Wednesday, December 31, 2008

San Pedro High Students Write Their Tales About Writing, Soccer and Outer Space; The Writing Sky Has No Limits

Dear Readers: All these students were asked to write what came to mind in a period of 15 minutes. This is three samples, but there are many, many more. I was extremely pleased with the first piece from the student who said she had no writing talent. Oh, yes she does! And so -- probably -- do you. Happy New Year --Diana

***Where To Begin When It Comes to Writing***
By Claudia Ramirez, 11th grade

Where to begin…

I hate writing…to most people, it comes easy and it’s a way to vent and express yourself, but as for me, it’s much different. There are so many thoughts running through my head but as soon as I see that blank white paper, they all evaporate. I don’t know where.

They say that reading is the key to being a great writer. That’s where my problem begins. I really don’t like to read. I don’t see why or how people can be so passionate about reading, but I wish I could.

After a couple of paragraphs of writing, I get lost and end up not having anything to write about (like right now…)

***Writing About a Passion for Soccer***
By Raquel Barbas, 11th grade

It’s like waking up and something is waiting for me; like my life isn’t complete without it.

The dew on the grass I can’t wait to see

The painted lines orange, white, green, an aurora of colors as I look up from the field.
The freedom I feel as I run,

Power in my legs, my mind set on the net
The feeling of scoring that first goal; the wonderful sound of the crowd

I love the feeling of the sun.
I feel warm, cozy and inspired and it’s the end

Another game flew by as I did once with the ball
Another day is done; I lay in bed and wait for the morning. I love doing this again and again.

***Have You Ever Wondered About the Night Sky?***
By Luis Elliot, 11th grade

Have you ever looked at the night sky and wondered: What is out there?

Through the storms and thunder, all is darkness. That is all I can see – something that can’t be reached because it’s everywhere and anywhere.

This all ends time, when we look up at the sky and see. Have you ever wondered what’s out there? An epic battle raging in another world, a world we can’t see, but we believe in
This is something we can reach and find; it is something we just can’t see

That galaxy far away tries to do the same and reach out to what they can’t see. This is something that just can’t be -- unless we wonder.

Have you ever seen the sky and wondered what we really see? Could the light be a glimmer of hope or a beacon of safety; Could the light be a fire started by the battle to control all?

Have you ever wondered when you look up at the night sky?

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Saturday, December 20, 2008


By David Campos, 17, San Pedro High School

Imagine yourself growing up in a mixed race community, with two loving parents who came to this country from third world countries, neither of them having family, someone to offer them a helping hand and lacking an education.

This persona matches practically half of the parents in the low income area of my community. My father never made it past middle school due to the civil war that was taking place in El Salvador. They would take children and teens from their schools and villages and install them in the army.

Faced only with this option, he fled to the United Sates at the age of eighteen. He quickly had to become a man and find himself a job to survive in this nation. He later became successful father supplying me with the tools necessary to succeed.

My mother grew up on a field in Guatemala and she decided to give up her opportunity to receive an education to help her family in the household. She came to the United States at the age of seventeen looking for a brighter future. Despite knowing barely any English, she managed to receive a proper education. She returned to school and received her G.E.D. She then decided that she wanted to do something in the medical field. She attended college and earned her certification and became a certified medical assistant.

The world that surrounds me has made it clear that an education is important. My community has allowed me to view the opportunities that are given to people who have a good education. Being the first one in my family to attend college, I feel that it is my responsibility to graduate from college in order to repay my parents and everyone who has helped me make my dream of being an architect or civil engineer a possibility.

As I became older, I began to realize that the things that my parents could help me with academically were diminishing. My freshman year in high school, I realized that I had exceeded what my parents had learned in school.

I realized that I could no longer go to them for help, no matter the subject. When I entered my freshman year, I had no idea of what was in store for me throughout that year. Out of all the courses I was taking that year, the toughest was geometry.

It was a completely different type of math that required a lot of studying. I could never turn to my parents for help because they never got to this type of math when they were in school. I was forced to either look for help or take it upon myself to study harder to achieve the grade I wanted in that particular class.

Every day I did more than just the homework that was assigned to me. I even did the examples that are provided in the beginning of the section to make sure that I understood what I was doing. All the hard work paid off when I passed the class with one of the highest grades in the class.

Biology was my second hardest class that I had that year. At first it was simple, but as we progressed through the year it started to become more complicated. Not many people fully understood everything that was being taught to us, so my fellow classmates were not much help.

I asked the teacher a few times about what she had just gone over. Most of the time she clarified it for me, but sometimes she just made me more confused than I already was. That was when I turned to my parents for help.

I still remember what my mother said to me one night when I was studying for a biology test. She said, “Sorry, you know I would love to help you, but I never learned this.”

This was the precise moment of my life that I realized I could no longer go to my parents for help school-wise. Realizing that my parents could no longer help put obstacles ahead of me. Overcoming these obstacles have made me the person I am today. It has transformed me from a child with hardly any worries in this world into the person who takes initiatives and works hard to complete the task at hand no matter how difficult it may seem

Even if I do something incorrectly I demonstrate resiliency by getting back up on my feet and giving it as many tries I need to do it correctly.

During my tenth grade year I was forced to take a zero period in order to keep playing soccer for my school, which added an immense amount of stress and work to my already cluttered schedule.

Every day for twenty-five weeks I would stay until five o'clock for soccer practice; sometimes I would have to even stay until seven o'clock on game days because of the bus ride home after both Varsity and Junior Varsity teams had completed their games.

After I got home I would have to quickly eat dinner and bathe in order to get started on my homework. It was really stressful for me when I couldn't do a certain part of one of my assignments because I still had to do my other assignments from other classes.

It frustrated me that I wasn't doing it right, but I knew that I didn't have the time to retry it because I had to complete the other assignments so that I could get some rest. Some of my teachers even assigned homework on days before a big test. I took it upon myself to separate myself from my teammates and study on the bus and during the Varsity soccer games.

I would even study during meal breaks.

Through all this I still managed to find the strength and energy to keep up academically and to perform at my best throughout the soccer season. This part of my life has given me the experience necessary to balance my current hectic schedule. Apart from taking three rigorous AP classes and staying after school, I am preparing myself for the ACT and SAT, and I still manage to find the time after soccer practice to give back to my community.

I now go to the local Boys and Girls Club to tutor students because I want them to have someone who they can turn to for help and so that they don't have to go through what I went through. By doing this I'm hoping that they'll take it upon themselves to pay it forward by helping others, thus making it a better community to live in.

Friday, December 19, 2008


Tonight, pack up the kids and trot on over to the Corner Store so they can tell Santa what they want for Christmas, sip a bit of eggnog and listen to Christmas Carols. There might even be a bit of powdery stuff provided by snow machine.

No, it’s not real snow, said Corner Store Owner Peggy Lindquist, but it should help set the mood just the same.

Children will be given small gifts and a candy cane when they visit Santa and photos will be taken for a small donation toward Clean San Pedro, a non-profit that has organized to keep the community clean.

The way it works is like this:

Santa and his elf will be jingling at the Corner Store from 6 to 7 p.m., played by a Secret Santa.
Carolling and eggnog servings will start at 7 p.m. And then customers and staff will hit the streets to sing carols up and down 37th Street. The owner asks for you to bring a flashlight and jingle bells to whip up the spirit of the night and keep everyone safe.

The Corner Store is at 1118 W. 37th Street. For more information, call: 310-832-2424.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How One Set of Immigrant Parents Survive Poverty with Their Children While Instilling Values; Continuing Series of Students Writing About Their Role-Model Parents

Dear Readers: I have had the luck and good fortune to read stories about how students feel toward their immigrant parents who've worked hard to make their lives so much better. Since we often hear about the bad immigrant parents, it seemed like a good idea to post the stories students wrote about their successful parents who filled them with values and did everything possible to guide them and their futures and keep them from joining gangs. This story is by San Pedro High School Senior Ivan Lara, 18, varsity soccer coach.

By Ivan Lara

One afternoon, we were driving by a Burger King when my older brother, Edgar, and I were small and we asked our parents to buy us a hamburger. I could tell by the way my parents looked at each other that money was an issue.

