Saturday, April 23, 2011

Marina DuVernet, 9, at work after school. She constantly writes stories and is currently working on a book.


Dear Readers: Marina DuVernet came to the Seven Golden Secrets to Writing class with good structure. However, she hadn't explored her creative side. Now that she's doing so, she's written many stories and is currently working on a book about a scary island. It's good and it goes to show you what kids can do! Diana

The Pet Who Was the Easter Bunny
By Marina DuVernet, 9,

Hey, I’m the Easter Bunny! Want my autograph?

Well anyway, I’m trapped in this house with this giant human little girl. I have to deliver my Easter eggs on Easter night, so I snuck out for a practice run.  About half way through the underground tunnel, I heard that annoying little girl shout:

“Where’s my bunny!?”

Then I raced back up, because if I didn’t get back up there in time, she’d start shaking the cage and I have a collection of priceless invisible eggs in there. So I hopped back up.

“There’s my bunny,” she said and in one deep breath, she snatched me out of the cage and whisked me into her bed.

She squeezed me tightly in her arms and started sleeping. Gosh, that was rude!

If only she knew I was the Easter bunny! But I stopped myself from sinking my claws into her arm. Soon, she began snoring. Yes, snoring.

Don’t you feel sorry for me?  Oh yes, some hot soup with plenty of carrots and cabbage would be nice. Oh, and thank you for the hot chocolate. Wait. I  wasn’t finished yet.  O.K. in the morning, well that was even worse!

In the morning, the weekend before Easter, she made me join a tea party with her pesky stuffed animals. Oh, I have a headache now. I need aspirin. Now where was I. Oh, yea, the tea party.  That was a disaster. Every time, I made a run for it, she’d grab me and put me back in my “baby chair.” And at night, she squeezed me again.

The next day, I’m glad she went to school. So I basically sort of trashed her room. Hey, don’t look at me. She tortures me every minute she can. When she came home, I was sitting in a corner – innocently.

“Oh, bunny, did you do all of this?” she asked. “Aww, you’re so cute. You finally learned. Good job. How about I clean that up for you?”

So guess what I got? A big, fat, hug! Yuck.

The next day, in the early amount of squeezing, the girl’s mom finally came in. Where was she this whole time?

“What are you doing with that poor bunny?” the mom asked.

“Umm….nothing, mom.”

“Give me that bunny,” the mom said finally. She carried me in my cage back to the kitchen. I like it much better there, no pink walls, no pink bread spread and no tea parties! The little giant girl never squeezed me again.

Happily, Easter was saved.  I was able to paint up Easter eggs, hop up the tunnel and secretly place them in family’s yards on Easter morning.

If one year, you don’t get any Easter eggs, you will know what happened, won’t you? Some giant of a little girl will be tucking me in her bed, snoring, and making me play tea party.

Hey, don’t blame me. Happy Easter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

British Chef Jamie Oliver challenges Los Angeles Unified School District to improve it's food on his reality show, Food Revolution.

By Diana L. Chapman

British Chef Jamie Oliver – Mr. Food Revolution – I challenge you to put your food where your mouth is.

I’d love to have you come down to San Pedro High—a Los Angeles Unified School -- and help teach students in a struggling after school cooking club which comes salted with the following ingredients:

--One stable, committed and overworked volunteer
--20 plus kids every Monday (more if we can expand)
--And little to no money with the exception that our Coastal Neighborhood Council in San Pedro supported the program with a nearly $1,000 gift as did our LAUSD School Board Member Richard Vladovic.

We could use a celebrity chef like Jamie to help fill the holes  – not necessarily to ream the LAUSD cafeteria even though I admit I’m not satisfied with the district’s food either. But more concerning right now is that our  students at San Pedro High (and I’m sure many other LAUSD schools) are missing out on this imperative life skill due to intense cut backs.  As more drastic cuts go on, the dicing and chopping of classes like cooking and auto shop leave many school cupboard’s barren of such needed programs.

If school officials and Oliver would think it out a bit, maybe we can come up with another plan – a plan that could have a ripple affect across LAUSD schools, a plan that could actually be plugged in and make schools officials and parents happy – and would work to set off this “food revolution” Oliver talks about here in the United States.

He wants to change us Americans from fat, to thin and healthy and he told us so in his latest Food Revolution episode Monday night while berating the school district because “all I want is a little access” to the cafeterias and the students.

