Saturday, August 30, 2008

Diego (top photo) says he's devastated to go back to school. Isabela (above) is excited and scared. The two are twins. Photos were not yet available for the other two writers.
Four Kids Write About Going Back to School This Fall;


Thoughts Attending Middle School for the First time
By Isabela Van Antwerp, 11
I'm going into my first year of middle school. I'm thrilled but still frightened I won't like it because:
1) you have to wake up early
2) I have five more classes than elementary
3) I can't do dance because if I do I would have to give up one of my honors classes, so now I'm in drama.

But the good side to this is I know a lot of people. The people from my old school and a lot of people from my soccer team are going to Dana. Someone I know had a party and invited a few she knew that are going there.
In my new school, every hour we have to walk from class to class. I recently went to summer school and they gave us a tour. So now I know where to go. I'm still scared to death but anxious at the same time.
Going back to school
By Diego Van Antwerp, 11,

School will be coming soon.
I am devastated. Now, I have to see, and not to mention, smell chalk and it's dust. Chalk screeches loudly against the board. Also, when I have to do a math problem, I have to touch that awful dusty chalk. Yuck! Chalk really bugs me. But on the bright side, you can say "hi" to all of your good friends. But on the not so bright side, some of the teachers always use the: "TEACHER SCREAM," not angry, but more of an impatient yell. It creeps me out. And some times the food there is yucky, but you have to eat there or else you will be so hungry you feel like almost puking.
By Angel Chavez, 11

School oh no! Please don’t let me go.

I wish I didn’t have to go to school. The reason I don’t like school is because of the learning. My head will burst from all the work. I feel a headache coming on already. The only reason I want to go to school is because I can’t wait to meet new friends. If you don’t have friends at your new school, you will feel left out. It will be so sad not to talk to anyone and walk all alone on such a big campus. I hope this year will be a good year because I am full of friends!

I Am Ready to Go Back to School

By Sarena Chavez, 8,

I am really glad to go back to school because I will be able to learn new things. I enjoy reading and doing math problems. My goal in school is to get good grades so I can graduate like my big sister and receive lots of awards. I want to be President of our school and be leader. I am only 8 but I will do my best. I can’t wait to start school again. Here I come 3rd grade.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

By Diana L. Chapman

I missed my son’s friend, who quit coming over several months ago. I missed seeing his crooked smile and his zany ways.

At first I thought the kid was out of town, but then his disappearance rolled on and on -- all through the summer, past the heart of those lazy July days and still kept swimming through the month of August. Soon, we’ll be entering the sharp winds of September and school will start without a sign from the friend.

Finally, I began lamenting to Ryan about how sad it was and what happened and when did all of this go down and what was “the why of it all?”

“I don’t know,” Ryan grunted, looking bored with the discussion. “I probably did something that bothered him. I don’t know what it was.”

“But doesn’t it bother you?” I queried. “Don’t you want to know what happened?”

“Sure it bugged me for a couple of days,” Ryan revealed of the friend who he constantly hung out with a cadre of other boys. “But I’m over it.”

My surprise must have been etched on my face, because when I lose a friend like this, it rolls over in my mind again and again and I worry until the wee hours of the night.

The worries march across my brain: What did I do to cause this fragmentation? It’s like a puzzle and next to impossible to pick up the proper pieces and drop them into place to determine where and when the problem began, where it ends and where was the middle.

Adults tend to sever relationships, because the truth is this -- it’s easier. It’s easier than having a heart-to-heart discussion where the pain began – because usually these types of splits start with a shard of pain that was thrust into a heart, and left untreated, continue to swell and fester.

It’s a pattern I’ve seen in many adults – men and women – and that includes me.

My 14-year-old could tell I was bothered by abrupt break off. He looked at me, seriousness brushed across his face and gave me this poignant piece of advice: “You know, Mom, just because he dropped the friendship, doesn’t mean he’s a bad person. You understand that, right?”

I was taken off guard and needed a few seconds to step back and ponder those words. It was not only TRUE; it made me realize that Ryan was acting like more of an adult than most adults.

It was a revelation for me to realize that not all lost friends are truly lost. They are probably there at a time for a good reason – and when they moved on – they moved on because that door has closed. Of course, another will open as they always seem to do.

As we lug ourselves out to send our children back to school, still drunk from the warmth of honey-sweet summer days, I made myself a bet.

Sometime, Ryan and his friend will meet and become friends all over again, all hurts forgotten.

Because one other thing kids can be much better at than adults is offering up the buds of forgiveness.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

By Diana L. Chapman

The four-year-old, Adan Hernandez, at first, was delighted to see me. His face beamed as I talked and took their photos. But as the minutes ticked by, he became increasingly fidgety and tugged at his mom’s arm to steer her away while we were talking.

“It’s my time,” Adan kept saying. “It’s my time.”

“I’m sorry,” the mother pressed. “This is our time.”

Mayre (pronounced Marie) Hernandez grabbed her little guy’s hand and scrambled out the preschool’s door to play hula hoops – but not before she had read her son several children’s stories while he was tucked tightly in the warm curve of her lap.

“This is our time,” repeated slowly through my head again and again.

The Family Literacy program – the one I was just witnessing and the same program that San Pedro resident Annette Ciketic had prodded me repeatedly to write about for years – brims with success stories and does something that many of us already know – young kids, from babies on up, need someone to read to them early on -- preferably their parents -- who are their first teachers.

This can be a hard calling for parents with several children, more than one job to survive or a single mom or dad raising children on their own – many of whom do not know how to read well themselves or have achieved a high school degree. Family literacy – taught at 15th Street Elementary School in San Pedro and Meyler Adult and Family Learning Center in the Harbor Gateway – focuses on a family learning: together.

