The 2015 Eagles of Excellence Award goes to… 

  Paul SENFT  Volunteering has always been Paul Senft’s style.  Going back in time, Paul volunteered for the U.S. Army in 1967.  When his tour of duty was up in January 1970, he volunteered to extend for an additional four months to prepare for a major NATO inspection.  He ran a calibration lab in the mountains of Greece.

Paul’s military occupation was Nuclear Weapons electronics having attended training at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama (Werner Von Braun was at that site) and then Sandia Base in New Mexico, home of the Atomic Energy Commission.  After returning stateside, Paul was all set to pursue a career as an Electrical Engineer he saw the massive aerospace layoffs in 1971.

Still wanting to continue a career in the sciences, he attended Control Data Institute in 1971 with an emphasis in Computer Programming.  Paul’s first job was at Allen Babcock Computing where he learned PL/1 Programming.  While working in the industry, he saw the need to continue to go to college to finish his degree in Computer Science.

Raising a family and working full time, Paul’s only option was to take classes at night.  He continued to pursue his goal until graduating with a dual degree in Computer Science and Information Technology.

While thoroughly enjoying his chosen profession Paul continued to branch into areas of software design and testing.  Wanting to give back he worked part time as a lecturer at Cal Poly Pomona, focusing on database design, programming languages, software quality assurance and testing.  It was at Cal Poly where Paul met his future wife, Sandy; where she was working on her Masters in IT Audit and Control.  Paul looked at his students as the next generation of software gurus and received great satisfaction of their success.

In 1989, Paul and Sandy married in Big Bear Lake, with plans to eventually retire there.  After an overseas assignment in Zurich, Switzerland, Paul returned home to Big Bear Lake.  For the next two years Paul drove down the mountain working at a consulting firm placing programmers in the Los Angeles area.  During this time Paul joined Bearly Speaking Toastmasters in Big Bear Lake, assuming the position of Vice President of Training.  This was where he started mentoring new members in the challenges of Public Speaking.

After learning about the cutbacks in the education budget for the Big Bear Valley Unified School District, he volunteered with the first set of volunteers in the Education Trust. It was in this capacity that Paul had the opportunity to work with students again.  After a few years at North Shore Elementary, he started working one on one with students that were at risk.  Taking the students under Paul’s wings, he focused on self esteem and leadership traits.  Paul was a recipient of the first Golden Apple Award given by the Big Bear Educational Trust.

Then while working with a student Paul learned that the boy had not had a bike for four years, as his family could not afford one. He then went to garage sales throughout the valley picking up bikes, that he in turn would fix-up and donate to kids at school.   Paul Senft has donated over ten bikes to date to students and the occasional adult that really needed a bike.

While at the Bear Valley Middle School, Paul was introduced to the ALEX software program used for Algebra and Geometry students. While working with Debi Burton, Paul worked in the Math Lab, helping students in both subjects.  When the trial period for the software ended, Paul and Sandy Senft donated the necessary funds to continue the program until extra funding was achieved. Paul has for the past three years, has been working one-on-one with various students at both Big Bear Middle School as well as the Bear Valley High School. 

From 2009 until 2013, Paul volunteered with AARP Tax Aide. This program provides free tax services to seniors and low income families within the valley. In 2008, Paul volunteered to become an instructor for the AARP Driver Safety Program.  In 2011, he assumed the Zone Co-ordinator position covering both San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, overseeing all of the District Coordinators and Instructors. When Paul’s two-year term was up he changed positions to Zone Trainer, being responsible for the training of new instructors. He was awarded the AARP DSP Volunteer of the Year Award in 2014 for the state of California for his contributions to the program.

In 2011, Paul was appointed to the City of Big Bear Lake Planning Commission. His commitment to Big Bear Valley is the core of his belief that each and every one of us has a responsibility to help shape the community. There is no better gift than giving others the opportunity to be the best that they can be! 

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