Letter to the Editor | Landmark Achievements of the Oneonta Scholarship Winners

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PHOTO: Bill Glazier | SouthPasadenan.com News | Bill Cullinane, President of the Oneonta Club Foundation, was recently honored along with his wife Diane and several others

Editor’s note: Bill Cullinane is president of the Oneonta Club Foundation. On Monday, May 12, Cullinane had the pleasure of introducing this year’s Philip V. Swan Oneonta Scholarship recipients, three deserving South Pasadena High School students, and those honored as Oneonta teachers of the year, at the War Memorial Building.

Recognizing the three South Pasadena High School students after they received $10,000 scholarships from the Oneonta Club and two dedicated teachers in the local school district for going the extra mile for others in the classroom

The students – Henry Barbera, Lauren Kafkaloff and Alekzander Moreno – earned $10,000 scholarships while the teachers – Julie Ryu and Laurie Thackery – from the South Pasadena Unified School District received were awarded $1,000 honorariums. The following is a portion of what Cullinane had to say:

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As we interviewed each of the scholarship recipients the tremendous support the schools received from the community was a common thread. Each of the three students had a deep appreciation and understanding of their good fortune to attend school in such a special place.

Their achievements are a direct reflection of the excellence in teaching we have honored. The Foundation awards $1,000 to each of the honored teachers in an effort to express our gratitude about their work in the classroom.

I would also like to recognize and honor two great men I have had the privilege to call friends. Philip V. Swan the founder and driving force behind the Foundation and Ross MacMichael his very good friend and president of the Foundation for 22 years. These two men were lost to all of us last year.

Philip V. Swan created the Foundation in 1975 with nothing more than an idea and a clear vision of what he hoped to create. Since that time with the generous gifts of the Oneonta Club Members and others who have helped significantly along the way. We have developed an endowment that can sustain the annual awarding of three $10,000 scholarships plus the teacher awards.

These two gentlemen cannot be replaced and have left an enduring legacy.   One of the gifts they left behind was the standard of excellence on which they never compromised. It is my/our goal at the Foundation to strive for the very high bar they have set. We owe them a great deal of gratitude.

The Oneonta Scholarship seeks to recognize those students who display a passion or commitment for or about something in their life. We are looking for the person that will achieve and one day make a difference in the world.

Lauren Kafkaloff is our first scholarship recipient this evening and a remarkable young women. Lauren grew up in South Pasadena and has spent her entire academic career in the South Pasadena School System. She has developed a passion for STEM and became very involved in NGC (next generation coding). Lauren established a curricula that could be accessed at home providing a resource for students to pursue coding. She then decided to teach “Femineers”, a Cal Poly Pomona sponsored robotics program oriented toward women. Her mission when she entered the program was to inspire young women as she helped them build machines and design wearable technology. Most importantly she watched as their enthusiasm for robotics and engineering grew.

Lauren serves as student body president and Editor In Chief of the school yearbook.

Going forward Lauren would like to specialize in the area of artificial intelligence. A quote from Lauren’s essay “Society fears artificial intelligence but I fear the lack thereof.

Henry Barbera, our next scholarship recipient, has a passion for politics. He is currently the High School Senior Class President and an officer within South Pasadena’s Local Youth ad Government Delegation. Henry has also developed a love of photography and has even hosted an event with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His reputation has developed to the point where he has 50,000 followers on social media. Henry has also sketched faces, made films and written narratives. He has always had an infatuation for STEM but it has only recently really captured his imagination. Henry is currently trying to learn how to code fractals (irregular geometric shapes that appear the same on all scales).

He is hoping his future academic career will have him learning about the arts alongside the sciences.

The final scholarship award winner this evening is Alekzander Moreno. Alekzander has dedicated himself to the South Pasadena High School Cross Country Team and as a Senior became the team Captain. He took his team to the State Championships which they had not qualified for in over two decades. Alekzander goes on to share how the season taught him a great deal about perseverance, leadership and teamwork. I am going to quote from Alekzander’s essay about his role as team Captain. “After every practice I would ask each individual runner about their workout and supply any motivation they seemed to need. As time went on, I noticed a rising work ethic and morale on the team.”

Academically He has largely engaged himself in molecular biology. In pursuit of this work, he has spent two years interning at the City of Hope and working alongside researchers on their projects. In his second summer he was allowed to work independently gathering useful data that was eventually presented on a formal research abstract.

These three scholarship winners are a reflection of the educational system we are privileged to have in South Pasadena. All of us here tonight would like to thank the teachers and staff for their dedication to our students. This scholarship awards dinner is a significant community event and I would like to thank everyone in attendance.

On a final note as long as I have the privilege of being the Foundation President and presenting the scholarship recipients at this meeting, my final words will always be the same – Philip V. Swan – Ross MacMichael.

– Bill Cullinane, President of the Oneonta Club Foundation