Lab employee's belief in education shapes his volunteer efforts

Nov. 19, 2013

Lab employee's belief in education shapes his volunteer efforts

Kenneth K Ma,
Editor's Note: This is one in a series of articles about Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory employees who volunteer for various non-profit agencies. This is just a sampling.

Bryan Balazs believes that education is one of the keys to improving people's lives throughout the world.

That's why he is pleased to see a new Helping Others More Effectively (HOME) Campaign charity, The Pedrozzi Scholarship Foundation, added to this year's list of charities the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) campaign supports.

In September, the Lawrence Livermore scientist, who is an associate program leader for budgets and planning in LLNL's B Division, was unanimously elected to the Pedrozzi Scholarship Foundation's Board of Directors.

Based on his past experiences and interests, he was selected to serve on the foundation's scholarship committee, which selects recipients each year and manages the process by which the scholarships are awarded to them.

The Lab's annual HOME Campaign gives more than 6,500 LLNL employees the opportunity to donate money to charities of their own choice through a one-time check or bi-weekly payroll deductions.

The Pedrozzi Scholarship Foundation awards hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to deserving graduates of Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District high schools. The scholarships are available to eligible graduates of all ages whose higher education goals range from a technical and vocational certification to a graduate degree.

"The scholarships are important because one of my goals is to reach a point where graduates of Livermore high schools are not limited in their pursuit of higher education or vocational training," Balazs said. "I believe education is critical to maintaining a good standard of living in the U.S., even more so in light of a global environment and the challenges we face."

Many potential students, he said, do not consider pursuing higher education because of financial difficulties.

"The foundation seeks to award talented students that have demonstrated their abilities or those with the potential to do so," said Balazs, adding that Pedrozzi is not a needs-based program.

Paula Orrell, president of the foundation's Board of Directors, said Balazs has a long history of experience in education and public outreach.

"We believe the contributions he offers will be an enormous asset to the mission of the Pedrozzi Scholarship Foundation," she said.

For the first time, contributions to the Pedrozzi scholarship fund can be made through the HOME Campaign this year.

"I have long been a supporter of the HOME Campaign because I believe the Lab and its employees should help the communities they live in by assisting those who are less fortunate," Balazs said.

Volunteering is in Balazs' DNA. In addition to his service with the Pedrozzi Foundation, he also supports other nonprofits such as the Tri-Valley Haven for Women, The Rotarian Foundation of Livermore, Open Heart Kitchen, Alameda County Community Food Bank and Tri-Valley Animal Rescue. All of these nonprofits are eligible for the HOME Campaign.

In addition to local nonprofits, Balazs has been volunteering for the American Chemical Society (ACS) for more than 20 years in various roles. This month, the 163,000-membered nonprofit based in Washington D.C. will vote on his candidacy to become 2014 President-Elect of this global organization with a $500 million budget.

"Chemistry is the solution to many global challenges," he said. "I believe in ACS' mission. I want to be a part of shaping its vision for the future."

Balazs has volunteered his time in many capacities, including being chair of ACS' California Section twice, which represents most of Northern California, including Livermore, with about 3,500 members. At the local and national levels, he's promoting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education to students from elementary to college and beyond.

"Education is one of the American Chemical Society's foundations," he said. "Science will help students compete in the global economy, discover a rewarding career, and help address many global challenges such as clean water, energy production and human health."

Tom Lane, the 2009 president of ACS, calls Balazs an exceptional leader who is dedicated to education and promoting chemistry.

"Bryan is accomplished in his field and has been widely recognized for his excellence," Lane said. "Bryan is committed to chemical education, the productive application of our discipline and STEM outreach."

As an ACS officer, Balazs has worked hard to get the public to support and recognize the value of science, and he is hoping to have the opportunity to lead the ACS at the national and international levels.

"I've been very fortunate to have had people who helped me in my life," he said. "My goal is to do the same for others."