My father checked his pockets. All he had was a couple of dimes and nickels. That was it. Once we parked, we decided to look under and between the seats of our truck for spare change. Finally we rounded up enough money to buy one hamburger.

One measly hamburger for two adults and two children. My mom and dad each had one bite and Edgar and I split the rest. This example illustrates my childhood. Most of our shoes came from the least expensive stores. My dad’s gardening clients donated most of our clothes. My parents are both immigrants and spoke no English.

Once they arrived in the U.S, my dad became a gardener; my mother worked for four years as a janitor and is now unemployed due to the economic crisis our nation is experiencing. Although my family and I have gone through several hardships due to financial matters, I know we will survive as we always have with every obstacle we faced. Being poor has taught me a great appreciation for life and the value of family.

My family immigrated to this country in August of 1994 and later became residents in 2002. When I started school at the age of four, I had no idea how to speak English, but I learned quickly and made many friends. My parents were unable to help with my homework as they didn't have much of an education.

During middle school, I fell into a bad crowd and I was teased and called names because I was smart and liked school. The following summer, my friends and I got into a fight with a gang; I nearly was jumped. After that, I dropped those friends and made new ones who wanted an education. I also focused more on my academics more than anything else because I knew my grades were going to help me with my future.

Meanwhile, I was thinking about college but had no idea how to get started. I walked into The Boys and Girls Club one day to check it out and saw their “Wall of Fame,” filled with the faces of students the staff helped go off to college. I was amazed.

Once, I talked to Cara, the College Bound director, I definitely knew college was perfect for me. The Boys and Girls Club has had a great impact in my life; I go there to take all the College Bound programs, including the writing class and for tutoring in calculus. But I also tutor younger students who need help. I wanted to help other kids who have parents like mine and are able to help their children study.

There was a point in my life where I felt helpless because I couldn’t do anything to help a person who I love greatly – my little sister. I heard a big thump in the middle of the night and saw my dad scrambling to get dressed. My mom was sobbing and I was clueless of what was happening. They rushed out of the house, my dad holding my little sister in his arms.

She was having an asthma attack and they rushed her to emergency room. More visits to the ER followed after that. One morning, I heard my little sister tell my mom: “Mommy, I feel like dying.” My mom just broke into tears. My little sister’s illness motivated me even more to go to college and make something out of myself, possibly in the medical field, so I can help children like my sister.

My families situation has taught me many things. Saying Happy Birthday to each other is special – much more than a material gift. Not all gifts are related to money.

Another special thing in my life was when I started playing soccer at age twelve and liked it a lot. I made the All Star Team and varsity by my sophomore year and later became San Pedro High’s team captain. I am grateful that I fell in love with the sport because it saved me.

While my older brother delved into the gangs and drugs – we lived in a crime ridden neighborhood in Wilmington -- soccer kept me away from that lifestyle and made me more determined to focus on my grades. I didn’t want to live that way. (When my father couldn’t get control of my brother, he pulled him out of school and took him to work everyday. My brother still works with my father and is working currently for his high school equivalency).

Besides my parents, my uncle is a good role model. He is trying to make the community we live in a better place which is nicknamed “Ghost Town” and was run by gangsters and drugs. My uncle has hosted several community clean-ups to try and make the area a better place. I help him to clean the streets and alley ways. While it is not the total answer, we have seen some success with this hard work.

My parent’s hard worked has helped me pave a successful future – and for that I need a college degree, which I will get. But more than anything, I respect that they gave me good values and a great appreciation for life, poor or otherwise.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Losing a Local Hero in our Small Fish Bowl of a Neighborhood Really Hurts; Clive Was The Man Who Just About Everybody Liked

By Diana L. Chapman

Not long after we moved into our tiny cottage style home on Leland Avenue, I met my neighbor who lives directly across the street, a short man with an English quip and a love for all things Winston Churchill.

Clive always called himself “a Churchillian” and it immediately bonded us together along with the fact he was born in England – as were all my grandparents. There was a lot to talk about and at the time we were both stronger and able to have many an outdoor conversation.

We both agreed Churchill saved the world.

We both loved to read about English history.

We both just enjoyed talking about this-and-that. He was one of my biggest fans when I had my kid’s column in the More San Pedro. He read it religiously. Eventually, the friendship evolved into inviting Clive over to have dinner with our friends. It didn’t matter that he was 74, a couple of decades older than most the people who come here, or that he drank a lot of Scotch. He just slipped into the group as easily as a fish moved in water – and I can honestly say, not a single visit went by where one of my friends didn’t call or email asking me about this man the next day.

Everyone seemed to enjoy his company. I teased him about his Scotch. He teased me about the fact I wasn’t “exactly sipping the wine.” I attribute the number of calls and emails regarding Clive to his English accent, but also just his way of listening at the right time. He was a good conversationalist and fun to have around.

As a joke, I’d contend to Clive that his popularity stemmed from his British charm which he put on every time he dropped by and took off each time he left. Eventually, my husband and I started calling him a “local hero” because he stood up for the children in the neighborhood, but before I get into that, I want to tell you just a bit of his life.

Yes, Clive moved here from England decades ago, when he was one of those English sailors who had gotten off his military ship and was headed for the “pubs” meaning bars along Harbor Boulevard.

He admitted to me sheepishly that he met his future wife – only because he needed to use a public facility – so he raced into yet another bar when he had actually intended to get back to the ship. But the bar was where he spotted the woman he was to marry. The next thing he knew, he had tied the knot, was living in San Pedro and had two sons, Ian and Doug. When his wife died from cancer, he was devastated and became some what reclusive. But eventually, he pulled out of his shell and befriended many in the neighborhood, including me.

He was like this: A woman walked by his home and started breathing in the smell of his stunning array of golden and white roses. He walked outside and the next thing this woman knew, she was back constantly to talk to him about his beautiful rose bushes several times a month. They too became friends, having many outdoor chats.

I loved talking to Clive. But more than anything, I appreciated him for the moment in time when he turned into our local hero and stuck up for the kids in our neighborhood. Apparently, a couple of neighbors were attempting to ban the kids from playing wiffle ball on our typically slow street. My son, his friends and some other boys had been playing wiffle ball since we moved in five years ago and no one had ever made an issue of it.

In fact, when we arrived two 20-somethings, brothers, were outside playing with the younger kids.

“How long has this game been going on?” I teased when I saw the two older men.
“Oh about 20 years,” one of the brothers replied. “We’ve been playing here since we were kids.”

To appease the neighbors, we moved our kids out of one driveway and asked Clive if it was alright if the kids hit wiffle balls in his yard. Of course, it is, he said. The kids have been playing ball out there for so long he couldn’t imagine it any other way. He enjoyed watching them and teased the boys that if they broke a window, he would pay them $10 – because he knew a window would never break and he’d never have to pay it.

Clive actually seemed to enjoy retrieving their balls and throwing them back into our yard and watching the kids play. It was soon after this, the neighbors showed up at his door and asked him to put a halt to it. The kids were too loud, they complained. They were interfering with their privacy. It was aggravating because car alarms went off when the kids ran near them.

Since he was friends, close friends with those neighbors, it must have been difficult for Clive to flat out refuse. But he did – and pointed out that not only had his two sons played there as kids for years – so had theirs.

So the wiffle balls continued to whiz across the street. Clive continued to throw them back. And he’d visit when we had company. Life went about as usual – until I took a sudden and scary plunge in my health to the point where I had trouble getting out of bed. Fatigue became my worst enemy and our social life pretty much crumpled and ceased. Multiple sclerosis does that to people.

Every ounce of my energy was consumed and now I had to be careful where I chose to spend the little I had. The social life tends to get dropped first. I tried to explain this to Clive, but I’m not sure he understood why he was rarely getting invited over anymore.

Life tends to put us on a collision course and I believe this is what happened to Clive after he fell at home and broke his back in three places just a few months back. I was struggling along, barely getting to reach him in the hospital. He came home, went back in the hospital and came home again. The pattern repeated. His friends and neighbors pitched in to help, one watering his lawn and picking up his newspapers. Others ran errands. Most everyone went to the hospital.

