Bill Bird contributed to this article
Three South Pasadena High School graduating seniors were awarded with $10,000 scholarships Monday night by the Oneonta Club.
Successful applicants were selected from the 2019 South Pasadena High School’s graduating class. Funds were raised through the Oneonta Club Foundation, which has provided scholarships for college bound students since 1975, when Phillip V Swan established the Foundation.
The three students were recognized for their community involvement as well as their academic achievements during a dinner at the War Memorial Building. Foundation President Bill Cullinane noted the selection process was especially difficult this year due to the large number of qualified applicants.
The scholarship awards went to Henry Barbera, Lauren Kafkaloff and Alekzander Grijalva Moreno.
Barbera, headed to UCLA in the fall, is a senior class president and an officer in the South Pasadena YMCA’s Youth & Government program. His major is in design media arts where he hopes to combine his interest in computer science with artwork that displays scientific concepts.
“I think initially I was astounded for even being nominated for an interview,” he said. “I was among so many honorable, talented students, I was honestly surprised, even though I have high self-esteem. To be honored by such a large organization that had so many people wanting to be in this position, it really feels special.”
Kafkaloff is student body president and has followed a high school career in numbers and computer sciences, leading and teaching her fellow students. She will continue her education in engineering and possibly business at the University of Pennsylvania.
“It’s absolutely incredible,” she said of the award. “We’re selected among very smart and talented students, so to be here is an amazing honor and pleasure to be represented by the school.”
Moreno is team captain of his cross country team and has spent his extracurricular time volunteering at the City of Hope.
“It’s pretty amazing,” said Moreno, who intends on studying at Harvey Mudd College starting in the fall, of the high honor.
“My family and I were a bit worried about the cost of attending Harvey Mudd University in Claremont, California where he plans to likely study physics and engineering. “It’s not the cheapest school out there, and so receiving this was like a sigh of relief. We’re super honored and grateful.”
In addition to the three scholarship winners, the Oneona Foundation presented two teachers –Julie Ryu and Laurie Thackery – from the South Pasadena Unified School District with honorariums.
Ryu is the Oneonta Club secondary teacher of the year representing the Middle School School. Ryu has advanced the English Language Development program at the middle school by creating an exciting, engaging and rich classroom experience for her students.
“I’m really excited and I feel so honored,” she said. “I don’t even know how to express myself because I feel really grateful that I’m getting this recognition. I also feel like so many other teachers do all this work, so I was surprised about getting recognition for work a lot of teachers already do. I was surprised by totally honored and grateful and accept the award.”
Thackery, representing Monterey Hills School is the Oneonta Club elementary teacher of the year. Thackery, a 4th grade teacher, has delighted students with her outstanding teaching methods in all areas; inspiring future geologists, authors and journalists through her stellar science and writing curriculum and instruction.
“I feel very honored,” said Thackery. “You don’t think about doing things for awards, and so it is a very pleasant surprise. I think it’s terrific that they give such generous scholarships to these students.”
The award presentations made on Monday were the Oneonta Club’s recognition of outstanding educators “within our highly acclaimed local school district,” said Oneonta Club President Mathew Crow. “The members of Oneonta Club are proud to recognize these dedicated individuals and their commitment to the students of South Pasadena”.
The Oneonta Club of South Pasadena, founded in 1923, is an organization of community leaders who meet monthly for dinner and programs of general interest.
Over the years, the Foundation has awarded well over $1 million to South Pasadena students and teachers.
Foundation President Bill Cullinane said that tax-deductible contributions from the public are welcome and greatly appreciated. Donations should be mailed to: The Oneonta Club Foundation, 1613 Chelsea Road #134, San Marino CA 91108.