Acclaimed actor Leslie Odom Jr. wows Pittsburgh Promise students

Leslie Odom Jr., the Grammy winner, the Tony winner, had the many students who are part of the Pittsburgh Promise program in awe.

The acclaimed actor, singer and highly touted cast member in the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” performed during the Pittsburgh Promise “A Night of Promise” Gala on Nov. 2 at the Wyndham Grand Hotel, Downtown.

But the Pittsburgh Public Schools students had even more to smile about, as the Promise announced $4.8 million in new contributions to the scholarship fund.

“We are so grateful to the donors who made ‘A Night of Promise’ possible and who support Pittsburgh’s students as they pursue their dreams and prepare to contribute to our region’s workforce,” Saleem Ghubril, executive director of The Pittsburgh Promise, said in a statement. “‘A Night of Promise’ is a celebration of our kids and their accomplishments, as well as a call to action to make sure that thousands more can grow into the fullness of their promise.”

The new funding amount brings the total fundraising for The Promise to $213.4 million. Since 2008, The Pittsburgh Promise Scholarship Fund has invested more than $139 million in scholarships to send more than 9,300 youth on to a post-secondary education, according to a release by The Promise.

The $4.8 million raised came from The Grable Foundation ($2 million), The Buhl Foundation ($1.5 million), the Massey Charitable Trust ($120,000), and The Sentinels Society ($1.2 million).
Odom is no stranger to Pittsburgh, as he’s a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University. He received his bachelor’s degree from the school’s fine arts program in 2003.

On May 19, Odom was the keynote speaker at CMU’s commencement.

“I discovered that if there has been a guiding force in my life, beyond being incredibly fortunate and blessed, it has only been intention,” Odom said to the graduates, provided to the Courier in a release by CMU. “When you’re starting out especially—as all of you are about to do—it falls under the purview of things over which you have complete control.”

Odom also told the graduates that “we are speaking to the world around us all the time. Speaking, even before we utter a sound. You’ve begun the quiet humble process already, after all. Right here. You read, and invented, and wrote, and dreamed of the world you will now endeavor to build. You’ve prepared and made your intentions known. May it continue from here.”

Odom, 38, won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical as U.S. Vice President Aaron Burr in “Hamilton,” and won a Grammy Award as a principal soloist on the original cast recording of “Hamilton.”

Currently, one can see Odom as William Still in the movie, “Harriet,” a film that depicts the life of American icon Harriet Tubman. During an interview on “CBS This Morning,” Odom said that it was long overdue for movies like “Harriet” to be shown to the masses.

“I think for a long time there was this data around Hollywood that stories about Black life wouldn’t make money, certain stories starring African American women wouldn’t make money nationally or internationally, and I think more recently we have data finally that really proves that to not be true,” Odom said. “So we’re seeing our stories being told on the large screen, which is amazing.”

LESLIE ODOM JR., at the Pittsburgh Promise Gala, Nov. 2. (Photo by J.L. Martello) (Featured Image)

by Rob Taylor Jr., Courier Staff Writer

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