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LEADER ENERGIZES SCHOOLS FOUNDATION.

Byline: Karen Maeshiro Staff Writer

LANCASTER - San Juanita Garibay, head of the Antelope Valley High Schools Education Foundation, has been likened to that juggler on ``The Ed Sullivan Show'' who kept all the plates spinning on the long poles.

Since taking over as executive director in July, Garibay, who goes by the name Jenny, is moving the foundation forward with more scholarships, grant writing workshops for educators, hygiene and health programs for low-income students, and parenting and adult English-as-a-second-language classes at Littlerock High School.

``Jenny has been phenomenal, I have to say. She's a whirling dervish,'' said Sandra Sobo, director of Littlerock High's community center, which provides programs for parents. ``She's turned this place upside down. I can't say enough about her. She's helped me so much. It's her passion. It's her passion to help these kids out here.''

Garibay is using her nearly 30 years of experience in nonprofit organizations to expand the foundation's services and focus.

``I believe you have to serve the entire community. You can't limit it to high school students,'' said Garibay, 49, of Lancaster. ``It's very hard for me to not look at the whole community. It's hard for me to say I'm only going to work with the high schools when I know the need goes across a larger area. High schools are still the main priority.''

A little history

The foundation board had been running the organization before Garibay was hired. Former foundation Executive Director Jill Harris resigned in November 1999 and board members tried unsuccessfully to prosecute her on charges she pocketed more than $2,000 paid by a local food bank to sublease office space.

Prosecutors in July 2000 dropped a grand theft charge, saying allegations of misappropriated rent would be better handled in civil court.

Harris sued the foundation in June 2000 for wrongful termination; the suit was eventually dropped under a settlement with a confidentiality clause. She filed a second lawsuit last July alleging malicious prosecution.

Garibay had previously worked for 1 1/2 years at the Children's Center as a grant writer and director for the center's home-based program. She also volunteered with the foundation.

When the job of executive director came open, Garibay said she applied for it. ``I felt I had something I could give to the foundation and to the Antelope Valley,'' Garibay said.

Garibay has expanded the foundation's reach with programs beyond the after-school programs it runs at three elementary schools, a preschool on Palmdale Boulevard, and the annual Festival of Trees fund-raiser, which benefits high school booster clubs.

The foundation is offering 16 scholarships this year to high school students, ranging from $250 to $1,000 each.

Seven scholarships will be offered through the Ron Emard Cherish the Child Scholarship program, which originated at the Antelope Valley Children's Center and goes to students pursuing careers that involve working with children, such as social work and psychology.

Ron Emard is the foundation board president and general manager of Robertson Honda.

Eight scholarships will be handed out to students who are going into teaching and funded by the annual Thunder on the Lot charity car show, Garibay said.

The $250 Desiree Martinez Scholarship will be given to a Latino female. The scholarship is named after the daughter of local insurance business owner Maria Chamberlain, who is funding the scholarship, Garibay said.

``(Chamberlain) is hoping to start a scholarship for single, Hispanic mothers to go to college,'' Garibay said.

With the help of Boeing, the foundation put on a grant writing seminar for high school educators on how to apply for Boeing grants, which are geared to science, math and literacy.

Boeing also awarded the foundation a $5,000 grant to provide hygiene kits for economically disadvantaged children. ``Every month we give students a tooth brush, toothpaste and washcloths and have a hygienist or nurse come out and do after-school programs,'' Garibay said.

Sobo said the foundation will fund a parenting class at the Littlerock High community center starting in September, and that Garibay is presently working on a grant to open an after-school program at Littlerock for high school students.

The foundation also helps distribute minigrants of $250 on behalf of Waste Management and offers grant-writing advice to other organizations.

``I think she's doing a very fine job,'' said board member Tom Ward, a Lancaster attorney. ``The one thing that is positive at this stage is how much more involvement there is today with the high schools. We are doing more things for high schools between scholarships and money raised through the Festival of Trees. Actually today there is more involvement directly with high schools in providing funds to high schools than there was two years ago.''

``What's happening now is we are going forward with different programs, and with Jenny at the helm it's doing real well,'' Emard said. ``She brings a lot of energy to the foundation. She is very gifted at what she does.''

History of helping

Garibay was born in Wyoming and grew up in Fresno, where she got her start in community work. Her first job was organizing a rural youth council in Fresno County that helped place youths in jobs.

She notes proudly that one of her placements is now a vice president at Bank of America.

She then moved to San Jose and then New Jersey, where she ran a program administering college scholarships.

She moved to the Antelope Valley nearly 2 1/2 years ago after her husband, a systems analyst for Computer Sciences Corp., was transferred to a job at a Federal Aviation Administration facility in Palmdale.

He's going back to New Jersey on April 1, but Garibay said she is staying.

``I've made a commitment to stay here five years. I'm not finished. I told my husband I'm not done,'' Garibay said. ``He understands.''

One of her goals is to shift the responsibility of running and operating the after-school programs to the schools.

``We don't want to run the programs, we want them to get funded. We want to give more money to the community and help people operate them,'' Garibay said.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 25, 2002
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