Monday, December 17, 2007

Mario Danelo Unveiled On Monday

Mario Danelo's Parents Are Greatly Honored By the Unveiling of Artist Mike Sullivan 's Mural and Hope Students Will Be Inspired to Punt Their Way to Their Dream
By Diana L. Chapman

Had USC kicker Mario Danelo dropped by at the large ceremony in his honor on Monday where the unveiling of his mural took place, his friends and relatives agree, he would have been clueless about all the fanfare.

It wasn't his style, explained his longtime friend, Kathleen Budar, who described Mario as a friendly, "goofy" guy who enjoyed humor and friendship more than anything else -- and didn't take much to praise.

So perhaps he was there in spirit when his parents, Joe and Emily, pulled the rope to unveil the mural -- and absolutely nothing happened. There was a slight pause. The cardinal-colored drape covering it, Mario's #19, refused to budge bringing a lot of laughter to the audience in attendance. Shawn Talbott, a certified sports official, joked it was time to move to "plan B" and had a piece of machinery that toddled USC Football Coach Pete Carroll and Mario's parents up to the towering 8 X 12 mural. This time, they pulled off the drape successfully.

Now that was much more Mario's style. He would have liked that the microphone kept going in-and-out and that the drape refused to come down -- and that nothing after all was perfect -- especially when it' s about him.

Those who knew him said Mario's interest would have been piqued more by what could be done for other San Pedro High students at his former school where he played linebacker. In his later and short but powerful career, he only made it to USC after working diligently with his father, a former NFL kicker, as "a walk-on," where he became one of the colleges a record-breaking placekicker.
Instead of interest in himself, Mario would probably have been more pleased by the scholarship that will be provided in his name to a "walk on" athlete who will receive this award in his honor -- and will be voted on by the very teammates that played with him.
As this community approaches the one year January anniversary of Mario's death where he slipped and fell about 120 feet down the cliffs of San Pedro at Point Fermin Park -- in an area he grew up and treaded from the time he was a youngster -- the survivors wanted to do something special to honor him. But the two prominent figures who brought this all together was the artist, Mike, and Shawn Talbott, who engineered the plan with Los Angles Unified School District.
His parents both said they were deeply touched and honored by what was done for their son.
"Mario was so driven," his mother, Emily, told me at the event. "He wasn't offered a scholarship, but he never gave up. Mario is pretty simple. He'd just be so overwhelmed by all of this. He was just living his dream. When he said this, he meant it."
Said his father, Joe, "For Mike and Shawn to do this, it's just very personal. It means a lot to our family. But for Mario, he just could careless about fanfare. He was a real low key kid. He just wanted to go out and play."
At the behest of USC officials, Mike Sullivan painted a remarkable mural of Mario kicking in rich colors of burgundy and cobalt blue -- and he did it all for free in the hopes that students at San Pedro High would be inspired by Mario's attitude of "livin' the dream." But the real irony was when the artist accidentally met Shawn Talbott, the two of them were able to hatch the plan to bring the entire event to a reality -- working with the bureaucratic Los Angeles Unified School District.
The mural was installed Saturday near San Pedro High School's flagpole -- a beautiful specimen of Mario kicking from the artist's point of view -- a view the artist witnessed in person when he went to watch the kicker at practices as well as games. The artist has gained prominence in sports circles with his unusual ability and flare to capture images of athletes and has done many murals, including one of football player Pat Tillman.
Among those attending Monday's event were former USC running back Anthony Davis, USC Football Coach Pete Carroll, Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn, former USC quarterback Paul McDonald, now a gamecaster, and many of Mario's teammates.
About 100 plus folks attended an event that was forged in tragedy, but gained hope in the spirit that Mario's hard work -- and diligence -- would inspire but also teach them all that taking care of each other -- whether in or out of the Trojan family -- was not just important, but a must in life.
Speaking to the audience, USC's football coach suggested that the loss of Mario united his team so intensely that when they head to the Rose Bowl, Mario will probably be the biggest reason the team will win -- because Mario's spirit will be there kicking for them.
"It reminds us to cherish our lives so much...and Mario taught us all that," the coach said. "All of us are so lucky and fortunate to be here. We are taking Mario with us to the Rose Bowl...and he'll be kicking through someone."
Besides the USC scholarship, both the artist and Shawn --a former USC center and long snapper who had a special interest in Mario's underdog career -- agreed to launch a scholarship for San Pedro High, in which a football player will receive a scholarship for all their college books for the entire four years -- and a new student will be selected each year.
Perhaps this story is best wrapped up by one of his friend's and USC teammates, who grew close to the player in the four years they were together.
The sentiment that his teammate Will Collins stated to those attending the event, was simple. Mario, he said, was "living his dream" which was a comment the kicker made routinely. His teammates are now taking this seriously and "have taken it to heart."
That same statement has been plastered all over the locker rooms, the player said, and imparts them with what Mario would probably want them to do the most.
"I love you guys," the player said -- without a drop of embarrassment . That's probably what an understated Mario would have wanted to hear the most.

--To order lithographs of the mural to support the scholarship, call 213-740-4155 or send checks to the Mario Danelo Scholarship Fund, Attention Don Winston, USC, 3501 Watt Way, Los Angles, CA 90089-0602. Make checks available to the Mario Danelo Scholarship Fund.
--Visit the artist's other works at
--To purchase T-shirts done in honor of Mario, visit BOCA Activewear on Sixth Street in downtown San Pedro or call Shawn Talbott for orders at (310) 683-3723.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Artist Mike Sullivan, left, and Shawn Talbott, who helped pull together the ceremony to remind San Pedro High students that they too have a chance to make it -- but even more so, to take care of each other. Below (left): The mural is being installed on a Saturday afternoon and right, the USC shirts worn by alumni and teammates to honor Mario.

"Livin' the Dream” – Mario Danelo’s Short and Powerful Life Continues on in a Mural with Hopes to Influence Students to Work Toward Success and Watch Out for Each Other

By Diana L. Chapman

Mario Danelo beat the odds in the world of football drama.
Considered too small to play first division in college football, Mario, and his dad, Joe, a former NFL kicker worked intensely while he attended El Camino College to perfect the art of kicking so the former San Pedro High School linebacker could have a shot as a USC “walk-on.”
It was there, Mario met with success – and became USC's best kicker – a prominent player who befriended hundreds and “would light up a room” when he walked in.
But that was until tragedy struck – and on a cool January evening this year where the 21-year-old slipped off the local cliffs perched over the sea at Point Fermin. This was an area he was born and raised in and probably believed he knew how to navigate as well as punting a football. His death rippled throughout our town – and perhaps all of Los Angeles, because for so many, he was “livin’ the dream," as he liked to say, and his loss was—and still is-- excruciatingly painful.
And now there’s a message that those who loved, admired and worked with him want to leave behind at San Pedro High School – so that Mario’s death will not be in vain. On Monday at 10 a.m. near the high school’s flag pole, the unveiling of 8 X 12 foot mosaic mural – of #19 kicking his way to his dreams – will be shown to the public for the first time; his parents, Joe and Emily, will be honored with its unwrapping. The public is invited.
USC football Coach Pete Carroll and most of the USC team is expected to attend. Prints of the mural will be sold for $250 to pay for a full USC scholarship awarded to a player that the team itself will select as the best “walk-on” athlete since Mario.
The hope by those involved in the event is that students will always remember that despite the odds, hard work can lead to extreme success – but more than that, they want students to remember to watch out and take care of each other and to remember that they are not invincible.
"The whole idea is something tragic happened and the whole lesson for kids is this...," said Shawn Talbott, a former USC center and long snapper and now a certified NCAA and CIF sports official. "If we are out with friends and we want to enjoy ourselves that we take a step back and take stock of the situation. And that we watch out for each other."

Artist Mike Sullivan, who volunteered materials and his time to make the painting, also sees it as a way to paint a bright future for students. His dream is that when they see Mario's towering mural, they will see their own potential for future success. Mike, a well-known artist in sports circles, has painted many murals of athletes, including Pat Tillman, who gave up a professional football career and later his life to fight for his country after the terrorist attacks.

“I want kids who don’t know what they want to be, to see this,” explained Mike, a former high school football player, as he watched workers hammering in individual tiles for the mural on Saturday -- another donation in this ceremony from Doug West, who owns the D.W.C.C. , a tile and stone company in Gardena. “It’s a good thing to see someone at your school, with the same teachers and the same facilities, in life has made it.”
The beautiful ruby, golden, cobalt-blue mural – took Mike days to paint. He undertook the endeavor at the behest of USC's requests from Don Winston, associate athletic director, and Mike Garrett, the college's athletic director.

