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Sandeep Baweja on California city's schools board

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
October 04, 2007 21:51 IST
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Sandeep Baweja, an attorney with the Baweja Law Group, with offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County, has been elected to the Board of Trustees of the Irvine Public Schools Foundation - the largest public schools foundation in California.

Elected along with Baweja were community activist Delia Chin and Tae Kim, a certified financial planner with Prudential. Tim Shaw, chief executive of the Irvine Public Schools Foundation in announcing their election, said, 'Sandeep Baweja, Delia Chin, and Tae Kim represent the outstanding support that our schools receive from individuals and business leaders in our community.'

He said 'their creative drive and dedicated efforts help ensure that Irvine kids have the best education possible and we are proud and fortunate to have them on our board of trustees.'

The mission of the Irvine Public Schools Foundation is to provide community and corporate funding in support of public education and to manage child development and educational programmes in partnership with the Irvine Unified School District.

Baweja, who was born in Jaipur and raised in Seattle, Washington, in explaining how he came to be elected to the Foundation, told Rediff India Abroad: "I am working with the Foundation to develop a mock trial programme for middle school students, and as a result of this initial work with the Foundation, I was invited to be considered for the Foundation's board of trustees, which subsequently elected me."

He said he was enthusiastic about the opportunity because the district is considered one of the best in the nation, and that the main reason people move to Irvine is for the schools and the excellent quality of life there.

"Irvine has national recognised schools, with student performance well above state and national comparisons, with comprehensive programs in academics, the arts, and athletics," he added.

Thus, Baweja said that "to be part of the organisation that ensures that there are adequate resources for the school system is an exciting opportunity. As a product of public education myself -- from grade school through college -- I recognise the priority that public schools be sufficiently funded. It's important, therefore, that the schools have ample funding for its academic curriculum to athletics to after school programmes, so that students have a dynamic and thorough educational experience in preparation for the rigors of college -- and the Foundation assists in accomplishing this purpose."

He said his agenda would be "to increase the dynamics of the Foundation's work, for instance, by establishing a mock trial programme for middle school students."

Baweja, currently chairman of the Los Angeles Asian Bar Association, argued that "far too often, the legal profession is cast in a negative light, whether in the media or society generally. I want to help change that perception by working with youth at an earlier age to highlight the many positive attributes of the legal profession."

"I also hope to encourage students to become environmentally conscious at a younger age and hope to work with Foundation projects dedicated to environmental

education," he said. "The significance of the environment must be emphasiaed at an earlier age, so students gain respect for the environment early on."

In terms of bringing an Indian-American perspective, particularly in terms of addressing stereotyping and other prejudicial behaviour, Baweja said, "Irvine is home to one of the largest Indian-American populations in California -- and approximately one-third of Irvine's population is Asian."

"Promoting respect for all cultures, thus, is important and necessary among today's youths, who are tomorrow's business and civil leaders," he said, and pointed out that he was the only Indian American serving on the foundation and intended to ensure that the contributions of Indian culture remained recognised.

Besides being the president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association of Los Angeles, Baweja is also chair of the Asian Pacific Bar Association of California's Legislative Affairs Committee. He is also the past president of the South Asian Bar Association of Southern California and a past vice president of the National South Asian Bar Association.

In 2004, he served as chairman of the inaugural NASABA national conference in Los Angeles, and founding co-chair of the NASABA Foundation, of which he is the current vice president.

Baweja, who is involved in community and civic activities, provides pro bono legal counsel to the South Asian Helpline and Referral Agency, which serves domestic violence victims and their children, as a member of its Legal Advisory Committee, and is an ambassador for Artwallah, an organisation for the advancement of South Asian arts.

He received his BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with majors in philosophy, with an emphasis on ethics and public policy, and history.

While in college, Baweja interned for the Democratic Senator from New York Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

He earned his law degree from the Syracuse University College of Law, where he was associate editor of the Journal of Legislation and Policy, served on the Bankruptcy Moot Court Team, and was president of the Law Student Senate.

During law school, Baweja externed for the US Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California, Federal District Court for the Southern District of California, and Chief Judge of the US Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of New York.

In 2005, he was one of 12 lawyers statewide who was selected by the California State Bar to its Leadership Academy. Baweja has received numerous awards and accolades, including Certificates of Special Congressional Recognition from Congressman Adam Schiff and Congresswoman Linda Sanchez respectively, and also the Certificate of Recognition from the California State Senate and the California State Assembly.

While at the Syracuse University's College of Law, he received the Law Dean's Excellence Award, Outstanding Graduate Award, and Special Service Award.

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