Monday, March 26, 2012

Point Fermin Outdoor Education Center opened last July, but with no money to run it, the center is vacated most of the week.
Tim Bower and Gerado Salazar, both who work for Beyond the Bell, a branch of Los Angeles Schools, are seeking ways to fill the center so thousands of students can learn science there.
The $9.5 million Point Fermin Outdoor Education Center on a San Pedro Bluff Above the Ocean May Have to Open to More Than Just LA Students -- And Not For Free

By DIana L. Chapman

     Beyond the Bell, the department that manages free after school programs for Los Angeles district schools -- has found itself, well, having to think much beyond its bell -- especially regarding its spanking new outdoor education center in San Pedro, officials said this week.
     Caught up in the churning economic turmoil of Los Angeles Unified schools, Beyond the Bell administrators aren't ruling out anything when it comes to bringing in monies to keep the shining $9.5 million, 3.5 acre site open to teach Los Angeles Unified students about science and the great outdoors.
     Now, they are openly encouraging outside organizations and others to use the Point Fermin Outdoor Education Center-- for a price. Anyone interested should call, said Beyond the Bell Director Tim Bower.
     "Ten years ago, we would have been closed to that. Now, we are pitching it," Bower explained. "We are open to hear from anyone. By the time this (the center) was to open, we had no money to run it. It's built and we're not going to let it sit here.
     "This is a gem in the district. It's sad to see a facility like this without children."
     All the money would be used toward the center's initial mission of having some 24,000 students go through its doors seven days a week all year at a cost of 1.5 million, a plan sharply scaled back to the quick due to LAUSD's shrinking budget.
     It's currently only open to students on the weekend, Bower said.
     The location --tucked in the park-like lands at Angel's Gate -- could attract a pretty penny with its awe inspiring ocean views when walking up a small hill and solid oak bunk beds that sleep up to 160 in  former military barracks. The center also includes a six-bedroom apartment for teachers and a studio for a caretaker.
     With drastic budget cuts looming, disappointed Beyond the Bell officials have found themselves grappling with a new mission -- "marketing," a far stretch from its focus which is to provide after school care for Los Angeles Unified students virtually for free.
     All the branch's programs, in fact, are on the chopping block, including its beloved Academic Decathlon, its after school programs at individual schools, its All City Honor Marching Band and posts for  800 employees. The potentially deep cuts also could include both its outdoor science centers, Point Fermin and Clear Creek in the Angeles National Forest.
     "We're great at curriculum, but we are not marketing geniuses," admits Gerardo Salazar, a program coordinator for the Beyond the Bell who will be dealing with groups interested in using the site. He was hired specifically for his keen abilities to coordinate private and public partnerships and understanding of programming structures, Bower said.
     Calling the science centers "meccas for education," Salazar said, students learn to come up with a theory and prove it, such as studying different contaminants in  tide pools to find out what creatures live there and why.
     Learning science this way has been so successful that administrators decided that they must put all their options on the table to keep the programs thriving despite its budget becoming "leaner and leaner."
     For a price, charter and private schools could send their students to take advantage of the center's  program. That would come complete with Beyond the Bell staff where students spend the night for a week, learn to team with others and study things like wildlife and ocean tides for $350 per student.
     "It's like a giant laboratory," Bower said. "They (students) get their hands dirty. They see, hear and smell the outdoors."
     In addition, officials added, they would consider potential corporations  who might want to use the facility for a camp like experience and perhaps even bar mitzvahs, receptions  and even weddings -- all prices that would have to be negotiated.
     The San Pedro center opened last July on a minimal basis and is primarily used on weekends by intermediate students learning to build leadership skills.
     Due to an earlier agreement, the branch cannot charge LAUSD students to use the facility -- a condition of the  $2.5 million grant received from the Wildlands Conservancy to build the center and "we're honoring it," Bower said.
     The three-building facility, designed from tin and wood to fit right into the outdoors , is pinned in behind the new John M. and Muriel Olguin  campus -- an annex to San Pedro High, which opens this August.
     Officials expected to run the Point Fermin center similarly to Beyond the Bell's other outdoor education center, only double the size and the costs. Clear Creek typically shovels 12,000 LAUSD students, primarily 4th and  5th graders, to study each year for $800,000.
     To open the San Pedro facility, which was expected to initially cost $5 million to build, administrators used a portion of Clear Creek annual programming funds. Beyond the Bell also had to cough up millions more to finish it due to "elevated" construction costs, Bower said.
     Exploring other funding alternatives could allow Beyond the Bell to continue its mission to teach "hands-on" science to students who learn anything from wildlife to ocean tides, how to team with others, and for many, to see the ocean or stay away from home for the first time.
     "It's about learning to get along, passing the food around the table -- all without their parents," Bower said. "They come sometimes crying because it's the first time away from home. Then they cry because they don't want to leave.
     "They can learn more science here in five days than a year in the classroom."
Once conducted in tents -- and in burly winds at Point Fermin Park until moving to Angel's Gate lands -- the new center was the brainchild of now-retired program director Debbie Hetrick.
     Whipping winds and soggy weather often cut down time at the outdoor education program leaving Hetrick to joke that she laid in a weedy field in San Pedro, phone in hand, to run the program.
     Later when the science program moved to Angel's Gate on the Fort MacArthur Upper Reservation -- once air force property that was later donated to LAUSD--  Hetrick spotted two abandoned military barracks she concluded should become a permanent home for the education center and garnered the $2.5 million grant.
     The program has run since 1948.
    "We'll do whatever we need to do to keep the doors open and the kids coming," Salazar said.
    If interested in using the center, contact Gerardo Salazar at (213) 241-2692 or email at