Being in and out of the hospital weeks at a time wears on anyone’s soul and it wore on Clive's. The last time I saw him leaving his home, he was a mere shadow of himself and I knew then he wasn’t coming back.

I felt awful that I wasn’t there for him and worse that he probably couldn’t understand why all those invites had evaporated. Then there came a Sunday when friends of the family dropped by to let us know that Clive no longer wanted to be on a ventilator and it would be turned off that morning. His sons sent them over to ask if we wanted to say goodbye.

Jim and I raced to the hospital and everyone was crying. We held his hand in an awkward silence and I began questioning myself about what I could have done better, all the things I could have done, but didn’t do because of my own situation. I was angry because I knew he looked forward to those times at our house and it might have helped pull him out of that downward spiral. At this point, Clive couldn't speak, but he could hear us.

"Look Dad," Ian told his father, who was now shy of being just a whisper of himself, "your party buddies are here to wish you goodbye."

He couldn't say anything, so I hope that it was enough for him to know that we were there.

It’s such a loss and I feel lonely looking out my window, wishing he was still there, wearing his tan-colored cap, watering his rose bushes or driving his royal blue convertible back into his garage so we could banter more about Churchill and our English roots.

While I feel sad, and will for quite some time, I believe Clive would rather that we celebrate his life than be so forlorn.

When January approaches, and if his sons agree, I will celebrate Clive’s life – with a small handful of neighbors and folks who came to know and respect him – and in his honor we will have a wee bit of Scotch and perhaps, just perhaps, he will know we toasted to his life.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


By Diana L. Chapman

All I can say is Hallelujah and I know I’m going to get nailed for it. Hopefully, I’ll be alive after this column and I’ll be able to continue writing my novel which is about three-quarters of the way done.

But I can’t help but be enthused about the 800-seat campus the Los Angeles School Board voted for this week proposed for completion at Angel’s Gate in 2012 on nearly 23 acres of scrubby coastal land that has virtually gone unused for years except for a handful of small programs.

Not only do I perceive it as a dream school – a place tucked above the Pacific Ocean where white caps and red-tailed hawks can be spotted daily -- there’s no question in my mind – if the community plays it right – more than just students will experience this gem.

While we have a whirlwind of opposition – with arguments regarding traffic woes and disturbing the serenity of the area, the fact is that high school students need it desperately to reduce the intense overcrowding at San Pedro High School. That is the truth.

Everyone’s truth is different. But I can assure you here and now that it’s bad at San Pedro with the overcrowding and if we don’t do something, we will be raising a lot more criminals here than students who want to go off to college. The school has 3,500 students when it was built for 2,000. Our test scores are abysmal, our math in particular dropping to 657, not much higher than many inner-city schools.

And sadly, many high school students explain that their freshman year starts out crushed with students, but by the end of their years, about 50 percent of the students who they started with have vanished. They dropped out. Even with that, the school is still intensely overcrowded with about 17 teachers having to roam from room to room.

Out of scale of 0-100, reports that San Pedro High school in the state of California falls in the bottom of the ladder as 34. That’s heartbreaking and its embarrassing, especially when so many people here haveacollege degrees and are brilliant, highly educated people.

Our community can’t have it both ways. We believe the children in our village should be good, smart and respectful. They shouldn’t act like they are ghetto children. They shouldn’t do drugs, commit crimes, or become pregnant. But you know the old adage: you get out what you put in. It appears to me our town hasn’t invested much in our kids.

To do so, you start with the second home they are at – their school, no matter what level, elementary, junior high or otherwise. If I’m a student, I’m looking at every time the community gets completely riled and fights against every location for a new school. The message becomes clear to kids: maybe they don’t want us.

So I’d like for everyone to take a deep breath – and rather than fighting the district against this – work with them to make sure this proposed $102.5 million beauty will help all of us. For instance, if you live in the area, and want to use the pool, then perhaps it’s good time sit down – as a community – to put on the pressure to ensure that happens.

The district has already said it’s willing to make it a joint use with the city of Los Angeles, but if we want to have access to the facilities there, such as soccer fields, baseball fields and use rooms for meetings the time to focus on that is now. We can’t let down our guard on this, or this too will fall by the wayside.

Down the road, residents I truly believe will see this as a good thing – especially when more of our children march through the awesome educational marvels that already exist there -- the Marine Mammal Care Center, The Fort MacArthur Museum, the International Bird Rescue Center and the unbelievable flourishing art colony.

Imagine for just a moment using those tools in a child’s education and what our kids could receive.

--With this location, elementary and junior high students from all over San Pedro will probably undergo many field trips at any one of those gems I’ve named above and if all goes well, the high school students will be their teachers. These type of facilities make once boring lessons come to life – and that is why Debra Hetrick with Los Angeles Unified School District’s after school program -- worked exceptionally hard to build an outdoor education center there. That center will break ground this January and elementary children from all over the district will be able to stay for a week studying geology, biologyand spot the wild creatures from foxes to raccoons at the site. School officials said the new campus and the outdoor education center will be a boon for each other and they will share their resources.

--With this awesome state-of-the-art green building (meaning this facility will have vegetation on the roof top and wind turbines for energy), San Pedro High could build such an educational resource site that it would gain a good reputation throughout Los Angeles. Where there is a good reputation for schools, property values go up. It seems to me that White Point Elementary School has an excellent reputation and has long been considered one of the top in town. Home values have remained high, despite the morning and afternoon crowds for pick-up and drop-off.
You are going to argue that this is different because these are high school kids. I'd like to invite you to meet some of these students. You might be surprised by what you see.

--The students likely will come from the Marine Magnet and the Police Academy at San Pedro High. While at first I was worried that all the students in San Pedro wouldn’t get a shot at using this facility, I felt much better when I talked with Sandy Alvarenga, San Pedro High’s coordinator for both mini-schools, who assured me that she would be open to many schools coming in for field trips. Calling the new school location “optimal” for education, she added: “It’s just the natural history of the marine magnet to work with schools from all over. Our kids already do ‘Back Pack Science’ with Point Fermin Elementary school.

For those who disagree with the new campus, I’d love you to take classes for one week at San Pedro High School so you can see first hand what the students live with. I’ve long thought we had a powder keg for a high school – especially due to the overcrowding. I was so worried, I sent my son to Port of Los Angeles High Charter School.

Here is our chance – as a village – to make sure we sit on the district and get what we want from this sparkling gem that – if we do it right – will spread it’s rays across all the kids of San Pedro and perhaps to even us, the adults.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Saturday, December 13, 2008 - Doors 1:30P Show 2:00P

Children's Concert Series THE HOLLOW TREES - “Folk Music for Families, ”
The Grand Annex434 W. 6th St. San Pedro, CA 90731
It’s high energy acoustic Americana music played with passion, skill, and humor. They combine the musical styles of bluegrass, country, folk, blues and jazz and put their stamp on many traditional folk songs as well as original compositions. The Hollow Trees’ show is geared toward children from the ages of 1-10, but the good humor and high level of musicianship is fun for all.

$5.00 kids / $7.00 adults
Tickets available in advance:
Tickets also available at AMUSE Music Center

Grand Vision Foundation

434 W. 6th StreetSan Pedro, CA 90731o: 310-833-4813

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


What a year this team had -- last year not winning a game and in last place -- to a complete turnaround with a record 14-1 and a Championship within the Los Angeles school district's after school program.

With a Regional competition to follow, thanks to an aggressive and well disciplined program put together byCoach Gio, Coach Gomez and Coach Richard, they finally made it happen along with the determination of their students.

We all made it happen!! Special thanks to Ms. Argandona and Mr. Ball and Mr Langley and everyone else for your support for this Team....... Go Mariners!Next Championship to follow.....You guessed it Basketball. (Submitted by Basketball Coach Derrick Smith)

Sunday, December 07, 2008


By Diana L. Chapman

If Los Angeles School Board member Richard Vladovic has his way, San Pedro will see a sorely needed educational revolution resulting from his term – starting with the building of a 500-seat satellite campus at Angel’s Gate.

Despite sharp community opposition voiced by some nearby homeowners, it seems clear that the school board will move forward to approve the satellite as one way to ease San Pedro High School’s intense overcrowding at its Tuesday, Dec. 9 meeting.

