Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Girls get heavy dosis of science at Expanding Your Horizons

More than 300 girls, parents and teachers attended the fifth annual Expanding Your Horizons Conference and career fair on Nov. 22 at Hartnell College.

The girls attended two hands-on workshops that gave them opportunities to interact with professionals and work closely with their peers. The workshops included the study of marine invertebrates, underwater robotics, water density and oceanography, and more. During the workshops the girls completed a number of stimulating activities such as extracting DNA from multiple sources with common household items. They built, hypothesized, and tested underwater robots. Some got to use the latest technologies from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to peek into the largest, most mysterious habitat on earth.

Then they had a chance to hear about possible careers in science from 16 organizations including the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey Peninsula College’s Engineering and Nursing Programs, and Hartnell’s NASA SEEMA.

Overall, judging from the photos, the girls seemed to have a great time. Good job, Lyceum of Monterey, for putting it on.

Everett Alvarez students grow food, donate it to Dorothy's

Everett Alvarez students are not just learning about agriculture, but philanthropy, through their work growing vegetables at the school.

The Future Farmers of America chapter of the school grew, harvested and donated  vegetables to Dorthy’s Kitchen on Tuesday Nov 25th.

Students participating in the program have been going through procedures to allow them to sell their products out of their Eagle Produce Store on campus. While waiting for the permission to be granted, the Environmental Horticulture class that is part of the Agriculture Program decided to begin growing celery, Brussels sprouts, green cabbage, red cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower in their garden.

“Before starting this project, we really didn’t know what could go wrong,” said Gracie Robles, “all we knew is that we could grow vegetables for others, so we did.”

Vegetable plugs were planted around the end of August and students began to maintain the area.

“Water was a big concern,” said David Robles, “we knew about the drought so micro sprinklers is what we installed.”

As the plants continued to grow, the class was introduced to pests that many local farmers are currently fighting. “It only took a week or two and then aphids began attacking our plants, “ said  Alicia Reyena.

“Something called a Bagrada bug ate all of my cauliflower before it even started,” said Joe Perez. “Mr. Wyrick told us later that the Bagrada bug didn’t even exist in California 6 years ago.”

Students in the class gained valuable lessons about controlling the transfer of pests from one country to the next and the impact it can have on agriculture production. By the time, the students harvested their crops they were proud of what they could provide the community and what they had done.

“Three large boxes of celery came out of our garden box,” said Donato Robles.

 “I’m really proud to be donating what we grew to the community, I just wish there was some peanut butter for the celery,” said jokingly Bridget Sandoval. 

 -- Edgar Becerra (Everett Alvarez High FFA Reporter)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Washington Union families will attempt to break a Guinness World Record

Families within the Washington Union School District will attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the largest gingerbread village on Sunday, December 14, 2014.

And they are inviting everyone to help them!

In order to accomplish this new record, the gingerbread village needs to consist of 144 houses and 16 other village structures (minimum).

So here's how they're asking the Monterey/Salinas community to help:

 Bake and decorate a gingerbread house or other village structure, and bring it to the event.

 All houses and buildings must be made from gingerbread only.

 Structures may be constructed and decorated with other edible substances such as icing or candy.

 Each building must be at least 5.9 inches in at least one dimension (height, length or width).

 Completed 2014 Guinness Challenge forms must be submitted with each entry.

In support of this world record, a famous chocolate company has donated a pallet of candy to help families decorate their gingerbread entries. The candy will be used at a special gingerbread house decorating party from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, December 7 at Washington Union School. The party is open to all local families, and up to 150 people are expected to attend. The cost to attend the gingerbread party is $20 for WUSD students and $25 for students outside the district. Admission includes:

 Pre-baked gingerbread pieces for one house

 Colored icing to build and decorate

 Assorted candies

 One red apron with the WUSD Guinness Challenge logo

Additional information about the WUSD Gingerbread Challenge, recipes, entry forms, and the gingerbread house decorating party can be found here.