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bob Ahl with former Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn.

General Manager of the Alano Club Steps Down From the Struggling Recovery Center
By Diana L. Chapman

     Bob Ahl, who encouraged recovering drug and alcohol addicts to understand there is still a good life after becoming sober, stepped down from San Pedro's Alano Club last month after serving as general manager there for four years.
     To prove life can be fun after becoming sober, Ahl often focused the non-profit to bring  in bands and host drug and alcohol free parties at the facility on Pacific Avenue as well as networking frequently with community leaders.
     "I wanted the club to be part of the community and to partner with other organizations," Ahl said. "Four years ago, few knew what  the San Pedro Alano Club was. Now, people know who we are."
     Since 1984, the club, which has always struggled financially, has offered recovering addicts twelve step meetings, concerts, comedy shows, Bingo and a place to safely share issues.  It also remains open 365 days a year from 6 a.m. to 10 pm., according to its site.
     Ahl said he was planning to leave, but departed earlier in February  when it became more clear that some board members had a different philosophy how the club should be run. For instance, he believed the club should hone in on teens and young adults and designed a program called Kids Against Drugs and Violence after he noticed an upward trend in addictions among youth.  
     Some board members, however, wanted  Alano to focus the organization more toward family.  Ahl was replaced by club member Bill Osborn.
    Alano president and board chair Jacqueline Klassy said she was impressed with Ahl's vision to make the club reach out and build relationships with the entire community, from police to schools.
    "Bob Ahl is the most sincere, loyal, kind and remarkable man that I know," she said. "I worked with him for the past four years . In these years,  I saw him to be a very hard working person. He would throw on huge events and most of the time did not have a lot of help. So most of the work just fell on him and he would do a bang up job."
     Rex Heuschkel, the vice president of the club's board, said he liked Ahl's vision, but the club wasn't always capable of tapping those due to finances.
    "The strength of Bob was his vision," Heuschkel said. "He came in with almost a dream world of making this, the Alano Club, the focus for kids. I really liked it. It was different."
     But financially, he said, the club wasn't able to pull it off.
     Despite his departure,  Ahl, said he believes he steered the board in the right direction and was proud of what he'd achieved during his tenure. He asked for help -- and often received it.
     Newly elected Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino said he was surprised that  Ahl had left. Ahl had honored the former Los Angeles senior lead officer for his work with teens before he was elected.
     "Bob exemplifies the fact that addiction does not have any zip codes," Buscaino said. "He helped many people in this community and he's absolutely right: There is life after overcoming addiction."
     LAPD Deputy Chief Pat Gannon, who agreed to give extra patrols to the Alano Club when hosting teen parties, said Ahl's ability to network with the community was "healthy" and added that Ahl was a great asset for the club.
     "I know that the club plays an important role in the recovery of people that once had substance abuse problems," Gannon said. " I also believe that it is very easy to isolate the members of a club like this.  It is important that both the members and the community interact. It is healthy for everyone.
     "Having the police department involved in activities with Alano Club also breaks down stereotypes on both sides."
     Ahl said he will seek out another post.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A "Quiet" San Pedro Hero Was Done With Her Volunteer Days With Kids -- Or  So She Thought