But the entire dream to build the mural at the high school fell into the exact place when the artist accidentally bumped into Shawn at a sports restaurant, Phil Tranis, in Long Beach.
That accidental meeting brought this entire event to fruition, when Shawn – a CIF and NCCA coach, told the artist he could help clear the bureaucratic path and work with the many contacts he had to make the event a reality.

Both Shawn and Mike had been impressed with Mario's career, the artist even going out of his way to watch him at practices and Shawn's interest and pride in the kicker was so intense that when his wife called him with the tragic news, she first instructed him to pull over the car.
“My wife called me and told me to pull over to the side of the road,” recalled Shawn, who lives in Torrance. “I cried. It was horrible. That kid could light up a room. He was a kid that all of San Pedro could be proud of.’
On Monday, that pride should be apparent as scores of dignitaries and players are expected to show up for the event. San Pedro High School was a “100 percent,” behind the effort, Shawn said, and the family seems to be pleased with the final painting. They, however, have yet to see the mural that was being installed on Saturday.

But since this partnering, not just the USC scholarship was established. Another scholarship grew out of the partnership sparked by that coincidental combination of the artist and Shawn meeting. A San Pedro High School assistant principal had asked Shawn if they couldn’t do something for the high school students too.
That’s when both Shawn and Mike agreed to establish a “book” scholarship in which one football player each year that goes off to college will be selected to have their college books purchased for all four years of their education.
And that scholarship, like the mural that towers at San Pedro High School, will live on year after year after year – another echo of Mario’s short and powerful life.

To purchase the litho print, contact USC at 213-740-4155 or 213-740-1306 or mail a check to: the Mario Danelo Scholarship Fund, Attention Donn Winston, USC, 3501 Watt Way, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0602. Make checks payable to the Mario Danelo Scholarship Fund.
To see more work by Artist Mike Sullivan, go to

Monday, December 10, 2007

Carol Knight, left, and Marie Dukesherer, right spread" "tacky" cheer with unique head decor during the holidays. "The tackier the better," Carol said.


Diana L. Chapman

In a world of stress, from complaining parents to employees failing to receive their paychecks on time, two gals who work for the Los Angeles Unified School District lighten the load by spreading a butterball of cheer that might even make the Grinch laugh.

Wearing zany fashions from Christmas trees topping their heads to giant to baubles, Carol Knight, a purchasing/text book secretary, and Marie Dukesherer, an administrative assistant, try to brighten the days in the Main Office at Dana Middle School during the busy holiday season.

They begin to adorn their heads starting Dec. 1 to Dec. 14 – the ten days left until winter break – with gaudy ornaments just to see if they can make people even in the worst of moods – that often come from holiday stress – happy.

“We just do it to promote laughter and good will in the main office,” explained Marie, who said the two employees have been doing that – and other holidays for the past eight years. “Everybody loves it and thinks it’s a lot of fun.”

Said Carol: “Why do I do it? Because we’re goofy. It just makes people happy when they walk in and see how stupid we look. It’s like: “It’s those goofballs in the office again.”

For myself, I absolutely love it. Around the holidays, people are so crazed, students are ready to get out of school, teachers are ready to rest – and the blaring trumpets of buying gifts and preparing for visitors – often makes people testy. When I first saw their headbands, I couldn't quit laughing -- especially knowing how irritable I can get myself during the holiday season.

Just how testy do folks get? These women know, because sitting behind any Main Office at most schools is one of the most demanding, multi-tasking jobs in existence. Phones ring off the hook. Questions pepper the employees daily – often the same question. The women even say, they forget to look up while emerged in work when someone asks how they are doing, not because they are being rude, but because they’ve been asked that about 200 times already that day.
Along with: What time does school get out? Who are those flowers on the counter top for? Where is the principal? Can you help me find my lost back pack? What room do I find this teacher in? Where is the nurses office? The attendance office?

The problem with these jobs is there is rarely a break. So you have to laugh, Carol and Marie explain. That’s why the two hobbled together some odds-and-ends of holiday decor using a hot glue gun and all sorts of ridiculous things such as giant bows, stars and ribbons.

For the most part, it cheers most people coming through the office. But not always.
It always surprises them when those they never seen before don’t say a word.
“A lot of people just come up and don’t say anything,” Marie said. “And that’s when we have the most outlandish costumes on.”

They’ve never received a complaint about what they do. But Carol does have one complaint herself. She says they often put “tacky" plastic mistletoe on their bands, but: “Nobody ever kisses us!”

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Stand Up San Pedro: Stand UP
By Diana L. Chapman

It was a typical Saturday, maybe even a Sunday, where my son had all his friends over – and they asked – innocently – if they could go down to Pt. Fermin Park – together.
My heart stopped. And it was the middle of the day. I didn’t want them to go.
I looked at them all: black, white, Hispanic and Asian, all around the age of 13.
And the fear grew, beginning to web around me so I felt as if I was being crushed by a metal brace and couldn’t breath. I didn’t want them to go. Not together. I didn’t feel they were safe. I was terrified that a gang member would show up and teach these children a lesson – one that seems to be going around in our town lately: don’t mix races.
Now, I'm hearing allegedly that nooses are being strung up down at the docks at our two harbors and that a rally was scheduled for noon today at the Pacific Maritime Association in Long Beach to discuss "the hostile and discriminatory work environment directed at African American Longshore workers."
While a flier said five nooses have appeared at the docks, I could only confirm one incident.
But now my fear has grown. Within the past year, at least four San Pedro High students have been shot -- at least one who was killed, and two others -- a Latino and African-American friend -- were shot outside the Boys and Girls Club port site. They were allegedly being taught a lesson from gang members that they are not allowed to hang out together.
"What's it going to take for this town to wake up?" Central Neighborhood Council president, Joe Gatlin, asked during a meeting over the issues. He represents a portion of the black community, since his roots date back generations and at least 500 family members still live in town. But now, Joe said, many of his friends and family members are packing their bags and are moving out -- out of fear.
At least four African-American families he knows are leaving the area, especially those feeling threatened since the October killing of a popular San Pedro High School student -- a 6 foot 6" Pirates football and basketball player, shot in the chest protecting his friends during a party.
Students have told me that gang members crashed the celebration, bringing guns and knives, and making racial slurs when a brawl broke out. I knew many of the kids at this party. Good kids. Students preparing for college. Students that are athletes. For God sake's, two of my girlfriend's children were at the party.
"We are in a war zone," Joe said. "I believe people just don't know what's going on or they would help. People are leaving the community. People who have lived here for generations are leaving the community. This has got to stop."
When my son first got accepted to the “gifted” program at Dana Middle School, I admit readily I copped an attitude. I was sure it was an “elitist" group, possibly all white. Over the three years, I discovered I had my own lesson to learn. I found myself steadily traveling all over the community to pick up kids, from the middle of town, to the richest area of town, to poorest areas of town. For once, I realized that the Los Angeles Unified School District had done something really right – they had pulled together children who would never have met each other otherwise. Poor. Rich. Black. White. Hispanic. Asian. Wherever they were from, they were together.
And out of this came a conglomerate of students, one that I was so proud my son spent his days with.
But then La Terian was shot and killed -- a kid who put a face on this tragedy for all of us.
He had turned his life around when he moved away from the violence of other Los Angeles areas and moved here. Coaches spotted him immediately and got him into both football and basketball and he worked hard to bring and keep his grades up.
Younger kids at the Boys and Girls Club looked up to him in awe -- and he took the time to talk and counsel them. He was killed for absolutely no reason – except for what I believe is this: gang members made it so. I believe it was because he was African-American.
We think it stops there, with kids like La Terian. But it doesn’t. Now, I find myself waking up every morning wondering when the next kid is going to be killed. And I selfishly pray that it won't be my kid. Or my friend's kids. And then I pray that it not be anyone's kid.
I was unable to confirm the number of African–American families moving out, but I did talk to a mother who pulled her daughter out of San Pedro High School, because of threats she was receiving on her life they believe stems from her tight friendship with LaTerian, the mother said.
“A lot of people are scared straight,” she said, asking not to be identified due to the violence on the streets. “A group of Latinas were calling my daughter “ nigger,” and were threatening to harm her.
“It’s sad. I love San Pedro. But I can drive down every single block and see where I had friends killed. I have had friends die on every street.”
When I told my friends that I had been afraid to let my son and his friends go to Pt .Fermin – some thought that I was overreacting.
Joe, however, did not. He’s adamant that it’s a matter of time before someone more prominent is killed – and then we all wake up. Gang members, he said, are everywhere across this community – making decisions for us. If they decide that this little group of boys should’t be together, they can very well make it so.
He wonders what it will all take for us to pull all together, to be the community we should be, to protect each other. I think, that’s who La Terian was. Laterian was our wake up call to bring us all together.
I can’t believe I have the guts to say this: Stand up San Pedro. Have the guts to stand up – stand up now before its too late.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

All I Want for Christmas is...

