Saturday, September 27, 2008

(Tim Bower, left, with Debra Hetrick, who sought grants for the proposal. Both work for the Beyond the Bell branch of the LAUSD.)
Thousands of Students Will Benefit By One Woman’s Endless Spirit to Build an Outdoor Education Center at Angel’s Gate; This December, the Dream Becomes a Reality;
Whatever Happens, Officials Say the Center Can Collaborate with a Proposed Satellite High School at the Site – In fact, Center Officials Would Welcome Such a Campus

By Diana L. Chapman

Imagine this: Being a kid and pitching a tent at Point Fermin Park perched atop towering cliff sides overlooking the Pacific. Despite crisp, burly ocean breezes, misting fogs clinging to the bluffs and a damp chill in the summer air, students kept on coming and coming.

For years, they came in droves each summer to study the surrounding nature and environment – in the biggest classroom the world can offer – the Great Outdoors.

The rustic beginnings of the Los Angeles School District outdoor educationqprogram, which began in 1948, kept on running even after it was moved away from Point Fermin to district property at Angel’s Gate – which also sports a continuous, wide-angle view of the Pacific Ocean.

When Debra Hetrick arrived in 1985, the joke from the program director at Angel’s Gate center was that he “laid in a weedy field with a phone to run the program,” she quipped. But that will change this December – due to Debra’s steadfast attempts to garner money for the construction of the new Point Fermin Outdoor Education Center.

After arriving, Debra, who coordinates outdoor programming for the district, concluded the Point Fermin center did so much for students that it deserved more than a vacant field, a trailer and tents.
Having helped pitch tents for hundreds of fifth grade students from a wide swath of Los Angeles, she proposed the program should have a kitchen and cafeteria where students could eat indoors instead of being taught to eat, holding down a plate, so both food and plate didn’t blow away in the brisk winds.

And with the perils of rain and cold storms, Debra figured converting two old military warehouses into dormitories complete with bunk beds would be more appropriate over tents. Furthermore, since the entire program was built on protecting the environment, she suggested the use of some beautiful natural gardens to encourage wild foxes and raptors to remain in the park-style land known as Angel's Gate, part of which is owned by the Los Angeles Unified School district; the other part owned by the city of Los Angeles.

Wildlife can be a great teacher, she explained.
This December, after years of going after grants, Debra’s dream will come true at last. Her spirited drive to obtain about $7 million lobbying for funds from agencies such as the Wild Lands Conservancy – which donated $2.5. million – and with LAUSD board members agreeing to match that using bond funds, the project she’s dreamed of for more than two decades will become a reality.

“I’ve wanted it for years,” Debra explained to me after we tromped through the brush and fields overlooking the location. “It’s just amazing because the project has been delayed so many times. And now the dream has come true. When we started, all we had was a field.”

What once was a scrap of vacant land where counselors and naturalists -- with names like Mr. Nemo, Mr. Squid, Crabby and Sea Star – would pitch tents outside, the new facility can operate year-round where warm, indoor bunks will fill up with hundreds of chattering students all week long. About 160 fifth graders will visit during the week; on the weekends, about 120 middle and high schools students will have use of the site.

Located in the north westerly portion of Angel’s Gate, by December 2009, two former cylinder-style military warehouses will be converted and filled with bunk beds, a third building will hold a cavernous cafeteria and a kitchen. A smaller building will house staff who will be full time at the site.
If all goes well, the center should be up and running officially by July 2010 – if not sooner.
Then, Monday through Friday, fifth graders will be shuttled there to stay for one week – virtually free – to study assorted creatures in the tide pools, visit the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, spend time at the Marine Mammal Care and the International Bird Rescue centers and to make visits to the historic Fort MacArthur Museum where they will walk through underground tunnels left behind from World War II.

The extensive upgrade allows Beyond the Bell, which runs after school and outdoor programs for the Los Angeles school district, to host nearly 12,000 students yearly, nearly doubling the original numbers from 7,000 at the site.

With both of the district’s outdoor education facilities, which includes Clear Creek in the Los Angeles National Forest, about 21,000 district students will run through the outdoor programs.
At the new Point Fermin Center –which has been on hold for several summers since the conversion was taking place-- students will hike, study marine life and habitat, and learn concepts about the environment and how to protect it.

They will get glimpses into the field of astronomy by studying the stars, sit at campfires telling stories, learn to clean up after themselves in the kitchen – and most importantly – learn to become a team.

