In honor of Women’s History Month, Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank) hosted the 25th Senate District Women of Distinction Awards Reception on Sunday, March 12 in Pasadena. The Senator recognized 15 accomplished women from across the Senate District who have positively contributed to their communities and the State of California. The honorees reside or work in Glendale, Pasadena, Burbank, Claremont, La Crescenta, Los Angeles, and La Verne and have exemplified and extended volunteerism, philanthropy, and leadership throughout all of the communities in our district.
The California State Legislature first recognized March as Women’s History Month in 1987 and has since continued the tradition. Each year, members of the State Legislature recognize exceptional women in their district with a celebration commemorating their efforts.
“I am proud to recognize 15 remarkable women who are dedicated to serving our communities with distinction,” stated Senator Portantino. “The breath of their successful efforts are reflected in countless individuals they have helped and inspired. They are all deserving of this special recognition and I am thankful to be in a position to shine a light on them and the difference they make for the 25th Senate District.”
Vannia De La Cuba, Pasadena: Ms. De La Cuba currently serves as the Deputy to the Mayor of the City of Pasadena. She is a passionate, community-driven individual who has dedicated her life to public service. Over the past 25 years, Ms. De La Cuba has focused on community building, civic engagement, building strategic relationships. She was instrumental in developing Pasadena’s first-ever Early Child Development Policy and working on its implementation through the establishment of the City of Pasadena’s Office of the Young Child.
Dr. G. Gabrielle Starr, Claremont: Dr. G. Gabrielle Starr serves as President of Pomona College and is a national voice on access to college for students of all backgrounds. President Starr works to strengthen the student pipeline from community colleges to four-year private institutions and ensure students from the full range of family incomes enroll in college. She currently serves on the Board of the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE) and on the Executive Committee of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU). President Starr is a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship and author of three books, with her latest, Just in Time: Neuroscience and the Temporality of Aesthetics.
Dr. Hilarie Dyson, Pasadena: Dr. Dyson currently serves as a principal at Los Angeles Unified School District and is a strong advocate and champion for children with over 30 years of experience in the field of education. She has worked to ensure the highest quality in early learning programs and has achieved national accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Dr. Dyson serves as Vice President of Membership for National Sorority of Phi Delta Kappa Inc. Beta Phi Chapter, Secretary for the NAACP Altadena Branch, and Program Chair of International Awareness & Involvement for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Pasadena Alumnae Chapter, among other organizations.
Dr. Frieda Jordan, Glendale: Dr. Jordan is the Co-Founder and President of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR), which was established in 1999 to bring the hope of life-saving bone marrow stem cell transplantation. She has served as Associate Director of the HLA and Immunogenetics Laboratory at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and headed the DNA Molecular Typing Division at Foundation Laboratory. In 2009, Dr. Jordan and her colleagues launched the ABMDR Stem Cell Harvesting Center in Armenia. ABMDR has recruited over 33,000 donors in 31 countries, identified close to 4,400 patients, and facilitated 39 bone marrow transplants to date. Dr. Jordan has also conducted workshops worldwide and co-authored numerous medical papers.
Edith M. Fuentes, Glendale: Ms. Fuentes is a Glendale resident who served as the City’s Planning and Zoning Administrator from 1993-2012, making her the longest running administrator and highest-ranking Filipino American Executive. She has authored several books, papers and articles for journals on the subject of planning, zoning, building and construction methods for universities and students. She is an Associate Member for the American Institute of Architects and has served as Board member and Past President of the Filipino-American Business Association of Glendale, as well as the local Soroptimist International.
Hasmik Keyribarian, Glendale: Over the past 20 years, Ms. Keyribarian has devoted herself whole-heartedly to the Armenian American Medical Society, an organization that provides professional development opportunities for health care providers and resources for the community to lead healthy lives. Through her work with the Armenian American Medical Society, she has led efforts to organize the annual Glendale Health Festival, which provides free vision, dental, and medical care for nearly 1,000 children and adults in the community. It is through her unwavering involvement in the Armenian community that she found herself volunteering with various organizations including the Armenian Education Foundation and the Western Diocese.
Joanna Linkchorst, La Crescenta: Ms. Linkchorst is a lifelong resident of the Crescenta Valley and served on the board of the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley and as a docent at the Autry Museum of the American West. She founded the Friends of Rockhaven and recruited other advocates to lead the charge for the preservation of the site. As President of Friends of Rockhaven, she has spent a decade leading tours, doing research, and telling the stories of the amazing women who worked and lived there. She continues give tours at Rockhaven and looks forward to the day when it will be open to the public.
