With basketball legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving as the keynote speaker, the Porter-Billups Leadership Academy raised $200,000 during its Jan. 26 gala at the Ritz-Carlton in Denver, according to a news release. More than 400 guests attended the sold-out event that included live and silent auctions.
The nonprofit academy supports Denver youths who have leadership potential. Through a three-week summer program and year-round support, youth develop skills to combat peer pressure, become leaders among their peers, see education as a path to success and graduate from high school and college.
Elementary students are nominated by teachers, counselors and principals. Students who complete seven years of the academy and qualify academically are provided scholarships for tuition and fees to attend Regis University.
Academy Executive Director Lonnie Porter welcomed guests to the gala, and former NBA All-Star and Denver native Chauncey Billups, who joined the academy's mission in 2006, introduced Dr. J., who did a sit-down with emcee Susie Wargin, midday DJ for 103.5 The Fox.
Three academy alumni spoke at the event, including Monique Gonzales, who graduates from Regis in May with a doctorate of pharmacy.
“I appreciate Regis University and the Denver community for their tremendous show of love for the PBLA,” Porter said in the news release.
Since longtime Regis men's basketball coach Porter retired from coaching and founded the PBLA in 1996, it has graduated 160 students, at least 92 percent of whom have gone to college. Twenty-eight of those students have graduated from Regis.
In 2006, Billups joined Porter and the academy was renamed. Billups, now an NBA analyst for ESPN, joins academy students each summer to provide support and motivation. Last year, he became a member of Regis University's Board of Trustees.