That action will allow Vladovic to press forward with a myriad of other proposals, such as restructuring the high school and expanding marine science programs, that he considers necessary to dramatically improve San Pedro’s educational system.

In an attempt to appease residents, the district first reduced the proposed satellite from 1,200 to 800 seats, then settled on 500-seat school when officials realized the critics would settle for nothing short of building no campus at all. The campus should be completed by 2012. The district has owned the property since the early 1970s.

But even more overhauls are necessary to clean up San Pedro High School, as the high school’s test scores have plummeted, particularly in math. The school board member has been out campaigning to do a radical overhaul of San Pedro High – by dividing it into three campuses, each with their own counseling office – to give students better service.

The high school, he said, not only struggles with intense overcrowding, but poor test scores which reflects that the district is failing to serve the students needs.

“There’s a big drop in the scores and it’s not the fault of the teachers,” Vladovic explained, during an interview at Dana Middle School. “We’ve got good teachers. But it’s the school’s density. There’s almost 18 teachers a day (without classrooms) having to travel on the campus.”

Students also complain about the crush of students in the hallways and overcrowded classrooms.
With the passage of Proposition Q in November allowing the district to upgrade current schools by issuing $7 billion in bonds, Vladovic’s smaller learning campuses theory is likely to become a reality not just in San Pedro, but across Los Angeles.

San Pedro High School currently houses 3,500 students at a school built for 2,000. While Vladovic plans on leading the high school to overhaul itself into three smaller learning campuses – the three-in-one-campus at the high school will be designed by the educators.

“I leave that to the professionals,” said Vladovic, who has pushed incessantly to break schools into smaller learning communities and voted for the board action this fall to keep campuses at a population of 500 or less, or to break larger schools down into academies in those sizes.

While Vladovic believes he will oversee such issues as making sure each academy has its own counseling offices, the theme of the smaller learning campuses will be designed primarily by the school’s staff with input from educators from Linda Del Cueto’s staff. Del Cueto heads the region, known as District 7, which encompasses San Pedro and Harbor Area schools.

In addition, since Point Fermin Elementary School has undergone a successful restructure under current principal Bonnie Taft that not only brought back parents to help at the school, but has turned it into a marine magnet, Vladovic explained he wants to continue that concept at Dana Middle School.

Installing a marine academy at Dana makes sense, Vladovic explained, because students would flow from Point Fermin’s marine magnet, into Dana’s marine academy and then into the marine magnet at San Pedro High School.

Dana Principal Terry Ball said he’s encouraged about having a marine academy on his campus and would support the program.

In addition, Vladovic said he wants to collaborate with Harbor Community College and bring college classes for the students to the site. Students will be bussed from San Pedro High to the smaller annex.

Meanwhile, controversy continues to pulse through San Pedro over the satellite, with some residents are already calling an “elitist” school. School officials are considering moving the high school’s marine magnet and police academy program to the Angel’s Gate site.

However, that likely will stir more criticism that the district is serving only a small group of students in an area shrouded with ocean fog and breezes and a view of the Pacific Ocean, tucked away between Alma and Gaffey Streets. The neighboring area, also at Angel’s Gate but on Los Angeles City property, is a rich resource of educational tools, such as a the Marine Mammal Care Center, the International Bird Rescue Center the Fort McArthur Museum and an array of artists who often hold classes there.

To combat the “elitist” image, district officials and Vladovic have proposed building a new, competitive swimming pool that will be shared with the San Pedro High swim team (which has never had a pool of its own) and the outlying community.

Other proposals to share usage of the site could include field trips to the marine magnet for elementary schools and potentially expanded sports programs for more San Pedro High students in the daylight hours.

As far as the satellite goes, Vladovic explained that he agrees with residents and will not allow an entrance from Alma Street, which he considers dangerous, and that the district is looking to expand the small number of parking spaces, two complaints he’s heard about repeatedly.

But for the students, the annex is a must to relieve the stressful density on the campus.

“Our children in San Pedro deserve nothing less,” Vladovic contended. “They deserve less density. I want to keep the idea of one high school to maintain San Pedro’s identity. But the one thing that is not negotiable is we can’t leave San Pedro High the way it is.”

Saturday, December 06, 2008


By Diana L. Chapman

I know his days are probably numbered and his ship is probably sunk; I personally wish it weren’t so. We need Superintendent David L. Brewer at the helm of the Los Angeles Unified School District to navigate and cruise us through the continued tumultuous waters.

If nothing else, we need him as a watch dog – a port pilot so to speak – to make sure the district doesn’t run aground into any further muck and continue to flounder.

This is why I rejoiced when the hastily-called meeting to dump Brewer last week failed miserably. We need him. We need him despite what his critics say – that he’s moved at a glacial pace and not done much. But how could he?Two years is not a long time, especially to grapple with nearly 700,000 students, nearly 800 schools, thousands of employees, and a payroll program purchased before Brewer that was nearly defunct on arrival, when it disastrously didn’t pay, overpaid or underpaid employees by thousands of dollars – any bureaucrats’ biggest nightmare.

That’s not to mention the fact that the Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who thinks he can run the district better than the district itself, made a political bid in the state legislature, trying to jam past voter’s rights, to take control of the district. When he lost that bid, he worked to get allies on the school board – who are now claiming Brewer is too slow.

That doesn’t mention that those same allies, who pretty much now saturate the school board, urged Brewer (which probably really means forced) to hire the mayor’s pick, Ramon Cortines, a longtime school administrator, to take over the district’s day-to-day operations.

Forced or not, Brewer hired the 76-year-old Cortines, who once ran New York, San Francisco school districts and pinched hit for Los Angeles, came aboard and in an amazing – and hopefully backfiring moment – as Brewer and Cortines hit it off and work well together. It appears to me we need them both to complement each other.

Under Brewer’s reign, test scores have gained for the past two years in an ailing district who can claim a not so prestigious number – nearly 50 percent of its high school students drop out. And while he’s constantly criticized for not being an educator (and I’m trying to remember when the mayor became one) Brewer can point to being responsible for the education thousands of Navy sailors.

From the moment Brewer joined the district’s head post at about $300,000 a pop, it wasn’t looking too pretty -- and the fact that he’s still here, shows me he’s a survivor.

What I like about him is he immediately assessed the situation quickly and repeatedly told the community that the district cannot fix the city’s schools alone. This is true. With all the issues out there, it truly is time for communities to step up – not just parents, but local businesses, the police, local non-profits and the city. There has to be a joint effort – and a good leader has to bring all these folks together.

Despite his critics, a view that hasn’t come into play is that an-out-of-the-box educator, an ex-Navy Admiral at that, might keep us afloat during the torrential cash cutting rains ahead and spark creative educational tricks that those so entrenched in the system can’t even begin to see.

And believe me – as a long time volunteer within the system – I’ve learned many lessons. The first is that the district and the city have been squabbling for so many years – in particular the city’s Recreation and Parks Department – that the two key players that maintain our children’s fate – can’t seem to get along. So the most important connections are lost, and they are lost daily.

The second truth I discovered is entrenched administrators just seem to lack spark and continue the same track repeatedly, rather than working toward implementing new ideas, that unfortunately, have to be embraced by an entire school – or even if new ideas are launched -- they fail. Team building is a must at schools, but is so rarely done – or done right, so good changes rarely move forward.

Another truth is that schools – all schools – I don’t care where they are -- are like small cities and need a watchdog, because things that should never happen at schools happen every day due to a lack of oversite. I cringe to think of campuses where no parents are active, because that is about the only watchdog the schools have.

This is why I like Brewer. He continually said it’s not up to the district – it’s up to all of us. When my son was enrolled in Dana Middle School, I saw exactly that. People were in shock that I sent my son there as the school had a bad reputation and residents scrambled to get their kids into Dodson Middle School, allegedly the better of the two.

Because it was our home school, I committed to Dana. And because my son was getting a fabulous education in the gifted program there – and those students bonded in their small grouping and fared well – it just made sense that something like that should be done for all the students.

That’s when a small group of parents started many after school programs to help keep the kids off the streets and out of gangs. A Spanish, Art, Newspaper, Swimming, Cooking and Basketball club were all launched over the last three years. The LAPD started a program similar to Explorers.

