Oneonta Club | Scholarships Awarded to Three SPHS Seniors

Oneonta Club Foundation honors students with $30,000 in scholarships and teachers with $2,000 in grants.

PHOTO: Oneonta Club | South News | L to R: Dean Serwin - Oneonta Club President, SPMS Principal Cheryl Busick, Andrew Adanto - SPMS 8th grade history teacher and Secondary Teacher of the Year, Dana Soibel, Zack Quezada, Charlie Betts, Laura Ishibashi - Arroyo Vista kindergarten teacher and Elementary Teacher of the Year, Geoff Yantz - SPUSD Superintendent, and William J (Bill) Cullinane - Oneonta Club Foundation President.

News provided by Oneonta Club Foundation

Each May South Pasadena’s Oneonta Club invites the Oneonta Club Foundation to take over the Club’s monthly meeting to award the Foundation’s Philip V. Swan $10,000 Scholarship to each of three worthy South Pasadena High School graduating seniors. Since 1955, the Oneonta Club has awarded nearly 140 outstanding SPHS students with cash scholarships (although it was only $150 back then).

Stepping to the podium, Foundation president Bill Cullinane declared, “Philip V. Swan created the Foundation in 1975 with nothing more than an idea and a clear vision of what he hoped to create,” to the gathering of nearly 100 Club members, South Pasadena School Board members, SPUSD officials, including Superintendent Yantz, awardees and their families, and other guests, “to recognize students with a passion for or about something, and who would use their talents to leave a mark on the world.”

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Cullinane then thanked the Foundation Board, welcomed this year’s scholarship winners to the select group they are joining and finally welcomed a very special guest, Philip A. Swan, son of the founder. Phil Jr. came to bear witness not only to the august tradition his father began nearly 50 years ago, but also for an event that has only occurred twice before, as Bill Cullinane surprised many by announcing his retirement as Foundation President, naming current Club president Dean Serwin as his successor.

After a sustained standing ovation in acknowledgement of Cullinane’s decade+ of dedicated service to the Foundation, Serwin noted that it was during Bill’s tenure that the scholarship amount reached $10,000, and then he introduced the awardees:

Zack Quezada will study Global Health this fall at USC, with a Pre-med emphasis in the Keck School of Medicine. Zack is very proud of his work implementing the monthly Senior Tech Day at the South Pasadena Senior Center. He served for 4 years as Chair of the South Pasadena Youth Commission, and still works for the Department of Parks and Recreation.  Zack opined of his playing both hockey on a national team and water polo at SPHS, “Too many young people give up fun for their perception of academic success. It does not have to be that way.”

Dana Soibel hopes to further her understanding of how a person’s implicit biases impact decision making when she matriculates at UCLA next year as an Applied Mathematics major with a minor in Economics. Her interest grew from a research project Dana did with a professor at the Caltech Center for Theoretical and Social Sciences. In addition to serving as an advisor on Teen Talk, a teen to teen global support hotline for 3 years, Dana has taught math for the Caltech Postdoctoral STEM for Families Program since 7th grade, and received a grant to extend her teaching of complicated math concepts to students at Arroyo Vista elementary, and even created her own initiative called Expanding Education, for students with less access to after-school activities.

Charlie Betts will be heading back East to Dartmouth College and studying Biological Sciences, on his road to becoming an MD. Whether it is getting human stem cells to accept jellyfish DNA, being voted Commissioner of Academics of the SPHS student body, earning the position of Chief Financial Officer on the Varsity Virtual Business Team, or simply finding a way to effectively tutor a young math student at Mathnasium, Charlie meets challenges head on and succeeds through careful thought, determination and kindness.

Foundation Liaison Carl von Bibra introduced this year’s Teachers of the Year and presented them with a commemorative plaque and a check for a $1000 honorarium in recognition of their outstanding service. From the Elementary schools, SPUSD selected 26-year veteran Arroyo Vista kindergarten teacher, Laura Ishibashi. Mrs. Ishibashi was introduced by Superintendent Yantz, who lauded “Laura’s unwavering passion and creativity she brings every day truly makes an impact on our future generation. She is dedicated and loving with her students, inspiring them to do their best.”

The secondary schools alternate years and this year, SP Middle School Principal Cheryl Busick selected the Foundation’s first 2-time winner, 8th grade history teacher, Andrew Adanto. Busick feted Adanto’s “talent for storytelling which engages his students and peeks their interest in history.” For himself, Mr. Adanto recalled being told on his first day at the Middle School 24 years ago how a colleague remarked to him that once you come to South Pasadena you never leave; true words for Andrew.

“We are all recognize how lucky we are to live in a community that not only values education and its educators, but is blessed with such talented and dedicated teachers like Laura and Andrew,” remarked Oneonta Club president, Dean Serwin. Also a Foundation board member, Serwin noted, “it is this dedication which yields such amazing students; picking 3 from the 40 applicants was quite a challenge.”

Through the vision of past Club President Philip V. Swan (for whom the Scholarship is named), the Oneonta Club Foundation was created in 1975 as a separate 501c3. The dedication and foresight of Swan along with that of his good friend Ross MacMichael (who served as the Foundation’s President for 22 years), and the wise stewardship of their friend Bill Cullinane created a lasting legacy in South Pasadena.

Since its founding in 1923, the Oneonta Club creed includes the following statement, “I further believe that only with confidence founded upon acquaintance, friendship and understanding may we render free and unselfish service to each other and our country”.

Through these scholarships and teacher grants, The Oneonta Club and The Oneonta Foundation both remain in service to the youth and teachers of South Pasadena, and support their growth into the leaders of tomorrow.