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Education Forward Arizona An InspirED Evening Oct. 20
By Angela Menninger - Wednesday Sep 21, 2022
Education Forward Arizona, a statewide nonprofit organization whose mission is to advocate for and act on education improvements that advance the quality of life for all Arizonans, today announced that it will hold an inaugural benefit dinner this fall in Scottsdale.
An InspirED Evening will take place Thursday, Oct. 20, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., in the Paradise Ballroom of the J.W. Marriott Camelback Inn in Scottsdale. The event will bring together individuals across the state to celebrate collaboration and innovation in education, from early learning through postsecondary attainment.

“Education Forward Arizona represents the willingness of people from all parts of the state – those of different races and ethnicities; those from rural, suburban, and urban areas; and those from business, education, philanthropic, nonprofit and other sectors – to work differently, collaboratively and more effectively to create better education opportunities, from early learning through postsecondary attainment,” said Rich Nickel, President and CEO of Education Forward Arizona.

During the event, Education Forward Arizona will honor Benito Almanza, Arizona president for Bank of America, as its inaugural Luminary Award recipient. Almanza has worked at Bank of America for 45 years, with the last 30 in Arizona and the past 21 as state president, the highest-ranking position at Bank of America in the state.

“I am honored to be the recipient of the inaugural Luminary Award from Education Forward Arizona,” said Almanza. “Education is the great equalizer; it has changed the trajectory of my own life and the lives of many others who have a similar background.”

Almanza grew up in humble beginnings, as a farmworker picking produce with other family members in California's Central Valley. He names his parents as his true heroes because they instilled the importance of education in him and his siblings at a young age. Both of his parents had only grade-school education, but they encouraged him and his two brothers to learn. He recalls that his dad was always reading something.

Obtaining an education, however, did not come easy for Almanza – in high school, his mother had to fight for him to be assigned a college prep counselor. “I felt embarrassed that I wasn’t good enough for college,” he said. “My parents told me that I was just as good as the others, but I would need to work extra hard to prove them wrong.”

Education was critical to Almanza’s success. He is a graduate of Stanford University and the University of Santa Clara. He is a member of the California State Bar Association and the U.S. District Court Northern District Association. Almanza is quick to point out that “education itself is important; however, what you do with it is paramount.”

“Benito’s life story illustrates how education can transform lives and illuminate the way for future leaders to serve our state,” said Nickel. “His commitment and passion to paying it forward along with how giving he is with his time and resources to support important local causes, like education, is an inspiration to many leaders in our state.”

All event proceeds will benefit Education Forward Arizona and its mission to advocate for and act on education improvements that advance the quality of life for all Arizonans. To become a sponsor of the event, visit and email:

About Education Forward Arizona
Education Forward Arizona was created to change the way people think about and support education as the key driver to improving the economy and quality of life in Arizona. The organization’s work includes providing scholarships and innovative programs to students and advocating for policies and funding that move the Achieve60AZ postsecondary attainment goal and other Arizona Education Progress Meter goals forward. Learn more at