City Hall Event Showcases Pasadena Unified’s Innovation Transformation

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Story and Videography: EDDIE RIVERA, Community Editor

4:48 am | May 12, 2016


Over 250 friends and supporters of the Pasadena Educational Foundation (PEF) joined together Wednesday evening for the foundation’s “Celebrating our Schools: Innovation 2016” fundraising event in the courtyard of the Pasadena City Hall.

“You simply cannot have a great city without great schools,” said Mayor Terry Tornek, in thanking the PEF for its work in supporting local schools.

The event, which was emceed by PEF Executive Director Patrick Conyers, also honored longtime community arts activist and PEF board member Joan Palmer, who was celebrated for her many years of service to the Pasadena arts community.

Palmer, who created the program, “My Masterpieces” —which gives every K-6 Pasadena student the opportunity to visit every museum in Pasadena—was awarded the Innovate 2016 Exemplary Service Award.

President of Virgin Galactic Steve Isakowitz, a Pasadena resident, and a key figure in developing the world’s first commercial spaceline, served as the evening’s keynote speaker.

“There are just about as many people here in this courtyard this evening, as there are the total number of people who have gone into space,” he told the crowd. “And at Virgin Galactic, we’re trying to change that.”

Isakowitz also spoke of his own educational challenges as a young boy growing up in Cleveland.

“I wanted to go to MIT, because that’s where the best engineers go, and there was one physics teacher who told me, ‘That’s too hard, don’t do that,’ but there was another teacher, an English teacher, who encouraged me to reach for that dream,” he said.

When Isakowitz asked how many in the audience would like to go into space, dozens of hands shot up. He laughed and said, “When I am done here, that number of hands will double.”

His resume now includes a wide variety of senior engineering, business, and management roles across the private and government sectors including NASA, where he served as Deputy Associate Administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate.

“With dedication and hard work, you can probably find a way to make that inspiration into a career. In fact, the hardest fields are the ones that most need the help from bright young people,” he told the group of teachers, students and supporters.

The event also featured 3D printing, poetry in Mandarin and English performed by dual language immersion students, computer coding demonstrations, “green screen” photo booths, and other activities, created by Pasadena students.

Finally, actress and PEF board member Jane Kaczmarek led a spirited auction that raised an additional $9,000 for the foundation, as the group auctioned off a private behind-the-scenes tour of the Virgin Galactic’s Mojave facility.

The Pasadena Educational Foundation has helped raise millions of dollars for the Pasadena Unified School District since its inception in 1971. For more, see http://www.pasedfoundation.org/