On Thursday, March 9th, supporters from across the community gathered to celebrate at the James R. Halsey Foundation’s inaugural Red Carpet Night. Guests came dressed to the nines for an evening of film and fun. With dinner, drinks, and a whole lot of laughs, this one-of-a-kind event was officially underway.

Guests were welcomed with a soundtrack of feel-good tunes courtesy of the talented DJ Jimmy G. The evening’s entertainment kicked off with a stunning performance by the Nottingham High School Step Team. This performance was followed by a powerful rendition of P.O.D.’s “Youth of the Nation” by Trenton’s own The LOTUS Project. The entertainment portion of the evening concluded with a host of hilarity courtesy of the “Greek Goddess of Comedy”, Ellen Karis. After wonderful performances by these engaging entertainers, it was finally time to roll out the red carpet for the evening’s awards.

Comedian Ellen Karis

A panel of local “celebrities” put their acting chops on display, sharing with the crowd their own renditions of iconic movie scenes. Performances included:

  • Crystal Feliciano and Melissa Tenzer in “Thelma and Louise”
  • Jeff Vega and Bryan Evans in “A Few Good Men”
  • Jen Moran and Tomika Sommers in “Erin Brockovich”
  • Frank Luccheshi and Hal English in “Rocky III”

And of course, what fun is award season without a few trophies? One by one, these talented community advocates (and now actors!) were called up to collect their well-deserved awards. During their speeches, each nominee had the chance to share what this experience was like, as well as what the James R. Halsey Foundation has meant to them. Per Melissa Tenzer, “The James R. Halsey Foundation and the work they’re doing with the community, you would think that he’s been around with this organization for 20 years and it’s really been about 5. To have this many supporters here is a tribute to the work that he [Joseph Halsey] is doing in the community, working with the youth, working with film, giving students a safe place to be after school, to learn and grow and enrich their lives.”

The winner of this year’s Student Choice Award was Greater Trenton’s own Bryan Evans for his role as Lt. Daniel Kaffee in “A Few Good Men”. In his acceptance speech, he remarked on his appreciation for the James R. Halsey Foundation and the work they do to empower our community’s youth. Evans drew parallels between the work of the James R. Halsey Foundation and the efforts of Greater Trenton in elevating storytellers and giving the community a voice. Per Evans, “We love telling stories – Trenton Daily is a publication that I founded in 2018, and we’ve been telling the story of the Halsey Foundation for years. We love what they do.”

Evening’s winners from left to right: Hal English, Tomika Sommers, Bryan Evans, Melissa Tenzer, Crystal Feliciano, Jen Moran, and Jeff Vega

Joseph Halsey had some powerful remarks regarding what being a part of this organization has meant for him. Per Halsey, “It’s not what the kids do for us, it’s what they do for me. To see laughter and see young people create in a space that you know will be safe for them.” Continuing, he noted “We just finished a documentary called ‘I Got Shot’, and it goes through the stories of young people who live 10 minutes from where we’re sitting right now, in this beautiful building with quality, great decorations, and they’ve living in what they call a war zone. They’re more brave than any of us.”

The next award in order was the Hero of the Year award, which was presented to Harmony Taylor. This young lady overcame tremendous obstacles, taking turmoil and transforming it to a catalyst for positive change. Per Joseph Halsey, “I watched this young lady grow from a very innocent child to not be a victim, but survive.” Continuing, he noted “The reason why we’re giving this to her is because from that time, through all the tragedy after ‘I’ve Been Shot’, she said we’re going to do something.”

And do something she did. As a result of her own lived experiences, Harmony was inspired to create a group for young women of similar experiences and provide them with a positive community space. Together, these young ladies have enjoyed journaling workshops, Vision Board nights, and a variety of other activities to connect with their peers. Harmony’s own empowerment has been a catalyst of change for girls just like her, and the Hero of the Year award is an apt token of appreciation for this young lady’s tremendous efforts. Per Harmony, “I want to give a big thanks to Joe, because he’s inspired me and changed my life for the better. I’m proud of what I do and how I came here. It was a very rough journey but I made it through and I’m here today.”

The final award of the evening was the presentation of the first Lifetime Achievement Award. In her acceptance speech, she noted “All I can say is this [the organization] has surpassed anything I ever thought was going to happen. I’m so proud that you’re doing this with such heart, such passion and such understanding of all of the young people you work with as well as your staff. Most of all, I am standing up here, but everybody should look around, because we are al the ones supporting this.”

The James R. Halsey Foundation is an incredible resource for aspiring young filmmakers in the region. The organization, in partnership with the community, offers youth ages 14-18 a safe and educational environment to foster creativity. Youth receive hands-on training and experience that are crucial for a successful career in business and the arts. Per their mission statement, “We believe that art — specifically filmmaking is therapeutic and provides a common language that gives us the opportunity to expand our minds; bridging the gap between generations and breaking down socioeconomic barriers.” The James R. Halsey Foundation offers a world of opportunity to the youth that need it most, paving the way for the next generation of artists, filmmakers, and visionaries.

Although supporters may have enjoyed an evening of fun, the real reward will be seeing how the James R. Halsey Foundation continues to impact and improve the lives of our community’s youth. The Foundation continues to remain integral in shaping leaders of tomorrow, so we cannot wait for the next opportunity to roll out the red carpet for this incredible organization.

Students of the James R. Halsey Foundation

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