Citizen of the Year Recipients

  • The Hillsborough Schools' Citizen of the Year Award honors a resident who has made a sustained and significant contribution to Hillsborough, especially to the education and well being of our children. Nominees should be widely recognized as respected leaders who have created a lasting legacy for our community. Typically the nominee will have served in a variety of volunteer roles with their contributions spanning a decade or more.

    2019-2020: Harini Krishnan

    Associated Parents’ Groups of Hillsborough is proud to honor:

     Harini Krishnan as this year’s 2019-2020 Citizen of the Year. 

    Harini is an outstanding role model who has been a tireless volunteer for HCSD and our community at large. In addition to her many roles as a parent volunteer, Harini was Parent Group President at both West & Crocker Schools, served on the APG Board, served as Community Campaign Co-Chair for HSF, co-chaired the Hillsborough Family Fun Day Carnival and continues to serve as a Neighborhood Lead for Hillsborough Neighborhood Network. Her energy, passion, and love for this community is unmatched.  She has inspired our students to be global citizens and lifelong learners with her many visits to the classrooms at Crocker where she taught a unit on Indian history, culture, and arts, and through her unforgettable HSF Pay-to-Play Parties hosted at her home where she taught our community how to cook traditional Indian food and adorn saris.

    Harini believes that if we want our children to have empathy and be people of good character, they must walk in other people’s shoes and explore the world beyond their own backyards. Harini was instrumental in bringing the Washington DC trip to our Crocker 8th graders - which is now an annual right of passage and character-building experience for our 8th graders. 

    In addition to her amazing contributions to our Hillsborough School District, Harini has been a champion for public schools and has spearheaded changing people’s attitudes about our local public high schools, through her leadership in the San Mateo High School Parent Community, including as Foundation Board Co-President for 5 years, Mock Trial Parent Liaison & as a Member of SMHS Music, Drama & Dance Boosters.

    An acclaimed Indian Classical Vocalist & Lecturer, Harini is a passionate advocate for the Arts at the local, state and national levels, serving as Vice Chair of the San Mateo County Arts Commission and on the 2020 California Arts Council State Local Partners Grant Panel. She is a warrior for social justice & gender equity, driving sustainable and transformative change with everything she does, serving on the boards of numerous nonprofit & political organizations, including Equal Access International and FUND HER, and is currently pursuing a program in Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School.

    Harini has lived in Hillsborough for the last 20 years with her husband, Vikas Jha, a startup entrepreneur, and her two daughters, Janani, a senior at Harvard College who will attend Harvard Law School, and Abhaya, a sophomore at USC pursuing degrees in Computer Science and Classical Vocal Arts (Opera). Harini is happiest when she is surrounded by her family and close friends, watching Hallmark movies, sipping coffee, and enjoying chocolate chip coffee cake from Copenhagen Bakery :)

    We are beyond privileged to celebrate Harini Krishnan as Citizen of the Year.

    2018-2019: Laurel Miranda

    2017-2018: Lennie Gotcher

    The Associated Parents’ Groups (APG) is honored to present its Citizen of the Year Award to Lennie Gotcher. Lennie has been an integral part of the Hillsborough community, having not only grown up in Hillsborough but also raised her four sons here with her husband Peter.

    Lennie began her volunteering endeavors at South when her oldest son was in preschool. Throughout the years her boys attended North and Crocker, she spent countless hours volunteering in the classroom and at school events. In 1998, Lennie and her husband were part of the original 24 families that contributed to newly founded Hillsborough Schools Foundation Scholars’ Circle and the following year hosted the Scholars’ Circle event at her home with renowned chef Alice Waters.

    Lennie was also behind the Hillsborough Garden Club’s (HGC) revamping of the Marilyn Hills Garden at Crocker, wrote the grant that received the HGC donation, and was the garden project manager. She has been an active member of the Hillsborough Beautification Foundation (HBF), working on projects like the renovation of Vista Park, and has served as Tree Committee Chair, Project Committee Chair, Nominating Committee Chair, Secretary, and of course, President from 2004-2006.

