Dr. Narenda Sharma works with a student at the Neighborhood Outreach Connection, which he founded in 2008. PHOTO SUBMITTED

The Foundation for Educational Excellence will host its annual Jewels and Jeans event from 6 to 9:30 p.m. March 5 at the Country Club of Hilton Head, 70 Skull Creek Dr.

The event will honor Dr. Narendra Sharma as this year’s recipient of the Peggy May Inspiration Award for his outstanding work at the Neighborhood Outreach Connection (NOC), which he founded in 2008.

The award, named in memory of the organization’s former board chair, recognizes those in the community who show extraordinary dedication to education and skills that inspire students.

Dr. Sharma retired to Hilton Head Island after working 30 years with World Bank, a career that allowed him to see firsthand the effects of poverty all over the world as well as the importance of education. It wasn’t long before Sharma took his skills and applied them to the community.

“Shortly into my retirement, I realized that I still had more to offer,” said Sharma in a press release. “Despite widely held perceptions of Hilton Head Island as a community of only wealthy retirees, I discovered that poverty was right here in our own backyard. This was a game-changer in my life.”

In 2008, Sharma founded NOC – in a borrowed space in an apartment – in order to help the poor through educational awareness, various health services, and workplace development. The organization strives to provide previously inaccessible technologies, benefits and education in order to give its beneficiaries equal opportunity in achieving the American dream.

Now, NOC serves more than 300 children and 350 adults and looks to spread its programs outside the Hilton Head area and into Bluffton, Beaufort and beyond.

Jackie Rosswurm, chairman of the board of directors of the Foundation for Educational Excellence, speaks highly of Dr. Sharma’s work in the community. “We make sure to choose someone who serves as an inspiration to both the community and the students,” Rosswurm said. “We believe the work Dr. Sharma has done is simply amazing.”

The Foundation was founded in 2007 as a way to support the Beaufort County School District by funding innovative grants and projects that “spark inquisitive minds.” As of fall 2015, the Foundation has raised more than $80,000 in support of inventive instructional activities that normally wouldn’t be funded by the school system’s budget, including robotics, weather studies and other science disciplines.

Jewels and Jeans event will feature both a silent and live auction, with proceeds going toward the funding of these grants. Tickets are $60 per person.

For more information, visit www.FoundationEdExcellence.com or call 843-415-2331. For more information on Dr. Sharma and NOC, visit www.noc-sc.org.

Sam Posthuma of Bluffton is a freelance writer and production assistant for The Bluffton Sun.