Some Platelets, Red Blood Cells & Bone Marrow

Jillian and mom, Michelle, get the cuff around the ankle to determine her blood pressure. She just wants to kick for exercise, the baby said.

To help this family go to these

What Does Jillian Need For Christmas – platelets, red blood cells and a bone marrow Donor Will Do

By Diana L. Chapman

Peeking quietly into the hospital room, it seemed like any normal family gathering. Two little girls, a beaming, blond 4-year-old named, Anna, and her baby sister, 23-month old Jillian flopped on the floor. Toys were scattered about them-- and a visiting dog named, Huxley, happily snatched treats from their tiny hands – making the girls giggle.
Their parents, Michelle and Matt Litton, smiled proudly like it was Christmas morning. But the gifts the parents need this holiday aren’t the usual suspects such as a litany of toys, books and music.
The San Pedro couple desperately need Santa to bring red blood cells, platelets and a matching bone marrow from a willing donor on his sleigh – in case their sweet, impish tot, Jillian, needs it to survive. It was Oct. 3 when the family doctor called and told Michelle that Jillian had leukemia, not just any leukemia, but a rare form called acute myelogenous leukemia. They needed to meet with her right away.
Racing over to Miller Childrens Hospital in Long Beach, Michelle swept in the room to hear the bad news and the cycles of chemotherapy Jillian would need. At last, the family had learned the answer to the disconcerting bruises that had freckled Jillians’ body accompanied with a fever, and later complaints from the tot that her feet and ears hurt.
As for most parents, the first appearance of symptoms seemed like the flu.
“But there were a few weird things, like I sat her down for lunch,” said her father Matt. “She hadn’t eaten anything, but when I picked her up, her stomach was hard as a rock. It felt as tight as a drum.”
Doctors later told them that Jillian’s spleen and liver had swollen – and she couldn’t fight off an ear infection with the antibiotics because of her underlying illness, plunging the couple into a nightmarish whirlwind in learning about leukemia, platelets and bone marrow swabs -- more than anyone would ever care to know.
Ironically, the couple knew more than most would, having already supported St. Jude’s Research Hospital, which specializes in pediatric cancer. For Michelle, those little faces and stories of life-threatening illnesses haunted her so she and her husband registered as bone marrow donors should a need ever arise for any child. She even blasted out an e-mail asking her friends to do the same.
The couple had agreed among themselves to do all of this before they found out about their own daughter – and unfortunately, they are not a match for Jillian.
Parents typically aren’t a match for their own children (even though its genetically driven) and in this case, Anna, is not a match either, Michelle explained. So the hunt is on for someone who is -- and those who take the time to register would be on the list and could be a match for Jillian and hundreds of other children.
“You’d be more of a match than me,” explained Michelle, who now knows more about bone marrow and registering for it then she had ever planned on. Due to the costs, the family and friends have held fundraisers to try to make registration fees cheaper.
Furthermore, ethnicity plays s a large part of the matching, not just DNA, Michelle explained. About 80 percent of the donors are Caucasian, which makes it horrendous to match marrow for other races -- and "so minorities are in high demand and are not required to pay the fee," Michelle said.
From the moment their friends learned of the family's plight, they jumped aboard to try and help.
In my next life, I’m planning to come back and have the Litton’s friends. As soon as their friends heard what was happening to the family, they mobilized pulling together a giant garage sale – raising $5,000 plus during last weekend.
That will be used to help run the upcoming bone marrow drives, one at Torrance High School Dec. 14 from 3 to 9 p.m. and the other Jan. 5 (Saturday) at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium from 11 to 3 p.m. (For further information, link to the GetSwabbed above).
Their friends helped post fliers every where and anywhere to get people to the bone marrow drives and continued to email me on a consistent basis – that a story should be posted on the Underdog Blog.
Everybody needs friends like that during a life-and-death struggle, but I’m sure it’s not just the parents that they are trying to help. Jillian, herself, is quite a character. I was shocked how much she could speak already – and that she definitely had her own mind-set.
When she wanted to read her Dr. Seus Cat in the Hat book alone – and Anna insisted on helping her – she pushed Anna away saying she wanted to read alone.
On what her parents were calling “a bad day” for Jillian, her spirit seemed tough and her drive constant, despite battling a cough. She watched Wizard of Oz (her favorite movie) in her crib with Anna and when she was asked what her favorite character was, she yelped out: “Toto!”
She jumped around reading books, climbing up on her mom and kissing her, riding her toy pony and then refusing to hug a leaving visitor – that would be me – at the end of the day.
She was tired and the nurses had come in-and-out poking her, checking her blood pressure and her temperature.
Her mom encouraged a hug – but she ignored that and clung onto her buddy friends, Toto, Lion, Dorothy, Tin Man and Scarecrow.
But just as I was leaving, I got blessed, Jillian flung herself on me and gave me a hard, deep hug – one that I never realized a tiny sprout could give.
That was the greatest Christmas gift of my life.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Gang Cops Visit Teens to Discuss Protective Skills and Say: “We are there for You...”
Tips on What to do and How to Avoid Confrontation with Gangs

By Diana L. Chapman

A gentle, 11-year-old boy, who religously comes to art club Thursday’s after school, was asking me what I thought of his art. I was peering over his shoulder.
When he looked up at me with his round, round eyes, his short-cropped hair circling off his head as smooth as a teddy bear, it seemed his pear-shaped cheeks just begged for an ounce of help. That's when I spotted the black-green-yellow crescent moon perched below his left eye.
“What happened?” the words leaped out of my mouth before I had a chance to think.
“I got jumped,” he answered back promptly – with all the sincerity in the world, as if I shouldn’t be surprised, as though this was just part of his life.
My heart fell into my stomach, because as with most kids, I appreciate this child’s steady attendance to the after school club and his joy that he gets from being there. He was in the after school program, after all, because so many were designed at Dana Middle School – to help keep the kids off the streets, place them in a safer environment, help them forge close friendships and explore other interests in their lives.
“Where were you jumped?” I demanded.
“In Wilmington,” he explained. The student lives in San Pedro.
It was just the day before I had listened to two Los Angeles Police Gang Officers – Adriana Ruiz and Junior Nua – detail ways to student leaders on the Los Angeles Police Teen Advisory Board speak at the Boys and Girls Club about ways to protect themselves.
But before I get into that, I want to explain how volatile it's become on the streets of San Pedro. If we were once safe on one side of town – as we seem to think – we are discovering more and more that the walls are narrowing and gangs are now taking the lives of children we know – like La Terian Tasby, a 17-year-old San Pedro Pirate football and basketball player who was gunned down this fall at a party while protecting his friends.
At one time, San Pedro residents could basically argue that most gangs didn’t live near them. Now, they live in all pockets of our community – which means its time to clear away our dreamworld and find ways to curb gang activities. Wilmington has had some great success by creating a gang injunction, which according to the gang officers, has helped them keep gang members from controlling resident's lives. The injunction prevents gangs from congregating and imposes curfews. I’m all for an injunction – as I don’t want to see anymore kids killed.
Recently, Rev. Jeff Carr, whose been appointed by Los Angeles mayor, to tackle gangs and is otherwise known as the – “gang Czar” – came to a fundraiser for the Los Angeles Harbor-Area Boys and Girls Club.
He told those attending that while crime has dropped in Los Angeles, the problem is still severe. Every time his beeper goes off, he knows that another person has been killed or wounded by gangs. On Labor Day weekend, he said, two young people were shot and 11 were wounded.
“We have an epidemic,” he reported to the crowd. “We are the second largest city. If we continue to fight the problem this way, (through suppression) we are going to lose.”
I agree. Prevention has to be a huge part of solving these issues. That’s why Mike Lansing, executive director of the the Boys and Girls Club, has upped the ante for his kids by enrolling hundreds of club members into his College Bound program – and achieving so much success, I’m convinced that he will be overwhelmed when all parents realize what he’s offering.
My son and several of his friends are already there, looking at different colleges, learning what classes are needed for a higher education and they can get practice taking the SATs.
We have it all backwards, the executive director and the former Los Angeles School District board member told those attending.
“This is an amazing statistic,” he contended at the fundraiser, shortly after La Terian’s death reverberated through our town. “In San Pedro and Wilmington, there are 67 newborn to preschool child care (facilities). In San Pedro and Wilmington, there are only two teen centers. That is for the youth at most risk. As my father would say: “This is bass ackwards.”
And that’s why so many folks have worked diligently to pull together after school programming at Dana Middle School. And why I was shook up that one of the kids in the art had been hurt.
That made me start telling the students the gang officer's advice, one of which was never walk alone or an an area unknown to you. When I explained it to the students, the 11-year-old yelped: “But I walk to Von’s everyday,”
But that’s in San Pedro, I explained to him, “an area you know.”
“We’re here to assist and put these gang members in jail,” said Officer Nua, who revealed that the students aren’t talking about what happened to La Terian and others gang shootings out of fear. They have not been able to make any inroads, recently, in any of these deaths – because no one is talking. Anyone with information is encouraged to call police detectives – even anonymously – at 310-522-2040 or visit Another option is to call Los Angeles City’s 311 number to get access to detectives.
Here are rules to follow to protect children’s safety:
--No matter how popular and trendy, do not even attempt to wear any style of gang attire, including being cautious of colors, hats, and even the shoelaces you chose, to help prevent becoming or a “target” and being asked “where are you from?” – a common question gang members ask.
--Only be in areas that are well lit in the evenings and let everyone know – including your parents – where you are going and when you’ll be home.
--Know your friends and think twice about “who you hang out with,” and always be aware of any parties you attend.
“Educate yourself,” Nua told the students.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Why Kids Are So Often Invisible

