Hollywood casting director and MHS graduate Tricia Wood honored as 2018 Outstanding Alumnus.

MIAMI - The Miami Public Schools Enrichment Foundation's annual Blue Event took on a 50s theme this year, "Put On Your Blue Suede Shoes," raising approximately $26,000 through a site project auction and donation pledges during a gala held Thursday, April 5 at the NEO Calcagno Ballroom.

Established in 1988, non-profit MPSEF provides funding to supplement and enrich education at Miami Public Schools and maintains a permanent endowment currently standing at approximately $1.5 million.

Donations for specific educational purposes are expended strictly for those purposes, while donations to the foundation’s general fund are held in the permanent endowment, with only the interest generated used for the purposes of the organizations, according to the MPSEF's official funding description.

Catered by Sodexo at NEO A&M College, the evening's buffet spread included diner and drive-in classics such as burgers, hot dogs, hashbrown patties and ice cream floats.

Tables were decorated with flowers, paper models of classic cars, and vinyl records and many attendees embraced the theme coming decked out in ponytails, letter jackets, Greaser attire and poodle skirts.

While exceptionally attended, there were some vacant chairs as the event fell during the first week of the ongoing statewide teacher walkout, with several educators still in Oklahoma City.

Tricia Wood was recognized as this year's Outstanding Alumnus, along with district teachers awarded approximately $12,000 in MPSEF education grants funded through the interest gained from the foundation's permanent endowment.

Wood, a graduate of Miami High School and member of the Cherokee Nation and Seneca-Cayuga tribes, was, unfortunately, unable to attend the event due to a scheduling conflict taking her out of the country.

MPSEF Board Member and retired Miami teacher Kay Bowman-Harvey accepted the award on her behalf for the evening and gave a summary of Wood's incredible and awarded success as a Hollywood casting director, best known for her work on films La La Land (2016), American Pastoral (2016) and Disturbia (2007).

Wood attended Oklahoma State University studying Architecture before relocating to California and pursuing a career in film full-time in the early 90s, starting as an intern. By 1999 she had teamed with her mentor and former Sr. Vice President at Paramount Pictures Studio, Deborah Aquila, to form an independent casting company. In 2014 Aquila Wood Casting joined Lionsgate Entertainment as their in-house casting department, according to the Tulsa Office of Film, Music, Arts & Culture.

This year, 12 grants were issued to Miami teachers to support individual education initiatives.

In lieu of a silent auction, this year attendees were provided pledge cards to make direct donations and later in the evening participated in a live auction to support site projects for district schools.

The auctioned School Site Project Grants were represented by a row of display tri-folds highlighting their purpose and goals.

Also recognized during the evening was the foundation's Robert S. Gee Scholars program which mentors teacher selected MPS students from as early as upper elementary and through their senior year in high school depending on participation, awarding scholarships based on academic excellence, leadership abilities, and socioeconomic need.

For more information about MPSEF and its programs, visit http://mpsef.com/.

Dorothy Ballard is the managing news editor of the Miami News-Record. Email her at dballard@miaminewsrecord.com and follow her on Twitter @dm_ballard.