    Most notably, however, Lennie is known for having had the vision, passion, and perseverance to create the beautiful Harvest Garden — the “crown jewel” of Hillsborough. In 2010, Lennie worked with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, HBF, the Town Public Works Director, and Town Council to get the garden project approved and with HBF’s help, she led a group of high school students who cleared the lot and solicited donations for the garden. The new Harvest Garden was thus born and thanks to Lennie, it now offers a high school gardening internship program, bi-weekly workshops by the Garden Committee for community members, and ongoing volunteer programs with North Preschool, Crocker Middle School, the Boy Scouts, the National Charity League, the Young Men’s Service League, and the local high schools.

    Lennie also spends countless hours volunteering at the Harvest Garden and with her completion of the California Master Gardener Program, the garden has truly benefitted from her deep knowledge of organic gardening, planting strategies, and insect control. The garden has now produced over 9,300 pounds of organic produce that has been donated to CALL Primrose, Shelter Network, Samaritan House, and other homeless shelters.

    Lennie’s vision, pride, and passion for Hillsborough is evident in everything she does. She has a steadfast commitment to making the Hillsborough community a stronger, more vibrant place to raise families and she is equally effective as a leader as she is behind the scenes getting work done. Lennie is patient and kind with all of her volunteers and her work with the children in our community is always heart-felt and authentic. Whether with the preschoolers or high schoolers, she imparts wisdom on the benefits of organic farming that is both fun and interesting, and the smiles on their faces is a testament to who she is and all that she does. It has been said by many that Lennie cultivates in each of us a love for nature, a patience for the cycle of life, and an inner sense that what we care for on a continual basis, what we protect and encourage, whether it be flowers, relationships, or attitudes, can grow beyond any beauty we could ever have imagined.

    2016-2017: Sherry Haber

    The Associated Parents’ Groups (APG) is proud to honor Sherry Haber as its Citizen of the Year. Since moving to Hillsborough in 2003, Sherry has been a positive, inclusive leader for whom no task is too big or too small. Sherry’s involvement in our school district during her 11 years as a parent touches almost every single program, school event and student. All of her accomplishments are too numerous to include here, but the following are a few of the ways Sherry has supported our children and the district.

    As a North Hillsborough School parent, Sherry was Parent Group President, oversaw the lower playground installation, and implemented a new hot lunch program. As Art in Action Chair, Sherry established the tradition of hosting an Art Show at North’s annual Open House. Sherry was instrumental in helping launch North’s first Talent Show and choreographed numerous group performances. For eight years, Sherry chaired and hosted the annual Teacher Appreciation Lunch at her home. Additionally, Sherry spearheaded the North School Library Renovation and chaired 5th Grade Promotion.

    At Crocker, Sherry was Parent Group President, coordinated the Janet Chun Mural Project, established the Crocker Art Show and chaired Graduation. District-wide, Sherry was Communications Chair for the Hillsborough Schools Foundation for two years and hosted many HSF fundraisers.

    In addition to the above, Sherry has been a Cub Scout and Girl Scout Leader, President of the Music Booster Club at Burlingame High School and long-standing volunteer for the Hillsborough Memorial Day Parade and Peninsula Temple Sholom.

    But perhaps her biggest accomplishment is that through her selflessness, dedication, and zest for life, Sherry has inspired a whole new generation of Hillsborough volunteers to get involved and have fun all while giving back to our community! We are so grateful to Sherry Haber and thrilled to share her many accomplishments with the Hillsborough community.

    2015-2016: Julie Borden

    The Associated Parents' Groups of Hillsborough is proud to honor Julie Borden as the Hillsborough Schools' Citizen of the Year. Since moving to Hillsborough in 1995, Julie Borden has been directly involved with nearly every aspect of our schools, town and greater community. While her three children were students in our district, Julie served on both the West and Crocker Parent Group Executive Boards as well as serving on the Hillsborough Schools Foundation Board as New Family Liaison, Parent Campaign Co-Chair and HSF President. In 2005, Julie was elected to the HCSD Board of Trustees and served until 2009. She returned to serve on the Board of Trustees for seven months in 2011 after a vacancy occurred on the board.

    In addition to all of the above, Julie has served on the Hillsborough Recreation Commission, the San Mateo High School Foundation, Stand By Our Schools Committee to Safeguard Our School, SMUHSD Budget Advisory Committee, and the Measure B School Bond Committee. Julie was a vital member of the Task Force for a Sustainable Hillsborough and continues to serve our town on the Citizens Communication Advisory Committee. In the greater community, Julie has been an active member and served on the Board of the National Charity League as well as the Hillsborough Auxiliary to Peninsula Family Services.

