Back row, from left: Councilmember Robert Joe, Janet Braun, Dr. Suzie Abajian, Gretchen Robinette, Ellen Wood, Betty Emirhanian. Seated, from left: School Board Member Julie Giulioni, Mary Urquhart, Barbara SInclair. Courtesy photo

On Saturday, April 14, South Pasadena School Board Member Dr. Suzie Abajian was honored as “Woman of the Year” for South Pasadena by Congresswoman Judy Chu. Dr. Abajian was one of 12 women from cities across the 27th Congressional District to be honored at the annual ceremony held in the San Marino Center on Huntington Drive.

Celebrating with her were many longtime members of Women Involved In South Pasadena Political Action (WISPPA). In introducing Dr. Abajian, Rep. Chu spoke of her background as an educator, advocate and community leader.

Among her many accomplishments, the congresswoman pointed out that Dr. Abajian has been a strong advocate for English Language Learners and that she sponsored the resolution that reaffirmed the school district’s commitment to a safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory school environment, regardless of students’ immigration status.

Chu went on to say, “I want to thank Suzie, because when the Muslim Travel Ban was first announced, she was the one that called me to alert me that 50 Muslims were being detained despite the fact that they had Green Cards. Because of her, I dropped everything and went down to LAX to try to free them. It was a very important moment.”

In her acceptance speech, Dr. Abajian drew attention to the recent missile attacks on Syria, while denying refugees from Syria entrance to the U.S. She stated that instead of bombing another country, “we should be focusing on fully funding education, healthcare for all, rebuilding infrastructure, equal pay for women and protecting the environment.”

Over the past twenty years, Dr. Abajian has been a K-12 teacher, a college professor, and an educational researcher. She has also served on the boards of local non-profits including WISPPA and Vecinos de South Pasadena. She is currently a member of the Delegate Assembly of the California School Board Association representing fourteen local school districts.

She has also been a strong supporter of the local and organic food movement and co-founded two Community Supported Agriculture pickup sites in the San Gabriel Valley and the Greater Los Angeles areas serving 1,500 families. Last year, Abajian received the Democrat of the Year Award in her Assembly District for her support and fundraising for progressive Democratic causes and for helping revitalize the South Pasadena Democratic Club. Abajian immigrated to the United States from Aleppo, Syria when she was twelve years old. She is the granddaughter of survivors of the Armenian Genocide.

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