Dear Readers:

I am introducing what I’m calling “Snapshots into Invisible Faces.” These will be gathered from what students have written in my class. It all came together one night when I was reading the “Amazing Grace” biography of William Wilberforce – who was an abolitionist and the primary parliamentary leader in beating down the slave trade – and its acceptability in England. He spent a majority of his life fighting this cause, which sucked his life away from him slowly. But he won – after years of dedication. Due to his diligence, the slave trade was abolished in 1807. Three days before he died in 1883 slavery was abolished in the British Colonies. As I was reading this, something sparked; it was the author’s explanation that had the English really known what was going on on the slave ships at sea and in their colonies, they would have been appalled and more readily agreeable to doing away with the horrors.

But they could not see. It’s was far away and for England, they were dealing with “invisible faces.” Often, that’s what happens with our kids. Their faces are invisible. They seem far away – South Central, Watts, below Pacific Avenue in San Pedro. We also have all these laws the government uses to protect their rights, so the general public can not see them. We don’t know who is in foster care. We don’t know who’s living in group homes. We don’t know who is up for adoption. And most of us, we have absolutely no idea what happening with the kids living in areas of poverty or crime. Should we care?

Americans are the most generous people in the world. If only they could see clearly, my gut says our world for our children would change for the betterment of their lives. But we can’t help, if we can’t see.

Here’s what one boy, a high school student, wrote in my class recently and his sense of helplessness to save other kids. I’m impressed after what I read that he still had values and that he still cared – despite the madness going on around him:

Ever since I was born, I have lived in Wilmington. It’s not as bad as people think – or at least that’s what I thought. But then one day, I looked out my window and saw a man selling drugs to a seven-year-old. When I saw that I fell into shock. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I don’t know why but I felt this anger inside of me.

Then, just when I was coming to terms with that, I witnessed a bunch of gang members make these two elementary kids fight. They were fist-fighting while they were just laughing at them. I just felt like going out there and doing something, but I knew if I did something, I would have had problems later on. Since that incident I have seen the world in a whole different perspective. Between that and my family life, my brother has epilepsy, I believe this will shape my future world and the choices I will make.

My family consists of six members. It’s myself, my brother, my sister, my parents and my grandma. My father dropped out of school right after middle school. He didn’t want to school anymore; he was an alcoholic. It got so intense that he drank rubber alcohol. What made him stop is that one day he got into a really bad fight and was seriously wounded. Since that moment, he hasn’t drank alcohol for almost twenty years and like my mother, works extremely hard to help his family. My mom dropped out of second grade. Her reason of dropping out is more reasonable. She dropped out because she needed to help my grandma sell candies to some schools near by so their family could survive.”

Despite the hardships in his life, this student told me he plans to use his Spanish translation skills to help people after learning years of patience helping his epileptic brother, changing his diapers and taking showers and babysitting him when his mother and grandmother have to go out. He plans to go to college and study perhaps medicine. He’s currently in the College Bound program at the Boys and Girls Club. Perhaps when he becomes a professional, he will not be an invisible face.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Please Visit A Garage Sale This Saturday to Help a Family Whose Baby Girl Has Been Diagnosed with Leukemia

A gigantic garage sale -- with donors encouraged to bring along even more items for sale -- will be held Saturday in hopes of raising enough funds for a local family to run a bone marrow drive to save their nearly 2-year-old daughter.

The event will be held at 1324 W. 26th Place in San Pedro starting at 6 a.m. by the friends of the Litton family. Friends and neighbors have amassed collectively to help fight leukemia and to save Jillian Luna, whose currently staying at Millers Childrens Hospital in Long Beach.

She was diagnosed with the illness in October 2007.

"We're inviting everyone we know (and hoping you will too) to our fundraising garage and bake sale for the Litton family on Saturday, December 1st," e-mailed the family hosting the event. "For those of you who may not know the Litton family personally, their daughter was recently diagnosed with Leukemia. She is currently going through her second round of chemotherapy.
"We are fundraising to help support the cost of running the bone marrow drives that have been set up (Torrance,December 14th and San Pedro, January 5th). We would love any and all the help we can get...We'll need help with everything from baking goodies, to setting up, to selling, to cleaning up. If you have things to donate, please call us or email us and we'll arrange how to get it to our house. The more the better. I'm so impressed by the way our community has come together for the Litton family, please help make this a success!"

For further information, please call 310 519 0163 and 310 702 6157.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Three Great Stories and just a Bit of Stitching in Time at 7th Street Elementary School Had Me Really Thinking: Principal Zan Colazas Has Some Fantastic Ideas of How to Make San Pedro A Better Place for Our Kids...and We Should All Be Helping Him

By Diana L. Chapman

It was one of those moments in time where either coincidence fell upon coincidence or someone higher up in the sky was moving the world of puppets to spark events and sew them together in a perfectly stunning pattern.

Call it divine intervention, coincidence or whatever you will, but something convinced me to walk inside 7th Street Elementary School and make a quick visit to principal Zan Colazas.

The silly thing was I really had no reason to. I was standing outside when the Dana Middle School PTO treasurer pulled up in her car. She was the person I needed to see so I could drop off some paperwork. She works at 7th Street.

But there she was pulling up at the same time I did and there was utterly no reason for me to go onto the campus. What do you think, I asked her, do you think Zan’s available? The Thanksgiving holidays were about to begin and as usual, I had many other things to do. “Sure, he’s there,” she said. “Just go say Hi.”

And I was so glad I did. Zan always has a good story to tell – but this day in particular, it seemed the match and the flint were there to spark some interesting discussions and get the fuel burning. Three pieces of news are coming out of 7th Street – from establishing an after school Italian club to starting a new pre-K program, much needed here.

First, Zan began to tell me how the Italian Consulate had offered up money to a bunch of schools to teach this beautiful romance language, which in my mind is riddled with accents of emotion and tradition and with so many Italian families living here, just a great gift to give to our kids.

Only two schools accepted their offer, the principal told me, and 7th Street jumped at the chance for the funding and partnered up with Taper Elementary School.

On the idea that its easier for younger children to learn and absorb a language, 7th Street asked all its 2nd and 3rd graders if they were interested in participating in the after school class. Out of about 140 students, 70 enrolled; twenty are on the waiting list, the principal explained.

