NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — One of the University of New Orleans’ most locally-known and celebrated alumni will return for graduation, this time as the featured speaker. Next month, non-profit Son of a Saint founder and CEO Sonny Lee will deliver the keynote address to thousands of graduates and their families.

Through his work with Son of a Saint, Lee has helped change the lives of countless pre-teen boys in New Orleans who are fatherless due to either death or incarceration. Each year, the non-profit welcomes a cohort of boys ranging in age from 10 to 12 and stays with them until they are 21, helping them develop life skills as they enter young adulthood.

Upon entry into the program, boys are provided counseling, mentorship, college and career prep, tutoring, tuition assistance, and even travel opportunities. Today, Son of a Saint helps nearly 200 young men with an operating budget of more than $4 million.

Once sitting in the same chairs as this year’s graduating class, Lee graduated from UNO with a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Management before earning his Executive Master’s degree in Nonprofit Administration from Notre Dame. He has since won several awards for his non-profit work, including the UNO’s Homer Hitt Distinguished Young Alumnus of the Year award in 2018.

Prior to his work at Son of a Saint, Lee served as Director of Operations for the New Orleans Zephyrs baseball team, and later alongside late New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson as his chief aide.

“I know our graduates will benefit from hearing Sonny’s story and will be inspired by his work to make our community a better place,” UNO President John Nicklow said in a statement. “He exemplifies the values of a UNO education, and he makes all of us very UNO proud.”

UNO spring commencement is scheduled for Friday, May 19 at 1 p.m. at the UNO Lakefront Arena.

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