Teachers, Debra explained, have revealed many times that the two outdoor education programs have rounded out those students both socially and academically and increased their self esteem.
In addition, those who attend often see an increase in test scores.

Debra glorifies in those moments when teachers call and reveal the attributes that outdoor education has brought to their students and says the reason for this is simple. When they learn hands-on, outside – using games like predator and prey tag where students play one or the other – the lessons tend to stick and give students a broader picture of nature and its environment.
The program brushes students through quick courses in geology, science and even history.
Former elementary school teacher, Tim Bower, now a Beyond the Bell official, said his experience in bringing four different classes to the Clear Creek program was discovering that “without exception, the students I took…were closer knit, supported each other, and had fewer discipline issues for the balance of the school year,” he explained.

“There are many district teachers and staff that I have talked to that had a Clear Creek or Point Fermin experience either as a teacher or student,” Tim said. “The experience was a memory that lasted a lifetime. I run into people all the time that consider the experience of going to Clear Creek and Point Fermin as a privilege they were fortunate to have.”

While the Los Angeles school district also continues to pursue building a 500-seat campus at Angel’s Gate as well – the property was once owned by the military who dedicated it to the school district in the 1970s -- community opponents have used the Outdoor Education Center as a reason not to build a school.
The campus, opponents said, would hamper the center’s abilities to run its programs. Up for discussion is the district’s proposal to take San Pedro High School’s marine and police magnet to the site – as a satellite to the high school – despite intense and sharp opposition from some community members who believe it will destroy the serenity of the area. District officials, however, contend that they must reduce overcrowding at the high school, which currently houses about 3,500 students.

Both Debra and Tim said the center would embrace a high school campus, because in many was the programs could collaborate. For instance, Debra said, if labs are built for a marine magnet, the center’s students could use the facility for their experiments. In addition, the older students could help the younger students to learn.

“We don’t think a high school would interfere with us at all,” Debra revealed. “We will co-exist with that high school beautifully.”
Dave Kooper, the chief officer for Los Angeles School Board Member Richard Vladovic who has lobbied for the school at Angel's Gate, echoed those sentiments.
"It is going to be a wonderful partnership.," Dave explained. "They will have access to our facilities after hours and will benefit from the the shared educational opportunities."

By the time the center is completely finished, it will include three circular gardens for teaching – with natural brush such as coastal sage – to encourage current wildlife from red-tailed hawks and kestrels to red foxes to remain as part of ecosystem.

Some of the most special nights at the center in the past, Debra recalled, was to watch the excited reaction of the kids when a family of foxes trooped by.

At the end of the summer in the past were some of Debra’s saddest days – especially when she heard the winds whipping through the “collapsing tents,” signaling the end of that summer program.
That sad, lonely sound she will no longer have to hear – once the new center is up and running. Instead, she will be listen to students chatter into the darkness of the night.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Community Round Up: Central Neighborhood Council Supplies $3,500 for Dana Middle School's After School Programming; Another Tip a Cop You Shouldn't Miss -- Have an Officer Serve You Dinner in an Effort to Help Kids; Nutcracker Auditions Begin -- and lastly, If You are Having a Bad Day, Make Sure To Click on What One Wheelchair-bound Kid Started That Will Brighten Your Soul

Central Neighborhood Council:
In an ongoing effort to support after school programs at middle schools, San Pedro's Central Neighborhood Council pledged $3,500 this year to continue the clubs at Dana Middle School that began there three years ago -- from art to cooking.
Two local Neighborhood Councils have supported efforts to run after school clubs and supplied funds for Spanish, art, cooking, basketball, swimming and the many other programs that continue to evolve at the school site. Volunteer parents run many of the programs. This year, one parent plans to launch an even more unique club in the area of forensics.
After School clubs started at the campus in 2005 to keep scores of students from milling outside the campus after school where fights broke out and to give students a chance to explore other interests. Several of the clubs were tied to academics, such as doing homework first in the Homework Club before attending swimming at Peck Park Pool.
Basketball Club turned out as one of the most successful programs. Students were allowed to come in with poor grades -- but had to show Coach Derrick Smith that they were improving on a consistent basis. All of his eighth graders last year were able to graduate across the stage, reflecting that they all made a C average or above.
The first Neighborhood Council -- Coastal -- showed its endorsement of the program and provided $5,000 to the efforts last fall.