By Diana L. Chapman

   Yvonne Bogdanovich was over it. For years, she volunteered at her children's private schools, some even right through college.
    But with her own children's schooling complete, it was time to take a break away and do somethingdifferent.
     That 's when Mike Lansing, the executive director of the Harbor Area Boys and Club, approached her. Wouldn't she be interested in becoming a board member for the club? Her answer was going to be no.
    "I was going to send him a regret," the 73-year-old Bogdanovich said. "It didn't involve my kids. My daughters were off to college and my son. I thought I don't need to do volunteering. When I called him, he said: 'Just give me two years.'"
     She did -- and then some. Seventeen years later, Bogdanovich still serves on
 the board and for the second year in a row as board president. She has never 
regretted it -- especially as she watched the club evolve from being a loitering 
mess of kids outside to successfully sending off  hundreds of students
to college through the highly successful Boys and Girls Club College Bound 
program. This year, the club celebrates its 75  birthday and can boast of sending
off 234 members to college this past year alone.
     "The programs they offer, the arts, the digital studio, and the fact that 
homework is stressed before they can do any other work," Bogdanovich 
explained makes her proud. "And the College Bound program speaks for itself.
 My14-year-old granddaughter will be going there."
      Born and raised in San Pedro, Bogdanovich found herself helping the club in
many ways,including stuffing baskets for the club's Bid For Kids, it's largest 
fundraiser each year that includes a silent auction and dinner.  The club runs a
 total of 17 sites serving Wilmington and San Pedro and runs five centers out of
 two of its primary buildings in that region, Lansing said.
     He knew to tap Bogdanovich for a board post after working with her at Holy
 Trinity Elementary School where he was a former teacher and a coach.
     Persuading her to become a board member is a decision he will never regret.
    "She's quiet in many respects, but a strong and committed leader who has had such a positive effect on our organization over her 17 years as a board member and now our board president," the club's executive director of the Harbor Area explained. "San Pedro and Wilmington owe her so much for her tireless efforts in behalf of our most at-risk children.
    "She was the first board member that I ever recruited when I became executive director and I've been working with her ever since."
Tony Tripp, who is filling in while Lansing is on sabbatical, said he found Bogdanovich's efforts remarkable.
    "Yvonne has been a great asset to the club for 17 years she's been on the board," Tripp said. "She has brought in key funders, organized our annual auction event "Bids for Kids" which brings in more revenue for the club than any other event...In addition to being a good leader, she is a philanthropist, generously giving much of her own money to charity (including the club).
    "She is very well respected and is a staple of the San Pedro community. It is an honor to have her as a board president."
    Bogdanovich also has deep roots here, especially in the once thriving fisheries that resided in San Pedro. Her father, Nikola Vilicich, immigrated to San Pedro in 1908 from Yugoslavia around the age of 16. Her mother, Mary Zupan arrived from St. Louis about the same time.
Yvonne later married Louis Anthony Bogdanovich, whose father, Tony, was the
nephew of Martin J.  Bogdanovich, the founder of French Sardine
Co. that later became Starkist. Keeping it even deeper in the fish family, her 
father, Nikola, was an original partnerwith Martin Bogdanovich starting in 
1917 where he stayed until he died in 1964.
     Yvonne and her husband raised four children: Deborah Bogdanovich Murray, Laura Bogdanovich, Christine Bogdanovich Vidovich and Louis Anthony Bogdanovich Jr.  All four graduated from USC. Yvonne's husband died at age 55 in 1992.
    Besides the Boys and Girls Club, Yvonne Bogdanovich volunteers for the San Pedro Peninsula Cancer Guild -- supporting cancer research at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in the area of gastrointestinal/colorectal research. She served on the Mary Star High School, where her children attended school,  Steering Building Campaign and on some of the schools steering committees.
    In addition, she is the immediate past president of Town & Gown of USC, 
 founded in 1904 as one of the first women's support groups on the campus.
 The group yearly funds scholarships for merit based students.
     She now shows amusement when she thinks about how many years she
 served the Boys and Girls Club.
    The position "just kept on rolling over. They never asked me to leave,"
 she said. "I enjoyed what I was doing and to see the kids grow who weren't as
 lucky as my kids."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Celeste Hernandez tells her tale about a lucky penny.

