L.A. Community College District Bans E-Cigarettes

March 20, 2014 by · 3 Comments 

The Los Angeles Community College District has added its nine campuses to the growing list of places in the Los Angeles area where electronic cigarette use is restricted.

The district’s board of trustees last week voted unanimously to restrict the activity, referred to as “vaping,” the same way it does tobacco smoking on campus — by limiting it to a maximum of four places per campus.

LACCD spokesman Steve Springer said the areas where vaping and smoking are allowed varies at each campus.

The district’s non-smoking policy, which was amended to apply to “comparable, personal, vapor-generating devices,” went into effect immediately following the board’s vote, Springer said.



Girls in Foster Care Urged to Sign Up for Prom Makeover by Friday Deadline

March 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

 Registrations are being accepted from girls in LA County foster care who would like to participate in “Glamour Gowns,” a program that provides free prom dresses, shoes, jewelry and  accessories to girls who “can’t afford to have a true prom experience.”

Glamour Gowns will provide over 350 young women on March 29, between 10am and 5pm at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Volunteer seamstresses, hair stylists, make-up artists and others will be on hand to help the girls complete their look for their special evening.

Glamour Gowns is a private event, only open to high school aged girls in foster care in Los Angeles County. Pre-Registration by Friday, March 21 is required. Foster girls must register with their name and their DCFS Child Social Worker name, and will be assigned a specific time. Call Joanne Solov at (310) 471-1239 to register.


President Obama Awards Medal of Honors to Discriminated Veterans

March 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

President Barack Obama awarded Medals of Honor Tuesday to 24 war veterans, 17 of them to Hispanics, in recognition of their “valor during major combat operations in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War,” but who were denied the nation’s highest military honor because of their ethnicity.

The president said awarding of the medals correct a historical injustice.

President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to Specialist Four Santiago J. Erevia during the Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday. (Official White House Photo by  Amanda Lucidon)

President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to Specialist Four Santiago J. Erevia during the Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

“No nation is perfect,” the President said at Tuesday’s ceremony in the East Room of the White House. “But here in America, we confront our imperfections and face a sometimes painful past, including the truth that some of these soldiers fought and died for a country that did not always see them as equal.”

While the majority of recipients were Hispanic, Jewish and African Americans were also found to have been denied the medal for “conspicuous gallantry” out of prejudice.

Of the 24 recipients, only three are still alive and all of them served during the Vietnam War: Specialist Four Santiago Erevia, Sergeant First Class José Rodela and Staff Sergeant Melvin Morris.

Erevia, from San Antonio, Texas, courageously destroyed various enemy bunkers, saving the lives of his fellow badly injured soldiers.

Rodela, from Corpus Cristi, Texas, was able to reorganize his troop, assuming leadership and establishing lines of defense against the intense enemy fire, and for 18 hours, despite being wounded, braved enemy fire to attend to the fallen and eliminate an enemy rocket position.

“These are extraordinary Americans, exemplary soldiers,” that according to the president demonstrated “unimaginable” valor and patriotism.

Obama noted that the ceremony, the largest awarding of the Medal of Honor since World War II, was made possible thanks to a 2002 Congressional bill to correct the historical record by investigating whether some military personnel were discriminated because of their race, religion or origin.

In his opinion this was an “exceptional” opportunity to “correct history” and assure that

those who served the country and our flag receive the appreciation that they deserve.”

The heroic actions of these Hispanic, Jewish, African Americans span from the battles in Germany during World War II to the jungles of Vietnam, going over the uninhabitable terrain and extreme climate of North Korea.

President Barack Obama recognizes Medal of Honor honorees, from left, Staff Sergeant Melvin Morris, Sergeant First Class Jose Rodela, and Specialist Four Santiago J. Erevia, during the Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday.  (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama recognizes Medal of Honor honorees, from left, Staff Sergeant Melvin Morris, Sergeant First Class Jose Rodela, and Specialist Four Santiago J. Erevia, during the Medal of Honor ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

All of the veterans had received the Distinguished Service Cross, the U.S.’s second highest military award, but a revision to a Congressional order determined that they deserved the highest honor.

“In the mist of battle, these people did not give up and they inspire us with their strength, their willpower and their heroic hearts,” said Obama before placing the Medal of Honor on the three surviving veterans and presenting the awards to the families of the other 19.

Ten of those honored left their life on the frontlines and one of them, Joe Baldonado, from East Los Angeles, is still listed as missing somewhere in North Korea, despite the United States trying for decades to recover the remains.