Los Angeles Police Officers have once again embarked on an unusual campaign to help youth. Instead of handing out tickets this Monday (Sept. 15th) evening, they will hand out burgers and buns.
Police officers will be waiters and waitresses at the San Pedro Brewing Company on from 5 to 9 p.m. to provide thousands of dollars to its programs involving youth, including the extremely disciplined boot camp that targets juvenile delinquents to help them turn their lives around.
Most officers are fully uniformed as they wait on tables. As few have ever served in the restaurant profession, some meals might show up a tad slow -- but tips are likely to overflow at the event. Last year, officers were receiving tips higher than $20.
San Pedro Brewing Co. is located at 331 W. Sixth Street.

Nutcracker Auditions: Don't Forget to Tell Your Friends with Kids:

WHO: San Pedro City Ballet
WHAT: 15th Anniversary of “The Nutcracker” cast auditions
WHERE: San Pedro Ballet School 1231 S. Pacific Ave., San Pedro
WHEN: Sunday, September 14th
Boys and Girls ages 4 and 5 at 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Boys and Girls ages 6-8 at 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Boys and Girls ages 9-11 at 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM
Boys and Girls ages 12 and up at 12:30 PM – 12:45 PM
Adults at 12:45 PM – 1:00 PM
All participants must enroll in classes at San Pedro Ballet School.
A $115.00 (non-refundable) rehearsal and costume fee is required to participate in the “The Nutcracker,” $99.00 rehearsal fee for second child. Payment is due September 14, 2008 at the audition.
Information (310) 732-1861

Having a Bad Day? Feeling Sorry for Yourself? Don't Miss This Then to Brighten Your Spirits; Look at What One Wheelchair-bound Kid Succeeded in Doing With His Life; It's One of the Most Popular Videos on You Tube:

Click on:
--Submitted by Peggy Lindquist

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A San Pedro Woman Embarks on a Cupcake Adventure Due to Her Childhood Memories and Her Italian Grandmother

“There’s a kid in each of us when it comes to cupcakes,” – Cupcake-maker Rose Cigliano.

Diana L. Chapman

It had been 15 years since I talked to my friend and former neighbor Rose Cigliano. Life just caught up to both of us and the strands of time floated away silently in a quiet wind. When we found each other again via the speedier ways of life, the internet, we had a lot to catch up on. The first question – not surprisingly being – what have you embarked upon over the last decade and more?
“What have you been doing?” I asked Rose, who I last saw tucked away in a tiny condominium nest next to our tiny condominium nest before she moved away from Elberon Street in San Pedro.

“I’m making cup cakes,” she said soundly, with a small bite of pride in her voice. Sounding odd at first, the more she talked the more butter creamy scrumptious it became – since she is now in the cupcake-making business. And not just any cupcake-making business, but one that stemmed from the love and teachings of her Italian Grandmother Nonna Mammie. She named it: Cuppacakes.

As a nurse, who was recently laid off, Rose remembered those rich and warm loving days where she and her sisters, Filomena and Flora, excitedly raced to Nonna’s house because another holiday was right around the bend. Under her tutelage, Nonna – as she always did – helped them bake hundreds and hundreds of cupcakes and scores of other goodies year after year for their classes at school – for every holiday.

Rose recalled all three of them lined up along the counter top, with Nonna showing the girls how to make everything from scratch, measuring cups of flour and sugar and whipping up batches and batches of sweets.

Missing her grandmother greatly, Rose about two years ago started making cupcakes for her co-workers, just as a hobby to remind her of those happy days. The reaction she got from comrades was this: they begged for more -- more of the sweet flavors that now include, pumpkin, carrot, red velvet, Italian lemon pound cake, Italian anisette ,and of course, the more traditional chocolate and vanilla cupcakes.

Then she’d douse them with frosting – whipped to achieve the ultimate creaminess – such as chocolate, peanut butter, brown butter and cream cheese.

“We were just like waiting in line,” said her former co-worker Nancy Sprauge, who called Rose’s treats a “gastronomical delight” and added that everybody frothed at the mouth when she brought them in. “She’d bring them into the office and they would be there for like a minute. I would actually take like three or four and I’d hide them for later. Why do you think I had to go on Jenny Craig?’

With that reaction, her co-workers would ask Rose repeatedly when she planned to open her own store or go into business on line with her daring, dare devil treats. Rose believes, as do her customers, that her cupcakes are competitive to famously popular Sprinkles which now has seven locations. She created each recipe and made her co-workers "guinea pigs." All are made from scratch. There are no boxed mixes involved. Ironically, she didn’t even know that cupcakes had become such a huge fad – and that people would line up at the Sprinkles in Beverly Hills and Newport Beach.
If she's successful with her on-line business in San Pedro, she too hopes to expand all over the country.

