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Group fosters art, health and science programs for Glendale schools

 Glendale Educational Foundation
Tommy Stender, 10 and in 5th grade, plays the violin during the Valley View Elementary School Band and Orchestra Instrumental Spring Concert at the La Crescenta school on Thursday, May 13, 2010.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

A year ago, a student in Gregg Boyadgian’s fifth-grade music class at Horace Mann Elementary School stopped speaking. She had lost a parent and fell into a deep depression. After the school provided her with a violin, she began to open up again.

“She only spoke to me at first,” Boyadgian said. “Through music, her problems at home were replaced with the positive.”

Because of the Glendale Educational Foundation and its latest successful project, “Save the Music,” elementary schools in the Glendale Unified School District can provide musical instruments and equipment for aspiring musicians who cannot afford them.

The foundation was established a decade ago, bringing educators, local businesses, alumni and community members together to support Glendale Unified and supplement funding for programs sometimes short-changed by the state, according to executive director Susan Hunt.

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“Right now, we have three main focus areas,” Hunt said. “Visual and performing arts; health and fitness; and science and technology.”

The organization’s next focus is the animation department at Glendale High School.

That project is a natural for one of the foundation’s biggest contributors, the Walt Disney Co. According to Hunt, Disney maintains a very good relationship with the foundation and the school district.

“We have been donating to the foundation since 2005,” said Joan McCarthy, senior manager of Disney’s L.A. Community Engagement department. “Since we are obviously a significant employer in Glendale and Burbank, it’s part of our role to be involved in the local community.”

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McCarthy, a former president of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce who served on many local boards and committees, has known Hunt for a long time.

“When [the foundation] first started talking about it — the Disney Co. was immediately excited and supportive,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy appreciates the idea of one entity providing funds, guidance and support to the school system while keeping everything in one place.

“It makes it easier for us to decide where to donate,” she said.

Disney provided the initial seed money to set up a state-of-the-art animation facility at Glendale High School. The company provided professional animators to consult with the school.

“Engaging kids in the story telling process nurtures creative thinking skills,” said McCarthy. “The great thing about the Glendale High School facility is that any student from high schools in the district can attend.”

Another of GEF’s “Distinguished Circle” of donors is Pacific BMW in Glendale.

Nick Lam, vice president of Pacific BMW in Glendale has served on the board of directors for GEF for six or seven years.

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“I was on the board of directors for Ascencia in Glendale for about seven years,” said Lam. “I met some people who were on the board of the Educational Foundation there and they told me about the good work they did and I asked Pacific BMW to donate.”

Hunt said that in the 10 years since it began, the foundation has donated $2.5 million to the school district. The money goes to the GUSD in a restricted fund earmarked for each specific foundation project.

GEF will be hosting its 10th annual State of the Schools Breakfast on Oct. 2 at Edison Elementary School from 7 to 8:30 a.m. For more information, call (818) 247-0466.

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Sal Polcino is a freelance writer.


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