Of those that were honored, two were born in Mexico, Sgt. Jesus Duran and soldier Pedro Cano; and four in Puerto Rico, Felix, Conde-Falcon, Juan Negron, Demensio Rivera and Miguel “Nando” Vera. Despite not being born in the country, they exposed themselves to death or gave their life in service to the United States.

In December 1944, Cano eliminated 30 German enemies in two days by pretending he was dead and surprising them with a grenade. Seven years prior, Negron by himself maintained a critical line of defense in North Korea for an entire night, killing 15 enemies.

During Tuesday’s ceremony, the heroic actions taken by Joe Gandara, Salvador Lara and Manuel Mendoza, during World War II; Victor Espinoza, Eduardo Gomez and Mike Peña during the Korean War; and Candelario Garcia, Ardie Copas and Leonard Alvarado during the Vietnam War were recounted, with the president staying their actions demonstrated “courage that defies imagination.”

“Their families know more than anyone that because others have given their lives we have been able to live our lives in liberty and pursue our dreams. One legend born through sacrafice,” said Obama.

Once a Cub Now an Eagle, Teen Enters Ranks of High Achievers

March 20, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

By all accounts, 16-year old Alek Sanchez could have been just another young Latino who with no father in the home statistics show was at greater risk of getting involved with drugs, gangs or dropping out of school.

But Alek and his single mother, Gloria Gonzalez, credit his involvement in the Montebello Boy Scouts for leading him down a different path, which after 8 years of hard work will result in the teenager being presented Saturday with the highly coveted Eagle Scout Award during a ceremony at the Montebello Scout House at the Quiet Cannon.

Earning scouting’s highest advancement ranking is a big honor for the Alhambra resident. Only seven percent of all scouts reached the rank of Eagle Scout in 2012, placing Alek in the company of some very famous high achievers, like Astronaut Neil Armstrong, Filmmaker Steven Spielberg and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Montebello boy scout Alek Sanchez, pictured, earns Eagle Scout status. He is the 85th scout to reach the high ranking in Troop 330’s history.  (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

Montebello boy scout Alek Sanchez, pictured, earns Eagle Scout status. He is the 85th scout to reach the high ranking in Troop 330’s history. (EGP photo by Nancy Martinez)

In it’s 75-year history, only 85 members of Montebello Boy Scout Troop 330 have earned the ranking.

Getting to this point was “a challenge,” said Alek who admits he at times felt like quitting because the time commitment often kept him from taking part in activities at Cathedral High School in Los Angeles where he is a junior.

But “I had put so much time and effort, it wouldn’t [have] been fair to me, or those who helped me, to stop,” he said. “It became bigger than me.”

Alek’s mother is very proud of her son’s accomplishment and finds it hard not to tear up when she speaks of how challenging it was for him to keep going. “There were times when he wanted to give up, but I’m happy that he continued because kids his age can fall into the wrong crowds,” Gonzalez said. Seeing her tears, Alek hugs his mother in a kind of acknowledgement that they were in it together.

Troop 330 Scoutmaster Cindy Farber told EGP many scouts hit bumps along the road and some are influenced by others to quit. But for the most part, she says, scouts stick around because of the support they receive from one another and the Troop’s male leaders who are positive male role models” for the boys, she said.

Alek’s mother says it is a well-known fact that being an Eagle Scout can give a teenager “an edge” when it comes to getting into college and getting a job. It is something that will forever be on his resume, giving him the upper hand, she said.

It takes years to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. Alek had to earn 21 merit badges, be part of a service unit, produce a community service project and earn numerous recommendations from people to including his Eagle Scout application, which also included an essay detailing his personal aspirations.

Alek, who will turn 17 next month, did more than what was expected, earning 24 badges and joining Venture Crew, a troop dedicated to preparing youth for adulthood.

He has devoted thousands of hours throughout his Cub Scout and Boy Scout career volunteering at events, fundraising for charity and going on wildlife trips with his troop.

“When you put a kid in that type of environment they learn about responsibility,” says Alek, referring to the merit badges young scouts have to earn in areas such as personal management, citizenship, personal fitness, first aid and camping.

Eagle Scout Alek Sanchez, pictured rock climbing at Joshua Tree during one of his boy scouts field trips in 2011. (Photo Courtesy of Gloria Gonzalez)

Eagle Scout Alek Sanchez, pictured rock climbing at Joshua Tree during one of his boy scouts field trips in 2011. (Photo Courtesy of Gloria Gonzalez)

“At first you’re following someone, but then you become a leader,” he explains.

Many high school teenagers see the Boy Scouts as something for “little kids” and involving “selling cookies,” but there’s far more to the uniform that most people see, Alek told EGP.

“I don’t like to think of the Boy Scouts as an elementary school thing because it’s not,” he said. “We do a lot of things that require us to be older,” he said.