Learning English, raising your kids, improving math skills and conquering first an 8th grade diploma and later a GED (general education diploma) sounds like a monster of mountains to overcome – especially for those coming from another culture. And it's been difficult to promote the program.

My true confession: The words Family Literacy made me fall asleep until
15th Street Elementary School coordinator Connie McCosker opened the doors widely and allowed me to peer inside. What I witnessed made me immediately regret that I had not reported on this program sooner

It was nearly as impressive as a blue butterfly spreading its wings before your eyes – because that’s exactly what’s happening to these families.

Once the doors of the program were open – in one room, I spotted parents studying English while their young kids, from infants to toddlers, played in a nearby area where another adult watched over them.

In another room, parents were studying math as a small two-year-old wandered behind her mom.

And in my favorite room, the preschool, a myriad of mothers – and even one father! – had their children climbing on their laps as their parents read to them either in Spanish or English.

“The problem is always what to do with the children,” explained Connie who said the expense of child care was one of the biggest obstacles to immigrant parents learning English and trying to achieve a higher education. “So we teach the parents and the kids. When the parents enroll their kids, they’ll know the school and they’ll have more confidence.”

Where else can you find a brochure that says: Adult Education: “Babies Welcome in Class!” Parents can study English, math and earn an eighth grade diploma and all the while learn to work with their children in the preschool.

Parents who enroll their children must participate in the preschool program where a chunk of time is devoted to the learning to read and play with their child.

The students must commit 20 hours a week to enroll, Connie explained.

One fascinating appeal to parents is so many rarely had a chance to enjoy their childhood and often were already working at a young age that they are actually having a shot at reliving their childhood with their own kid. At the same time, they are learning parenting techniques.

“One young mother didn’t even know how to do a puzzle,” said Maria Young, who runs the preschool program. “She had never done a puzzle in her life. She learned with her child.

“We teach the parents here to make encouraging and positive remarks about their children’s work.”

Besides teaching the preschool kids art, music, colors and numbers, Maria also trains parents how to control to their child’s temper tantrums and the best nutrition for kids.

For mother Maria Espinoza, who attends with her son Jason, 4, the program was a godsend.

When she arrived at 15th Street Elementary, she spoke no English. Since then, she had all of her boys attend the program (the other two are now five and seven and attend 15th Street Elementary) and later was hired by the school to help supervise on the yard. Meanwhile, she pursues studies to obtain her high school equivalency

“The goal was for me to learn English,” the mother explained, but so impressed was the Maria with the program that she ushered each of her children through. “My sons learned English here. They learned to share here. They know and understand the rules. At home, I wouldn’t even show them how to cut with scissors. I always thought it was too dangerous. At home we didn’t play a lot.”

That changed, she said, “and I am so grateful for the program.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Adan’s mother who said her biggest regret was she didn’t know the program existed and didn’t have the chance to do it with her other three sons, 6, 8 and 10-years-old. However, it turned out to work perfectly for Adan who now gets his own time with his mother – where at home he’s always competing with attention with the other boys.

Once Mayre decided to pursue a higher education after not going to school for 12 years – and is working to get her GED – she immediately hit her first obstacle. How would she take care of Adan when child care was so expensive and go to school? Then, she saw a sign on the school fence about Family Literacy and jumped in, starting this year.

“I just love this program,” Mayre gushed with appreciation.. “I’m right next door to where my son is. We’ve gone on field trips. We play together. And I’m getting to where I need to be.”

Now I regret not listening to Anette who coordinates the program at Meyler. The brainchild of educator, Camilla Townsend, who now is the executive director of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce, Family Literacy has the chance to expand across the South Bay since it began six years ago.
“These past two years Connie and I have been working very closely to act as a "united front" under the umbrella of Harbor Community Adult School,” Annette explained.. “My goal is that we expand to other areas and serve as models and mentors to other developing family literacy programs in the whole South Bay.”
My hope is that we don’t wait too long to promote and explore this program and that our Neighborhood Councils will help sponsor it financially. It can only do one thing for all of us: propel healthier, educated families to become a part of our community – where we will witness children spread their wings as beautiful as a blue butterfly.
The program resumes Sept. 2. Starting that date, Connie of 15th Street can be reached at : 310-995-3125 and Annette can be reached at (310) 320-2419 in regards to the Meyler site. Further information can also be provided at Harbor Community Adult School: main campus 310-547-4425.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Dear Readers:

Please take the time out of your busy schedule to ponder this video. My sister’s adopted son, now 18, was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, and a myriad of other things, but it’s always bothered me greatly that the possibility of autism was virtually ignored. Years after he suffered – we all have suffered -- my sister discovered in the reports that one of his social workers believed him to be autistic.

When my sister adopted him at age 3, we did not have this information. His chance now of ever being able to live normally in society has slipped away – as he has slipped away from all of us. If a child is autistic, there is a chance to help them, but it must be caught early.

Please see this video and see what you can do to help for the future of all autistic children, many of whom are misdiagnosed everyday.


Thursday, August 07, 2008


Please pass along to your networks/those looking for local work.

Target is doing a mass hire at Los Angeles Harbor College today, August 7th and tomorrow, August 8th from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM. They will also be here on Saturday, August 9th from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. They will be filling all hourly positions for the new San Pedro store.
These positions include cashier, sales, backroom, and overnight.
I would imagine that interested parties should bring a resume and valid ID, but this is an educated guess. (Strongly recommended!)
Happy summer!! -- Submitted by Rori Roje