After watching the show – which definitely mixed up drama and anger at the district – I spotted Jamie’s gift – and that was his ability to work with students at a school that partners with LAUSD. “I’m now just a culinary arts teacher,” he complained where he was now working with culinary students. But the beauty of it was this: He worked with Sofia, whose entire family, including her 13-year-old sister, has diabetes, and he promised to help her by changing her family’s food habits. It was clear right from the start that the kids adored him.

For those of you not familiar with this LAUSD food saga,  Oliver  last October contacted the district asking them to open the cafeterias so he could help them improve their foods and put it on his reality T.V. show, Food Revolution on ABC.

 But because it was a reality show, LAUSD’s former Superintendent Ramon Cortines checked out the Huntville, W. Virginia school that he did the program with in a prior season. They discovered a few unsavory elements to allowing a reality show onto their campuses, said Robert Alaniz, the district’s media communications director.

While officials in West Virginia were under contract and couldn’t say much, they did inform Los Angeles school officials to make sure they had a team of attorneys “before you sign the contract, a red flag,” Alaniz explained.

Jamie’s chances were further hampered by a 2010 reality show, called School Pride,  because the filming did $106,000 worth of damages to walls at  Hollenbrook Middle School – instead of the promised rehabilitation of part of the campus. The school district, incensed, wound up footing the bill, he added.

That’s when Cortines concluded that they could allow Oliver into the school cafeterias – to make suggestions, but not with his cameras. School officials then rolled out a defense to show “we are not the big bad purveyor of junk food” allowing media to come into the cafeterias, making its menus healthier and told media types that all the food is taste-tested by students before the menus for the year are adopted, Alaniz explained.

The school district does about a 120 million meals a year, most made in the central offices downtown, because many schools have no kitchen. Each costs about 77 cents and is healthy as the district can make it within restrictions and the cost factors.

“Sure, we could be better, the media director added explaining they were still open to Oliver turning in proposals. “But Jamie wants to serve fresh food every day.” The costs for that are phenomenal, he added.   

After cluing into this ongoing drama – with only one episode left to go – I just can’t stand to see a golden opportunity wasted. I’d like to see us  take a different tack and focus on another way to change the students diet. How?

My suggestion for both parties: LAUSD let Oliver on San Pedro High’s campus to come and teach the students in the after school club ways to whip up some savory meals – that are fast, healthy and won’t lather on the fat. Let him bring in his cameras.

If it’s filmed, other LAUSD schools could use it to help their students and a ripple effect of better eating habits could shine throughout the district and among other children  – which is what we are all looking for, anyway. Right? 

In the past, San Pedro High had an excellent culinary program, taught by Sandy Wood, who retired two years ago.  Often, she had a waiting list of up to 500 students. She stayed in it for years, she said, for kids like “Hector.”

While not his real name, Hector was a senior who tromped into Wood’s class, having failed just about everything. But the minute he turned on the stovetop, his passion was ignited. He became a chef.

 I know firsthand from Sandy that scores of students like Hector exist out there, if not hundreds, maybe even thousands. The district does need to loosen up its rules when it comes to school food. No question. That Sandy can attest to when her students won a scholarship to build a small business making healthy sandwiches for students. They sold about 40 a day, until the school district shut it down  claiming it competed with the cafeteria.

Why not have some competition? This actually could be a good thing. The culinary students were learning and it couldn’t possibly have been much competition to the district cafeteria due to the fact the culinary students couldn’t handle more than 40 meals a day – at a school with 3,100 students.

Sandy’s departure was devastating and it’s the the whole reason, as a volunteer, I put a cooking club together at the high school – even though I can’t cook much more than eggs. And it was the same reason that James Weston, an amateur cook, volunteers every week even though he doesn’t have any children that go to school or even close to that age range.

On a radio show, Oliver complained that he came to Los Angeles to ignite a food revolution “and we’re blocked.”

Here is one way to possibly remove that block.

Jamie Oliver, how about finding a new reality show in teaching students at San Pedro High how to make their food scrumptious and healthy. Maybe add another ingredient into the pot  –  add in their parents.

Parents and kids cooking together: Now, that could be one scary reality show.

I asked Alaniz if the district might let Jamie on the campus, since it’s an after school program.

“We’ll cross that bridge if we get there,” he said.

Ava Pfannerer, 10, pens out another amusing story

Dear Readers: When Ava came to the Seven Golden Secrets writing class, she barely wrote a paragraph. Now she writes all sorts of tales each with a beginning, middle and end. Catch this fishy one. Seven Golden Secrets to Writing is taught every Wednesday at the Corner Store. For more information, email --- Diana

Scotty, the Unbelievably Dumb Fish
By Ava Pfannerer, 10

One day in the deep blue sea, there was an unbelievably dumb goldfish. Well, he actually doesn’t live in the sea. He actually lives in a goldfish bowl in Miranda Tombstone’s house. He was so dumb, he thought the bowl was the sea. Now, I will tell you the story of how Scotty got adopted.