Those sets of skills include shotgun range, rock climbing, canoeing, white water rafting and backpacking in the snow, physically and emotionally challenging tasks for a boy who lives in a densely urban area and does not have a father around to shepherd him through the activities.

“When you enroll your child [in Boy Scouts] they’re going to be getting a set of skills and going to be taught respect, responsibility, independence and the basic things you need to grow up and succeed later on so you don’t have to rely on other people,” Alek explained.

Farber told EGP that all the merit activities are intended to help the scouts figure out what they want to do in life.

“Being an Eagle Scout isn’t just earning the merit badges, it is [about] who you are and who you become,” Farber said. “Parents have to step back and allow them to grow on their own.”

Alek says he owes a lot to his Montebello Troop, which he says helped him gain those important life skills. Displaying a “packed scheduled” filled with meetings, fundraisers, hikes and trips, Gonzalez says the experience has taken “a lot of hours and a lot of sacrificing” on both their parts, including hundreds of hours of volunteer work and giving up free time during the weekend or afterschool to attend meetings, fundraise or other activities.

But despite having to multi-task the challenges of the Boy Scouts and high school, Alek says he has found his passion along the way.

First aid, his favorite merit badge, helped him realize he was interested in the medical field. Applying what he learned during hikes with friends, springing into action when someone touched a poisonous plant, scraped a knee or became dehydrated, are real life examples of how he has been able to use what he has learned, and sparking an interest in the medical field as well as in the theater.

Alek has been hooked on scouting since first being introduced to it as a third grader. He told EGP he participated in every event he could, making longtime friends a long the way.

The scouts was also a way for Alek to move past having an absent father, especially with some of the outdoor stuff that Gonzalez may have otherwise not been able to connect with her son.

“Everyone needs a break from mom,” she said. “I’ve never had a problem driving him anywhere and taking him everywhere he had to be because this is something that is going to follow him for the rest of his life.”

Alek told EGP he plans to continue attending scouting meetings despite it no longer being required, and hopes to continue giving back to his troop and helping fellow scouts obtain their merit badges and follow in his footsteps to reach scouting’s highest rank.

“The final stretch is the hardest,” said the teen who seems more mature than his 16 years of age. “There are people who get to the ranking just before [eagle] and stop, but this [medal] was for me, it was the right thing to do.”

L.A. Charter Schools Students Learn More, Says Stanford Study

March 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Los Angeles area charter schools advocates can now point to a large study by Stanford University researchers to support their claim that the independent schools do a better job of educating students than their public school counterparts, particularly when it comes to low-income Hispanic students in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that overall Los Angeles area charter school students receive the equivalent of 50 more days of learning in reading and 79 more days in math than their peers in traditional public schools.

“Results for Hispanic charter students in Los Angeles, especially Hispanic students in poverty, were noteworthy,” according to Dev Davis, Research Manager and co-author of CREDO’s 2014 Los Angeles Report. “The gains for Hispanic students in poverty at charters amount to 58 additional days of learning in reading and 115 more days in math compared to their district school counterparts,” Davis said.

Stanford researchers followed students for four years, between 2008 and 2012. They received cooperation from the California Department of Education, which according to the report provided researchers access to historical student records, including state achievement testing.

Overall, 48% of charter schools performed significantly better in reading and 44% better in math. Of the 222 charter schools in Los Angeles, 150 had positive growths in reading and math.

The effectiveness of charter schools is a debate that has raged since the schools started appearing two decades ago in Montana, the report notes, but until now there was no hard evidence  on the impact charter schools have on student performance.

In both reading and math, charter students in L.A. Unified learned significantly more than their virtual peers in 2010, 2011 and 2012, according to the study. Gains for Hispanic students generally and for those living in poverty also significantly outpaced those of black students who on average only gained 14 days of learning in both math and reading.

The study recorded the progress that a typical Los Angeles charter student would gain in a year of enrollment in a charter school by taking a look at a student’s “virtual twin” or counterpart attending the Traditional Public School (TPS) that they themselves would have otherwise attended based on their address.

CREDO looked at student’s prior academic achievement, race/ethnicity, lunch program participation and special education and English proficiency rates among other categories to match the students up to 93% of the charter students, according to the study.

Compared to traditional public schools, charters have on average about half the number of students enrolled. Of those students, smaller proportions are Asian, Hispanic and students in poverty than at traditional public schools. However, charters in general have larger proportions of black and white students than LAUSD schools in the district, noted the study. Researchers said they factored the differences into their calculations.

Researchers looked at whether charters had an impact on improving education outcomes for students in poverty, analyzing data from 70 percent of charter students eligible for subsidized school meals, an indicator of low-income households.

