Community Leaders Outsmart Each Other at Smart-A-Thon

Chad the robot makes an appearance at the Smart-A-Thon at USC-VHH. Members of the Crescenta Valley High School robotics team who designed and built Chad are, from left, Dylan Kim, 18, Chloe Schroeder, 18 and Renee Limonadi, 17.
Photos by Ruth SOWBY


Community leaders put on their thinking caps to compete for bragging rights by winning big on a trivia exam. But the exam wasn’t the only event at the 2024 Smart-A-Thon held in the council rooms at USC-VHH. Filling out a busy afternoon on March 27 were lunch, special presentations and musical entertainment at the 31st annual event, hosted by the Mary Pinola/Crescenta Valley Chamber Education Fund.  

The highlight of the Smart-A-Thon was a dancing robot. Students on the Crescenta Valley High School Falkon robotics team showed off the robot they designed and built named Chad. Chad danced and whirled in front of the 150 guests. Worth noting is that a team of 40 students has qualified for the robotics world championship to be held later this month in Houston. 

: Chad the robot from Crescenta Valley High School’s Falkon robotics waves “hello” to participants at the Smart-A-Thon on March 27. Wearing pink on the front row is Dr. Darneika Watson, GUSD superintendent.

Emcee for the event was Lt. Ryan Vienna from the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station. New Glendale Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Darneika Watson was introduced and posed for photos with Chad and robotics team students. Dr. Watson thanked “Crescenta Valley for the support you give to our community.”   

Smart-a-Thon emcee was Sheriff Lt. Ryan Vienna from the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station.

Another highlight, as part of the afternoon of many highlights, was the remarks by Steve Pierce, past executive director of the Crescenta Valley Chamber of Commerce. According to Pierce, the Education Fund has awarded “over $400,000 to this community.” Education Fund non-profits grant recipients awarded through a drawing at the event were the USC-VHH Foundation and the YMCA of the Foothills. Each will receive $500. 

Winning a $500 grant in a drawing from the Mary Pinola/Crescenta Valley Chamber Education Fund are leaders of the YMCA of the Foothills. They were recognized at the Smart-A-Thon.
Representing the USC-VHH Foundation are, from left, Sue Wilder, Tina Marie Ito and Janet Hamilton. The Foundation received a $500 grant through the Mary Pinola/Crescenta Valley Chamber Education Fund at the Smart-A-Thon.

The rest of the afternoon was devoted to test taking. (A sample question out of 75 questions was: “A chiropodist is a medical expert who specializes in what part of the human body?” The answer? The feet. ) All awaited the announcement of the winning teams.  

First place went to the Crescenta Valley High School students. Tying for second place were teams from the La Crescenta Woman’s Club, headed by Danette Erickson, and Crescenta Valley Insurance. Third place went to the USC-VHH Foundation.  

However, everyone was a winner as guests went home just a little smarter than they thought.

To make a donation to the Education Fund, visit

Smart-A-Thon participants cutting a rug with Chad the robot are, in black, Cathy Hunter of Team Jo Loomis and Vickie Guagliardo (in yellow) representing the La Crescenta Woman’s Club.