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Press Releases: Southern California

May 13, 2009

Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center Announces Community Leadership Scholarship Recipients

Students Volunteer 15,000 Hours to Bring Positive Change to Local Communities

LOS ANGELES — Nine students who volunteered more than 15,000 hours of combined community service to a variety of local programs from tutoring math to raising puppies for guide dog duty, will receive Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center’s 2009 Bill Coggins Community Leadership Scholarship Award. The students will be honored at the 37th Annual Pursuit of Excellence Dinner (5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m) on Wednesday, May 13, at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott Hotel, 5855 W. Century Blvd, Los Angeles.

The diverse group of students, while maintaining cumulative grade point averages in the 3.7 range, demonstrated a commitment to long hours of volunteerism in their communities. "I am always amazed and gratified by all the great community work the students have completed and am pleased to be able to support their work with this award," said Joanne A Robinson, M.Ed, executive director for the Kaiser Permanente Watts Counseling and Learning Center. “The dedicated young men and women clocked long hours mentoring, educating, advocating and making a positive difference in their communities.”

The Center’s scholarships, ranging from $700 to $2,000, are awarded to college-bound graduates who are achieving academic success and giving back to the community. The scholarship program, named in honor of Bill Coggins, the founding director of the Center, was established to encourage students to participate in community service and develop leadership skills while pursuing higher education.

A brief profile of each student follows and in-depth interviews with the students can be arranged.

  • Bryan Chavez of Agoura Hills (3.9 GPA at Agoura High School) volunteered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 15 months as a “puppy raiser” for Guide Dogs of America. In people time, that’s about 10,000 hours preparing and training dogs so the blind and visually impaired can have increased mobility and independence. He will attend Alleghany College in Pennsylvania.

  • Ayuna Collins of Los Angeles has volunteered 144 hours since 2007 at the Art Institute of California, teaching children’s drawing classes, and 200 hours at the Pacific Dance Academy in the past 5 years, where she has performed and taught dance classes for the disabled and hip hop classes to youth while addressing such issues as rape, violence, drug abuse, and racism. She attends the California Institute of the Arts.

  • Jonathan Curtis of Los Angeles has volunteered at United Gospel Outreach since 2005. He has donated 250 hours to benefit children and families in Los Angeles and Nigeria, and raised money to buy 600 T-shirts for children in Nigeria. At the West Angeles Education Enrichment program, he has given 310 hours as a tutor, providing college preparation information to parents and youth. He is a senior with a 3.5 GPA at Bishop Montgomery High School and will attend Howard University.

  • Ernestine Fu of Northridge has donated 1,040 hours of community service as the founder and president of Visual Arts and Music for Society. VAMS started out as a school club and has expanded to 31 high schools. With other volunteers, she organizes musical performances to help alleviate the impact of depression, poverty, and disability for people in Los Angeles and overseas. A senior at North Hollywood High School (4.4 GPA), she will attend Stanford University.

  • Joseph Levenson of Palos Verdes Estates is a senior at Palos Verdes High School. For two years, he has dedicated 250 hours to help improve the lives of foster and at-risk youth from ages 5 to13 years old at Peace4Kids in South Los Angeles (serving Watts, Willowbrook, and Compton). Joseph, a varsity tennis player, provides tennis lessons and other activities to help the youth develop life skills and increase their self-esteem. He will attend Stanford University.

  • Clare Miranda of Covina has volunteered 920 hours as a literacy tutor at the Covina Public Library for its Second Start Literacy Program. Since 2007, Clare has helped children develop their writing and journal skills. She also tutors them in math and other homework assignments. A junior at Mt. San Antonio College and she also attends California State University Fullerton where she is pursuing degrees in human communication and vocal music.

  • Martha Sanchez of Los Angeles, a student at Los Angeles Trade Tech College, plans to attend California State University, Dominguez Hills in the fall and enroll in the Negotiation, Conflict Resolution and Peace Building Program. Since 2003, Martha has volunteered more than 400 hours as a community organizer at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Martha, a single mother, has maintained a 3.66 GPA while raising her children.

  • Mary Shamlyan of Los Angeles, a senior at Hollywood High School with a 3.28 GPA, has been a volunteer at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center since April 2008 and has donated 1,404 community hours while serving in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. During the summer of 2008, Mary dedicated 30 to 35 hours per week. She will attend Santa Monica College in the fall. She plans to go into the medical field to become a physician assistant.

  • Ava Sun of Pacific Palisades maintains a 4.425 GPA in her senior year at Palisades Charter High School. Since 2005, Ava has been a volunteer for the American Red Cross. During the last 2 years she has volunteered 108 hours fundraising for Hurricane Katrina and the Australian brush fires. For the past 3 summers, she has donated 400 hours as a volunteer in a cardiac research lab at the University of California, Los Angeles. She plans to attend Yale University.

Editor’s Note: For more than 40 years, the Center has offered free or low-cost counseling, educational therapy, middle and high school outreach programs, and preschool for families living in the greater Watts area. The families need not be members of Kaiser Permanente to take advantage of the Center’s services.

About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is one of the nation’s leading integrated health plans. Founded in 1945, it is a nonprofit, group practice prepayment program with Southern California headquarters in Pasadena, California. Kaiser Permanente serves the health care needs of 3.3 million members in Southern California. Today, it encompasses the nonprofit Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and their subsidiaries, and the for-profit Southern California Permanente Medical Group. Kaiser Permanente's Southern California Region includes more than 55,800 technical, administrative and clerical employees and caregivers, and more than 6,400 physicians representing all specialties. More information about Kaiser Permanente can be found at