SEO, or the Sponsors for Education Opportunity, hosted its most recent Awards Dinner last week to raise funds for important educational programs. The annual event celebrates charitable work done over the last year and shines a light on work still to be done through a robust lineup of guest speakers and alumni. SEO is an eight-year academic program that supports underserved public high school students leading up to and throughout college.

Six graduates of the SEO scholars program were invited to share their personal stories on stage as representatives for the organization. Additionally, three top leaders in banking, education, and public service, including Robert J. McCann, Chairman Americas at UBS; Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell; and former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, were all honored at the event.

SEO’s programs, which also include SEO Career and SEO Alternatives, have provided opportunities to more than 11,000 young students from underprivileged communities since the organization was founded in 1963.

“SEO doesn’t just reduce the achievement gap. It eliminates it entirely. SEO identifies and stimulates the talents, power, and tools that reside in each SEO student, teaching them there are no limits to their achievement,” said the dinner’s chairman, Ken Mehlman, global head of public affairs at private equity firm KKR.

SEO’s mission to provide talented and motivated students from underserved backgrounds has been a successful one. SEO Scholars has a 95% college graduation rate, significant by any standard. The SEO Career summer internship and professional development training programs target Black, Hispanic, and Native American students. About 85% of those students receive full-time job offers. Furthermore, the SEO Alternative Investments program, which offers education, exposure, and training to talented professionals from underrepresented communities, reports that 90% of its AI Fellows have secured jobs in the alternative investments center.

“I still look forward to a time when ambition and intelligence alone will determine who succeeds in America,” said SEO Chairman Emeritus Michael Osheowitz. “Until then, I trust that SEO will continue to open doors for deserving young people and that those whose lives have been touched by SEO will light a pathway of success for others.”