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Volume 15, Issue 42  | May 26, 2023Subscribe

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SchoolPower’s “JOY!’ is a jubilant success for Laguna schools

SchoolPower, Laguna Beach’s Education Foundation, hosted its 37th Annual Gala with the theme “JOY!’ on March 18 at Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club. Chaired by Shaheen Sheik-Sadhal, Ayesha Mahapatra and Anita Sankaran Piskun, the event brought together parents, community members, sponsors and educators in support of Laguna Beach students.

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Photos by Candice Dartez Photography

Event co-chair Shaheen Sheik-Sadhal and SchoolPower Past President Harpal Sadhal

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SchoolPower President Amy Francis-Dechary and SchoolPower trustee Paul Dechary

“‘JOY!’ was an effervescent experience – a night when Anita, Ayesha and I shared aspects of our South Asian culture to reflect the joy that SchoolPower brings to our students, staff and families. From trustee Ashley Brown’s stunning decor, to the Bollywood Flash Mob, to a sea of vibrant colors, we were thrilled to create an evening where we could all come together to celebrate the wins for our community,” said gala co-chair Shaheen Sheik-Sadhal.

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SchoolPower trustees Mike and Ashley Brown

After a festive cocktail reception on the lawn that featured a performance by Rang de Irvine, UCI’s Bhangra Dance Troupe, SchoolPower president Amy Dechary welcomed more than 325 guests in the ballroom, colorfully decorated with fresh florals by Gary Samuelian of FLOWER DADDY. Guests were entertained by a surprise flash mob made up of men from the SchoolPower board of trustees joined by LBUSD administrators. Both attendees and supporters from home bid furiously on unique auction items procured by the SchoolPower board of trustees under the leadership of auction chair Danielle Roedersheimer. The silent auction included jewelry pieces from Frederic H. Rubel, gorjana and Rock Martin; a collector Death Star Lego set; beauty treatments from Laguna Aesthetics and HēBē Skin Health and an activity-filled Sunday at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club with Farmers & Merchants Bank. The successful live auction featured stand-out travel and experiences, including getaways to the Big Island of Hawaii, Montage Healdsburg, a private home in Aspen during the X Games and a Nueva Vallarta penthouse as well as an In-N-Out Burger party truck, a Monster Jam extravaganza and a VIP Coachella package.

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At the podium, SchoolPower Executive Director Sarah Durand highlighted the success of three SchoolPower programs this last year

At the podium, SchoolPower Executive Director Sarah Durand highlighted the success of three SchoolPower programs this last year: The enrichment After School Program now coordinated by SchoolPower; the Family Resource Center in partnership with LBUSD and the SchoolPower Grant Program for educators. Grant recipients, including Jacquie Cohn (TOW) and Kathleen Margaretich (El Morro), Ivonne Redard (LBUSD), Jun Shen and Sarah Benson (LBHS), Grace Jones (LBHS) and Joe Vidal (TMS) then spoke of the impact on their students.

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(L-R) LBHS Principal Jason Allemann, Thurston Middle School Principal Joe Vidal and LBUSD Superintendent Jason Viloria

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(L-R) Lindsey Richland, Leigh Ann Donovan, Ashley Woravka, Carrie Gardner, Amber Offield and Michele Maniaci pose in pink

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(L-R) Tim and Staci Bina, Police Chief Jeff Calvert and his wife, Amy with SchoolPower trustees Meital and Aaron Taub

“The gala was really magical. Since we moved here three years ago, I’ve appreciated how enthusiastically parents give back. It’s been said before that giving is not about making a donation – it’s about making a difference,” said attendee and El Morro parent Lauren Boeck. “What a huge difference it makes when our Laguna community comes together in support of our students. Bryan and I are thrilled to support SchoolPower’s programs, including teacher grants and the After School Program classes.”

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SchoolPower trustees Bill and Kristine Flynn

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SchoolPower trustees Danielle and Jeff Roedersheimer

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(L-R) Tala Brinderson, SchoolPower trustee Nicole Anderson, Katrina Puffer, Kori Peters, Danielle Ward and Kristin Lewis

By the end of the night, more than $220,000 was raised for Laguna Beach students through the fund-a-need and auctions. Tickets are allocated through donations to SchoolPower’s annual campaign, which has raised more than $500,000 in the 2022-2023 school year. “What a joyful event!” said Durand. “I am so thankful for the team of staff and volunteers who put an extraordinary amount of time and energy into executing such a spectacular evening. I am always awed by the incredible generosity of our guests and love seeing the connections that are made when we gather together, united in our support of Laguna Beach students.”

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(L-R) Gina Christian and Andrea Ballesteros

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(L-R) SchoolPower trustee Elizabeth Hanauer and Elizabeth Manji

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SchoolPower trustees and LBUSD administrators dance in the surprise flash mob

SchoolPower is thankful to the 2023 Gala sponsors who helped make the event possible: Greenberg Traurig, Montage International, Angels Baseball Foundation, Fredric H. Rubel, FLOWER DADDY and Coast Film & Music Festival.

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Kristin and Steve Samuelian raise their paddle to support SchoolPower’s fund-a-need

SchoolPower is a non-profit education foundation with the mission to enrich the education and support the well-being of all children in the Laguna Beach Unified School District (LBUSD). They achieve their mission by providing programs, raising funds and uniting the community in support of Laguna Beach students. SchoolPower is governed by a board of trustees, most of whom are parents of LBUSD students. They rely on many hard-working volunteers, a small, dedicated staff and a generous community. Learn more about SchoolPower at

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