Connections and Conversations
by Ellen Gruber, Development Coordinator
Twinkling lights and delicious Mediterranean cuisine set the stage for an evening of fun and inspiring conversation among the IEA community at our benefit dinner and silent auction hosted at Eden Garden Bar & Grill in Pasadena. Enthusiastic student volunteers from IEA’s Academy, EXPLORE, CDB and Yunasa programs greeted guests and invited them to pick up a wacky prop or two to pose for our photo booth (you can check out more photos on IEA’s Facebook page or our Instagram account #ISupportGifted) before walking through the restaurant’s gorgeous covered patio to connect with old friends and greet new members of the IEA family.
Cocktails and generous servings of hors d’oeuvres kept spirits high as guests perused IEA’s silent auction table, which included popular items like Disney Park Hopper tickets, behind-the-scenes tours of L.A. movie studios and museums, Lakers tickets and a highly-coveted Uber gift card. A half case of Bordeaux wine, generously donated by an IEA family, was offered as a special drawing prize for guest donations; IEA’s own Morgan Carrion and her husband, Mikel, who captured our evening through his beautiful photography, were the winners.
The evening’s emcee was Jason Roberts, an entrepreneur noted for his work as one of the first developers at Uber and the gifted parent of a gifted child. Jason provided insight and humor in his anecdotes as he discussed the impact that a high school mentor had on shaping his path and fueling his passion for mathematics and computer programming. He strives to inspire the same passion in his students through the accelerated math curriculum that he and his wife, Sandy, developed for their son’s PUSD school. Jason recalls his mentor pushing him not just to do better, but to do his best by setting the bar high (encouraging Jason to teach himself Calculus, for instance). Jason attributes this spirit of perseverance instilled by his mentor as a value that nourished him academically, strengthened him during difficult times, and fed his ambition as an entrepreneur.
Alumni speakers Sophie Romans and Teagan Lende echoed the importance of building a community to nurture gifted learners. As former Caroline D. Bradley Scholars, both received full scholarships to attend an optimally-matched high school that suited their unique learning needs, but in retrospect, it wasn’t the money that stood out to them as the most life-changing aspect of their time with IEA: “Growing up in North Dakota, I didn’t have access to any kind of gifted community,” Teagan admitted, “but IEA gave me a support network of adults and peers that I never thought I would have.” Sophie added, “This community is the most incredible group of people. I want to make sure that I stay close to support them in any way I can as a small thank you for the way they supported me.”
The program ended with a lively “paddle raise” conducted by Jason Roberts, who brought his infectious enthusiasm to the role of auctioneer. Guests eagerly pledged to donate, raising funds that will go directly towards supporting the children and families served by IEA’s customized programs.
IEA is sincerely grateful to all of our guests, especially our event’s Supporter-level patrons, Kimberly & Juan Balbuena and Seong Sik Jeon & Joo Eun Bae, for coming to the event. The evening would not have been possible without the generous support of our friends, including Art Center College of Design; Bridges Academy; Dugan & Dugan, P.C.; Gunn Psychological Services, Inc.; Jim Manoledes, Realtor; Mercer Educational Consulting; and Online G3. We would also like to thank our emcee, Jason Roberts, and Alumni speakers, Teagan Lende and Sophie Romans, for sharing their stories and providing a voice for gifted students, as well as our student volunteers Aditya Athota, Aveline Chen, Chloe Jiang, Ian Macklin Sims, Nico Symons Galassi and Ellie Surman. Thank you all for helping us create a magical evening and for being champions for gifted education!
As our guests departed, each was encouraged to participate in a tradition that IEA practices during our Yunasa summer camps. By “setting intentions” we create a clear idea of what we hope for, releasing our desires into the universe with trust and gratitude and ending our intention with the phrase, “and so it is.” At IEA, we intend that the adult members of our IEA family advocate for the extraordinary children in their lives, seeking the best possible learning environments, programs, and social opportunities for each child. We intend for the young gifted individuals in our community to receive the attentiveness, guidance, support, and acceptance they deserve.
And so it is.
Thank you to our business sponsors:
Jim Manoledes, Realtor, Broker Associate
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