One day, Scotty was swimming in a school of fish. Scotty then spotted a school of trout captured in a net.

“Hey ya’ trout. What cha’ doing in that net?”

“We’re going to be put in Pet Earth’s Place of Pets you unbelievably dumb fish!” a trout spouted out.

“I wanna’ come!” Scotty said swimming through  the net to hitch a ride.  Scotty was very small.

“We’re getting lifted,” exclaimed Scotty. “This is fun!”

A half hour later, they were at Pet Earth.

“This container is so small,” exclaimed Scotty with surprise at his new home.

Meanwhile, Miranda Tombstone was going to Pet Earth to buy a dog. They were just  going to pass the fish section when she accidentally knocked over Scotty’s container.

Miranda quickly scooped up the fish!

“If you drop it, you buy it,” said a worker lady.

“I am very disappointed in you,” scolded Miranda’s mom.

As Scotty swung back in forth in a plastic bag Miranda held tightly, she got into her mom’s car.

“I don’t like the car!” shouted Scotty.

When they got home, they put him in the glass bowl. To this day, Scotty still complains about going to the bathroom in the same place he sleeps.

And that was the story of Scotty, the unbelievably dumb fish.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Lauryn Maes  plans to run a June marathon in her battle to raise money for cancer.
Michelle Mandich with friends.

San Pedro College Student Plans Marathon Run Already Raising Thousands of Dollars After Too Many Young Friends Have Been Diagnosed With Cancer;

Suddenly She Learns the List Now Includes Her Mother

By Diana L. Chapman

Lauryn Maes plans to slip on her sneakers and run and run and run. 

When she boldly joins the “San Diego Rock-n-Roll Marathon” on June 5,  she’ll streak forward with powerful determination “to kick cancer’s butt one step at a time” while raising funds to halt the disease -- along with her “honorary teammates.”

Her honorary teammates include three youths two of whom died from different forms of leukemia, including one of her closest friends, Michelle Mandich, a popular San Pedro High cheerleader who died in Feb. 23, 2005. She’s also running for two San Pedro friends who currently are surviving cancer, Sydney Botica, 16,  and her cousin, Janelle Vivanco, 13.

 It’s a fact of Lauryn’s life that she takes cancer personally. The journey has been arduous . Painful. And unexpected, starting with Michelle whose death left her in a state of turmoil and forced her to learn quickly about the realities of life. In the middle of this interview, she received a call from her mother and learned that afternoon her mother has kidney cancer.

“Four days ago, I received news from my mom that she has kidney cancer. I can't explain the feeling that rushed through my body,” Lauryn wrote on her Team-in-Training site, which helps people train to run and raise funds for cancer research. “Tingling....Numbness....Sickened....Angered... Scared... I didn't know how to react… I wanted to fix it. I wanted to tell her she was lying. But it is the truth, and I am still learning how to deal with it. She has always been my foundation. I’ve never doubted once in my life that she would be there for me.”

She’s now added her mother, Laura D’Anna, 46, to her honorary team. Her 26.2 mile marathon was long in the works before she learned about her mother’s illness.

Thus far, the 21-year-old college student’s sheer determination has raised $2,500 by selling “bling” coffee mugs. As for the marathon,  doctors, dentists, friends and family have already committed more than $10,500 through the non-profit Team in Training, an organization that trains runners like Lauryn. Team in Training has raised $1 billion for cancer research specifically for that purpose.

Thus far, she’s received donations as small as $10 to $1,000. Even though, she has nearly reached her goal of $10,000, she said, she plans to raise even more through the marathon. She will have another fundraiser in May and will keep jogging on to raise money for cancer research.

She’s driven hard by all those who have died and touched her life.

Michelle was her first handshake with young death. Before she went on to high school from Dodson Middle School, her mom sat her down and prepared her that in her upper grades she might start losing friends to car accidents, drug use and illnesses. She blesses her mom every day for it and calls her step-father, Rich, the other rock in her life.

“I remember thinking at the time: “What is this lady talking about,”” said a perky and loving Lauryn said, whose eyes well up with tears when she talks about Michelle or anyone she knows with cancer. “And there were kids into drugs, kids who got stabbed and kids, did indeed, die.”

