College Access Plan Pushes for Equity, One Student at a Time

Photo courtesy Dipti Vaidya
College Access Plan founder and Executive Director Mo Hyman has fought passionately for students in Pasadena to have fair access to a four-year college education — and all that it represents.

After more than a year of living under a pandemic cloud, College Access Plan founder and Executive Director Mo Hyman has found a way to celebrate silver linings.
And with reason, since CAP — a nonprofit advocate for four-year degree college access and attainment for underserved, underrepresented students — has achieved a lot recently to celebrate in 2021, its 15-year anniversary.
For one, CAP helped defeat the use in California of the SAT/ACT, that formidable and much-dreaded test that has long determined a college-bound student’s fate. CAP was one of six organizations that joined in bringing civil rights action against the University of California and its use of standardized exams in admissions decisions. The plaintiffs won a preliminary injunction, later upheld by a California First District Court of Appeals, barring the UCs from using the scores to determine acceptance.
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Food Pantry Feeds More Than the Hungry

Photo courtesy Yemi Kuku
With the pandemic limiting their volunteer options, Tony and Jacque Collier (above) spearheaded a neighborhood food pantry outside of their home in Altadena, which has fed thousands during the crises.

At the outset of the pandemic, Jacque Collier found herself feeling like a lot of people — directionless and bereft of motivation. But when she began having trouble getting out of bed, she decided, something had to give.
Collier, who in normal times dedicates her retirement to volunteering countless hours, was clinically depressed. And that just couldn’t stand.
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Against All Odds, This Pasadena Gym Survived the Pandemic

By Nina Aghadjanian
The Outlook

Coach Mike Ainis

After a year that forced countless gyms to shutter and many fitness industry workers to change careers, Pasadena’s Ultimate Fitness Breakthrough (UFB), a no-frills, boot camp-style gym owned by Michael Ainis, is still standing.
Ainis, commonly known as “Coach Mike,” has been running UFB since the gym’s founder — his sister Victoria, who battled mental health issues — tragically took her own life in 2015.
Little could he have predicted that this family tragedy, along with his experience as a former trainer for the obstacle-course event Spartan Race, would prepare him for another obstacle: surviving COVID-19.
Today, Ainis said he is $100,000 in debt. Despite having received a small financial loan through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), UFB’s line of credit is maxed out and income is down 35% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
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Hathaway-Sycamores, PUSD Partner to Help Students’ Mental Health

Photo courtesy Hathaway-Sycamores
Hathaway-Sycamores Assistant Vice President of School-Based Services Shefali D’Sa and School-Based Services Director Shannon San Pedro.

After a year of social distancing and remote learning, the mental health issues that children and teenagers are experiencing are soaring.
“Not only do students miss their friends and struggle with virtual learning, but many also have experienced deaths and job losses in their families, loss of housing (or fear of eviction) and food insecurity,” according to a Hathaway-Sycamores statement. “The stress, depression, and anxiety our youth are suffering is unprecedented and can lead to serious consequences. In fact, according to the CDC, attempted suicide and suicide are on the rise and are currently the second leading cause of death for teens.”
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Local Habitat for Humanity Welcomes New Executive Director

Photo courtesy SGV Habitat for Humanity
This San Gabriel Valley Habitat for Humanity family — Jocabed, Kathryn, Caleb, Harold, Idalia, Paula and Miriam — owns one of the homes in the Manzanita project in Pasadena.

The San Gabriel Valley Habitat for Humanity is experiencing an entire month of transformative events.
With a new executive director, the opening of pre-applications for its highly-anticipated affordable homeownership program and a month-long donation match, April is set to become a transformative month for the nonprofit and affordable homeownership in San Gabriel Valley.
Bryan Wong, the chapter’s newest executive director, takes the helm after significant capacity growth over the last three years under Mark Van Lue’s leadership.
“During my time at Habitat, we have grown from serving an average of five families per year to a new average of 27 families per year! This is indeed something to celebrate — and I couldn’t be more proud of what we have built with our donors, elected officials, corporate partners and supporters,” said former executive director, Mark Van Lue.
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Pet Store Donates $26K to PAWS/LA