Juliana Serrano, Pasadena: Ms. Serrano is the Vice President of Advocacy & Equity at Planned Parenthood Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley. Previously, she served as the Senior Associate for Peace & Justice and the Office for Creative Connections at All Saints Church for more than eleven years. Ms. Serrano worked alongside many faithful and dedicated activists and elected officials on efforts such as police reform, the fight for $15, immigrant rights, homelessness, affordable housing and more. She currently serves on the City of Pasadena’s first Community Police Oversight Commission, as well as the Boards of Director’s for Pasadenans Organizing for Progress and Learning Works Charter School.
Carmenita Helligar, Burbank: Ms. Helligar has lived in Burbank for almost 20 years and served on the Burbank Library Board of Trustees. Currently, she is board member of “Elevate Burbank,” a nonprofit that promotes cultural diversity in Burbank and co-founder of the “Destiny Education Project,” a nonprofit organization that advocates for racial justice on behalf of Burbank students. Ms. Helligar is a newly appointed Board member for the Burbank Chamber of Commerce. As an entrepreneur, Ms. Helligar is the Founder and CEO of Local As Can Bee, an e-commerce marketplace offering local retail brick-and-mortar businesses an online presence and the opportunity to sell their products globally.
Janet Kim, Los Angeles: Ms. Kim was born and raised in Los Feliz, a proud daughter of Korean immigrants. After attending Polytechnic School in Pasadena, she received her undergraduate degrees from New York University and a Master of Science from Johns Hopkins University. Her professional experience includes work in public health, infectious diseases research, security policy, and business development. She volunteered for many years with the League of Women Voters Homeless Action Committee and the International Rescue Committee Resettlement Office in the Immigration Department. In 2016, she joined the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council and in 2018 co-founded SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition.
Catherine Kim, Los Angeles: Ms. Kim has formerly served as the Vice President of Los Feliz Neighborhood Council and chair of the East Hollywood Los Feliz Homeless Coalition. She co-founded SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition (SELAH), a community-based volunteer organization dedicated to assisting her unhoused neighbors. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Kim was instrumental in guiding SELAH’s efforts to provide resources to the unhoused communities. In the fall of 2020, she joined the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services Housing For Health COVID Response Team as a Procurement Specialist. Ms. Kim’s work is currently focused on supporting the County’s efforts in COVID-19 vaccine administration, education, and outreach in the unhoused communities.
Celeste Voce, Los Angeles: Ms. Voce is a lifelong Southern Californian -- raised in Seal Beach, a graduate of Pitzer College in Claremont, and since graduating, a resident of the city of Los Angeles. She has volunteered with the LGBT Center's Leadership LAB, and their partner organization Changing the Conversation Together, as both a canvasser and training lead. She was also a founding member of CTC's diversity, equity, and inclusion working group. Celeste currently serves on the Board of Directors for SELAH Neighborhood Homeless Coalition, where she is also part of the Executive Committee. She also advocates for the population as part of the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council's Homeless Engagement Committee.
Suzanne Weerts, Burbank: Suzanne Weerts is active in the Burbank community as an arts, education and mental health advocate, and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local charities and Burbank Unified School District programs. She spent a decade on the Board of the Burbank Arts For All Foundation, and currently serves as a board member for the Burbank Human Relations Council and as a Burbank Cultural Arts Commissioner. Ms. Weerts has been a mentor with Young Storytellers and a speakers coach with TedX Pasadena Women and has produced and directed a dozen benefit shows at The Colony Theatre to raise money and awareness for Family Service Agency of Burbank.
Dr. Devorah Lieberman, La Verne: Dr. Devorah Lieberman is the 18th President of the University of La Verne. During her tenure, she has raised $128 million in the largest comprehensive campaign in institutional history, significantly increased funding for student scholarships and expanded the international student population. President Lieberman has increased the number of named colleges, endowed deans, and endowed faculty positions and significantly increased the institutional endowment. She is currently Chair-Elect of the New American Colleges & Universities (NAC&U), and serves on the Boards of the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities (CUMU), the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU). President Lieberman has broadly published books and articles in higher education literature on the topics of intercultural communication, faculty development, diversity, and institutional transformation. Among the numerous awards she has received is the Ellis Island Award.
Taleen Khatchadourian, Glendale: Ms. Khatchadourian has been an active member of the Armenian American community for many years and dedicated her time to Rose & Alex Pilibos Armenian School and organizations such as Homenetmen (Armenian General Athletic Union and Scouts) and the Armenian General Benevolent Union. Ms. Khatchdourian has served as Board Adviser to the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry since its inception, co-chairing its first Walk of Life and receiving the Volunteer of the Year Award in 2009 and again in 2015. Recently, Ms. Khatchadourian joined Guidelight Group and has worked to assist transition aged teens and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities by advocating for their needs and navigating the resources they require to live their best life. Ms. Khatchadourian is the current Board President of the Armenian Autism Outreach Project, with a mission to support individuals and families effected by autism, while educating the community for a meaningful integration for all individuals.