New Pasadena Boarding School Breaks Ground to the Tune of Recycled Orchestra Music

Published : Monday, September 30, 2019 | 5:04 AM

EF Academy officially broke ground in Pasadena on September 26. Pictured at top above, from left to right: Marcos Velayos, Partner, Park & Velayos; Jessica Hazelton, VP, EF Properties; Meghan Conway, VP of Development, EF Properties; George Stewart, Founding Head of School, EF Academy; Sarkis Nazerean, Head of Pasadena Building and Safety; Terry Tornek, Mayor, City of Pasadena; David Wideberg, President, EF Academy; Steve Mermell, Pasadena City Manager; David Reyes, Pasadena Planning Director; and Shawna Marino, VP, EF Properties. Above at bottom, the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, Paraguay. Courtesy photos.

City officials, school representatives and even the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, Paraguay, were on hand to celebrate the groundbreaking of EF Academy, a new boarding school in Pasadena.

A surprise mini-concert by the Paraguayan orchestra of young musicians, whose instruments are made of recycled trash, was the highlight of a day which celebrated the collaboration of the City of Pasadena and the Swiss company which operates the school.

“Pasadena is thrilled to welcome EF Academy’s first-class institution and international young scholars to our city,” said Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, who spoke at the groundbreaking ceremony. “We believe the school will complement our diverse, vibrant community and that students will benefit from the many opportunities available right at their doorstep.”

Shawna Marino, Vice President of EF Properties said the groundbreaking represents a collaborative process.

“We’ve been working closely with City of Pasadena for 18 months to repurpose the campus,” Marino said. “We will now be in a heavy construction period for the next 12 months.”

It was appropriate that the officials, including Pasadena Mayor Tornek and others would be serenaded by a group whose focus is to show that beauty can come from repurposing and recycling.

That’s because the school and the City have worked to preserve the existing William Carey building McGavran Hall, located on the property, school officials said.

Marino said the music highlighted all the emotion that attendees felt.

“They played three songs and at the end gifted a handmade violin made of recycled trash, it was a really touching, incredible performance. EF is inspired by their story,” Marino said.

In addition to Mayor Tornek, also on hand were City Manager Stephen Mermell and Pasadena Director of Planning David Reyes, building officials and many other city staff from planning and publc works.

EF president David Widenberg flew in from Zurich, Switzerland for the event, as did George Stewart, Founding Head of School, EF Academy.

“Breaking ground on this campus in Pasadena is a huge milestone for EF Academy,” Marino said. “We have spent two and a half years looking for the perfect West Coast campus and finding the former William Carey international site, we feel we were incredibly lucky.”

The opening of EF Academy is expected to bring immediate financial benefits to the City of Pasadena, including 750 construction jobs, 150 permanent jobs, $5 million in annual spending at local businesses, and $1.1 million annually in new commercial property tax revenue, the company said.

EF Academy representatives stressed the school wants to be a good community member.

“We’re looking forward to repurposing and revitalizing the E Washington Villiage,” Marino said. “This is a neighborhood with a lot of history and character and we’re looking forward to being part of the community.

The project has Pasadenans among its fans.

“I’ve been a supporter of this project from the start because EF Academy is an impressive institution with a track record of making a significant local impact, especially on small businesses,” said Pasadena Councilmember Margaret McAustin. “I appreciate the EF team’s ongoing outreach to their neighbors and the community at large, and look forward to a long-lasting partnership.”

The boarding school draws students from all over the world, Marino said.

“For EF Academy, the Pasadena campus is exciting because we only have one campus in the United States and this gives our students from all over the world, 75 different countries, the opportunity to study in Pasadena and have an opportunity to explore Southern California,” she said. “For students from around the world this is a great opportunity.”

And equally important to collaborating with the City over the site specifics, Marino said the campus wants to also be a good neighbor.

“We’ve had dozens of community interactions,” she said. “We have a well-used community email address and phone number. We’ve really tried to listen to the community members so that it would work for not only us, and the City, but also for the community.”

“We’re honored to get to this important milestone,” Marino said. “It’s been a partnership not only with the neighbors but also the City of Pasadena and we’re on our way to opening the school in September 2020.”

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