Newport Coast’s Joe and Sonya Lozowski to be honored for humanitarian work
Children in foster care are near and dear to the hearts of Joe and Sonya Lozowski.
The Lozowskis have five children — Alexandra, 27, Isabel, 26, Andrew, 20, Joey, 18, and Lily, 17. The latter three children were adopted out of the foster care system.
Sonya explained that Andrew, Joey and Lily are siblings that are actually her nephews and niece. But both birth parents were unable to take care of them. So Sonya, who at the time was a successful local doctor, flew them out from Flint, Mich., to the family home in Newport Coast when they were little.
“It broke my heart,” she said. “They were in four different foster care homes, all of which were bad situations. So I pulled them out, I came home and I said, ‘Joe, I think my calling has changed.’ With my new journey, a door opened and I needed to take care of these three kids.”
The family background is relevant because Joe, 62, and Sonya, 57, have dedicated much of their lives to improving situations for local at-risk youths. They joined the Orangewood Foundation, which offers foster and community youth services in Orange County, 14 years ago. Orangewood CEO Chris Simonsen was a former client of Joe Lozowski, who is president and CEO of Tangram Interiors, a commercial interior design company.
Joe and Sonya Lozowski were instrumental in the creation and continued prominence of Samueli Academy, a public charter high school in Santa Ana associated with Orangewood that opened in 2013.
On Thursday, they will be honored for their years of service at the 23rd annual Orangewood Foundation Ambassadors Luncheon. Joe and Sonya will be presented with the General William Lyon Crystal Vision Philanthropy Award at the luncheon, which is virtual this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was surprised that they asked me,” Joe said. “Usually it’s the big CEO types that they invite to get the awards.”
The Lozowskis may prefer to stay out of the spotlight but their work on the 650-student Samueli Academy, which serves community and foster care kids in seventh through 12th grade, has had a great impact. Joe was the co-chair of the capital campaign for the school.
Samueli Academy added a middle school building and a Student Innovation Center this year, executive director Anthony Saba said. The school hopes to open a new residence hall that will house up to 48 foster youth by January.
Saba said the Lozowskis have also contributed to college scholarships for school alumni, and Joe will sometimes visit campus to speak to students about entrepreneurship and business.
“They just continue to be there for us,” said Saba, who lives in Newport Beach. “It’s nice knowing that if I or the school needs anything, we just simply pick up the phone and call Joe and Sonya. More often than not, they’re willing to assist in any way they’re able to. When our mission is to serve some of the more needy youth, it really does take a village, and any village needs its chieftains, so to speak. These two have just been pioneers for us in the last eight years since the school’s opened.”
Joe said the success of Samueli is shown in the numbers. According to the school, which is still in distance learning due to COVID-19, 99% of students graduate and 97% of alumni attend college.
“You’re changing the lives of these kids for generations, and that’s the key,” Joe said. “You’re breaking the cycle of poverty, you’re breaking the cycle of homelessness, you’re breaking the cycle of not graduating from high school.
“The Samueli Academy is so important in the community because it creates the expectation that you’re going to graduate, going to go to college and going to have a successful life … We are a product of our expectations, and setting those expectations is what matters to these kids.”
Wes Moore, the CEO of the New York-based charity group Robin Hood Foundation, is the keynote speaker for Thursday’s Orangewood Foundation Ambassadors Luncheon. Joe Lozowski said he will ask Moore questions about his book, “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates.”
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