Pharrell hosted the Soledad O’Brien & Brad Raymond Foundation at a Private Residence on November 18, 2011 in Miami Beach, Florida. The Soledad O’Brien & Brad Raymond Foundation provides young women with a bridge between obstacles and opportunity, giving them the experiences, education and resources to overcome unexpected barriers to success. During Soledad’s career as a reporter and special correspondent for CNN, she mentored hundreds of girls in journalism, believing in the importance of passing on her own knowledge and teaching others that they too can succeed. “This foundation is a natural evolution of that”, says her husband, Brad Raymond. Soledad’s best friend, Kim Bondy, who is on the board of the Soledad O’Brien and Brad Raymond Foundation, called Soledad several years ago and told her there was a girl named Alexia, in New Orleans, who needed a scholarship.
“Kids in New Orleans had a lot of needs, and they just needed opportunities, and needed chances, and so we said yes,” said Soledad. Soledad and Brad immediately decided they would help Alexia. This initial scholarship has grown into over 10 scholarships for young girls across the United States to complete their educational pursuits. As Soledad continued to cover stories of national and international importance for CNN, from Hurricane Katrina to the earthquake in Haiti, she met dozens of young women, bright, driven and intelligent, who lacked the financial means to complete their educations. Many of these girls are now scholarship recipients. “I discover how hard working, amazing, incredible they are, they are just lacking one thing,” Soledad says. “I live in the projects,” says Erica Ramos, a scholarship recipient. “No one expects you to go to college, everyone expects you to fail.” The Foundation values equal access to education for everyone, despite the barriers that prevent many from achieving what they are capable of.
From the Bronx to New Orleans to Los Angeles, the foundation is engaging young women with opportunity and the push to, as Soledad says, “get them over the finish line.” Soledad and Brad believe that through mentoring support and financial support, young women who otherwise would not have the means to finish school can be incredibly successful. “Every single one of our scholarship students said the minute that someone invested in them, they started working harder, they got better grades, because they wanted to prove that it wasn’t a mistake,” says Soledad. “The scholarship really isn’t about money,” says Sheba Turk, another scholarship recipient, “it gives you a vote of confidence.” The Foundation values the one-to-one relationships they have with their scholars. And “with a relatively small investment, we can drive a phenomenal return,” says Brad Raymond. There is no limit to what these young women can accomplish, and the Foundation is committed to seeing them get there. Pictures taken by Gert Elfering.