Author: Andrea Tuemmler
Education professor Suzie Abajian ’98 kicked off her campaign for the South Pasadena Unified School District (SPUSD) board of education with a fundraiser Sept. 19.
Abajian is running against Joe Loo and Jon Primuth for two available positions on the board. Loo is an incumbent and has served on the board for 13 years, while Primuth, an attorney, is the former president of the South Pasadena Educational Foundation.
An Occidental adjunct professor in the education department, Abajian has been involved in education for 16 years as a mathematics teacher, education researcher and professor.
If elected, Abajian said she will focus on improving mathematics curricula and providing more support for students in math, especially at the high school level. She will also stress the importance of providing support for special needs students as well as well-rounded education that is not simply focused on test-taking.
Her experience working for higher education institutions provides a basis for another part of her agenda: collaboration between SPUSD and different colleges and universities.
“One interesting need that we’ve had is the need for mentors and tutors at our high school and junior high levels,” Abajian said. “I see a lot of potential there to build bridges between Oxy students and also students at South Pasadena High.”
She would like to see programs at Occidental and other colleges promoted to high school students to better inform them of potential academic opportunities after graduation.
Abajian ran for the school board in 2013, losing by around 100 votes. Undeterred in the current race, she has received endorsements from leaders such as South Pasadena Mayor Bob Joe, State Senator Carol Liu and U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu.
“I think that it’s important for people like myself to engage in the democratic process,” Abajian said. “I think a lot of people in my generation and younger generations are disengaged from the political process because they don’t feel that they can make a difference, but I want to encourage people to be involved, especially at the local level.”
Although campaigning requires considerable networking and fundraising, Abajian said she is accustomed to balancing many different commitments. On campus, Abajian currently teaches two classes.
Lisa Chang (senior), a student in her Politics and Pedagogy of First and Second Language Acquisition class, said Abajian’s campaign has not interfered in her teaching. Students seem excited and supportive of her candidacy, according to Chang.
In addition to teaching at Occidental, Abajian runs two businesses — a small consulting firm and a community-supported agriculture business that provides families with produce from local organic farms.
Abajian also works with local non-profits such as Vecinos de South Pasadena, an organization that supports Latino culture, community and education in South Pasadena by holding events such as book drives and cultural celebrations.
The election will take place Nov. 3. More information about Abajian’s campaign can be found at www.suzieabajian.com.
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