Centinela Feed and Pet Supplies, which has a store in Pasadena, donated $26,429 to Los Angeles-based nonprofit agency PAWS/LA (Pets Are Wonderful Support/Los Angeles) in support of the agency’s efforts to assist people and pets in need. Pictured at their Pasadena store are owners Chris Nakagawa and Dwight Nakagawa, along with Dr. Debra Philips and Doug King, presenting the donation check to Jonathan Weedman and Steve Wayland of PAWS/LA. The contribution was a result of Centinela’s annual holiday fundraising campaign, and will help PAWS/LA continue to serve over 150 seniors and their beloved pets in the Pasadena area.

Local Woman Receives ‘Unsung Hero’ Honor

Juanita De Vaughn

Local resident Juanita De Vaughn was recognized by Assemblymember Chris Holden and the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) in a virtual ceremony as the 41st Assembly District’s 2021 Unsung Hero for her positive impact in the community.
“Juanita De Vaughn’s contributions to our community will have a powerful impact for years to come,” said Assemblymember Chris Holden. “Through her dedication and hard work, she carries on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and is an inspiration for future generations. I have known Juanita for many years and it is an honor and a privilege to recognize her.”
De Vaughn was born in Boligee, Alabama, where she began her career as a lifelong educator and civil rights activist. She taught at the Industrial School for Girls and Boys in Alabama, and worked as a dietician at Talladega College and as a nutritionist for the Head Start program in Birmingham.
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ArtCenter College’s President To Retire

Photo courtesy ArtCenter
Lorne Buchman, president of the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, announced that he will retire next year.

ArtCenter College of Design President Lorne M. Buchman announced his plans to retire on June 30, 2022, in a letter he has sent to the college community.
“My time at the college has represented, without question, the peak of my professional life, and I will be forever grateful to this remarkable community for the opportunity to serve as its president,” Buchman said. “It has been most energizing to witness how this college has evolved over the years… I am inspired by our transformation and quite dazzled by how far we have come in our commitment to create excellence in art and design education.”
While retiring from higher education, Buchman hinted at other projects he’d like to pursue, including writing another book — he recently completed “Make to Know: From Spaces of Uncertainty to Creative Discovery” (Thames & Hudson, August 2021) — and producing a documentary about the creative process, in addition to other innovative pursuits.
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Partnership for At-Risk Youth Seen as Symbiotic

Photo courtesy Diana Ramirez
Two nonprofit organizations, led by Give-Mentor-Love Foundation founder Donna Pierson (left) and Learning Works Charter School founder/CEO Mikala Rahn, have forged a partnership this year that is seen strengthening educational support for at-risk youth after high school.

Amid the unprecedented hardships and tragedies due to the peripheral pandemic fallout this past year, Pasadena’s nonprofit organizations have been seen rallying in creative and unusual ways to help fill the gap and heightened need.
While some organizations have worked around the clock to provide food, shelter or healthcare, others have pivoted to offer different services to meet their clients’ changing needs.
Others, meanwhile — such as Give-Mentor-Love Foundation and Learning Works Charter School — have dug deep to forge a new partnership to improve their core mission: serving Los Angeles County at-risk youths and young adults who are in crises, help them achieve high school diplomas and set them on a path to success.
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Father Boyle Featured in ‘One City, One Story’

Father Greg Boyle

To celebrate the 19th year of Pasadena’s “One City, One Story” community reading project, the public is invited to a conversation with Father Gregory Boyle, author of this year’s selected novel, “Tattoos on the Heart.” The virtual event will be held this Sunday, March 14, at 2 p.m. on Zoom.
Father Boyle will discuss his experiences writing “Tattoos on the Heart,” and a question-and-answer session led by Pasadena Public Library Director Michelle Perera will immediately follow. The event is free and open to the public. To attend, sign up at http://pasadena.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails?EventId=3992.
“Tattoos on the Heart” is a series of parables about kinship and redemption from Boyle, a pastor, activist and renowned speaker. In the book, he distills his experience working with gang members into a breathtaking series of stories inspired by faith.
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