Work-based Learning: Pasadena Tournament of Roses

Pam Sornson, JD

June 7, 2022

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses® Association (ToRA) is involved in many philanthropic activities that support dozens of area non-profits and thousands of LA County residents. In the 2021-2022 academic year, the ToRA partnered with Pasadena City College (PCC) to launch its inaugural work-based learning scholarship, the Tournament of Roses ‘Fellows Program.’

Running from August 2021 through April 2022, the program funded a part-time job in the ToRA’s Community Relations department for the PCC student, giving them the opportunity to participate in the many community relations events held by the organization throughout the year. The first Rose Fellowship award went to Azucena Duran, who completed her second year at the college immersed in work that will inform her entire career.


The ToRA Community Relations Fellowship Position

The ToRA and its companion, the ToR Foundation (ToRF), are busy organizations hosting and supporting dozens of events throughout the calendar year. Since its inception in 1983, over $300 million raised by the ToR partnership have been distributed to dozens of LA County charities and other worthy causes.

The ToRA’s two most significant events, the Rose Parade and the Rose Bowl College Football Game, draw hundreds of thousands of fans to LA County while millions more watch television. Preparing for those two days and the days leading up to them is daunting work. The organization has only three dedicated staff people coordinating those efforts; most of the work is actually done by hundreds of volunteers.


To assist that small organizing team, however, the ToRA devised the new Rose Fellowship opportunity in conjunction with PCC’s work-based learning coordinator, Jackie Javier.

The ToRA’s purpose for the fellowship was to obtain needed assistance managing all the details that go into the Parade, Bowl Game, and the Association’s many other annual functions. In addition, the student would contribute to the overall day-to-day running of the Community Relations office, supporting the various volunteer committees, connecting with community members and agencies, and doing pretty much whatever needed doing to move the day forward.

The purpose for the PCC student was to gain valuable, work-based experience and skills that would transfer into future jobs and careers. Candidates for the position had to meet specific PCC curricular standards (be in their 2nd or 3rd year, enrolled in at least six credits, and studying a relevant major), and would be selected from a specific underrepresented population, be it LGBTQIA+, undocumented, or otherwise marginalized.

Ms. Duran was thrilled to be selected.


Azucena Duran, Inaugural Community Relations Rose Fellow

Originally from the Bay Area, Duran had enjoyed her first year at PCC and was actively looking for an internship when she spotted the ToRA application opportunity.

Accessing the resources at PCC’s Freeman Center for Career and Completion, she received assistance filling out the paperwork and coordinating her response. She was especially grateful to then-WBL director Javier for her guidance on job interview skills. Coming away from the application process with these newfound skills boosted her confidence as she went into the formal interview process with the ToRA office.

She was also thrilled with the warm welcome she received from the Community Relations team, Senior Director Carlos Illingworth, Foundation and CR Manager Ryan Lynn Johnson, and CR Assistant Aida Muciño. Securing the position after two rounds of interviews, she felt they had come to know her, and she certainly thought she had come to know them. Ryan was her daily supervisor, and Aida kept her in the communications loop while Carlos offered her a variety of professional development opportunities.


Over the course of the eight months, Duran was more than pleased with what she was learning and the skills she was developing:

As an assistant for the organization’s International Literacy Day event, she worked with volunteers and school personnel to distribute over 14,000 books to children in the Pasadena Unified School District.

She also participated in the clothing drive for and distribution of hundreds of pounds of clothing for victims of domestic abuse. In this role, she worked alongside members of the LA County Sheriff’s Office and employees from the event’s sponsor, the retailer Forever 21.

Parade planning was particularly interesting, as she helped organize seating and services for people with disabilities following ADA standards (the Americans with Disabilities Act). Additionally, working with event volunteers, her duties included identifying who got which tickets and ensuring the ticket packages were accurate and delivered appropriately.

She is particularly proud the work she did on her independent project, the organization’s first annual ‘Dia de Los Muertos: A Celebration of Art’ event. Working with members of the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles, Duran created and ran a craft activity for children ages four to eighteen years using papel picado and mini-skeleton figures. The event awarded more than $6,000 to winners in a variety of age categories.

She also really appreciated Illingworth’s professional development efforts. He introduced her to several notable groups, events, and agencies. She was really impressed with the Pasadena Women in Leadership series and was able to personally interview 15 of its members for advice and career counsel.


Looking Ahead

Duran graduated in Spring 2022 with an AA degree in Sociology and was accepted into UCLA’s Public Affairs program in pursuit of her Urban Planner career goal. She can hardly express her gratitude to PCC and the ToRA for awarding her the Rose Fellowship position. “My confidence is so much higher now because of it, and I see that I truly have talent and skills to bring to any job.” Seeing herself as a member of a community makes it easy for her to envision herself in her future, successful occupation. “Thank you to PCC and the ToRA and CR team for all you’ve given me. I’m excited to see where I take it all.”


Applications for the 2022-2023 Rose Fellows Program will be available in June – check with the Work-based learning department in PCC’s Freeman Center.

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