Kids are some of Rose’s biggest clients – and parents have ordered the tasty treats for birthday parties that look like ladybugs, baseballs or with pirate and princess themes. She’s made football field cakes with cupcakes to represent the players, wedding cakes that are towers of cupcakes and even done first communions – not to mention holidays.

“I am so driven to do this and it’s crazy,” said Rose, who currently is working with the San Pedro Chamber to take her from one-time hobby to a thriving business. “I’d work all day in Garden Grove and I would come home and make dinner for my son and bake cupcakes all night. I really feel like I’m driven by my Italian grandmother.”

Whatever she’s doing, she’s receiving great accolades from customers.

Having ordered scores of cupcakes for their clients, Stellesa Petorella, an escrow officer at Harbor Lights Escrow, called them “amazing!”

“They are gourmet cupcakes and they are gorgeous!” Stellesa exclaimed with robust enthusiasm. “We sent them to our customers and people called and asked: “Oh, my God, who made those?”

Another customer, Leonard Russo, currently a graphic artist with Warner Brother’s Studios, said he brought Rose’s cupcakes to the set when working with Disney on the movie: Race to Witch Mountain. “They loved them,” Leonard said. “Even though there’s food galore on the sets, they ordered three of four more boxes. I had some Sprinkles and they didn’t even come close to Rose’s.”
Her customers can’t seem to agree on which is their favorite cupcake. For Stellesa, the red velvet tops her list. For Nancy, it’s the Italian anisette. For Leonard it’s the coconut.

But they all do agree one thing – Rose pours her personable nature into her cupcakes and adds a dash of love of and snippet of caring to each. And somewhere behind her, stands Nonna looking over her shoulder and cheering her on.
As far as our renewed friendship goes, I am just sure Rose and I will no longer be more than a cupcake away.
To order or learn more, visit

Friday, September 05, 2008

Tell All Your Friends with Kids; Auditions for the San Pedro Ballet's Nutcracker Coming mid-September for Kids Ages 4 to 12;
WHO: San Pedro City Ballet
WHAT: 15th Anniversary of “The Nutcracker” cast auditions
WHERE: San Pedro Ballet School 1231 S. Pacific Ave., San Pedro
WHEN: Sunday, September 14th
Boys and Girls ages 4 and 5 at 11:00 AM – 11:30 AM
Boys and Girls ages 6-8 at 11:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Boys and Girls ages 9-11 at 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM
Boys and Girls ages 12 and up at 12:30 PM – 12:45 PM
Adults at 12:45 PM – 1:00 PM
All participants must enroll in classes at San Pedro Ballet School.
A $115.00 (non-refundable) rehearsal and costume fee is required to participate in the “The Nutcracker”, $99.00 rehearsal fee for second child. Payment is due September 14, 2008 at the audition.
Information (310) 732-1861
Beautiful Moments at a Middle School; A Gesture So Simple that It Really Worked
By Diana L. Chapman

The day my son graduated from Dana Middle School, I witnessed a simple gesture that was inexpensive, thoughtful and imbued students with broad smiles. The gesture seemed proof that--- yes -- someone believed in the students and their futures ahead blinked bright.

As students filtered down the stage after their name was called, strolled up the aisle in small groups (parents all still remaining seated in the audience), the auditorium doors swung open releasing the students to the lobby where they were greeted with a sudden, loud burst of applause and smiles.

This wasn’t from family. It wasn’t from friends. They were still in the auditorium. The hooting of congratulations and explosive claps came from a semi-circle of teachers, aides and various other school staffers who took the students by surprise with this demonstrative type of congratulations.

The look that appeared across nearly every student’s face was first the look of shock – and then, when they realized what was happening – their faces cracked into glowing smiles that grew and grew and grew.

I just happened to be standing in the lobby as this occurred and couldn’t help but join in the enthusiasm and good cheer because of the happiness that was defined on the student’s faces. Plus, I knew (as did the staff who spent the last three years with these kids knew) that not all of students would have someone there to witness their graduation – for one reason or another.