In the meantime, the principal and staff were having wall murals painted, a teacher started a cheer team, another started a chess club and the parent running the basketball club started tying his program to education. (His students all graduated across the stage, which means they had to have a C or above when they left Dana).

Many other measures were taken by the new principal, including lumping the sixth graders into one area, the 7th into another and the 8th into another – allowing students to bond in small groupings and reducing the intimidation factor that often gets played out on the school yard.

The pay-off of all these changes and many others was the test scores at the end of three years went up dramatically, when they’d barely budged in the past for years. Was it easy? No. Was there fighting? Yes. Was it ugly? Yes. Did people leave? Yes. Did it work? It appears so.

While I can’t say the after school programs were part of the reason things became better, it just seemed with the entire attitude of the school changing toward thinking of the students, the kids were happier.

Many times former students from Dana came down from the high school and couldn’t believe what was going on. Of course, they complained profusely about all the things the new Dana had, but in the end, it appears it’s been a positive for the students.

This is again why I like Brewer. The entire after school program came from what Brewer sparked – that’s it’s up to all of us. Not just the district. And to do that, you need one hell of a good leader. I'm actually thinking Councilwoman Janice Hahn's idea of making this an elected post is not such a bad idea after all -- so this post can remain accountable to us, the voters, and not just what the politicians want.

And given a chance to do so, I believe Brewer is the correct choice. And like he said, it didn’t take just the district to improve a school – it took all of us at Dana.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Another Story from an Amazing Immigrant Student from the Phillipines and How Her Mother Helped Her and Announcing San Pedro Ballet Company's Nutcracker

How the Break of a Filipino Family Lead a Mother and Daughter to the US Where They Not Only Survived, but the Daughter Has Set High Goals for Herself

By Jeanna Abaca, 17, San Pedro High School student, senior

Going through the Boys and Girls Club College Bound Program, so far Jeanna has been accepted to UC Merced and has applied to CSULB, UCI, UCLA, UCSD, Stanford and Pepperdine

Like millions of children in this country, I come from a broken family. What makes me slightly different though is that I grew up without a father in the Philippines , where, during my childhood, broken families were taboo.

A month before my seventh birthday, my dad arrived from Singapore after a year of absence. He had just barely come home when I excitedly went through his things to find gifts, and I ended up looking in his wallet. I wanted to see Singapore dollars. Instead, I found a picture of him and another woman cuddling.

Being only six, I didn't know what the picture meant so I playfully showed it to my mom and teased her about my dad having another girlfriend. Sadly, that was the truth.

As I descended our stairs the next morning, I saw my mom crying behind the front door. I had never seen her like that before. My dad was leaving forever. I was so confused because my dad just came home and I knew that he wasn't supposed to leave again for another three months.

If I hadnt woken up, he would've left without even saying goodbye. After that, I wasn't allowed to talk about my dad. My mom didn't want other people to feel sorry for me. Still, people treated me differently because of my family situation.

The separation was a stain on our family name. Broken families, at that time, were rare in the Philippines and were looked down upon. Filipinos, especially in the provinces, are very conservative and intolerant of such families.

I remember standing in front of my first grade class to announce that my father had left us. I didn't know why my teacher made me do that; all I can remember was how small I felt.

Since then, I was known as the kid without the father.

To compensate for not having a father, my mother, a tigress of a woman, provided me with everything I could possibly want and need. She worked hard to keep me at an esteemed private school. She succeeded in life despite the put-downs she received for not having a husband. She overcame all the detriments life threw at her and gained people's respect regardless of her marital status.

She became my mother, my father, my best friend, my protector, and my inspiration. My mother taught me to always keep my head up and to be strong. She brought me to the United States to start a new life, where I won't be judged simply based on my family background.

My dad' s absence, my mom's examples, and my community's reaction to my family situation have ultimately made me more determined to succeed. I am going to be a lawyer to protect and defend the oppressed, especially women and children.

Now that I'm in the United States , I am going to work hard to achieve this dream and to be my family s pride. I will be living proof that one can move on from the painful past and succeed.

WHO: San Pedro City Ballet, Patrick David Bradley and Cynthia Bradley – Artistic Directors
WHAT: 15th Anniversary of “The Nutcracker”
WHERE: Warner Grand Theatre 478 W. 6th Street, San Pedro
WHEN: Saturday, December 13th at 7:00 pm, Sunday, December 14th at 2:00 pm
Ticket information:
$35 Premier Seats – best in the house, limited
$25 Adults
$15 Seniors and children 12 years and under

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Dear Readers: This summer while I was coaching Boys and Girls Club students in writing, I was shocked not only by the high caliber of students I had, but the fact that their gratitude to their parents for making their lives better was unwavering. It moved me deeply how grateful these students were and that -- of course -- we don't tend to hear these stories. We hear about the gang parents, the drug dealing parents, but not the immigrant parents who have come here and given their children a strong sense of values and work ethic. -- Diana

Look for more of their stories this week. Here is one:

By Fred Lopez, Senior, San Pedro High School

Universities he's been accepted to so far through the Boys and Girls Club College Bound Program: UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Riverside, UC Merced, San Francisco State, Fresno State and CSU Monterey Bay

Schools applied to or plan to apply to: UCLA, UC Berkeley, Harvard, Reed College, Davidson
and Northwestern

Death scares most people, but it goes beyond that point. My mother can tell you. She saw her only son in her arms leaving her. She cried and cried until the point where no more tears could be shed.

I was 6-months-old and my heart stopped functioning. My mother kept on screaming, “Wake up, wake up!” My father sped passed the red, bright lights trying to reach the hospital as fast as he could. Every minute, was a minute lost.

"If you are going to take him, take him now." Those were the thoughts inside my father’s mind as we reached the emergency room. As they walked into the hospital, for a moment, I was revived and my mother saw a sign of hope. She ran towards the front desk and begged them to take me in.

All they said was to wait and that there was nothing wrong with me. When the nurse said that, I began to fall a victim to death. My mother began to scream more until the doctors pulled me from her arms and took me into intensive care.

Now it was all in God’s hand. I was let go after two weeks and doctors informed my mother this could occur again. When I was told this, I realized that not many get a second chance at life. I should know. I was given the chance to live, but a brother was not.

In September 1992, my mother was expecting another son; I was just turning one. She started to feel pain, and began to lose her balance. When my father returned home, he raced her to the clinic. The doctor looked at my mother and told her the son she was expecting would not survive. The reason: his heart had stopped.

My mom experienced a miscarriage and that ended a brother’s life without ever seeing the world. My mother did not know why all this was happening. I had been saved, but he did not face the same fate. My grandmother also currently is tacking a heart condition.

These experiences have motivated me to keep going. No obstacle can be seen as a defeat. They must be conquered. Life would not be life without them. My parents have given me the support and values to go on. I will always aim for success because failure does not exist in my world. Life has been tough, but I manage to get through it. I strive to do my best -- and be the best.

Some would have expected me to fall to society’s ruins. That is not an option. My parents did not work their entire life for me to throw it away. Later in life, I might encounter obstacles that are more difficult. The fact of the matter is that life has taught me that quitting never gets you anywhere. You have to face the problem head on, to find a solution. I am a son, a brother, a man.
Life has shown me my path. I will not let it go to waste. This in not only a personal goal, but a goal for my family and community. I want to help others realize that obstacles can become victories. I am committed to my goals. These experiences have shaped my path to establish a career as a cardiac surgeon. I want to give those in need the helping hand that was given to me.


Finally! Cupcakes in San Pedro! And now there will be macaroons too!

From 6 to 9 .m. Dec. 4, this Thursday, stop off at Nosh and try some of these delicious treats. Nosh is located at 617 S. Centre Street in San Pedro.