Italian teacher Carmela Funicello will begin her first round of classes this Thursday and the principal revealed, he can’t even deal with the numerous late applicants. The response has been that overwhelming.

“You have to teach the kids early,” Zan said during our discussion who is a proponent of all students learningat least one second language or more. “As Americans, we neglect this part of our education.”
For me, this was thrilling news because I’m just getting underway to start an Italian After School Club at Dana Middle School, so I was enthusiastic that 7th Street kids could flow into Dana with quite a bit of Italian under their belt.
But Zan has bigger dreams – one I would love the community to step forward and help come to fruition.
He wants to build a Language magnet at his school, which makes so much sense in this area that this dream might even happen. If you think about the languages spoken in this town besides English: Spanish, Italian, Croatian and Greek (am I forgetting anything?) where students can actually learn to speak with folks who live here, this is so logical that we just need to do it.
In other phenomenal news for the school, Zan just received approval for his continued request to get the federally funded, SRDLP, in place. In words other than school jargon, this is basically an excellent program (one my son attended) that prepares four-year-olds for kindergarten, better known to most as Pre-K.
“We are so excited about our pre-K program because its going to help prepare our children and it will dovetail nicely into our academic program,” the principal explained.
Having my own son attend this program with the popular, and well-known-and- now-retired Jackie Terry at Bandini Elementary School, I found it to be one of the biggest gifts we ever received through public education.
While I received parenting classes through this program (which while I’d like to think I’m the perfect parent, I learned much better ways to handle things), my son was learning how to behave, how to read, how to discover art, the alphabet, music, books and a myriad of other educational attributes that helped him leap easily into kindergarten.
The program was unexpectedly offered up to 7th Street – after years of requests– and is likely to begin in the middle of the school year-- mid-February, so the school will be looking for students to sign up now. To survive, they need students and since I can stake my reputation on the educational advanatages of this program, I most certainly recommend parents begin signing up now!
Lastly, this made me laugh.
Zan, as usual, was offered the chance for his students to attend Clear Creek, an outdoor educational institution organized by the school district in the Angeles National Forest.
This year, all his teachers were extremely busy to leave the school for one week – especially those teachers already involved in similar outings to Catalina Island.
Rather than lose this chance, the principal decided he would take the kids himself to hike, learn about plants and stars, study weather, rocks and minerals and spend a week camping outdoors.
Being an administrator, it’s not something he’s done for awhile. But as usual, he’s game for trying anything to help his students. My question is just this: Can I go with my family?
Have a starry, heavenly night, Mr. Zan! And keep dreaming big when it comes to your kids.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Truly Thankful, Kids who Never Get Listened Too Have a Lot to Say About Who They Thank -- Money, Clothes, Tennis Shoes and Most of All -- Their Moms: Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!

Dear Readers:

It will never fail to surprise me who turns in the best work at the Boys and Girl Club. I was shocked by some of the students extraordinary efforts in my writing class. What truly amazes me and what I'm extremely grateful for is to watch them grow. Some of these students couldn't write when they walked in my class. Some are special education. And some were brains from the moment I met them. What I love the most is they've showed me what I already believed, but believe more than ever now -- every kid has a gift, and it's up to the adults, to help them find them.

Here is what several kids wrote what they are Thankful for...

Dominick Olmeda: I am thankful for my family, my friends and the country I live in. I am thankful for my family because they provide a safe environment for me and provide other necessities for me. I am thankful for my friends because they are awesome and always help me when in need. I am thankful for my country because the U.S. gives everyone rights and protects those rights.

I am thankful for those things because I need them and they need me.

Jamanlya Arellano, 17

I am thankful that I’m still alive. I’m thankful that I haven’t gotten into more bloody fights. I thank God that my mom is still here. I thank God that LT (the football killer who was recentlykilled) is safe up there. I’m thankful that my mom is watching out for me. I’m thankful for my friends. I’m thankful that I’m not in juvenile hall. I am thankful that my family is still together. I am thankful for my grandmother being here. I am thankful for my older brother being a father to me. Most of all, I am thankful for people hearing me.

I thank God that LT is in a safe place and not in the place we call hell. LT, I don’t know why you were the one to go. My blood became white as snow. When I heard about you, I thought that’s not fair. They took you away and they don’t even care. You were one of my homies and every one misses you…There’s too much pain in my heart thinking about you LaTerian. I wish you were still here to turn 18. You were one of the good guys. You turned your life around. Your death brought a lot of people down. I’m gonna’ make sure I get on the football team for you and I’m going to make sure to make sure that you are proud of me.

By Shelly DeLeon
You were there when I cried.
You were there in bad times.
You were there when I smiled, when I had a cold an to make me laugh.
You were there. You were everything to me, my best friend and the love of my life.
You were part of me, part of something I would miss dearly if ever taken away. You were the someone that I need in my life. I am happy and sad at the same time because you have been take away from me. I miss your hugs, your smiles, your laugh, the way you looked at me when you knew something was wrong.

But ever since, we haven’t talked, ever since we haven’t smiled or laughed, it’s been hard and different.

But I thank you every day for teaching me right from wrong, bad from good, to know what to do when things are bad. Thank you.

The person I speak about is a friend, Martin Garnica.

By Amani Holmes: I'm Thankful for My Thoughts & My Mom

I am thankful for my thoughts, because without them I would be ignorant. And I would end up doing ignorant stuff.

My thoughts keep me alert, because if my friends wanted me to do something crazy without thinking, I would probably do it. When I have no one to talk to, my thoughts keep me occupied. I always think of ways to improve myself or create. And creating is my life!

I love creating stories, poems, dances and art projects. I would be none of this without my thoughts. If a really hot guy said come with me: without thinking I would go. My favorite saying is: “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done rather than not doing things at all.”

My thoughts are a personal gift just made for me!

I am also grateful for my mom. She has been there through all my crap. Because even though I’ve talked back, got in trouble in school, purposely disobeyed her, said I’ve hated her, etc., she still loves me.

And even if she cusses me out, goes bipolar on me, makes up stupid rules, makes me wash the dishes, etc, I still find a way to love her back.

She keeps me in a safe place even when I’m not. We can be stubborn to each other. We can yell at each other. But in the end, we’re all that we have – each other…My mom is crazy. She makes me crazy. We make each other crazy. But without her stupid/funny/loud crazy, I would be a boring/shy/quiet person.

I love my life. I love my thoughts. And most of all, I love my Mom.

Go Boys and Girls Club!

Taryn Bedley:

I am thankful for a lot of things, one of the things I am thankful for is still being alive and being able to wake up every morning without any problems. I am thankful for having a supportive and loving family. One person I am thankful for is my Nana. I love her so much. I can talk to her about anything and tell her everything. Another person is Tonya. She’s always there for me and she always supports me and I love her like she's my mom.

I am also thankful for my mom even though she’s not here anymore. I remember everything she taught while she was here. I am also thankful for her because she’s the one who brought me in this world and I would be nothing without her help. I am also thankful for basketball, where it feels like all my problems go away. I am also thankful for my Dad, because he’s always there for me and he keeps me in line. He’s always strict on me, because he wants me to be successful in life and succeed in whatever I do. I am thankful for a lot more than that, but these are some of the things I’m most thankful for.

Tizvan Clinton:

I am thankful for my mom. I am thankful for my whole family. I am thankful that God wakes me every morning. I am thankful for my skills in basketball and football. I am thankful that I have a good meal every night. I am thankful that I have a good mom. I am thankful for bad things that happen to me because I think it only makes me stronger. I am thankful for everything I get because the kids in Africa, some of them are born with AIDS.

Glenn Hawkins, 15,

I’m thankful for the fact that I am able to use my imagination to draw these creatures:

(Glenn drew a beautiful cartoon creature here, which I could not post -- Diana).

I am thankful for my mom, because she never gives up on me, like everyone else does. When I mess up, she tells me how to fix it rather than laughing at me like everyone else does. She helps me to become stronger, smarter and an even better person. She appreciates my art work when everyone else mocks them. When other people try to destroy my inner heart, she’s there to help me through it all. Without my mom, I have no idea where I’d be. Thank GOD my mom is still here.

I also thankful for my English teacher, because she was the third person to believe in me. She believes that I am not what everyone else says I am. She believes I can succeed in my dreams of becoming a chef. I am thankful for Mrs. Williamson for helping me to learn how to cook more elaborately.”

