Harlem YMCA Hosts 51st Annual bai Achievers in Industry Gala

23 March 2023
man and woman hold award

Gala honored MSNBC President Rashida Jones, Con Edison

On March 23, the Harlem YMCA proudly hosted the 51st Annual bai Achievers in Industry Gala to spotlight and acknowledge successful executives from the Y’s corporate partners and introduce their scholarship recipients before an audience of committed civic leaders, executives, and friends and family of the honorees.

The event was hosted by ABC News personality DeMarco Morgan, and entertainment was provided by world-renowned violinist and Jamaica YMCA alumnus and board member, Damien Escobar.

The Harlem YMCA’s Achievers in Industry (bai) program was founded in 1971 by the late Dr. Leo B. Marsh, who was the first Black president of the Association of the YMCA, and was committed to helping youth fulfill their dreams and aspirations. This venture was designed to unite the resources of home, school, and community, supporting young people in reaching their academic goals.

The bai initiative is designed to help college-bound teens achieve higher education through exposure and empowerment. The initiative has continually adjusted and expanded its efforts to ensure its relevance while staying true to the spirit and purpose of the theme of the Annual Achievers in Industry Gala, "Celebrating Success, Developing Leaders, and Cultivating Communities." The bai program is composed of four primary elements designed to work together and serve as supportive stepping stones toward the achievement of its overall mission. These four elements, Professional Mentoring Program, Historical Black College Tour, Corporate Scholarship Program, and Corporate Internship Program foster hope and aspiration in the young people of our community while providing experiences that lead to opportunities for academic access and the development of critical leadership skills.

“For more than a century, the Harlem YMCA has been a beacon of community, serving as an essential convenor and innovator,” said Sharon Greenberger, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater New York. “The Achievers in Industry program exemplifies the Y’s mission to strengthen community by giving our young people opportunities to fulfill their academic and professional development goals. This high-impact program would not be possible without the ongoing support of our partners, who work tirelessly to support the children of New York City. Thank you to everyone who has worked to ensure the Harlem Y’s and bai’s continued success; you inspire and empower the next generation of Black leaders in our communities, city, and nation.”

​​Through the bai initiative, the Harlem YMCA has honored more than 4,600 corporate executives, raised over $2.1M, and awarded more than 850 scholarship awards.

“The Harlem YMCA provides life-changing services to the youth of New York City, inspiring each of them to achieve their full potential,” said Christopher Foster, Executive Director of the Harlem YMCA. “The bai initiative’s work celebrates Black excellence, recognizes the hard work of professionals and students, and sets a powerful example for every young person in our community. We are enormously grateful to our extraordinary partners who amplify the impact of the Harlem YMCA every day, help to more deeply connect our communities, and carry forth Dr. Marsh’s powerful legacy.”

The 2023 honoree for the Carrie Terrell Youth Achiever Award – named after the first and only woman to enjoy emeritus status at the Harlem Y – is the extraordinary Aisha Beltran. In addition to being the salutatorian of the senior class at Explorations Academy High School, Aisha is also a member of the Honor Roll Society, the Vice President of the Student Council, and Treasurer of the Art Club. Aisha is also a member of the Castle Hill YMCA, where she is active in Teens Take the City and the YMCA Government Class. Aisha plans to study computer science and business in college, and dreams of becoming the first member of her family to earn a college degree.

The Deloitte Corporate Community Award is given to a corporation which has excelled as a leader in promoting opportunity, education and personal growth for youth in the communities they serve. This year’s honoree is Con Edison, an organization that has supported the bai initiative since its inception. Con Edison is celebrating its 200th year in business and today provides energy for 10 million people. Con Edison is steadfast in its commitment to elevating diversity, equity and inclusion and increasing the representation of people of color and women from entry-level positions through its leadership ranks. Con Edison provides $12M in grants to over 600 nonprofit organizations throughout its service territory in the areas of arts and culture, civics, STEM education, and the environment.  It also invests in educational programs that inspire students to imagine, invent and engineer. 

The Dr. Leo B. Marsh Memorial Award was established by the Achievers in Industry Committee in 1980 to commemorate Dr. Marsh - the founder of the Harlem Y’s bai program. Rashida Jones, President of MSNBC – and the first Black executive to lead a television news network – is the 2023 honoree. Jones is responsible for all the oversight of all programming, editorial units, business development, and technical operations, as well as MSNBC Films. In 2022, Jones was named one of the “Most Powerful People in New York Media” by the Hollywood Reporter, featured on Variety’s Women’s Impact List, and received Hampton University’s Outstanding Twenty-Year Alumnus Award. In recognition of her myriad accomplishments, Jones was inducted into the Scripps Howard Journalism Hall of Fame and was recently honored with the prestigious RTDNA First Amendment Award for her major contributions to protecting the First Amendment.

At the Achievers in Industry Gala, the Harlem YMCA and its corporate partners also presented 12 Achievers Awards, 2 Rising Stars Awards, and 35 scholarships to an outstanding class of potential leaders of tomorrow.