As you know, I've written many times now about my friend Rose Cigliano starting a cupcake rage here in the South Bay with her scrumptious pumpkin with cream cheese frosting along with red velvet cupcakes (not to mention the many other kinds she has) that will slide warmly down your throat. Come in and taste these treats and order for your holiday needs. You can visit her website @ or order through Nosh.
But don't forget about those macaroons.
Michelle Sanders, who came aboard Nosh to manage the kitchen, will debut her macaroons, which she has served at weddings and baby showers., the same evening The 2008 Cordon Bleu graduate started working with Susan McKenna, owner of Nosh, about six weeks ago, agreeing to help manage the kitchen.
Michelle has ten different flavors of macaroons that can be served for the holidays, including lemon vanilla and chocolate.
While she lives in Carson and was working in restaurants such as Providence in Los Angeles and La Mill Coffee in Silver Lake, her San Pedro boyfriend wanted her to try Nosh. "I just started talking to Susan and it just happened (to come aboard) at the right time. It's been fun learning the way she prepares food."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What Am I Thankful For?
Happy Thanksgiving
By Jamie Gonzalez, Port of Los High School senior
As a young child, my parents have taught me that family is everything in one’s life. As the years have passed by, I have learned that this is true. I am thankful for everything my parents and my family have done for me.
My parents are the ones who gave me life and gave me a chance to grow up to become someone important. They have struggled through many years, but despite all those challenges we have all stayed together as a happy family which I am thankful for and will cherish forever.
I am also thankful that God has given my mother strength to take care of me and my three brothers by always having food ready for us so we can have a nice lunch or dinner. I am thankful that God has given my father strength to keep on working in roofing and take care of the whole family financially, but also still being a great father.

Education wise, I am thankful for many great things. I thank God for giving me a chance to go to a great school that doesn’t compare to other schools. If I didn’t go to Port of Los Angles High School, I wouldn’t have met the great friends that I know to this date. I wouldn’t have gotten the chances to go on a onc- in-a-life time trip to Washington D.C., join SRLA, the Spanish club, and also represent my school. But also, if I didn’t join the College Bound program in the Boys & Girls Club of the L.A. Harbor, I would have been lost college wise.
This is why I am thankful that Jenna and Marcey (of the Boys and Girls Club) are always there to help me out and answer my questions about college. Lastly, I am thankful that God has helped my family through the good and bad and has always kept us moving forward. Now that I am transitioning from a teenager to a young adult, I now see how life really is and thank God that he has let me see this.

Students give goodbye hug to the plant manager. Alonzo LeFridge thanks Craig "Edward" Dykes for helping him stay on track since he was a 6-year-old. Alonzo now
plays for the San Pedro High School Pirates Football Team.

Students at Crestwood Street Elementary School Bid A Great Farewell to the Custodian Who Served the School for 28 years; Good Bye Mr. Dykes
Edward "Craig" Dykes did many things beyond the call-of-duty for students at Crestwood Street Elementary School in Rancho Palos Verdes. He cleaned up after them. He listened to their stories. And for some, he helped instill a good sense of values and taught them responsibility.
It was a bitter-sweet day for Craig, who served his last day at the school as the plant custodian, on Wednesday -- but not before the students were able to tell him the auditorium received a new name in honor of his efforts for nearly three decades.
The auditorium will now be called "The Edward "Craig" Dykes Auditorium" honoring him for not only his work to keep the school clean and safe, but due to the extras he did for so many of the students.
San Pedro High School football player, Alonzo Lefridge, 17, came to thank the custodian on Tuesday for the values he instilled in him when he started at Crestwood at the age of six.
"He always helped me," Alonzo explained, saying the custodian was the reason he raced to school every morning. "He always had a job for me. He taught me responsibility. I watered plants, helped him open doors and put up the flag. He taught me respect. He taught me morals. And he kept me on the right track."
Alonzo was able to thank him along with many other students when the school held a ceremony honoring the plant manager on Tuesday.
The custodian was known for not only putting the students to work, and teaching them -- but he gave them treats -- delicious glazed donuts.
Not only did the school rename the auditorium, but every student received a glazed donut -- a tradition that the custodian established to thank all the students who helped him.

Monday, November 24, 2008


By Diana L. Chapman

Edward “Craig” Dykes was blasting across the asphalt campus a few years ago, huffing and puffing as though in a race. He was in a race, he shouted, to lock up the school gates because dogs were roaming the neighborhood.

He didn’t want them on the campus, because he had to keep the kids safe. And that’s exactly what Craig has done for the past 28 years as a plant manager at Crestwood Street Elementary School in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Considered popular, kind and caring, the tall 56-year-old man, who looks like a giant in a sea of kids, has concluded it’s time to hang up his shovel, put away his broom and walk away from years of service.

A good-bye celebration is planned at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the school.

“I’m happy, but I’m sad about leaving the kids,” he explained. “The kids are wonderful and this place is a wonderful, wonderful work environment. The kids are saying: “Are you leaving?” And I break it down for them,” because financially now is the time, he explains, to the students.

For those who are too young to understand financial reasons, he simply tells them: “I’ve been here a 1,000 years and it’s time to go.”

Over the years, he’s shared the kids tears, their fears and taught them responsibility by allowing them to help him clean for small rewards Craig has shoveled up messes, raked up leaves, come when he was called for extra paper towels or to unlock doors and managed a small custodial staff at the campus.

It seemed he was always there for -- everyone.

He was in particular there in crises situations like the time he spotted a small fire smoking on the school’s roof caused by spontaneous combustion in a bed of leaves. He’s backed the school’s principal many times over the years, including one where a man was outside the campus exposing himself. They called police.

The custodian started his career with Los Angeles Unified School District in 1973 at Belvedere Junior High and was made the official plant manager at Crestwood in 1980. While retired, he plans to hike in the Sierras and the Cascades mountains.

“I will miss the kids because they kept me laughing,” he explained. “It’s a happy time of their
lives." Wednesday will be his last day at the school.

Monday, November 17, 2008

San Pedro English Teacher Gives Interesting Assignment: Write About a Paper Clip; The Relevant Stage Offers a Free Performance for Schools of the Christmas Carol and Bayer Aspirin Announces an International Art Contest for Children Ages: 6 to 14

Dear Readers: I so enjoy creativity and got a chuckle out of Mrs. Hoffman's (English AP teacher at San Pedro High) assignment asking students to write about a paper clip. To me, this is a great exercise. Here is what one student wrote:

By Kelsi, 16

My life is like that of a paper clip

Always alone, but constantly meeting with other beings

When one and one need a connection, I am there to connect at the tip

Still alone, but clinging to other things

No, I must say, it is not always fun

But it is my job, and it has to be done

I hold things together; I have done it all my life

I make things easier and better

And stay even when these actions give me strife

These things I hold together, well, they become the best of friends

And when they decide to get a staple, my job with them must end

As I leave my newly stapled papers, I am put into a bowl

I wait until I have new orders

And do the same thing [yet it's getting kind of old]

I connect a few more friends together, but my body is getting brash

So I leave my job for good, and am thrown into the trash


The Relevant Stage Announces Free Trips for Schools to See A Christmas Carol and Information on the Play for Those Interested in Obtaining Tickets

Submitted by Ray Buffer

Schools that are interested can sign up for a free show of the Christmas Carol at 1 p.m. Friday, December 5, 2008 for The Christmas Carol.

This will be a fairly loyal adaptation of Dickens' story (written in Dickens' own prose) about Scrooge's path to redemption and is accompanied by Old English Christmas Carols sung by carolers.

Currently only one school: Downey High School, has signed up to bring students (200). Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn's office will be happy to arrange buses for any other interested schools. It seems a shame if schools from our own area are not able to participate.

If any schools are interested, they can email me at or call our office at 310.929.8129.

The Christmas Carol:

Who: The Relevant Stage Theatre Company

What: The Christmas Carol: The Tale of Ebenezer Scrooge

When: December 4, 5 and 6 at 8PM, and December 7 at 7PM

Where: Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th Street, San Pedro, CA 90731Tickets: $20 Adults; $15 Seniors (55+) and College; $5 Age 18 and under; $25 for wine tasting prior to show with ticket included.

