The gala’s success

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By Optic Editorial Board

Could the success of Saturday night’s Highlands University President’s Gala be a watershed accomplishment for Las Vegas? To hear some people talking about the event, it just might be the beginning of something even bigger.

Of course, it’s easy to say it was a great success for a good cause, since more than $100,000 was netted for student scholarships, but what went into the gala, and what was celebrated, adds exponentially to its overall value.

The extravaganza was the result of an impressive volunteer effort. From the mariachi-serenaded red carpet walkway to the football team’s electric slide, it was an unforgettable evening created by a broad array of community leaders and Highlands enthusiasts. But of course, the 52-member gala committee needed someone with the right kind of organizing skills, and that person was Sharon Caballero, the executive director of the Highlands University Foundation.

For months she worked tirelessly with community volunteers to cover all the details, and she did something else that made her work all the more valuable — publicly, she tried to stay in the background. By doing so, she set an example, that this wasn’t about any one person, it was about Highlands, it was about raising money to help students continue their educations, and it was a tribute to the last five years under President Jim Fries.

The fact that the gala focused on Fries’ leadership transformed the event into more than a fund-raiser. It was a genuine celebration — and for good reason. Fries was hired to lead the university in the wake of some tumultuous times, and by all accounts he’s turned Highlands in the right direction. Its academics, faculty relations, facilities and finances have all improved dramatically in the past five years, and on Saturday, all that and more was celebrated with great fanfare.

Highlands is an integral part of Las Vegas. From its students and its graduates to its workforce and its economic impact, Highlands’ future is the community’s future.

That’s why so many people were willing to step up and work so hard to make the gala a success. And even though everyone is understandably exhausted by the work involved in pulling it off, its success does indeed beg the question: What’s next?

Maybe next time it won’t be a “purple tie affair.” Perhaps it will be some other united effort to support another worthy cause. After all, we just proved something to ourselves — that a whole lot of community divisions can be set aside when we decide to work on something we all believe in.