Chanel Wen Boutakidis has been the Chief Executive Officer of Five Acres since 2011. Five Acres is an agency that cares for more than 6.5k children and family members annually here in southern California and is currently celebrating 135 years of service. Since 1888, Five Acres has protected the most vulnerable members of our community: children. Originally founded in downtown Los Angeles as an orphanage, Five Acres was initially created to offer to children who had no home. In time, their mission expanded to include focus on the of their clients who were increasingly coming to them because of abuse or neglect.” Five Acres has now grown into an agency caring for more than 6,500 children and family members annually across six counties. “The three pillars of provide the framework” for all their programs and aid the organization to develop increasingly effective means of caring for children and families in crisis.
Before her work began at Five Acres, Chanel was the Executive Director of Pasadena Mental Health Center. Collectively, she has over 30 years of experience in child welfare, health care, advocacy, and policy making. She earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology from California State University, Northridge and is a licensed therapist with the Board of Behavioral Sciences. Her notable awards include 2020 Pasadena Magazine, Women of Distinction; 2016 Los Angeles magazine, Woman of the Year; 2018 Community Service Award presented by LA County Board of Supervisor Kathryn Barger; 2014 Congressional Recognition presented by Michael Antonivich; and 2014 Congressional Recognition presented by Judy Chu.
Aside from her astounding work and professional background, Chanel was generous in sharing more of her life and insights as an alumna of Highland Hall, having attended for High School, graduating in 1991. We are so grateful to have connected with her!
What do you devote your life and meaningful time to outside of work?
Meaningful time spent outside of work is best spent with my boys. My husband, Ioakim, and two Greekanese (Greek-Taiwanese) teenagers, Athanasios and Nikandros. We can be relaxing at home, out at a swim meet, or on a long haul to visit family in Greece. Whatever the time is spent on, I am happiest when it is with my boys.
Outside of family, I serve on the Board of Directors for Flintridge Preparatory School and the Association of Community Human Services Association. And due to the current CalAim Healthcare Reform in California, I am on a few LA Planning Committees to assist in implementation in improving access to care. Of course, living in Los Angeles area, we are surrounded by many awesome organizations we enjoy supporting.
What influence has Waldorf Education had on your life since graduating from Highland Hall?
I began Waldorf education in high school. My prior education was in large public settings. What influenced me most from my Waldorf education was the value of creative/critical thinking. I grew up in Chinese culture, which was more comfortable with agreement, and traditional schools taught via instruction and recall. The exposure and time invested in a creative and critical process as an individual and group thinker at Highland Hall set the way I went about my college studies. It has influenced the continuous process of improvement in culture in my company. And even on a personal level, we have raised our children to have a creative mindset which always leads to amusing conversations!
Did you have a favorite class or experience at Highland Hall that you can recall?
Transitioning from a school with hundreds of students in your class to a class of fifteen students was a significant change. I am grateful for my experience at Highland Hall. With such an intimate setting, you naturally develop deeper relationships. As a teenager entering adulthood, those deeper relationships in high school become a sandbox for learning about complicated emotions, such as grief, compassion, love, and forgiveness. A few of my most influential people helped shape the adult version of me I met at Highland Hall. I felt connected to each of my classmates even though I had fewer years with them. That sense of connectedness is why my boys went to Pasadena Waldorf for their early years.
Anything else you'd like to share? Advice for our younger Alumni?
My oldest is about to begin college, and I am proud of how driven he is to achieve the goals he has set for himself. While goals are important, so is the balance of being in the moment and experiencing the process. Explore and do more things that make you laugh out loud and are meaningful to you. You only have one life, don't rush through it.