Gulf Street Elementary Students Start Writing Up a Storm in Wilmington

Dear Readers:
I have been conducting writing workshops at Gulf Street Elementary School and am pleased to watch students blossom as they work.  Here are two of their stories. Diana

My Lucky Penny
By Celeste Hernandez, 9

    My lucky penny is so lucky that when I went to the store, I saw a $20 bill.
    I grabbed it and said: “I am so lucky! I love this lucky penny. The lucky penny gives me anything I want and there’s no one who can stop me!”
    But there is something that can stop me – a delicious candy that costs 1 cent. When I went to the store again, and saw that candy, I said to myself: “Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. No.”
    This thing has got to get out of my head.
    Then I said: “No! No! No! No! And finally, No!”
     I left the store. 
     “I didn’t want to lose my lucky penny,” I said to myself.
     On my way home, I saw dark clouds and rain. I went inside my house all dripping wet.
    “Why are you wet?” my mom asked.
    “I am wet because this not-lucky-penny did this!” I yelled. 
     The next day, I got a candy for one cent. Now I got rid of a not-lucky-penny. 

Luke Nune, 9, explores the world of writing.

 Also I loved this from Luke Nune, 9, who wrote while listening to Native American Music:
I am in Hawaii wearing a flower necklace and riding a long neck (dinosaur). I’m in the forest getting into nature, touching flowers and trees and leaves. I imagine talking to animals, like deer. Now I feel like I’m in China looking at the Great Wall. A man plays the flute and I am dancing with little white birds.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Slots For Forty Students Who Want to Attend the New San Pedro High Annex Should Apply Now 

By Diana L. Chapman

San Pedro students -- who must be local residents -- should apply now to see if they can hit the jackpot  and have their name pulled in an April lottery to attend the newly built, $80 million high school  annex.

School officials said that 40 slots remain open at the John M. and Muriel Olguin Campus. 

Those are designated specifically for San Pedro residents after some locals fought bitterly, but failed to halt the building of the environmentally designed school. It's one of many concessions the Los Angeles Unified School District made in order to build the campus, wedged between Alma and Gaffey Streets on a bluff top above the sea.

Applications for entering one of the small learning communities at the annex must be turned in by noon March 29. Ninth through 12th graders can apply.

"Sorting day," as one school official called it, will be held at 4 p.m. April 9 at the San Pedro High school auditorium.

Expected to be one of Los Angeles Unified's gems, the annex sits on a former military site. The land was later donated to the school district and is surrounded by a myriad of facilities that can provide academic, hands on exploration. 

"I'm looking forward to the opportunities that will be afforded to both residents of San Pedro students and magnet students on the Olguin campus," said Sandra Martin-Alvarenga, the magnet coordinator.

 "We're looking forward to partnering with the Angels Gate Cultural Center, the Marine Mammal care center and others."

Built at the Fort MacArthur Upper Reservation in the area of Angel's Gate, the school will open Aug. 14 with two small learning communities -- the Police Academy and the Marine Magnet. Those houses currently have 460 students combined.
To attend, students in the lottery must select one of those houses as one of their number one choices.

"The Marine Magnet has a rigorous math and science focus," said San Pedro High School principal Jeanette Stevens, who will oversee both schools. "Students will take math and science each year they attend the Marine Science program. The Police Academy has a partnership with LAPD and includes four years of physical training, similar to the academy."

Not all classes will be available at the annex, so students will be shuttled to San Pedro High for some of their courses, Martin-Alvarenga explained.

All 500 students, including those that win the lottery, will be bussed via Gaffey Street after residents living along Alma Street across from the school complained profusely that the road is already dangerous and should not be used to enter the school.

A shuttle will also take Olguin students back to San Pedro High  for some classes not offered at the new school, administrators said.

 The school's development strained relations between school officials and many residents, who contended the campus-- intended to relieve overcrowding at San Pedro High -- would mar the serene beauty of the park- like area.