How: Buy online at or at Sacred Grounds Coffee House, Williams' Book Store, Off The Vine, The Corner Store

Duration: 100 minutes (with a 10 minute intermission) More Info: 310.929.8129The Christmas Carol is a production by The Relevant Stage Theatre Company at San Pedro's Warner Grand Theatre.
Dickens' classic tale of the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge is told through staged drama, and Christmas Carols 2008 marks the first year of this annual holiday offering. The cast of The Christmas Carol will also appear in the San Pedro Christmas Parade on Sunday, December 7.Tickets:

Bayer Aspirin Art Contest for Ages 6 to 14

If you have an artistic child or student, check out this international contest: (Submitted by Rori Roje)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

By Diana L. Chapman

You can imagine how I am feeling.

This weekend, my whole family will celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday. My two sisters and cousin have been working on a sit-down dinner bash for months. They invited 75 people thinking 50 would come, but everyone responded they would be there.

My husband is going. My son is going. My in-laws and their children will be there.

The one person missing will be me. It’s not that I don’t want to go; it’s that I’m not well enough to travel any quick-turn around trip. These days, a lunch outing causes so much fatigue that I fall into bed for hours. (I have multiple sclerosis which makes me feel like I have mono everyday).

Feeling crushed, I wanted something so special for my mom, something lasting and something that wasn’t going to break the bank since my bank is already broken. Then I remembered Mike Walker, the guy who is organizing a giant Christmas rush of care packages to our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, telling me his wife made jewelry.

Going to her website:, what I saw looked promising – starting with tiny roses, made from silver and gold-filled metal, beautiful crystals in many shapes and hues and the fact that each piece was hand crafted and individually designed.

Meeting up with Shirley, we sorted through her many homemade inspirations (she actually melts and makes glass beads at her home) I saw piece after piece that were beautiful, but didn’t quite fit what was needed. One that caught my eye was a clear pink crystal, encased in a silver border trimmed with a heart on top. It was stunning.

I loved it; but the trouble was: pink is not my mom’s color, she wears gold, not silver, and it didn’t have the rose I wanted to represent my father since he gave her roses. So I asked: "Could you make something similar?"

The answer was yes.
This is what we settled on: a topaz-colored gemstone to represent her birthday, a heart to represent my family and a rose tucked in the middle as a symbol of my father, who died about 12 years ago. Within two days, I was able to bring it home and proudly show it to my husband, Jim, and Ryan. They both thought it was the perfect gift to represent me since I cannot be there in person.

The price: $64.40. Had I gone to the store and spent $300, I couldn’t have found something that means so much symbolically. So it’s true, I am sad that I can’t go.
But being able to put together such a special gift, makes it somewhat easier. Thank you Shirley for saving the day for the one kid who can't go to celebrate her mother's big birthday!

By Diana L. Chapman

Cupcake Queen Update:

I love success stories – especially the kind where you think your life is marching one way and then the road suddenly veers in another direction.

This is what happened to my long-lost friend, Rose Cigliano, who works full time as a nurse, but began to miss terribly those cozy days she spent baking cookies, cupcakes and other treats with her Italian grandmother. So, she started baking.

And baking. And baking. With thousands of cupcakes made, and thousands sold, Rose officially soon hopes to have – Cuppacakes – sold at local restaurants – especially after she took 600 of her gourmet babies, such as red velvet topped with cream cheese icing, pumpkin with cream cheese frosting and chocolate with purple butter cream frosting – to a carnival in Manhattan Beach. All 31 dozen sold in 5 hours “with nothing to spare.”

“We sold out completely,” Rose explained, who added that her sister and neice came to help for one hour, but couldn’t leave because Rose was so busy. “People were begging me to open a store.”
Her cupcakes will soon be sold at Nosh in downtown San Pedro.

Right now, you can order her made-from-scratch cupcakes—pumpkin, chocolate, anisette and many more --- at Orders for the pumpkin cupcakes are already rolling in for Thanksgiving. A cupcake fad quickly is spreading like frosting across the nation -- especially with the opening of Sprinkles, a homemade cupcake bakery which opened several stores, including one in Hollywood where people stand in line to purchase them.

Why has the popularity increased? According to Rose, it stems from cupcakes reminding people of their childhood days. Within a week and if all goes well, the Nosh eatery will start carrying her cupcakes for ordering downtown San Pedro at 617 S. Centre Street.

“They are delicious and lovely and I’m thrilled to help that business move along,” said Nosh Owner Susan McKenna, a long-time foodie, who jointly owned the Corner Store, before she started Nosh. Being artistic with food is one of Susan’s many talents and she’s planning to add more food “artisans’ to her menu which ranges from specialty quiches to bread pudding.

Now, Cuppacakes will be sold there individually, and Nosh will help take larger orders.

Recently Rose donated her cupcakes to a writing class at the Boys and Girls Club and the kids were asked to write about them: Two high school students wrote the following:

“This cupcake reminds me about my youth, my childhood that was full of excitement and bliss,” wrote Brian, 17.

Armando, 15, wrote: “The cupcake has sprinkles that look like stars on the sand and the cookie atop looks like the moon. The cupcake is like a mountain in Big Bear and people are going down from the mountain with snowboards and skis. Cupcakes just make people joyful and happy. The people that make the cupcakes have a love for it. They put all their (soul) inside of it to make it taste so good.”

That is certainly true of Rose and her cupcakes; the best review I can give you is that the students inhaled her cupcakes in a few seconds flat.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Losing a Woman Who Did So Much for Our Community at Such an Early Age Is Painful for San Pedro; Michele Burke, Sweet as Sugar, Rough as a Razor, Died Unexpectedly Shocking All that Knew Her and Were Awestruck by Her Remarkable Intelligence & Her “I-Can-Do” Abilities

By Diana L. Chapman

It seemed just two weeks passed by when I e-mailed Michele Burk to tell her how much I appreciated her offer, but until a cure for multiple sclerosis was found, I had to forgo her gift because my condition was getting worse.

Sending me a sweet email back, she wrote: “I didn't contribute much in time or anything else, but I am sorry that this great program for younger teens is apparently coming to an end - at least as it's been known. I'm certainly not aware of any new 'miracle' drug to help treat MS, but my thoughts and prayers are with you.”

Not once did she mention that she was diabetic and was suffering as well and had been steadily slipping in health since the spring, said one close friend. By September, she died suddenly. When she quit answering her phone, her friends went to search for her. The diabetes had caught up with her – at much too young of an age, 54.

She died of complications from diabetes, said one of her closest friends and executor of her estate, Mark Ihlendfeldt, who lives in Michigan.

The gift Michele had offered me was to take my hand and walk me through the gauntlet of paper work to become a non-profit for what I’d been calling for three years, LA Network for Kids. The program was designed to keep kids busy after school by offering many clubs, such as cooking, basketball, art and swimming, to distract them from gangs, to build their confidence and help them explore future careers.

Using parent volunteers and in some cases, teachers, local businesses and money from two of our Neighborhood Councils, Coastal and Central, my friend, Kim Blanks, and I hobbled together a Mom-and-Pop program that the students at Dana Middle School seemed to enjoy.

Kim, in turn, linked me to Michele, who was born and raised in San Pedro. Even though she had no children, she continued to help kids in a myriad of different ways and one was taking the reigns for three years as the president of the San Pedro High School Lady Boosters.

While she was president, she helped the booster club achieve non-profit status as well as repeatedly guiding the campus in organizing many high school reunions. She cared, in part, because the school was her Alma mater and because she enjoyed kids. Her house was bathed in San Pedro High School memorabilia – that was how loyal she was to the school.

When I heard of her death, I couldn’t get over it. I kept saying to everyone: “She was a total stranger and she offered to help me build a non-profit,” which is a time-consuming world to navigate, not to mention tedious.

But one of her closest friends for 20 years, Mark, wasn’t surprised one bit. Michele, he said, was the type of person who dropped everything to help others. She was a perfectionist, organized and an amazingly talented resource, he explained. Had I asked her to do the whole thing on her own, she would have done it for me, he said.

“The first five minutes after we met, we were laughing so hard, I knew we’d be best friends,” Mark told me at her service. He met Michele at the now-defunct Data Count in Torrance where they both worked.

“I liked so many things about her,” he added. “I liked that she was so sweet, but then she’d have that sharp, smart tongue that straightened everybody out in seconds. She went from being like a butter knife, then turning into a straight sword, and then back into a butter knife in seconds. And she never backed down.”

