’s Degree from the College of New Rochelle’s School of New Resources in 1997 and then his Masters of Business Administration in Technology Management from the University of Phoenix in 2001.
In 2006, Rocky became Executive Director of Teamwork Foundation a South Bronx based non-profit for the New York Gauchos after school basketball program. In Rocky’s first year, he played an instrumental role in securing a grant in the amount of $156,000.00 from the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation to renovate the iconic Gauchos Gymnasium. In his 13-year tenure, Rocky has helped the Gauchos program raise more than $1.8 million in donations, grants and fees. In 2011, Rocky championed the organization’s first brand licensing agreement with the newly formed House of Sports organization based in Ardsley New York. The Gauchos program has placed more than 900 high school girls and boys into college on full athletic scholarship and has witnessed 30 of its former players achieve NBA professional basketball distinction.
Rocky would assume the role of Executive Director of the Universal Hip Hop Museum in 2012, and would lead the organization’s journey to design and launch Hip Hop’s museum at the Bronx Point in 2023. Rocky was named to the inaugural Bronx Power 100 list in 2019 by City and State Magazine.
Tonja H. Ward
Co-founder of the Charlie & Tonja Ward Family Foundation
Tonja H. Ward is cofounder of the Charlie & Tonja Ward Family Foundation. For over 25 years, along with cofounder Charlie, she has been passionate about underwriting and producing impact events for young people that offer hope, create opportunities for defining life moments, and unite communities for conversations across lines of division. As a community servant, Tonja cultivates partnerships and leads the production of community outreach initiatives targeting youth character development and disaster relief. She has helped various small businesses and personalities with brand development, including Charlie, and led the planning and execution of nationwide sports and Christian music events and camps for students. Tonja is also excited to launch the discovery, development, and infusion of digital strategies and new ideas in the broadcast ministry of praiseLive. With an extensive background in faith-based media and guiding nonprofit organizations with project management for community engagement initiatives, promotions, event planning, fundraising, and development, she began at praiseLive in 2020. Her role is to offer leadership to advance the ministry’s growth and expansion locally and globally. Additionally, she is the weekend morning show host for the praiseLive network of stations in the Midwest and across Africa.
The Ward family relocated to Tallahassee, FL, in 2018 after living in Pensacola, FL, Houston, TX, San Antonio, TX, and the New York City area. While in Houston, in 2010, Tonja began serving in various roles for the award-winning Christian Radio Stations KSBJ and NGEN Radio before becoming the Director of Promotions & Outreach in 2013. After the move to Pensacola in 2014, she continued working with KSBJ as a consultant. She helped the leadership of WOW 90.9 (Brewton, AL, and Pace, FL) develop organizational plans for fundraising, marketing, and audience engagement. She was also an on-air personality serving as the midday host.
Tonja is a candidate for the Master’s in Digital Media Management degree at the University of Southern California. She has a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College
(Atlanta, GA), a law degree from the University of Miami School of Law (Florida), studied broadcasting at Alvin Community College, and is licensed to practice law in New York. She is a long-time youth ministry teacher and worship leader. She has decades of nonprofit board advisory and trustee experience. Currently, Tonja serves on the boards of Tallahassee YoungLife and the Parent Help Center. She is passionate about building awareness for adoption and autism and promoting health and wellness. She has spoken at numerous events to inspire communities and advocate for these topics. Tonja and her husband, Charlie, have been married for 26 years. They are the proud parents of Caleb (22), a senior at Florida State University, Hope (19), a sophomore at Texas Christian University, and Joshua (13), a 7th grader at the Blount Academy.
Erik F. Nolan
Founder and Chief Executive Director of UMOJA
Network for Young Men, Inc.
Erik Nolan is a native of Brooklyn, New York. He is the founder and Chief Executive Director of UMOJA Network for Young Men, Inc.
UMOJA is a mentoring and leadership organization for young men ages 5-21. As the leader of this organization, his vision is to create and implement programs that are relatable to our participants. Garnering positive outcomes, “Our goal is to ensure that they are academically prepared, socially smart, emotionally strong and spiritually connected” says Mr. Nolan. In addition, this organization provides services for families, recognizing them as an integral part of a child’s educational experience. Through workshops, events and forums, parents are given the necessary tools and resources to support their child/children.
Erik has participated in educational documentaries such as Life under suspicion, Violence in the black community and Depression among boys of color. He has also co-written articles about mentoring boys of color.
As a personal mission, which he shares with young people, Erik believes we must execute excellence and not exercise excuses.
President and Founder of Tim Grady Films
Tim Grady founded his full-service production company following eight years as an actor in NYC. His unscripted television concepts have earned a partnership with Lifetime Network, A&E Network, Truly Original, DIGA Studios, First Watch Productions and more.