The Brilliance Gala hosted by Navarro Colleges of Ellis County was a night filled with surprises like the Waxahachie High School band pulling attendees into a conga line, but the money raised for student scholarships is serious business.

About 200 people attended the 8th annual gala held at the Waxahachie Civic Center on Saturday. On Monday, the college had collected $146,641 with some money still to be collected, said Lynn Pike, executive administrative assistant for the Navarro College Ellis County campuses, well above the $120,000 goal set for the night.

“We have helped over 800 students make the transition from high school to college,” said Kenneth Martin, president of Navarro's Ellis County campuses. “We are proud and all of this is for the leaders of tomorrow.”

While supporters of the gala directly impact hundreds of students at the Midlothian and Waxahachie campuses, those scholarship dollars will affect many more people beyond those students' college years, said guest speaker Chris York, president of Baylor Scott & White Waxahachie.

Scholarship money raised at the gala helps students like Rachel Chairez, a first generation college student who is active in the Navarro College student government, mentors other students and is currently competing for student of the year for the state of Texas, he said.

“The thing that struck me the most was in her spare time, she supports a child in China,” York said. “That is the impact of your giving here tonight.”

Investing time and money into a student like Chairez makes a difference, York said. As a high school student, his own parents had minimal education backgrounds and it was his high school coach and principal who fostered his dream to attend college.

“Someone invested in my life and gave me the audacious dream to go to college when I didn't grow up in a home that focused on education,” York said.

Today, he has the chance to impact the lives of Ellis County residents every day as he serves at the hospital, he said. Students that receive scholarships from the gala will also have a chance to impact many more and help break cycles of poverty, York said. Chairez is studying education and will multiply the investment made in her many times over, he said.

“Think of the thousands and thousands of lives she will touch through her career thanks to your giving,” York said.


Contact Bethany Kurtz at 469-517-1450 or email Follow her on Facebook at or on Twitter @bethmidlomirror.