Congratulations to the 2015 DiverCities Congressional Awards Honorees!

On Saturday, August 1, 2015, Congresswoman Judy Chu honored seven outstanding and diverse business people, volunteers, educators and non-profit organizations in the San Gabriel Valley at her 6th Annual DiverCities Congressional Awards Ceremony.

DiverCities is an event to recognize the diverse leadership and volunteerism in the cities that make up the 27th Congressional District. All the awardees were selected from nominations that were submitted by members of the community. The selected groups and individuals received this honor because of the commendable work they have accomplished in their field as well as their dedication to the community and the San Gabriel Valley as a whole.

 

 

Scott Hettrick - Business Person of the Year

Scott Hettrick has been creating newsworthy stories his entire life. In fact, this was Scott Hettrick’s job for 30 years as an entertainment business journalist where he reported on everything from visual effects and Imax, to the explosion of cable programming in the 1990s and the constantly evolving production and distribution of movies, TV shows, and video games on different media formats. As a former editor for Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, he is considered an industry expert and has been interviewed on “60 Minutes,” the “Today Show,” CNN, Wall Street Journal, New York Times and many more.  

Make no mistake, in the entertainment industry Scott Hettrick is considered a legend, but to many in the San Gabriel Valley he is the heart and soul of the City of Arcadia. In fact, when you ask him about his accomplishments he will rarely talk about himself and instead loves to speak about the great things happening in his town.   

For that reason it should come as no surprise that Scott has his finger on the pulse of all things Arcadia. He is the founder of  “Arcadias Best,” a news website and e-newsletter focused on providing its 5,000 plus subscribers with up-to-date information about important events occurring in the city. In addition, Scott not only gives residents updates on current events, he helps tell story of Arcadia’s past. As Chair of the Arcadia Historical Marker Committee he identifies areas of historical significance around Arcadia in order to share and preserve the city’s great heritage.

However, reporting the news is only a small part of Scott’s job. He is constantly making headlines himself and a lot of that can be attributed to the work of his own non-profit organization, the Arcadia’s Best Foundation. His group focuses on organizing community events that will foster a more vibrant, active and unified community. This includes the development of the 4th of July Arcadia Patriotic Festival, the establishment of the annual Arcadia’s Best Downtown Christmas Market, the creation of the monthly Carcadia Car Show, and the building of the annual One Community One Book program. On top of that, Scott serves as the current President for the Arcadia Library Foundation where he works hard to organize concerts and fundraisers for the Arcadia Library.   

As the CEO of the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce, Scott Hettrick has the responsibility of guiding the Arcadia business community through the changing business climate. He helps grow businesses by promoting them at major events like Taste of Arcadia and he connects them to vital resources such as the Small Business Developments Centers where they can get assistance on a variety of topics. Since Scott became CEO of the Arcadia Chamber, the Chamber has not only climbed into the Los Angeles Business Journal's Top 50 list of Chambers in L.A. County, despite representing a community of only 56,000 residents, they have has catapulted above most other San Gabriel Valley chambers of commerce to the top 25 in members and number 35 in revenue.

Scott and his wife Betty have been married for 35 years and have two wonderful daughters.

 

Anita Chu - Educator of the Year

A native of Hong Kong, Anita Chu had a poignant firsthand experience learning English when she left home for North America to pursue higher education. Her journey for almost the last thirty years has fueled her with a vision and a commitment to serve underprivileged students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

Anita Chu began her career as a teacher at the Garvey Unified School District in 1986 and is currently the Superintendent of the Garvey School District, where she feels honored and blessed to have worked with a multitude of exemplary educators. Since her appointment in November 2014, she has been working tirelessly to strengthen the District’s cultural foundation, exemplified by the core values of trust, respect, equity, and excellence. Under her leadership, the District is providing a quality program for all students  to help them become leaders in the 21st century.

Outside of the school district, Anita considers it a privilege to care for her father and mother who, with severe stage Alzheimer’s, has taught her what persevering commitment means.  Additionally, she has served as a counselor for a Church group of high school and college students who are new immigrants from China.  It is her hope that her personal journey will encourage and motivate these young lives as they struggle to turn challenges into opportunities and grow as leaders in a global society.

 

Community Organization of Pasadena for Advancement in Education - 
Non-Profit of the Year: West San Gabriel Valley

The Community Organization of Pasadena for Advancement in Education, also known as COPA, was established in Pasadena in June 1981 and will proudly celebrate its 35th Anniversary in the coming year. The founding women of COPA, most of them born and raised in Pasadena, noticed that the population in their city was changing and most noticeably the number of Latino residents was growing. However, despite the increasing number of Latinos in the community, it was clear that they were not properly represented in the Police Force, Fire Department, and local elected offices. This discrepancy motivated the founders of COPA to be proactive in helping bring change to Pasadena.  They chose to focus their efforts on organizing community and professional women of Pasadena so that they would assume leadership roles within the city.