In honor of her team, Lauryn trains four days a week, running at least 3.5 miles and when she trains she thinks of her times with Michelle, who she says, never gossiped or spoke a bad word about anybody. Most of all, she can’t forget while she and other cheer leaders were getting ready for a winter formal, Michelle was laying in the hospital unable to get out of bed.

In particular, she recalls how Michelle’s 17-year-old boyfriend, Dominic Di Bernnardo dressed up for the dance, drove directly to the hospital and spent the evening with her.

“It was so confusing,” explained the 21-year-old student who is studying for her masters in psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills. “We were all only 15. Michelle should have been going to the movies, going to dances, going to school like the rest of us. But instead, she was stuck in the hospital. When we found out of her passing, everyone was crying at school. She had touched so many people. They had to bring in counselors.

“I understood the possibility. But I didn’t believe it at first. And then I realized, this is real.”

The pain was so great from that tragedy, Lauryn said, she couldn’t imagine it touching  again. But it did. Many times over.

Leonardo Russo, 12
Soon, she would learn a 12-year-old family friend, Leonardo Russo, who attended Crestwood Street Elementary School, and had cancer.  After a seven month battle with non hodgkins mature b cell lymphoma, he died Sept. 22, 2010.

 Prior to that, Lauryn became concerned when a  9-year-old soccer player, Devin Hamilton, who also attended Crestwood, didn’t show up for her first soccer practice. Lauryn, the team’s coach, called Devin’s mother only to learn Devin had leukemia too. She died Jan. 26, 2010. 

Devin Hamilton, 9

That’s when Lauryn decided to take on her own personal siege against cancer, now battling for two more people she cares about, cousin Janelle who has nasopharyngeal carcinoma (behind the mouth and nasal cavities) and Sydney, a San Pedro High student. who is in remission from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Victoria Botica, Sydney’s mother, explained she appreciates Lauryn’s efforts and how difficult it is for a family to cope with cancer.

Sydney Botica, a San Pedro High student
Lauryn's cousin, Janelle Vivanco, 13

“Dealing with cancer is something no teenage girl should have to go through,” Victoria Botica said. “They should be worrying about clothes, make-up and boys, not blood counts, nausea and death. My hope is that someday (hopefully soon) no one will have to go through what we did.”

Lauryn just hasn’t done fundraising with the marathon. She’s selling bracelets for $1 that say “Kicking cancer's butt one step at a time” and “F…Cancer.” Having made Sydney a designer feather hair clip as a gift, the concept went virile once Sydney posted it on facebook.

Lauryn received more than 100 orders  for the feather hair clips that range anywhere for $25 and up and is keeping her working late at night.

“This kid is amazing,” said her aunt, Diana Chavez-Feipel. “She is over her $10,000 goal and has about six more weeks before the race to keep fundraising. All the while, she’s carrying straight As. Yah, you can say I’m a very proud auntie.”

 But for Lauryn, the strain and effort is worth it if she can help save lives.

Cancer “is a huge epidemic here and in Palos Verdes,” said Lauryn, who is a nanny for four children while she plucks away at her degree. “Obviously it’s a huge issue and if do anything, I just want to make people aware.

“People will say: ‘I can’t really help. I’m just one person.’ But there’s a lot people can do.’”

Everyone of the parents gave Lauryn their blessing to use their children’s names as honorary teammates, she said.

Donations can be made at:

“Michelle lives with me every day and I’m inspired by her happiness,” she said. “It just feels so good to know you are doing something.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

Race Horse Chito Mono Inspires the Crowd; Running With All His Might, He Goes Down Stumbling Before Making the Finish Line in a Sweet Heart Story

By Diana L. Chapman

My girlfriend – who owns three horses including a thoroughbred named Kaia  who used to race  – warned me Sunday before I left for an afternoon at Santa Anita Park: This sport is remarkably hard on horses.

That’s why she never goes to the races. Still, my husband and I were excited to go with my son, Ryan, and his friend, Derek, both 17. We love to watch the equines and make small bets. There’s nothing more beautiful then to witness them streak by in a speeding furor.

But Sunday was a different day at the track. We almost watched a horse die before our eyes. Instead, he riveted us with his drive and grit.

As the start of the fifth race approached I had paid little attention to a smaller horse, named Chito Mono, opting to place my bets on Afleet Cowboy. In fact, none of us wagered on Chito Mono, the son of High Demand, and “probably a long shot,” according to the race pamphlet.
As the horses sped along the backstretch, however, there was Chito Mono ahead of the pack, running with all his heart.  He was a long shot alright. At the official start of the race, the officials odds of him winning was 99 to 1.