Zeke Walton: I am thankful for: friends, family, life, clothes, shoes, games, phones, computers, TV, sports.

I am thankful for my family because they are always they and they are always supportive;
I am thankful for my friends because they are always there when I need them.
I am thankful for life, because I don’t when it could be my last.

I am thankful for clothes…

Austin White:

I am thankful for my family because they are awesome and I love ‘em all. I’m thankful for my friends because they are the best and they’ve got my back no matter what. I am very, very thankful for food because I’m fat and I eat too much, but it’s all a good because I never get fatter. I am thankful for phones because when I’m away from mine I want to cry. Also, I am thankful for my Ipod because I have separation anxiety and I miss it a lot. And I’m thankful for my shoes even though I don’t wear them unless I have two/too. And I’m thankful for cars, because I like to drive. And I’m thankful for MONEY
Because without it I wouldn’t be anything and I would be broke. And I’m thankful for being a happy person because being sad or mad is too much work.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Dana Cooking Club students with the help of San Pedro High Whip up some Tasty treats...

San Pedro High Culinary Teacher, bottom right, takes on the middle school students to teach them life skills.

Two Schools, Several bowls, Towels, Spatulas and Dozens of Rice Krispie Treats Later, a San Pedro High Teacher Whips Up One Fantastic Recipe for Life

By Diana L. Chapman

There was a frenzy of action, plenty of giggles, older kids teaching younger kids and a loud yelp from one little girl that echoed over all the rolling waves of chatter.
“I love to cook!” she exclaimed.
The spatulas were out.
The bowls and pans were ready. And students from Dana Middle School excitedly entered a marriage of the most extraordinary and blissful kind. They are learning life skills after school – how to cook – at San Pedro High School through the creative and wizard-like efforts from high school culinary teacher Sandy Wood.
An after school cooking club was established – and launched its first enthusiastic efforts this month as 20 middle school students walked to the high school and will do so nearly every Friday. The youths poured into the cooking classroom like an excited frenzy of ants around sugar and learned some special rules from their teacher.
“There are rules,” she told the group that was so intent in their class they barely moved while listening. “Knives are not swords. You have to wear an apron. Your hair has to be pulled back. And when you wash your hands, you should sing “Happy Birthday to Me” twice and use hot water.
“Got it?”
The Dana students did and in their glory, they learned to melt a ¼ cup of butter, fold in and melt three cups of baby marshmallows with it and add 3 1/2 cups of Rice Krispies.
They melted, they poured, they mixed and voila – squares and squares of Rice Krispie treats dotted with colorful M&Ms were ready to eat and/or take home.
One mother was particularly delighted with the turn out she revealed later that week..
“Chris has made Rice Krispie treats three times since the class,” his mother chortled – and added that he was experimenting with chocolate syrup on top – until the family demanded just a few plain treats.
Dana’s cooking club comes under the middle school’s pilot programming to bring after school interests to the middle school campus. So far, Dana has started a program in art (using the non-profit Art to Grow on projects), a junior police explorer club, basketball, dance movement and a swim club with future programming projected to include: song writing, tennis, sailing and foreign languages, from Spanish to Italian.
Called L.A. Network for Kids, use of the clubs are being explored to encourage students to stay off the streets, explore interests that might encourage them toward future careers and in a school of hundreds of students, to find friends in smaller-style communities.
When contacted, Sandy Wood readily agreed to run the program which will later include classes from Mona Sutton, the owner of San Pedro's the Omelette and Waffle Shop.
“Why am I doing this?” Sandy Wood said when queried. “The food service industry is one of the fastest growing segments of jobs in the U.S. We need more and more trained people because more people are eating out. There’s two parents working in families, kids are in extracurricular activities and now we have a wonderful opportunity to introduce students to cooking.”
Using the help of her top culinary high school students , Sandy had them fan out to different tables to show all the students how to make the Rice Krispie recipe and then how to clean up. The younger students enjoyed visiting both their future school and working with the older students.
“This is just so fun, because I worked with my friends,” said 13-year-old Lauren Beck, who quickly pointed out while she was washing dishes that her older brother was one of the cooking teacher’s student helpers. “I didn’t know things like ingredients and stuff.”
By the end of the class, the middle school students were washing down tables, sweeping floors, and packing up their treats to take home. Many parents are hoping this will translate into help at home – and perhaps even future culinary careers for their children.
“It’s a good thing,” the teacher said. “The students were enthusiastic and they were well behaved.”
And one of the number one lessons, she told the students was this: “Don’t be impatient. A lot about cooking is just patience.”
For more information regarding the cooking club or other Dana clubs, call Dana Middle School at (310) 241-1100 and leave a message in the main office.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Biggest Gift My Parents Ever Gave Me:
A Clean Slate & Tolerance

By Diana L. Chapman

When I was growing up, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed. So was our President, JFK. And not long after, Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

The times were volatile, an emotional heart-twist of steely pain. And as just a little sprite, it was hard for me to understand why my mother sat and sobbed day after day, all day and all night long, while we watched funeral caskets go by on every single television station, one after another, when we were living first in Seattle and then later Montreal. Where were my cartoons, I demanded?

Where were the cartoon heroes, I yelped, as I switched from channel to channel only to see throngs of people as the caskets glided by? Where was the Underdog? Superman? Batman?

What I didn’t understand at the time was the people who died -- those were my parents heroes. They all stood for a symbol – a simple one – that mankind needed to grow up and learn one of the most crucial words in the English dictionary: tolerance. It seems that they died for that – a treasure that just like freedom is not free. It’s something to work for and build toward.

My parents taught us tolerance. We weren’t allowed to call other kids names or treat anyone without the utmost kindness. My mom would call us in to watch commercials trying to fight against prejudice; the one that still remains with me was a white boy playing happily with an African-American boy until the white youngster's mother arrived. She immediately raced over, grabbed her son and yelled for him to stay away. The boys both cried, because they had no idea what they had done. My mom would shake her head with disdain and indicate that she would never do such a thing. We were free to be friends with those we picked.

It was never race they determined ourfriendships on; it was the character of the individual

We were so well trained not to be prejudice, that as it slowly seeped out when we were older that my parents weren’t perfect, it stunned us. They still were carrying a lot of old scars from World War II and had hidden their feelings from us, tucking them away like a squirrel hording nuts.

We did not hear about their prejudices until we were in our teen years, starting at perhaps, the age of 15. By that time, they began to share and reveal their true feelings. It always came up around the subject of World War II.

They still carried horrible feelings toward the Germans, and we couldn’t later in life even talk about the Japanese for quite some time. But by this time, we were old enough to debate their feelings and tell them how silly they were being.

And perhaps their emotions were somewaht understandable.

Besides losing scores of friends and relatives during WWII, my mother’s brother died when Germans shot his plane down over England when he served for the Canadian Royal Air Force. Her brother was the red-headed 19-year-old, the oldest in her clan, and the leader in the family.

But his days were shortened and lost in the winds, shadowed long ago and embedded in a cemetery somewhere in a long and forgotten countryside of England – far, far away from the lands where he was born and where his family could visit. We actually visited there recently with our own son – and we’re able to understand how all these soldiers died to make us free.

My mother’s Dad, served in the Canadian military during World War I, was buried alive when Germans bombed and used mustard gas. Ironically, a German doctor worked diligently to save his life, a story that was routinely repeated and passed down through the family because it seemed my mother’s family couldn’t fathom why that doctor turned into such a hero for them when he held the life of an enemy in his hands.

Yes, my parents grew up with many prejudices. But they did not share them with us. So the three daughters ventured into life, innocent babes in a distraught world, with a clean slate – and we never really understood the anxiety of the blacks, the hatred toward American Indians, the slander and libel of the Jews.

We were free. Not because we were white, but because my parents made it so. They didn’t germ us or gum us up with their own prejudices.

The day that this became so crystal clear and was like a lightning bolt for me was on a visit to Belize, a beautiful Central-American country once called British Honduras, a land lush with tropic jungles and hundreds of islands dotting a turquoise sea.

While on the island of Ambergris Caye, we met a southern American couple. Belize, with a large black population that came down from the tides of slavery, exists as a giant mix of descendants from English and Scottish pirates, and generations of Chinese, ancient Mayans, Guatemalans, and slaves that had fled from all over the United States and other Caribbean Islands.

It was about 90 percent black when we met these southerners in the late 1980s and we were taken aback when they old us, that blacks and whites should be together in the United States, but not mixed. We should live separately, they said.