Along the way COPA worked hard to be a resource for the Latina/Chicana Community by spreading information regarding important topics such as high dropout rates in school, teen pregnancy and opportunities for jobs and education. COPA also paved new ground by being one of the first organizations in the region to provide much needed services to struggling families and individuals with its Christmas and Thanksgiving baskets, as well as utility payments for low-income families. COPA continues to be very active in the larger community as well, participating as a member of the Pasadena Latino Coalition and staying involved in Candidate Forums, Voter Registration, Census taking, and Town Hall Meetings, among other things.

However, the area in which COPA has had the most impact has been in empowering young Latinas through higher education. Today COPA focuses a great deal of its energy on providing scholarships to deserving Latina students at each of the five high schools in the Pasadena Unified School District. Each year COPA awards five $1,000 scholarships to deserving seniors at Blair High School, Pasadena High School, John Muir High School, Marshall Fundamental School, and Rose City High School.

Their notable awardees have gone on to local colleges such as Pasadena City College, UCLA, and USC, while many others  have been admitted to schools such as Stanford, Harvard, and Yale. These scholarships go a long way in helping students meet the financial demands of college. However, the support from COPA extends far beyond just the scholarship. In fact, once a student earns a scholarship they become a part of the COPA family and its support network. COPA members go out of their way to provide personal guidance to each student by offering assistance with applying for additional scholarships or advice on tackling the emotional stresses of college.

For the members of COPA, this kind of work is personal, because each of them knows all too well how hard it is to go through college without any guidance or financial support. It is their mission to help empower the next generation of young Latina students so that one day they can come back to the San Gabriel Valley as leaders of the future. Additional information can be found at www.copapasadena.org.

 

Uncommon Good - Non-Profit of the Year: East San Gabriel Valley

Uncommon Good was established in 2000 by Executive Director Nancy Mintie, a remarkable woman who previously worked with homeless and low income families in the City of Los Angeles. While working with these families she noticed that many of the children were not going to college and being successful, thus creating a vicious cycle of poverty. This experience led her to realize that the best way to stem the problem of homelessness was to work with the youth that were most at risk of being the next generation of homeless.

For that reason Uncommon Good takes a holistic approach with the various programs it has. One of its most fundamental programs is the Connect to College Mentoring Program that supports students through their K-12 education and guides them on their journey to higher education. This is an all-inclusive program that provides students with mentoring, tutoring, college preparation, youth enrichment activities, and social service programs.

This is a highly successful program that is further enhanced by their Urban Agriculture Program. Through Uncommon Good’s Fiddleneck Family Farms, unemployed parents with farming expertise, and whose children are in the Connect to College program, are employed to raise entirely pesticide-free and chemical free fruits and vegetables for the Los Angeles and San Bernardino County markets. These lush fruits and vegetables are grown with higher standards than organic food and are sold to members of the community with all the profits supporting fair wages for the farmers as well as funding the various programs at Uncommon Good. Any unsold produce is distributed to low-income families who normally would not be able to afford these kinds of products.

This emphasis on chemical-free fruits and vegetables is part of a larger concept for Uncommon Good. The team believes that helping the poor and caring for the planet are inseparable tasks, because when resources are scare or environmental disasters occur, it is the poor who suffer most. For that reason all of their programs are deeply rooted with environmental sustainability in mind. In fact, their headquarters has set a new standard for modern architecture because 90% of the building is made out of the on-site soil where the structure resides! It is known as the Whole Earth Building and with its zero carbon footprint it has attracted visitors from all over the world because every aspect of its design takes into account the impacts on the environment. Sustainable materials are used for cabinets and fixtures, solar operated incinerating toilets conserve drinking water, electricity is supplied by photovoltaics, and earth air tunnels cool the outside air and pump it into the building with a solar fan.   

Uncommon Good has taken the idea of the holistic approach to an entirely new level by integrating student education, fair wages, healthy eating, and environmental sustainability all into one mission.  Additional information can be found at www.uncommongood.org.

 

Rev. Tyrone Skinner - Community Activist of the Year

Reverend Tyrone Skinner has been the Pastor of the Metropolitan Baptist Church for 25 years. He received his early training in the ministry at the Praises of Zion Baptist Church under the tutelage of Dr. J Benjamin Hardwick.

For the past 25 years Reverend Skinner has been a force for tremendous good in the San Gabriel Valley. He has worked hard to make his church the heart of the community so that it is a place for families to call home and a safe harbor for men and women who are struggling with their daily lives. For that reason Pastor Skinner goes above and beyond to engage the community. As a result of his efforts the Metropolitan Baptist Church works regularly to feed the hungry through various food drives, provide clothing to those in need and even promote voter registration so that everyone’s voice can be heard at the polls.