The horse ran on guts, spirit, courage, and determination, this ever so slight guy. It seemed Chito wanted to win badly that day, perhaps to please his owner and trainer. Quickly, we lost interest in our own horses and started watching Chito Mono who looked ready to charge to  a gallant victory.

But when he reachedthe far turn, suddenly he faltered. He fell so far back he was soon in last place. Well after others cross the finished line right in front of us, Chito Mono limped by. Before our eyes, he lurched down to one knee, and then the next and then crumbled like a house of cards.  The jockey jumped off and scrambled away.

The collective breath drained from the once enthusiastic crowd, now stunned and silent.  A posse of rescue crews rushed out.  Privacy screens of green canvas were set up on the track around the stricken horse. 

“Daddy, why did the horse fall?” a little girl asked.

A man behind us explained to his friends: “They are going to put him down.”

I started crying as my son cautioned:  “Don’t listen to him. That man doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

But, according to some horse racing enthusiasts, if the screens go up its not usually a good sign.

Because we were so close, we could see Chito Mono's head through a small opening at the bottom of the screen. 

He was breathing. He tried to get back up, but an attendant crouched over him, holding his head down and covered his eyes to try and calm him. Then another
crew member started bringing in buckets of water, one after the other. We could see water splashing all over Chito Mono. His nostrils flared steadily, but he still didn’t get up.

More buckets. More water. Sponges and hands circled and rolled over him.
The crowd waited breathlessly, for about 10 minutes to learn the fate of one-small horse.

When the attendants helped him lurch back upright, the crowd erupted into thunderous applause as Chito Mono bounced up.  As the crowd kept clapping, he seemed to prance happily over to a wagon before he was taken away for further treatment.

Minutes later, a security guard explained the horse had suffered from heatstroke.
His recovery was like spring arriving with fresh crisp air. With those impossibly long odds bearing down on him,  his courage never faltered -- even if his body did.

Although a horse named Trueno won the race, the crowd was entranced with another one's will to win.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A 12-year-old Writes About Her Bad Day and New Writing Classes Begin Wednesday at the Corner Store  
Corner Store Has Its First Easter Egg Hunt This Weekend And San Pedro High Students Do A Winning Blood Drive
-----------------------------------   Dear Readers:    Ada enrolled in my Seven Golden Secrets Writing Class and has learned so much about the craft within a few weeks. When she wrote about her particularly bad day, I thought other readers might enjoy it -- since we've all had a few of those! On  Wednesday, a new round of writing classes begin at the Corner Store ages 7 to 12. If you are interested, please e-mail Diana at  
By Ada Day, 12
Today was just terrible. There is no other way to explain it. I got up late and rushed around the house. But  let’s go back to the night.
I went to bed at 9:30, not that late, but I was tired.  At 3 a.m., the fire alarm in my room went off because of low batteries – waking me up!
When I woke up late, I was upset that my sister was going on a whale watch field trip and I was going to the dentist. The dentist had to clean my teeth so he had to numb me and needle in the roof of my mouth. I started to cry. I don’t know why though. It hurt, but not enough to cry.
Then he “accidentally” stuck something down my throat, twice. I gagged. It was gross.  I was really hungry too because I forgot to eat breakfast.
When I went back to school, I got there right in time to do the long jump. Unfortunately, I hurt my ankle and it still really hurts.
Finally, it was lunch time.  “Uh-Oh," I realized, "I can’t find my wallet.”  It was at home. All my money was in there. So I starved.
I started to cry while walking home. When I arrived, I took a deep breath,  made  two sandwiches and wondered what the rest of the day would be like.
Sat, April 9th at 12pm
Come to The Corner Store
*Meet the Easter Bunny
*Decorate your Easter Egg
*Compete in Easter Games for great prizes
*Enjoy the Easter Egg Hunt for more prizes
Pre-registration suggested as space is limited.
Cost: Only $5.00
Call for more info at: (310) 832-2424 1118 37th Street, San Pedro  
San Pedro High Hosts A Winner Blood Drive
    About  162 San Pedro High students gave blood to the Red Cross last week , a donation Red Cross officials believe can possibly save some 330 lives.     Rita Marquez, student president of the club called M.E.Ch.A, organized the event and its members aided in the set-up, organizing and pre-registration of the campuses' students.      Students gave about 110 units of blood.      "Rita, you and the members of club M.E.Ch.A are to be commended for organizing a successful life saving event.," wrote Red Cross official Kimberly Davis. "Please extend a special thank you to all members who assisted at the blood drive -- their hard work and volunteerism is greatly appreciated."