I was confused and so was my husband. If they felt this way, I asked them, then why of all places would they come to Belize -- a place that was one of the biggest melting pots since America ever came along? Perhaps even more so.

I’ll never forget the words the man etched in my brain in those moments. “Those are my feelings,” the southern man said. “I learned it from my father. He learned it from his father. And he learned it from his father. It’s the right way. It’s passed down through the generations. That’s the way I was brought up and that’s the same way my son will be brought up.”

I didn’t have the guts to ask him: “But what if that’s not the right way to be brought up?”

All of these lessons gave me the greatest gifts to handle students questions during my writing workshops. One of my 13-year-old students wrote: “I like to play basketball, but I feel that when I play I’m living up to the black stereotype everybody wants me to.
I’m tall, black and know how to make a lay-up. They (people) feel that African-Americans can only be athletes, and entertainers. Why not a doctor, songwriter, president, chef, scientist and a director?”

This is what I wrote back: “You are so right! You are black! You are tall! You can play basketball. But as you know, you can become a doctor, a lawyer, a song writer and even a president. The last person in the world that probably anyone would of thought to become the president of the United States at your age was Abe Lincoln. Why?

“He had no formal education. He was extremely tall and gangly – and, many people thought he was ugly. Did he prove the world wrong? You bet he did. And so can you.”

So can we all. Start with this: give your child as best as you can – a clean slate and the biggest gift of all – a simple word in the English dictionary: a word called tolerance.
Community Happenings:

Pediatric Clinic Expands Hours

The Harbor Community Pediatric Clinic expanded its hours to include opening for youngsters on Friday.
Additional hours are part of the ongoing efforts of the clinic to enhance its operations for the community to ensure health benefits for children and adults.
On the first Friday the clinic opened in mid-October, Dr. Orawan Sitburana, the new, part-time pediatrician, was busy treating children the entire day.
“We are fortunate to have her,” said Michele Ruple, the clinic's executive director. “On our first Friday, Dr. Sitburana treated 12 patients. These are 12 kids that would have gone untreated.”
Clinic hours are now 9 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Reach the pediatric center by calling: 310-732-5887. The location: 731 S. Beacon Street, San Pedro.

The San Pedro Chamber Presents the 11th Annual Teen Conference: Teens At The Table - “Bridges to Success”

Trying to prevent more teenagers from dropping out of high school, the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce announced its 11th annual teen conference.
To be held Tuesday, Nov. 27, from 8 to 1:30 p.m., the chamber plans to help 9th grade students “overcome obstacles to success and develop career paths; thus reducing the chance they will become a drop out statistic,” according to a chamber press release.
This year’s conference – as all the past conferences have – work toward mentoring and supporting teens and is in need of sponsors for the event.
It will be held at the Double Tree Hotel, 2800 Cabrillo Marina Way.
Organizations invited to join the conference include: San Pedro High School, Mary Star of the Sea High School, Port of Los Angeles High School, Rolling Hills Preparatory School, Harbor Occupational Center, Harbor Boys & Girls Clubs, LA Bridges (Toberman House Youth Program), San Pedro Youth Coalition, San Pedro & Peninsula YMCA and the YWCA of the Harbor Area.
Please call Sandy Bradley, the chamber’s chair of the Business-Education-Arts Committee at (310)- 940-9316 for further information.

Monday, November 12, 2007

HOW THE KIDS FEEL ABOUT LOSING LATERIAN – L.T. – the friend, brother, cousin they looked up too; And the words his Basketball Coach spoke at his Funeral; Please see earlier post about a public candlelight vigil being planned

Dear Readers: I’ve compiled some writings from students about their loss of Laterian Tasby, 17, a San Pedro High student who had given them hope about changing their own lives when he became a school leader and played football and basketball for the high school.

Students have said he influenced them with his friendliness and caring and provided them with a role-model – showing them anyone’s path can change if they want it too. He had moved here during his sophomore year to get away from the violence in his past neighborhoods and had changed his life before he was recently shot at a party the weekend before Halloween.

The students names have been changed for their own protection. Here is what they wrote:

--When I found out, I just died,” wrote Ron, a 13-year-old Dana Middle School student. “I asked what happened and when they told me he was shot I started to cry. I didn’t want to be the only one crying, so I held it in. I listened to everybody, like his girlfriend, his brother, and the kids that really loved him. It hurt me really badly; I wish I could have died with him. I will always remember him as the Empire State Building. …I thought he was strong as a boulder, but I guess I found out that he was not as strong as a boulder.

--“We have all suffered a great loss, so we have to be strong,” wrote Joe, a 15-year-old San Pedro High male student. “We cannot be weak. We cannot show our vulnerability. To all the people out there I know, I love you so much cuz’ you really don’t know when God will take you. Unfortunately, we lost one who is not a gang member!!! He was a young man trying to turn his life around. To everyone I say: “Please stop this violence.”

--“I miss L.T. because he was so funny. I can’t believe he is gone. He was a good friend and he will always live in our hearts. I really miss him because I used to talk to him about all my problems. L.T. I will miss you. Please look over our backs,” 14-year-old San Pedro High youth.

--Laterian Tasby was such a great guy,” wrote Candy, 14-year-old San Pedro High student. “We called him L.T., but I loved his name so I called him Laterian. He was such a good person and he always made me laugh. For the record, he was not a gang member. He used to be in trouble, but he changed his life around….He had dreams of going to USC….What happened to him was the worst thing ever. He didn’t deserve it at all. At the Boys and Girls Club, we are one big family. Now that Laterian is dead, its like our family members are dead.”
By A High School Student:



My name is John Bobich and I had the privilege to coach LT as he played basketball for San Pedro High School. My greatest memory of LT was when we were driving home from the Palm Springs basketball tournament this summer. We had a successful tournament. LT played well and I had the opportunity to drive LT back to town along with my wife and my 3 year old son. One would figure the conversation would revolve around LT and how well he did. But not LT. He sat in the back and the whole way home. LT constantly would crack jokes until he got a laugh from my son. He would then ask my son question after question until he got an answer. This went on over the course of the 2 and 1/2 hour trip. On that afternoon LT made a three year old the most important person on earth. And to me that's what made LT, LT. It was about others. In our conversations he was worried about pleasing his Mom, his Aunt, his Uncle and his brothers and sisters. To me this is what made LT so special.

Over the course of the past few days I find myself asking "Why?" Why does this young man lose his life after all the hard work he's done to turn his life around. I find myself angry. Here's a young man who was making a difference in so many ways. As a son, nephew, a friend, a student, and an athlete. Why does his life have to end so early? Well, last night I came to see LT at the viewing and I had received some answers. I witnessed so much love, support and compassion from many of you that sit here today. Love that we don't often see in this hectic world of ours. I also felt peace. And this is what LT stood for. He brought these great qualities in the people that he encountered.

If there was ever a conflict at school I could always go to LT and he would find a way to keep peace on our campus. He would step up and say, "Hey guys, just let it be. It's just not worth it." Today we mourn the passing of LT as his physical presence will no longer be with us. It hurts and for me it's really hard to accept. We look around town and see signs, pictures, and shirts that keep LT's spirt alive. One day there will be no shirts, no pictures, and no signs. But there will be many of the people in here keeping LT's spirt alive in the greatest way possible. Simply by doing the right thing. We will all have an opportunity. There will be situations that arise and we must remember LT and think. We will keep LT's spirit alive every time we step up and say, "Just let it be. It just not worth it." It could be with a friend, a foe or one day your spouse. We must learn to keep things in perspective. For you younger people who were so close to LT. I promise you years from now you will know LT made a difference in your life. Every time you make a friend or even a stranger feel better by stepping up and making a difference. If there 3 years old or 93. And you'll remember that's something LT taught me because that's what LT was about. Let's all make a promise to LT that we will make sure his death didn't go in vain. We will all make this world a better place by following LT's lead. God Bless you LT. I will never forget you.