    Julie has been described as "a role model for what it means to give back," "the gold standard of volunteerism," and "a selfless advocate for our schools, our town and our community." We are so fortunate to have Julie Borden as a member of our community and we are thrilled to honor her as Citizen of the Year.

    2014-2015: Lilli Rey

    The Associated Parents' Groups of Hillsborough is proud to honor Lilli Rey as this year's Citizen of the Year. Lilli is tirelessly energetic in helping the children of the Hillsborough Schools and also the greater community. Since 1996, Lilli has volunteered throughout our District, significant highlights include serving as North Parent Group President and Executive Board Member, co-chairing the 2010 Town of Hillsborough Centennial and spearheading the Memorial Day Parade, Carnival and Music Fest for the past five years. She has also been a Girl Scout Troop Leader, the 4th grade North Yosemite Trip Chair and tickets Chair for the Hillsborough Concours d'Elegance.

    In the greater community, Lilli is a passionate leader for several causes including NARAL, Protect our Defenders and San Mateo County Health Foundation.
    Lilli has touched every part of our community and has had such a positive impact on Hillsborough. She is an inspiration for our current generation of volunteers and continues to redefine what is means to be a good citizen. Lilli can certainly be considered one of our Town's brightest treasures.

    2013-2014: Mary Ellen Benninger

    The Associated Parents' Groups of Hillsborough is proud to honor Mary Ellen Benninger as this year's Citizen of the Year. Mary Ellen has served Hillsborough schools in many volunteer capacities beginning when her children were at South, continuing through their time at Crocker, and for the last eight years as a member of the HCSD Board of Trustees. Mary Ellen has served on South School Parent Group Board, as President of the Hillsborough Schools Foundation, on the Hillsborough Recreation Commission, volunteering with Hillsborough Little League and Concours d'Elegance, to name a few of her many leadership roles. She was also actively involved in the passing of Measure B and St. Bart's Church. She is truly an inspiration for other volunteers in our schools and community.

    2012-2013: Diane Kounalakis

    The Associated Parents' Groups of Hillsborough is honored to announce Diane Kounalakis as the 2013 Hillsborough Citizen of the Year. Diane is an outstanding role model for our community for excellence in leadership. For the past 13 years, Diane has enthusiastically devoted her time to our students, parents and teachers. Beginning as West School's Preschool President, continuing with a myriad of chair positions to Crocker Parent Group President, and as a leader of the Hillsborough Schools Foundation, including as HSF President, Diane has graciously and tirelessly given to our community. In addition to these roles Diane has worked with the Town of Hillsborough to honor the Town's 100th anniversary and served as part of the inaugural committee for the Hillsborough Neighborhood Network, organizing efforts for West Hillsborough. While fully immersed in the needs of our town and schools, Diane currently serves on the Board of Peninsula Family Service. She is also involved with the National Charity League (NCL), the PanCretan Association of America (a national cultural and philanthropic organization) and the Alzheimer's Association Walk (an organization committed to finding a cure for Alzheimers).

    Diane's family and friends mean everything to her. She and her husband, Jeff Baxter, have a son, Tony, 17, and a daughter Victoria, 15. Diane was once asked about what motivates her to spend so much time volunteering, to which she responded that it comes down to showing her kids and all kids the importance of being involved, and that she believes that one voice can make a difference. Her hope is that all kids volunteer and make volunteering a practice for life. Diane is an exceptional example of leadership in the community for adults and children alike. We are proud to honor Diane Kounalakis with the Citizen of the Year award.

    2011-2012: Joyce Love

    The APG Board is proud to announce that Joyce Love has been elected our 2011/2012 Citizen of the Year for Hillsborough. Joyce stood out amongst other candidates as she has been active in Hillsborough Schools for over a decade and still continues to volunteer for HSF years after her children have moved on to High School. She has held many leadership roles including South Parent Group President, APG Treasurer (twice), HSF president, HSF Board, HSF Vice President, HSF Parent Campaign Chair and Volunteers Chair. Joyce is also a member of the 2011/2012 Community Care Campaign.

