WITS Gala Celebrates Reading

WITS gala is one for the record books with first-ever Houston youth poet laureate

WITS gala is one for the books with first-ever youth poet laureate

WITS Gala Xavier Pena, Robin Reagler, Juni Langham, Chanier Langham
Xavier Pena, Robin Reagler, Juni and Chanier Langham. Photo by Yvonne Feece
WITS Gala Jackie Martin, Amanda Edwards, Natara Williams
Jackie Martin, Amanda Edwards, Natara Williams. Photo by Yvonne Feece
WITS Gala, Robin Davidson, Andrew White
Robin Davidson, Andrew White. Photo by Yvonne Feece
WITS Gala Lila Mankad, Annise Parker
Lila Mankad, Mayor Annise Parker. Photo by Yvonne Feece
WITS Gala Sarah Schimmer, Ryan Leach, Miya Shay
Sarah Schimmer, Ryan Leach, Miya Shay. Photo by Yvonne Feece
WITS Gala Xavier Pena, Robin Reagler, Juni Langham, Chanier Langham
WITS Gala Jackie Martin, Amanda Edwards, Natara Williams
WITS Gala, Robin Davidson, Andrew White
WITS Gala Lila Mankad, Annise Parker
WITS Gala Sarah Schimmer, Ryan Leach, Miya Shay

What: WITS: A Celebration of Story Gala.

Where: The Junior League of Houston.

The 411: This one was for the record books, literally, as Writes in the Schools (WITS) hosted its seventh annual Celebration of Story Gala Thursday night with a theme that stories are the foundation of a child’s education and imagination.

F. Xavier Peña, former WITS (Writers in the Schools) board resident and currently vice president of finance and general counsel at Houston Endowment Inc., was honored with the 2015 Creativity Award. Peña played an instrumental role in the growth of WITS, nurturing a literary culture and expanding quality education for underserved children.

Mayor Annise Parker was given the honors of crowning the first-ever Houston Youth Poet Laureate, Andrew White, 18, a senior creative writing major at High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA). He took the stage to perform his winning poem, “Lunar Patterns,” to the sold-out and captivated audience.

“WITS decided to partner with the mayor of Houston and the Houston Public Library to create the Youth Poet Laureate program because we value the voices of the next generation of leaders,” WITS executive director Robin Reagler explained.

The evening celebrated the stories of WITS students, including a performance by the top-ranked high school slam poetry group, Meta-Four Houston, along with a silent auction, chaired by Mitra Woody. that included literary experiences, works of art, writing retreats, and more.

The gala took in $160,000, making it the highest grossing event in WITS history. Funds raised will help WITS send writers into schools and community classrooms to reach an additional 3,000 children this school year. “The Celebration of Story helps WITS provide our proven literacy program to thousands of Houston students free-of-charge. WITS empowers students to communicate clearly,” Reagler said.

Who: Chanler and Juni Langham, Dr. Rhea Brown Lawson, Houston Poet Laureate Dr. Robin Davidson, Monica Pope, Bryn Larsen, Jessica Rossman and Gordon Bethune, Miya Shay and Gene Wu, Barry Mandel, Bob and Gail Eury, Jackie Martin, Amanda Edwards and Emanuelee “Outspoken” Bean.

Also celebrating the evening were Zachary Caballero, Beth and Jason Bernal, Lisa Helfman, Jeffrey Beauchamp, Esther Perrine, MaryScott Hagle and Daniel Kornberg, Stephanie Larsen, Deborah Detering, Lizzie and Scott Fletcher, Lauren and Geoffrey Harrison, Joshua Espinedo, Gracie and Bob Cavnar, Laura and Michael Pipkin, Mitra Woody and Carliss Chatman.