Scholarship Banquet Recognizes Outstanding Students and Teachers

Lisa Robinson and Oliver Valcorza, standing, were celebrated at Monday evening’s Oneonta Club Banquet as District Teachers of the Year. Kate Ba, Natalie Terhune, and Bethany Chen, seated, from left, were awarded the prestigious Oneonta Foundation Scholarships. See more photos on page 16. Photo by Harry Yadav

The Oneonta Foundation Monday evening awarded its three $10,000 Swan Scholarships to three graduating seniors from South Pasadena High School and honored two District-chosen teachers of the year during its annual Scholarship Awards Banquet.

Kate Ba, Bethany Chen and Natalie Terhune were recognized for their involvement in the community as well as their academic achievements in the classroom. The selection process was especially difficult this year due to the large number of well-qualified applicants, said Foundation President Bill Cullinane.

Ba, who will be attending UC Berkeley in the fall, has been involved in student activities as a future business leader from her earliest years on campus, organizing and leading many groups within the community. This year, she took the South Pasadena chapter of SkillsUSA to new heights as the organization’s varsity captain.

Chen’s primary academic areas of interest are math and chemistry, knowledge from which she hopes to one day use to transform the medical industry. She will be attending the University of Southern California in the fall, where she has already spent two and a half years working in a lab. Chen has also been dedicated to working locally with kids with special needs and was the co-captain of this year’s varsity girls golf team. 

Terhune caught the Foundation’s eye when, in her scholarship essay she described her first encounter with a human cadaver. Her colorful description included likening certain sounds heard during experience to the crackle and pop of Rice Krispies. Terhune, a 3.96 GPA student, will pursue her passion to become a forensic pathologist next year at UC Irvine.

“These students were not only chosen for their academic achievement, they were chosen because they each show promise to make a difference in the world,” said Cullinane. “One day, when they do, we can all look back and say, ‘we made a small contribution to their success.’”

In addition to the scholarship presentations, the evening featured the presentation of awards to teachers Lisa Robinson and Oliver Valcorza for their outstanding contributions to South Pasadena Unified School District.

Robinson, a third grade teacher at Marengo Elementary, was chosen as the Elementary School Teacher of the Year by SPUSD. Valcorza, a social studies and academic decathlon teacher at SPHS, was chosen as the Secondary School Teacher of the Year.

The Foundation annually recognizes outstanding examples of the school district’s staff.

“The awards are the Club’s recognition of outstanding educators within our highly acclaimed local school district,” said Oneonta Club President Alan Erlich. “The members of Oneonta Club are proud to recognize these dedicated individuals and their commitments to the students of South Pasadena.”

The evening also featured guest speaker Ed Donnelly, who talked about the D.U.D.E.S., an organization of South Pasadena dads who volunteer for different community and school events. Following Donnelly’s presentation, his band, Little Silver Hearts, performed a short set.

The event was attended by Superintendent Dr. Geoff Yantz, School Board President Jon Primuth and representatives from the offices of L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Assemblyman Chris Holden, Congresswoman Judy Chu and Anthony Portantino.