City Year Event Features a Mix of Inspiration and Sadness

Rachel Murray/Getty Images for City Year Los Angeles
Jennifer Garner, left, and 20th Century Fox Studios chairman/CEO and CYLA vce chair Stacey Snider

The Sony Studios backlot was turned in a spring fair on Saturday night as A-listers turned out in force to support City Year, an organization that provides tutoring, mentorship and other services to thousands of at-risk youths around the country.

Jennifer Garner, Octavia Spencer, Josh Brolin and Jeffrey Katzenberg were just a few of the bold-faced names that lent their support to City Year, an organization that provides tutoring, mentorship and other services to thousands of at-risk youths around the country, on Saturday night.

Hundreds of guests gathered at the Sony Studios backlot to play games, feast on schoolyard classics like tater tots, burgers and pizza and pose for photos, either in a photo booth or with their favorite celebs. The cast of The Good Place was in particular demand, while Mr. Robot star Rami Malek took pics with fans.

However, amid the fun, the importance of City Year's work was not lost. Spencer, a longtime supporter of the organization, spoke about why she valued the help that they provided to disadvantaged communities.

"I really value education because I think it has a transformative power to change lives. Actually, education did change my life, and that's why City Year means so much to me, and that's why I'm here every year in support of this wonderful organization," she said. "These Americorp members standing before you serve side by side with teachers as tutors, mentors and role models in 31 Los Angeles schools to help keep students on track to graduate."

Tony Vinciquerra, the chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures, reflected on the group's humble beginnings and its explosive growth as an organization that serves tens of thousands of students every year. "This is the 30th anniversary of City Year. It started in Boston 30 years ago.... Two law students at Harvard Law School came up with this idea...and now it's in 28 cities and four countries," he said.

While the annual event is meant as a celebration of City Year's work, an unexpected tragedy cast a cloud over this year's event when Mary Jane Stevenson, the executive director of City Year Los Angeles, announced that one of their students had been killed in a shooting the night before.

"Sadly, tragedies like this one are not rare in our work or in the communities where we serve; however, they do not define us, nor do they define our students. Let them instead serve as a reminder of the reason we serve and as a reason our.. members dedicate their lives to their students every day," Stevenson said.

The evening ended when Charlie Puth took the stage and rocked the audience with several of his hits. He closed the night in a fitting way, performing his hit "See You Again" as a tribute to lost friends and loved ones.