So there I was clapping as enthusiastically and as happily as the staff when my own son came out the door – and shook his head with surprise until he lit into a giant grin. Later I asked him what he thought of the staff's gesture. “It was the best,” he told me

My words exactly.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Teenager Reveals Life as
an Undocumented
Student and Her
Struggles to Attend
Despite an Acceptance to UCLA and Four Other Universities,
Karina Dorado Worries About Her Future as the Financial Well
Remains Dry for Students Like Her
Dear Readers: This is a student who you may just want to help. Her story is one of many children whose parents bring them to America, but don’t necessarily understand that education is a number one choice to move forward – and haven’t made their children U.S. citizens yet. According to Karina, she is working toward becoming a legal American citizen, but that won’t happen until the age of 21.

Meanwhile, she wants to become a healthy, educated member of society. Her dedication, grades, test scores, work ethic and university acceptances reveal how worthy of a candidate she is. Money alone stands in the way.
I will post more of her stories in the future. -- Diana

By Karina Dorado

Being undocumented has been great challenge.

I have more challenges and obstacles to surpass in order to pursue my goals. Coming from a foreign country and not knowing the language was extremely difficult. Not only did I have to learn to adapt to a new culture, a new world and a new way of life, I was also expected to read and produce this complex English language.

Throughout my academic years, I was placed in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Some people still put me down because of my accent and my continuous struggle to pronounce bigger words. There is a refrain that speaks about illegal immigrates coming to this country to over populate, work at local fast food restaurants or as a gardener maybe even a housemaid for the rest of his or her life. This, however, does not apply to me; I am a determined individual who will strive to reach my goal which is to pursue a career in psychology.

I want to be able to help people with his or her problems and I want to create a safe and amicable environment. School has taught me perseverance, determination and has given me the confidence to succeed in my educational career. I realized that I am capable and can do this on my own. My mother’s increasing absences from parent conference or open house due to work, made me stronger as an individual.

I did not need to rely on anyone to join me on the way to success. I wanted to show my mom there was nothing holding me back. I definitely did not want to use her lack of involvement in my education as an excuse like other individuals would have done. I made it a goal and plan to not only graduate from high school, but to graduate as a “gold division” student with the pursuit of achieving a college degree.

Because of my outstanding performance in my academics studies, I am ranked as one of the top students in my high school class, achieved the gold status and recently was accepted to UCLA.

Although I am not yet at UCLA, I am currently taking community college courses and did so while in high school. I choose to make use of my life as an educated, productive person and of course an undocumented student or should I say “Illegal Alien” as Americans like to call us?

I know that having a chance to go to university will be something I will appreciate for the rest of my life.

Sometimes people are offered opportunities and take them for granted. Some people ignore the advantages given to him or her and do not appreciate them; such as applying for financial aid, free waiver or even attending college. While other students I know can get those advantages – and even though I am following the “American Dream” as most people call it – I cannot because my mother did not help me to get citizenship yet, which for the most part disqualifies me from receiving grants and scholarships.

However, that will not stop me from reaching for this goal. I want to prove that undocumented people can achieve their goals, and that we can acquire success from few resources. I know it will be challenging and I have received help from the Boys and Girls Club – where I attended their College Bound program. Because of the lack of financial help, the club believed in me and did a fundraiser solely to help me pay for UCLA.

My native friends as well as my own mother did not believe I would get accepted because I am not a legal resident nor a U.S. citizen. However, as I reflect on their comments I realize they provided me with the drive to pursue my educational goals. Being accepted to a university is the first step, in achieving my goals, now I must work diligently to make it happen.

I have realized that I am capable of succeeding in pursuing my dream of obtaining a college degree and profession. My diligence and work is paying off. I recently was accepted to UCLA, UCSD, UCSB and the California State universities of Long Beach and Poly Pomona.
I took the time to only apply to three CSU's and three UC's for the reason that I did have to pay for the applications myself, out of my own pocket. I spent around $300 all together. Mom was not even aware of what I was doing with my money. However, she did ask me "where was I misspending ALL of my money?!

I will start at UCLA in the fall quarter of 2008. Everybody has obstacles that we face daily, however, with persistence, we can reach success. Michael Jordan has said, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life, but by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”

This best describes my desire to constantly overcome any barrier I may face in my path of progress – in this case it’s a financial struggle, but I am dedicated, tenacious, independent and driven to succeed at whatever I do. This is who I am, and I am going to make it!

Donations can be made out to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Los Angeles Harbor/Karina Fund. Checks can be mailed to: 1200 S. Cabrillo Avenue, San Pedro, California. The club, through fundraisers, has garnered about $11,000 and expects Karina’s schooling to cost about $12,000 per year.