PNC Bank Senior Vice President Eva T. Blum, a first-generation American, stressed the role education played in her success as she spoke to hundreds of community leaders who gathered at Tuesday’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Business and Professional Breakfast.

Blum, who also is the bank’s director of community affairs, urged attendees to do all in their power to help today’s youth reach their full potential.

“These children are our future employees and clients. We cannot keep losing generations of children,” Blum said

The 13th annual breakfast was held at the College of Charleston’s TD Arena.

The event is one of YWCA of Greater Charleston’s primary fundraisers, and is co-sponsored by the city of Charleston.

“I know that if Dr. King were around today he would be working for early childhood education,” Mayor Joe Riley told the crowd. “We know that every child can learn and we know if we let those years be missed, then we diminish the capacity of that child to be successful in life.”

Blum directs PNC Grow Up Great, a $350 million bilingual, philanthropic program that supports early childhood education.

“We hoped that if we could put the power of our large company behind one cause we could make a difference,” Blum said.

She urged community leaders to take up the initiative’s goal of making a difference in a child’s life, and recalled King preaching a similar message.

“I remember my family watching TV together while we listened to him speak,” Blum said. “My family felt a deep connection to the ideals of Dr. King.”

Blum spoke of her parents’ struggles with religious discrimination and poverty in Europe, and their living through the Great Depression in the United States.

“They were determined that my brother and sister and I would have opportunities that they never had. They made sure that we would go to college,” Blum said.

Blum told audience members that her life changed when she received a full scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh.

She received a bachelor’s degree from the university in 1970 and graduated from its School of Law in 1973, according to her biography.

She later became a member of the Pennsylvania and Allegheny County bar associations, her biography states.

She serves on the school’s board of trustees.

“All of this stems from the fact that I was given a chance. A chance to be educated. A chance to work for a great company. A chance to make a difference in our community,” Blum said. “Education is critical for all of us. Children should be given access to the tools that will enable them to reach their full potential.”

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.