Reverend Skinner makes it a priority to always be pro-active in the community and nowhere is that more evident than in his non-profit organization the Metropolitan Community Action Services Corporation. For 9 years this group has worked with Pasadena City College and other churches in the area to put together the Young African American Males Conference held in September of each year. This conference attracts about 300 young men from the region, ranging from the ages of 12-25, in order to provide them with life-enhancing programs and services that are designed to foster personal development. The conference includes seminars on financial preparation, job skills development, and building a spirit of entrepreneurship. Thanks to Reverend Skinner these young men are better prepared to tackle head on the challenges of the world.

In addition to all the work that he does, Reverend Skinner is also constantly opening his doors to various organizations in the region that need a place to host their event. Along with the Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration and a number of other community events, Reverend Skinner helped host Congresswoman Judy Chu's annual Job Hunters Boot Camp at his church. 

Reverend Skinner was born on February 23, 1957 in Los Angeles, California. He preached his first public sermon at the age of ten. He and his wife, Trudell, have two children, Tyler and Trinity.

 

Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial Committee - Volunteer of the Year

On the night of April 24, 1915 the Ottoman Turkish government set into motion one of the worst chapter’s in our world’s history. It began rounding up hundreds of Armenian men, women and children across the Ottoman Empire. Many of them were sent on death marches across the desert without food or drink. And all of them were subjected to deportation, expropriation, abduction, torture, massacre, and starvation. All told, more than 1.5 million Armenian lives were lost during these tragic events.

For years the Armenian-American community has worked hard to shed light on these horrific events so that governments around the world, including our own, finally label these atrocities for what they really were: Genocide. Some of the most inspirational efforts have taken place in the City of Pasadena where a group of community leaders came together in April 2012 to establish a public memorial commemorating the Armenian Genocide.

The Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial Committee spent thousands of hours to make this memorial a reality. Each one of them played a vital role in the process by holding fundraisers, coordinating development with city officials, communicating with the media, sifting through project designs, and constantly engaging the community and soliciting feedback for a project that meant so much to so many.

Fortunately the support for this project was overwhelming and as result the committee was able to benefit from many professionals in the region who donated their services including the architect, engineer, designer, electrical consultant, water designer, plumbing consultant, landscape architect and many more. Because of their hard work and generosity the project saved thousands of dollars on important services that were needed to accomplish the goal.

In April of this year, after months of sacrifice and hard work, the committee marked the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide with the unveiling of the Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial. This remarkable design, created by Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design student Catherine Menard, eloquently captured the tragic elements of the timber structure that was used to hang so many great Armenian leaders, artists, and scholars. From within the memorial a “teardrop” slowly descends every 21 seconds into the fountain beneath it reminding us of the 1.5 million lives lost that will never be forgotten. 

Robert Kalunian and former Pasadena Police Chief Bernard Melekian co-chair the Board, which consists of retired Federal Court Judge Dikran Tevrizian, Levon Filian, Gary Jerjerian, Avo Kechichian, Sandra Siraganian, Shoghig Yepremian, Sgt. Greg Afsharian, David George Gevorkyan, and retired State Assemblymember Anthony Portantino.

For the members of the committee this project was a labor of love that will not only honor the lives lost during the genocide but will also educate future generations about the responsibility that they have in preventing future crimes against humanity. 

The Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial Committee (PAGMC) is a 501c3 non-profit organization. The Memorial Fund is maintained by the Community Foundation of the Verdugos which has served the community since 1956. Additional information can be found at www.pagmc.org

 

Michael Whitehead - Building Bridges Award

Michael L. Whitehead is an extremely involved and highly respected leader in the community. He serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the San Gabriel Valley Water Company headquartered in El Monte, California as well as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Arizona Water Company headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. Both these companies combined provide water service to over a million people. 

Since joining San Gabriel Valley Water Company, Michael has been actively involved in both management and legal counsel. Michael joined the San Gabriel Valley Water Company in 1979, serving as Vice President and General Counsel. As General Counsel, Michael has represented the company in state and federal courts and numerous regulatory agencies. He became President of the company in 1989 and was named Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer in 2010.

Michael is also a member of the Board of Directors of the San Gabriel Basin Water Quality Authority, a state agency formed to work closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), among others, to clean up contaminated groundwater.

As a highly respected leader on water issues, Michael was an integral part of helping designate the San Gabriel Mountains as a National Monument on October 10, 2014. He was instrumental in clarifying misinformation about how the designation would impact the San Gabriel Valley's largest source of drinking water and he worked tirelessly to bridge the differences between elected officials, water providers, environmental groups and concerned citizens. It is thanks to Michael Whitehead’s work in building consensus amongst differing stakeholders that we have a San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.

Michael is a Southern California native and was raised on the Westside of Los Angeles. He and his wife Margarita have three adult children and three young grandchildren.