School officials, however, see an area peppered with educational discoveries, such as the Marine Mammal Care Center, the International Bird Rescue, the Fort MacArthur Museum and the Angels Gate Cultural Center. Local artists, many of whom visit Los Angeles Unified schools to teach, also have studios in the area.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

 29 Minutes of Your Life Can Help Change the World, Starting With the Horrendous Atrocities in Uganda

Make a difference.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Mike Kulin and his son, Alex,  at a Beach Cities Football Practice. Mike went as long as he could to see his son in action.

A Community-Oriented Family Man Teaches Lessons About Life and Death
By Diana L. Chapman
Pulling me aside at the hospital, my friend told me this about her husband:
It was late at night and everyone had left, she said softly. That’s when Michael Kulin started praying tied to his bed in an entanglement of I.Vs and oxygen tubes while at the Little Company of Mary Transition Care Center.
He didn’t pray for himself. He prayed thanking God for his wonderful family, his friends and his life.
“It’s like Michael had so much faith,” said Camilla. “I was so touched by the beauty of him in this state that he wasn’t thinking of himself even though he was in so much pain.
“That filled my heart and made me love him even more.”  
In a nutshell, that describes Mike, 60, a longtime South Bay resident who gave way to his six month battle with lung cancer Feb. 13 - but not before seeing a barrage of friends and his large family. When we arrived at the hospital, he was always asking how the rest of us were and what was going on in our lives. He was so humble, he didn’t want to talk about himself. He wanted to hear about us – all of us – his friends, brothers and sisters, his kids, his wife, myself and my husband in a constantly crowded hospital room.
He was an amazingly selfless man, the kind the rest of us could learn from.
One day before his death, I met Mike’s friend, Steve, who had known him since middle school. When we went to Mike’s bedside together, he immediately lit up and sat up in his bed: “Steve, Diana. I am so glad you met each other. Steve is a mass marketer and knows everything about photography you can imagine. You could help each other.”
When  a nurse asked us to leave for a few minutes, Steve and I wandered down the hall.
“Can you believe that?” Steve asked me. “He cares more about us than about himself.”
“I would just be whining and complaining about everything,” I confided to Steve, still stunned that Mike wasn’t focused on the obvious pain he was suffering when we saw him shudder and cough as his body broke down. He withered from a hefty football guy to a thin, gaunt man, struggling to live because that’s what his family wanted – especially, Camilla, his son, Alex, 11, and daughter, Anna,17.
There are many things Mike Kulin was. He was a family man, who loved his community, and coached football making sure all the kids played no matter their talent. He never yelled at them and always spoke encouraging words. It was his coaching style. He supported his loving wife, who was with him in the hospital every step of the way. He loved his church, and obviously, he loved God – even when he could have been filled with complete rage that he’d been given a raw turn.
Instead, he was more than grateful for what he had. While many of us grumble about our everyday lives, Mike shone like the sun who enjoyed his life immensely despite all the troubles his family went through with Camilla’s frequent  bouts of hospitalizations due to intense asthma attacks.
When I first met, Mike and Camilla, the duo rescued rabbits (after they fell in love with one as a pet). They were weary of so many of the creatures being euthanized – many abandoned by owners when the Easter jig was up.  They worked as a team in many ways, Mike running errands for Camilla’s Girl Scout Troop; She often helped with his health and life insurance business.
 Mike stood strong as he ushered his wife back and forth to the hospital where several times it seemed she might not make it home. This was just woven into the fabric of their family’s life.
Through all this, Mike appeared happy and healthy.
Before he was diagnosed, the family came to our house for dinner. Mike had lost weight because he had cellulitus and was trying to get into shape. We had a great time and were stunned to hear the news two weeks later.
While at the transitory care center, where Mike died, a friend arrived and told Camilla that he’d only known Mike less than a year.
“If I was half the man Mike was,” he told Camilla, he’d be proud.
“I was in awe at how he managed to coach the kids in such a calm, methodical manner,” said Lawrence Michael John Frontino, who met Mike when he was coaching his grandson, Shane, in football. “With Mike’s help, I now know at the age of 55 what it is to be selfless. With our friendship of only a few months he has demonstrated love of family, gratitude for where he has been and a profound knowledge of where he is going.”

That was Mike, a dying man who showed us dignity and strength in life and in death.

Sometimes you meet angels. In my mind, Mike Kulin was one of them and always will be.