Her friends in general explained their many favorite characteristics, but the one that kept coming up repeatedly was the way she could dissect any difficult problem.

She’d do the research, determine how to resolve an issue and provide ample information to undergo most tasks the rest of us would just want to avoid.

She was such a resource, Mark said, that even though he now lives in Michigan, he would routinely call her for help. “She was there and she’d take it down to the smallest of details. Everything she did was researched.” She even left implicit instructions of what she wanted after she died, he said.

Another close friend of Michele’s, Mark Wells, said she had so many “best friends,” that he and his wife include themselves in that category as well.

“Michele was a true friend to Terri and me and she was simply the best mentor I ever had,” Mark wrote via email. “Michele had such a wonderful gift of being a best friend to so many people. She was a tremendous listener BUT she also had absolutely no problem speaking her mind and telling you what she thought of things.”

Michele’s last job was working the telephones to collect debts for a wholesale fuel distributor.

One thing that illustrates Michele’s loyalty was that despite it being a two hour plus drive to Ojai, she left San Pedro every weekend to drive there and help her mother for years. Both her parents and brother have passed on. She is survived by a sister, Pat Qualls.

She is also survived by her two animals, Chuy, a 10-year-old Chow, and Pretty Boy, a male cat. Friends have taken both of her beloved pets and given them new homes.

Friday, November 07, 2008


Dear Readers: This letter was written by San Pedro resident, Derrick Kelly, now a UC Santa Barbara student. He worked for the Obama campaign for three weeks in Philadelphia

To All that Stand for the Progress of This Country:

It's true. When you woke up this November 5th morning, and looked at the headlines, flipped on your TV, or talked to your friends and coworkers, you saw that it wasn't just a dream. If there was any dream that occurred as Barack Obama was elected the first Black President of the U.S., it was that which Dr. King described 45 years ago. Congratulations to every one of us. Who thought we'd see this day? I myself am only 23 and even I didn't expect this. Not only is this a day to be heralded by Blacks around the world, but it is also a day for the progress of all Americans.

Two years into this. Two months until a new era begins. Two terms is the goal. Embrace and cherish these times infinitely, but be wary of those who will try to snatch away our integrity. Yesterday indicated that the vast majority of Americans who care wanted change in several ways. Let's come together. Let's stand up now before they can take away one of the greatest opportunities this nation has ever had.

Let's not ask "Is this nation ready for a Black President?" but rather, "Are we ready to unite as a whole?" Pray for those deviated from the path of equality, and for the strength of those promoting it. Yesterday was a gigantic step towards unity. Today begins a series of much more formidable tests. So again, let's place our signatures in the cement this day. Because if we don't, we, nor our children, may never see another day like this again. -- Derrick Kelley

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Closure of Los Angeles City Council Office in the Harbor Gateway Sparks Outrage Amongst Officials Who Wonder Where all the Politicians Have Gone Just Two Short Years After the Infamous Shooting Death of 14-year-old Cheryl Green

By Diana L. Chapman

Despite political promises to change the Harbor Gateway region where the infamous shooting of 14-year-old Cheryl Green took place, a new storm of rage has gathered there as Los Angeles closes its only City Council office that serves the community.

Officials from two of the neighborhood councils that represent the area said they are outraged by the move that leaves them hanging and forces them to drive to San Pedro or Watts to work with the staff of Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

The fervor reflects what seems to stem from failed political promises that much would be done in the area to help the residents receive better city services and to reduce crime – particularly hate crimes after Cheryl Green, who was standing on the corner with three friends was gunned down by a Hispanic gang members in December 2006 because she was African-American.

While the facility has been used by Harbor area officials for 16 years, ominous budget cuts and difficulties working with the landlord forced the councilwoman to close the office, located at 19401 S. Vermont Avenue, said her Chief-of-Staff Courtney Chesla Torres. The city is expected to save $28,000 a year and will hunt for a new facility.

At this time, however, the lowest amount they could rent a space for was $54,000 a year. The council office will officially close at the end of December leaving Harbor Gateway South to move it's records along with the Harbor City/Harbor Gateway Chamber of Commerce, which shared the space.

The budget woes have not appeased many in the Harbor Gateway-Harbor City area who consider it a reinforcement that they continue on as a “step child.”

Adrienne O’Neill, president of the Harbor Gateway South Neighborhood Council, said she and many others are furious over not just the closure of the field office, but by the way it was handled.

They were not notified by the councilwoman , she said, and they were confused by what was happening, they said. The council office, however, says they did give the council's notice.

The move has sent Adrienne searching for a new council candidate.

“We are less angry about the closing than we are in the manner in which it was done,” the council president contended. “We were all notified by a third party – not by Hahn or her office. She stated in City Watch that her office was working with us to find a new space for our meetings. What a bunch of bull crap! Pardon me. But other than a response to my email regarding the closing, we have heard not one thing from her office.”

As the council office pulls out due to budget cuts, Katy Carlson, the vice president of Harbor Gateway South Council, said they are frustrated by the closure and what day the office will officially shut its doors. This council uses it for its meetings and has no place yet to go.

“Her (the councilwoman’s) field staff, Reginald Zachery is in the Watts office now and we have to call him there,” Katy said. “Some one said they thought it would be 60 days, but we have no idea from what date they’re counting from. This is where we have our board meetings every month.”

The office will close at the end of December, Courtney said. She added that her staff had been in touch numerous times with Adrienne and has been searching area businesses for a new location. The lowest cost a year has been $54,000.

The budget crises has led the city of Los Angeles to sell its surplus property across the city and each council member was asked to review their leases. City officials were not pleased by the conditions at the current location and with an “uncooperative landlord,” the decision was made to close the office, the chief-of-staff explained. .

"The decision to close the office was not an easy one,” Janice Hahn said. “We were on a
month- to-month lease at our current location… In trying to find a new
location, we found the rent to be at least twice as much. The community should not notice any change in service just because our community advocate does not have a desk located in the gateway any longer. In fact, I want my community advocate to be out and about
attending meetings and working with constituents every day.

“Again, there should be no change in the delivery of services from this council

The council office will seek new arrangements for the neighborhood council meeting, she added.

Rosalie Preston, recording secretary for the Harbor Gateway North Neighborhood Council, said her council unanimously voted Oct. 28 to express their dismay about the office’s closure. While they don’t hold their meetings at the location, she said, “it just seems like another symbolic slap in the face. Our board voted to express our disappointment.

“We aren’t as impacted, but it’s just the idea.”

Doug Epperhart, a neighborhood council veteran who serves on the Coastal council in San Pedro, said he sympathized with the councils in the Harbor area because the board volunteers work hard in a community that has a giant swath of renters, rather than home owners.

“It’s so hard to get people organized here,” he explained, noting that even homeowners don’t want to get involved due to their busy lives. “Bluntly, what kills them is they have so many renters. I feel bad for them. They always feel: “Pedro gets everything.’”

The Harbor Gateway, a thin, rectangular strip that connects the entire Harbor area to the south section of Los Angeles has complained for years that they receive less services than other areas of the city. It is the single strip of land that keeps the Harbor region, which touts the world Port of Los Angeles, a city cash cow, tied to the apron strings of Los Angeles.

Attempts to break-away from the city have failed miserably.

The area, residents said, was becoming an increasing hotbed of shootings between African-American and Hispanic gangs vying for territory. When Cheryl Green, not in any gang, became a household name after being gunned down on a Friday afternoon near 206th Street and Harvard Boulevard, police immediately called it a hate crime.

Media coverage descended on the area sparked by the shooting and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the councilwoman vowed to help clean up the area and bring more programs together to keep the children out of gangs.

Cheryl’s killing was also the reason the councilwoman campaigned so hard on Proposition A, a $36 a year parcel tax that would have provided $30 million to the city to fight gangs and to create programs to keep youngsters from joining them.

The proposition votes are still being counted. If it passes, it remains unclear whether the money would come at to the Harbor Region. The mayor’s gang reduction plan cut Wilmington, Harbor City, Harbor Gateway and San Pedro from funding because those areas didn't have a high enough rate of gang violence to merit funding as other sections of the city.

Officials of the third neighborhood Council, Harbor City, could not be reached for comment.