    Prior to becoming Parent Group President at South School, Joyce coordinated the Science Olympiad for three years, judged the South School Science Fair and created the Parent Docent Program. Joyce served as Trustee Representative for South Parent Group Board, was a School Site Council Parent Representative and a member of the South Principal Search Committee. As South Parent Group President, Joyce initiated the proposal for all three elementary schools to use the same professional lunch service provider. She also transitioned weekly hard copy newsletters to bi-monthly online newsletters. She concurrently served on the committee to develop the district wide four-school survey for parents and faculty. Her legacy to our schools was her establishment of a Community Service Program with included organizing monthly student/parent community outreach projects with local and Bay Area non-profit organizations such as Shelter Network, Second Harvest Food Bank, Samaritan House and One Warm Coat. Joyce received the Outstanding Volunteer Award in her last year at South School.

    While on the APG Board, Joyce established the Parent Speaker Series program and acted as the district coordinator for three years. Her involvement with HSF is truly remarkable. While Joyce was HSF President she introduced the concept of Strategic Planning for the organization and consequently a new Strategic Planning Committee was developed and implemented. Joyce created written guidelines for the annual distribution of funds from the HSF endowment and reserve which would contribute to the total dollars allocated to the school district. As Chair of Volunteers for HSF, Joyce began the HSF Liaison role to enhance the partnership and communication between HSF and APG. During her early years of involvement, Joyce served on many committees for Fun Run and Concours de Elegance.

    Joyce and her family have resided in Hillsborough since 1993. She and her husband Ted have two girls, Alex and Sammy. Alex is currently a college freshman at Haverford College in PA, and Sammy is a high school junior at St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco. Joyce has been active with Hillsborough AYSO as a board member for four years and worked with the Major League Soccer Organization to develop a program where soccer coaches from England work with our parent coaches and players U6 through U12. Joyce also coordinated host families for the coaches from England and volunteered as the Division Director for U6 and U8 girls. As a member of the Trouble Makers tennis team, Joyce also enjoys time on the court with her longtime friends and teammates.

    2010-2011: Linda & Mike Fitzpatrick

    The Hillsborough Schools Associated Parents' Groups are thrilled to announce our 2010 Citizen of the Year Award recipients, Linda and Mike Fitzpatrick. The Citizen of the Year Award is given to individuals who have made a significant and sustained contribution to Hillsborough especially to the education and well being of our children. Nominees are widely recognized as respected leaders who have created a lasting legacy for our community.

    Linda and Mike Fitzpatrick have been extraordinary Hillsborough volunteers for many years and in many capacities. The Fitzpatricks embody community giving on every level. They have taken roles always with the goal of improving and enriching the lives of our children and families. Mike has coached soccer teams for years, served tirelessly on the AYSO board including Commissioner for 2 years. Linda has served on the HSF Executive Committee, APG, Fun Run, Concours, and much more. Both Linda & Mike have logged hundreds of hours chairing programs in addition to their continued willingness to do those many “invisible" jobs that help drive our schools volunteer efforts to a high level of success.

    Linda and Mike's generous spirit and recognition of others contributions have inspired many to achieve more for our schools and town. They would be among the first to insist that they are simply part of a greater team. Many have been touched by their presence, motivated and inspired by their leadership and personally thanked and valued by their personal outreach. Our community is truly a stronger, more unified and wonderful place because of who they are, what they give and how they contribute. APG is honored to award Citizen of the Year to Mike and Linda Fitzpatrick.

    2009-2010: Shawn Christianson

    The Associated Parents' Groups of Hillsborough is pleased to announce the 2010 Citizen of the Year, Shawn Christianson. Since Shawn moved to Hillsborough over 14 years ago, she has put her boundless energy, positive attitude and limitless skills into our schools and community. Shawn served on North School's Site Council for two years, serving as its Chair in the second year. She volunteered on the North Parent Group Executive Board, becoming North's Parent Group President, and eventually, President of APG. In the first year after the merger of HSF and Concours, she was Vice President of the newly formed Hillsborough Schools Foundation, home of Concours d'Elegance. In 2001 and 2002, she was one of the original “Bond Girls," and served on the Committee to help promote passage of the Measure B bond to ensure the District with much needed construction money. Even after Shawn's children were graduating from our schools she remained committed to the ongoing educational needs of our children In 2005 she ran for a seat on the Hillsborough City School District Board of Trustees. Our children & community continued to benefit as Shawn served four years on the Board, including as President of the Board. During her tenure, Shawn was instrumental in the planning, design and construction of the beautiful new buildings recently completed at each of our four school sites.

