Angelina Jolie Surprises Two Inner-City Girls With Full-Ride Scholarships at THR's Women in Entertainment Breakfast
Two of the participants in THR's Mentorship Program were overcome with emotion after being presented with the scholarships to Loyola Marymount University
Angelina Jolie surprised two inner-city high school girls with full-ride scholarships to Loyola Marymount University during an emotional portion of The Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment Power 100 breakfast on Wednesday morning.
The two scholarships — whose value totals more than $400,000 — were handed out to the girls, both about to graduate from THR's Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program. The first scholarship was fully funded by LMU; the second by the William Morris Endeavor Foundation.
In addition to the LMU scholarships, the Entertainment Industry Foundation and Lifetime are funding additional grants that provide each mentee with a $10,000 university scholarship. Two further $25,000 scholarships are being funded by Net-A-Porter and Sheila Johnson, co-founder of BET.
Referring to the scholarships she presented, Jolie said: "This means that one of the 15 mentees will be able to spend four years at a great university without student debt, completely able to focus on her studies. She'll join two other girls already there on full scholarships. … All come from underprivileged backgrounds, and most of them will tell you that to come to a university like this is a dream."
The winners of the scholarships were Melissa (whose mentor is Disney-ABC's Janice Marinelli) and Megan (whose mentor is Fox's Shana Waterman).
Melissa, overcome by tears, thanked Marinelli. "I had a wonderful mentor, and without her I don't think I would be here right now," she said, adding, "I'm very, very grateful for this program. And to the new mentees: Commit yourself to this program because it's amazing. It changed my life, and I have a long way to go."
Added Marinelli: "This program has changed the mentees, but I also have to let you know it has changed my life and the lives of the mentors as well. … The program opens the door, but at the end of the day, the young women walk through it and make it happen for themselves."
Megan also was overcome with emotion. "I am shaking so bad. … I didn't think I would be standing here," she said, turning to Waterman: "You've just shown so much love for me. You pushed me to do what I needed to do."
Waterman noted that Megan is hoping to study psychology.
"I think that comes from your interest in serving the community, and I think we all will be better for that," Waterman told her in front of the audience. "She'll be able to give all her gifts to the world."
Added Jolie of the program participants: "We look forward to all that you are going to do in this life."
Jolie presented the scholarships in front of a packed audience at the breakfast — which moved from the Beverly Hills Hotel to Milk Studios this year — that included Patricia Arquette, David Katzenberg, Portia de Rossi, Tony Goldwyn, Geena Davis and many more. At the event, Shonda Rhimes was presented with the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award by Scandal star Tony Goldwyn with a video tribute by Michelle Obama; Sarah Silverman and Melissa Rivers honored the late Joan Rivers; and Sherry Lansing, Jay Leno, Joel McHale and Hoda Kotb also addressed the A-list crowd.
THR's Women in Entertainment Mentorship Program is a joint venture with the national nonprofit Big Brothers Big Sisters and selects 15 to 20 girls from inner-city schools each year and pairs them with top-level women in the entertainment business. The girls, all high school juniors from some of L.A.'s toughest schools, spend one afternoon every two weeks with their mentors in what has proved to be a life-changing experience.
Said Lansing of the mentees in her on-stage remarks: "I have no doubt that someday one of these girls will sitting in this audience looking for her place on the list or perhaps even receiving an award, but I also have no doubt that because of this program, we have literally changed the dialogue and tone of this breakfast and made it a celebration of women's accomplishments, and not a competition."
Since the program's inception in 2008, The Hollywood Reporter has raised $1.7 million in scholarship money, which has been divided among the 75 girls who have participated in the program.
"I am deeply grateful to the community for its generosity. The support we’ve received from mentors, sponsors and the Hollywood community for The Hollywood Reporter Mentorship Program and scholarship fund proves the value and strength of the program," said Janice Min, co-president and chief creative officer of Guggenheim Media’s Entertainment Group. "As the program continues to grow, we have been able to kick-start the careers of 75 young women, for many of whom college might not have been an option otherwise.”
Previous mentors in the Mentorship Program include NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke, Fox Television Group chairman/CEO Dana Walden, Paramount Pictures president of worldwide distribution and marketing Megan Colligan and Universal Pictures chairman Donna Langley.
The breakfast was presented by Lifetime and sponsored by Gucci, Samsung Galaxy, Audi, Roberto Coin and Gersh.