The 2014 Guinness Challenge is organized by WUSD Parents’ Club. The district-wide organization is made up of parents and teachers who share the common goal of fostering a strong sense of school spirit. Funds raised through the club’s services and special events are used to purchase classroom supplies and fund scholarships for special educational events.

Sounds like a good way to launch the holiday season! Much luck to the Washington Union community. Do we get to eat the gingerbread village afterwards?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hartnell students talk a good talk

Kudos to the Hartnell College Speech Team, which had its best showing in the team’s history on at the Mustang Invitational Tournament last month, held at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton.

The team was among 18 schools from three states; schools included Rice University, Colorado College, and the University of San Diego.

Team members earned several individual awards, including:

· Adrian Flores- 1st place Novice Poetry Interpretation and 3rd place Novice Dramatic Interpretation
· Lourdes Tinajero- 1st place Novice Prose Interpretation, Top Novice Dramatic Duo Interpretation
· Chris Rendon- Top Novice Program of Oral Interpretation, Top Novice Dramatic Duo Interpretation
· Victoria Garcia- 3rd place, Open Communication Analysis
· Meritzy Ayala- 3rd place, Novice Informative Speaking
· Sarina Atkins- 6th place, Novice Informative Speaking

The individual results secured the squad a 3rd place overall team trophy, only the second time the Hartnell Speech Team has scored high enough in a combined team effort to earn such an award. The team award is a cumulative score based on individual performances. The team is heading to UC Berkeley on December 6 and 7, 2014 for their next competition.

Good luck in Berkeley, chic@s!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

High school students welcome to Hartnell College night

Hartnell College and the Transfer and Career Center will host the 29th Annual Transfer Day and College Night in the Student Center at 411 Central Avenue, Salinas, on Thursday. More than 40 university representatives are expected to attend to meet with students and answer questions regarding the transfer/admissions process.

Transfer Day, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

College Night, 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Representatives from CSUs, UCs, privates, and out-of-state will be providing information. Some of the schools attending include: Academy of Art University, Brandman University, CSU Monterey Bay, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Fresno State, Holy Names University, San Jose State University, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, and University of New Mexico. Last year 54 institutions participated.

This year Hartnell is expecting over 500 high school juniors and seniors to visit the campus during Transfer Day. Gonzales High School will bring a group of 50 students during College Night.

College Night is geared toward promoting the various university programs with high school seniors and their families. This is a great opportunity for them to survey different college options and learn about specific programs and their student support services offered at each campus.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Common Core: come hear all about it

Mary White, associate superintendent of education services at the Monterey County Office of Education, and teacher and columnist Paul Karrer will talk about the Common Core Standards, what they are and how they're being implemented in schools during the the League of Women Voters of Monterey County luncheon at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12.

Presentation is free at the  Unitarian Universalist Church, 490 Aguajito Road (junction Hwy 1 and  68), Carmel. 

For more information, contact Lorita Fisher at or 375-8301. 

Navigator supporters show up to MCOE meeting

Administrators for Navigator Schools, the charter operator based in Gilroy that wants to expand into Monterey County, say they had about 100 supporters attend their appeal hearing last week.

"We had over 100 Navigator supporters from both our schools and from Salinas," Sharon Waller, director of expansion, wrote in an email. "We chartered two buses that picked up folks from both places. It was so exciting to see so many supporters in the audience and to hear them (about 30 speakers) speak favorably about Navigator coming to town.

Navigator petitioned to open a charter school at the Alisal Union  and the Salinas City Elementary  school districts. They were both rejected by the trustees, and Navigator administrators opted to appeal the process with the Salinas City Elementary. Trustees with the Monterey County Office of Education are expected to vote on the appeal on Dec. 3.

It will be interesting to see how that goes. Navigator officials say they plan to have lots of supporters on the date of the vote as well. Stay tuned.