By Diana L. Chapman

Over the past four months, two San Pedro High football players, one who just graduated and lived to tell his story, and another who was enjoying himself at “an athletes” party have been ruthlessly shot in our coastal town.
In the first incident, last August, an 18-year-old former Pirate survived a hail of bullets that ripped through his torso while sitting on porch with friends on a hot summer night. (That made about two lines in the press.)
The second incident, at a party the weekend before Halloween, had an even more tragic end. A SPHS football and basketball player, Laterian Tasby (L.T.), 17, died from a single shot to the chest after he “fought like a soldier” to protect his friends, a Boys and Girls Club staff official said.
The two events—both gang-related—have left me deflated. Neither boy belonged to a gang Both were respected athletes, fully immersed in the sports culture of their community.
A public candlelight vigil for Laterian is planned for the week of Nov. 12 (times and dates will be announced). Mona Sutton, co-owner of the Omelette and Waffle Shop, is organizing the event along with April Black, an official from Toberman. Los Angeles Habor Boys and Girls Club director, Mike Lansing, and Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn has agreed to speak.
It’s the first time I can remember a vigil in honor of a student killed like this in San Pedro. When Mona called me about it, I was thankful that at last someone was doing something to honor our young people—no matter what part of town they live in.
I consider Mona a “great equalizer,” a leader who has the ability to pull us together so we can grieve publicly over this tragic loss.
Others at the party, a mix of San Pedro High school and some college students, included another SPHS football player who was injured along with three other teenagers. All four have since recovered from bullet or stab wounds.
While I didn’t know Laterian well, I know probably half the kids who attended the party. Several are leaders at the Boys and Girls Club along with several other achieving San Pedro High students. Many of the teens spend much of their time in that family atmosphere at the club – striving to stay away from gangs and using the club as their safe haven. Most of them were on track for college, explained a staff member involved closely with the students, who asked not to be named.
Two of my friends children scrambled out of the house after Laterian was shot shortly before midnight. When I went to the Boys and Girls Club Wednesday afternoon for my weekly writer’s workshop, I watched young men and women stream back from Laterian’s funeral. Some were stoic, others were in tears, but it made me realize they were wondering about their own tomorrow, their own future. How could they not be? One of their closest friends, a popular leader, a peacekeeper at both the high school and club, was shot before their eyes.
About a year ago, two teenage friends – one black, the other Latino – were shot outside the Boys and Girls Club on Fifth Street. Why? The Latino boy had refused to join a gang and had befriended an African-American. Both were “taught a lesson” for hanging out together, club officials told me.
Laterian, who stood 6-foot-6, was called a “monster” by some because of his size. He tried to protect his friends from the alleged suspects who infiltrated the party apparently toting guns and knives.
The suspects allegedly made racial remarks and punched and stabbed one of the club members, which prompted the brawl.
“People are still trying to justify it as though Laterian was in a gang,” explained. a club official who said Laterian had moved in with his aunt and uncle for his sophomore year to escape from the violence where he grew up. “It was just supposed to be a small party for athletes. This should never have happened.”
Laterian was African-American, as is the teenager shot in August.
The popular football player had turned his life around and was making headway with his grades –achieving a C average so he could pursue college. College scouts were coming to see him play and his future looked bright and promising.
His horrific story came on the heels of the former Pirate player shot when he was hanging out with friends shortly before midnight Aug. 2 on the front porch of a house in the 900 block of Santa Cruz Street. I’m withholding his name at the request of police.
My friend’s son, now in college, had just left when four African-Americans pulled over and asked the former player for directions. Then they shook his hand, but one of the suspects held on tightly. A gun appeared, and the victim was shot multiple times in the torso, elbow and leg.
The suspects fled while his friends rushed him to the emergency room, where he miraculously survived.
When I bumped into him later at a going away party, I had no idea who he was. I just saw a cast on his arm and asked what happened. He told me he had been shot, but wasn’t sure why. He dismissed any racial overtones, although he was hanging out with Latino friends. He was dumbfounded he was alive.
So am I.
I never thought San Pedro would turn out this way with our kids dying in the streets. In the past, people I talked to dismissed these incidents because it wasn’t their kid. Their kid would never be caught in that situation. Now, I realize that if we believe this, we’re living in a dream world.
Police Commander Pat Gannon, a San Pedro native who is in charge of homicides and gang details in the LAPD’s southern region, said parents need to be more vigilant.
Parents must no longer allow their children to go to parties, no matter where they are. It takes only a couple of knuckleheads crashing a party to turn it into a dangerous event.
“There’s the way the world should be, and then there’s the way it is,” Pat told me. “Kids should be able to go to parties. It’s part of the fun. But today it’s a recipe for disaster. There are mean, nasty people out there, and unfortunately a couple of them ended up at that party and it became life-altering. It’s just tragic.”
Although he has no magic solution, he said parents should look for red flags such as a party “everyone is talking about” that could grow too large and unwieldy. Perhaps, parents need to organize parties in safe locations.
I was hit with the news of Laterian’s death just after returning from vacation. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach, because I knew the emotional roller coaster the kids at the Boys and Girls Club would be on—having watch one of their own become such a success story gives them hope and makes them strive that much harder.
In an attempt to help them heal – whatever that can possibly mean – I asked them to write about L.T. There’s not much else I can do, except ask you to show you’re support. Attend the candlelight vigil.
It’s the only way as a community we can show we care for our kids – all of the kids in our community –and let gang members know we demand peace for our children.
Police are looking for help in both investigations. Call (310) 522-2021 if you have any information.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dana Middle School Receives State-of-the-Art Fitness Center Along With Three Other Middle Schools; Former Los Angeles School Board Member Mike Lansing (above) watches teachers train for future lessons to Dana Students (See full story below)

Saralyn Hannon, head of Dana Middle School physical education department wearing yellow, trains other teachers using the gift from former School Board Member Mike Lansing before he departed after serving eight years. Saying she was "floored" by the gift, the instructor plans to open its doors to students by the end of October.

Mike Lansing's gift left four middle schools with a trainer for teachers and $50,000 plus in physical training equipment found usually in private gyms; Some students have never seen this equipment before

Diana L. Chapman

Instead of leaving behind a swath of candy for Halloween, a former Los Angeles Unified School Board Member left an enormous treat for San Pedro middle school students – an intense “Disneyland” style fitness center which will open its doors in late October.
Dana Middle School’s new fitness center allows students to challenge their own skills with built-in monitoring devices on the newest training equipment and opens around Halloween, said Saralyn Hannon, head of physical education department.
The center’s pieces include 15 state-of- the-art spin bikes, three giant elypticals (like a giant looking trike that has pedals for leg thrusts and push poles for arms,) more than 20 stability balls, dozens of three to ten pound weights, scores of medicine balls, floor mats and hordes of resistance bands.
That doesn’t include the 20 bosus pieces, which are used like stepping stools, but are rounded to help promote balance.
Using a spin bike, physical education instructor Jose Morales, jumped off after ten minutes and said happily “what an awesome workout. My legs are wobbling.
“When the kids enter in here, it’s going to be like Disneyland.”
As former school board member Mike Lansing toured the facility recently and said he decided to use his remaining funds as a board member to ensure that middle school children would learn a variety of ways to exercise and open their minds to all sorts of athletics – besides running and team sports.
Funds for similar facilities were also given to Wilmington, Gompers and Markham, both in South Los Angeles. Each school received $50,000 a piece.
“Everything was being done for the high schools and the elementary schools and health is such an issue,” Mike explained. “It just made sense to invest in this. Health and academics are definitely related. If you have an overweight child or an asthmatic child or both, we are getting a twofer here to help them improve their health.”
Physical trainer Eden Paul was hired to purchase the equipment and aide the physical education teachers at all four schools to set it up. In addition, she will train the teachers in equipment usage before they start.
At Dana, it took several months to just set up the room and remove former equipment, the head of the P.E. department said. The amount of time it took to plan out the room has prevented the teachers from opening up the doors yet to students.
Once the teachers are trained and have figured out the best way to have some 60 plus students use the facility, with one teacher on hand, the students will be released to get their own workouts.
Currently, the facility has been opened up after school for teachers and staff to use, Saralyn explained.
“I am just so grateful,” the P.E. instructor revealed. “We can just do so much. It’s really different for the kids. We got the best equipment and the most for our money. I’m just so floored.”
In the past, she related that physical education was typically bypassed financially for academics and that the school is still trying to install a rock wall that it has money set aside for. Under school district policy, the installation has become so difficult with the that the campus still has yet to receive it.
With this packet, there was little concern about installation. It was more about finding the proper room and training the physical education teachers on the new-state-of the-art-equipment.
For Mike, the key for him will be coming back to see the doors unlocked for the students he left this gigantic treat for at all four of the schools.