    Shawn is on the Advisory Board of the Bay Area Women's and Children's Center, a San Francisco agency based in the Tenderloin, which serves low and no income families. She volunteered with San Francisco School Volunteers, and served on the Coyote Point Museum's Board. Shawn is now on the Cal Berkeley Parents Board and acts as a coach for Serra High School's Mock Trial Team.

    Amazingly, Shawn has done all of this while working full time as an attorney at Buchalter Nemer, where she has been a partner since 1991. Anyone who has had the pleasure of working with Shawn knows that her optimistic, passionate approach to everything she does combines an experience that will be filled with great fun, as well as tremendous accomplishment. Congratulations Shawn and thank you.

    2008-2009: Christine Krolik

    The Associated Parents' Groups is proud to recognize Christine Krolik for her many years of service to our community. Christine started volunteering at North in the classroom, on the Hot Lunch Committee, and as an officer of the North Parent Group. Angela Nomellini and Christine were instrumental in pushing for class size reduction in our District. She became deeply involved with Concours, serving as the Concours Scrip Co-Chair, Concours General Co-Chair, and on the Auction Committee as well as the Car Show Committee for numerous years. In addition to all this she was HTV Chair, and a member of the Hillsborough Recreation Board. As Co-Chair of the Scrip Committee back when there was no e-Scrip (everything was still paper!), many remember Christine selling Scrip coupons from a suitcase. One day, she came up with a song to sell the coupons to the tune of “Maria" from West Side Story. With this musical promotion, Scrip sales dramatically increased and the Scripettes, later known as Swing Set, was born. This manner of working is the essence of Christine – she puts the “fun" in “fundraiser", and all who work with her feel her infectious enthusiasm.

    Currently our Mayor, Christine has been a Member of the Hillsborough City Council since 2005. Along with Barby Regan and Inta Hasenkamp, she led the successful Measure B Bond Campaign which approved the taxes to fund renovating our schools and adding new facilities. Although her children have graduated from the Hillsborough School District, Christine continues to support the schools by coming back to sing at various school functions to advertise Concours events. We could not imagine kicking off the fundraising year without the fun lyrics and melodious voices of Swing Set!

    Christine with your tireless dedication you inspire us to continue striving for excellence in our schools. Your creativity, thoughtfulness and strong management skills make you an outstanding leader in our community. Christine, congratulations on being selected as Citizen of the Year! It is our honor to bestow this award on you.

    2007-2008: Angela Nomellini and Ken Olivier

    Congratulations to our Citizen of the Year Award recipients for 2007-2008, Angela Nomellini and Ken Olivier! Their years of dedication and service have enhanced Hillsborough School District in countless ways.

    2006-2007: Sybille Whittam

    Sibylle Whittam has been named by the Associated Parents' Groups as its 2006-07 Citizen of the Year. Having lived in Hillsborough with her three children for over eighteen years, Sibylle has held a plethora of volunteer positions in the parent organizations of the Hillsborough City School District (HCSD). For example, at the school level, Sibylle chaired the South School Science Fair, coordinated the South School Earthquake disaster program, chaired the South School Site Council; when her children were at Crocker, Sibylle developed the Crocker garden.

    Sibylle's volunteerism reached beyond the schools. At the district level, Sibylle was actively involved in both the Hillsborough Schools Foundation (HSF) as well as Concours. In HSF, Sibylle was a foundation vice president, ran the parent campaign, and started the initiative with HSF to support the state-mandated K-3 class size reduction. As a Concours volunteer, Sibylle co-chaired the Tennis Classic, directed the underwriting programs for ten years which included Fun Run and the Concours Magazine, and created a sponsor recognition protocol. Further, Sibylle chaired the Dinner Dance Auction in 1997 and then remained as a member of the Dinner Dance Auction committee until 2004. Along with Sibylle's late husband, Jim Whittam, she introduced the Hillsborough Fun Run in 1993.

    Sibylle is proud to say that she has been at the start and finish line every year! When Sibylle was asked, “What is your passion?" Sibylle responded without hesitation, “I have a passion for education. I believe that a great education lays the foundation for our children's future. I further believe that the community must do whatever it can to support our schools. Over the last eighteen years, I have been fortunate to work with a team of extremely talented individuals that have shared the same vision of protecting and serving our local schools. I want to give my sincere thanks for their efforts."

    We, the Hillsborough Schools and Community, want to thank Sibylle for her contributions. Congratulations!