The Literacy Campaign has new chief -- my old boss

Joe Livernois, former editor for The Monterey County Herald and funny man, was just named interim executive director for the the Literacy Campaign for Monterey County. Which means I'll get to be his boss now!

I'm excited. As a reporter, columnist, editor and writer, Joe knows the importance of literacy to change people's lives, so he'll be great for the organization. In a press release, he said "As a journalist and writer, my advocacy for literacy might be considered a rather selfish venture. But, at its core, the mission of journalism is to educate readers to both the realities and the magic of our world. Literacy and an enthusiasm for reading are significant tools that empower citizens to function in society."

We've been doing great work at the Literacy Campaign. Just last week, we hosted about 40 families for an all-day conference to empower parents to be more engaged in their children's education. Although the organization's mission is to serve as a catalyst among literacy providers throughout Monterey County, it's events such as the parent's conference that remind us why we need to continue doing our work.

With so many stories lately about the challenges  Monterey County children face to improve their educational attainment, everything we all do to encourage more reading helps. What we're doing at the Literacy Campaign is giving families and literacy providers the tools they need to be inspired to read more, learn more, become better prepared academically, for the sake of their families.

Welcome a board, Joe!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Millennium Parents: an example of what's right in Monterey County

Monterey County has been in the news a lot lately for the challenges it faces raising its children. It's sobering and can be a bit discouraging, so I'd like to offer an example of what can be done right.

Meet Eleazar and Alba Sosa and Jesús and Esperanza Capiz. They are all immigrants from Mexico, field workers living in the Salinas Valley, and they are all raising academically successful children and wonderful human beings.

Both set of parents have children who earned the Gates Millennium Scholarship, which will cover all their educational expenses and open the door to other opportunities. Kevin Capiz, now studying math at Stanford University, and Randy Sosa, now at the U.S. Naval Academy, are two of only three students in Monterey County to ever receive the coveted scholarship. About 50,000 students apply nationwide every year, and only 1,000 receive it.

As part of my volunteer work for the Literacy Campaign for Monterey County, I had the opportunity to host a workshop for parents with the Sosa's and the Capiz's during the Engaged Parents Conference on Saturday at Hartnell College. They generously gave up their day to share with other parents their experiences raising academically successful children. 

Eleazar and Alba Sosa have lived in Greenfield for decades. Jesús and Esperanza Capiz have made King City their home since 1988. Both couples made raising their children a priority ever since they were little: during the presentation on Saturday, Jesús Capiz shared how the family had no money for cable or even a television set, so they spent afternoons playing with their children and teaching them   shapes and colors. Alba Sosa would drag her children into the kitchen so they would read to her as she cooked -- even if they didn't want to. The couples shared philosophy and practical advice on the every day hard work of raising children.

Both couples are strong believers in bilingualism -- even as their command of English is limited. They insisted from the get go the children had to learn Spanish, and all their children communicate perfectly in English and Spanish. 

They make it sound so easy, but they also spoke about the frustration and the hard work.  Eleazar  sometimes catches a nap in the car while waiting for his daughter to finish a 4H meeting. Yeah, sometimes they don't feel like driving to Fresno or Modesto for cross-country competitions, but they do it nonetheless. They know the best gift they can give their children is their constant presence, on the sports fields and in the classroom. They don't drive fancy cars or have elegant furniture, but their choices have made it all worth it, they say. Randy went to Australia to compete in cross country, and their youngest daughter, Jocelynn, is now being invited to the same competition as well.

Which means more work for the hardworking parents: they'll have to start selling pozole and tacos to raise money for the trip. They sigh, shrug their shoulders, and do it with a smile on their faces.

It's not magic. It's hard work and commitment. But it also takes strong convictions and a strong social network, something that our immigrant families, having left families and traditions behind, often lack.

Eleazar, Alba, Jesús, Esperanza, you are an example for many in this Salinas Valley, and across the United States. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and expertise with us!