The study found that students in poverty who are enrolled in Los Angeles charter schools performed significantly better both in reading and in math when compared to students in poverty in traditional public schools.

Despite these gains, black and Hispanic students in charter schools are still performing at a level lower than white students in traditional public schools, but the achievement gap is not as significant for Hispanic students attending charters schools, note researchers.

There were also differences between the gains made at urban and suburban charter schools, with the latter showing more improvement.

English language learners in charter schools also had a higher number of learning days in both reading and math, while there was no significant difference for special education students compared to their peers in traditional public schools.

But not every charter school is doing well, the study found.

Thirteen percent of charter schools have results that are significantly worse than their district school peers in reading, and 22 percent perform worse in math.

Nationally 25 percent of charter schools have significantly larger learning gains in reading, while 29 percent do so in math. Nineteen percent of charter schools have results that are significantly worse than their district school peers in reading, and 31 percent do so in math.

Responding to the study, LAUSD Superintendent said the school district is “very pleased with the results.”

“Today’s study is another indicator of the amazing results our students, educators and parents are accomplishing in Los Angeles.”

The students in both District and charter schools in Los Angeles are achieving at the highest levels in the history of the city,  he said.

On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, according to Deasy, LAUSD fourth graders since 2011 had the second-highest overall gain in reading of all 21 urban districts. African-American and white students in fourth grade had the highest gains in reading compared to any other urban districts nationally, and LAUSD had the highest gains in reading scores for eighth graders compared to other districts over the past 10 years, according to Deasy.

“We are excited and further motivated by what the CREDO study highlights as a result of the tremendous work of our students, our charter school partners, our Board of Education and entire District team,” Jose Cole-Gutierrez, Director of LAUSD’s Charter School Division, said.

“LAUSD remains committed to serving with excellence as an authorizer and working in collaboration with our partners so that we learn from one another, ensure quality, and help all students maximize their potential.”

Information from City News Service was used in this report.

From Dr. Seuss to Real Life Adventures, Volunteers Engage Students In Reading

March 20, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

“Look at me! Look at me! Look at me NOW! It is fun to have fun. But you have to know how,” author and speaker Juju Sands reads enthusiastically to the group of 5th graders captivated by her voice and facial expressions as she makes her way through the ever popular “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss.

Sands was just one of several people volunteering to read to students at Brooklyn Elementary School in Boyle Heights last Friday as part of Read Across America, an annual event to foster a joy of reading in K-12 students.

About 28 volunteers, representing an array of professional backgrounds that included elected officials, firefighters, LAPD officers, Sheriff’s deputies and members of the Navy among others, took part in Friday’s program. Each was assigned to a classroom where they read to students and encouraged them to make reading a regular part of their day.

Navy Officer Gary Skags participated in the Read Across America program Friday at Brooklyn Elementary School. (EGP photo by Jacqueline García)

Navy Officer Gary Skags participated in the Read Across America program Friday at Brooklyn Elementary School. (EGP photo by Jacqueline García)

Some of the guest readers, like Deputy Sheriff Andrea Sandoval from the East Los Angeles Sheriff Station, appeared in uniform, eliciting big smiles from their young audiences. In Sandoval’s case, some of her students were more intrigued with the items hanging from her uniform than the story she was reading, which the deputy saw as a chance to demystify her job.

“They were very exited about the uniform,” Sandoval told EGP about her class of first graders. “They kept asking about the things we were carrying and I explained to them what [everything is] on our belts,” she said.

Lea este artículo EN ESPAÑOL: Cuentos de Dr. Seuss y Voluntarios Motivan a Estudiantes en la Lectura

Sandoval’s partner, Deputy Anthony Pacheco was assigned to a class of 3rd graders and says the boys and girls were “very excited listening to the story” and to be able to interact with the law enforcement officers.

Read Across America was started 17 years ago by the National Education Association and is celebrated all across the country on or about March 3 to coincide with Dr. Seuss’ birthday. But the program does not end in early March, it continues in various forms all year long. Read Across America “focuses on motivating children and teens to read through events, partnerships and reading resources” states the NEA website.

“When parents, educators, librarians, and mentors read with children, they give a gift that will nourish souls for a lifetime,” states President Barack Obama’s Feb. 28 letter proclaiming Read Across America Day.

Students at Brooklyn Elementary School in Boyle Heights, listened to volunteers read stories to them as part of the Read Across America campaign. (EGP photo by Jacqueline García)

Students at Brooklyn Elementary School in Boyle Heights, listened to volunteers read stories to them as part of the Read Across America campaign. (EGP photo by Jacqueline García)

“From children’s stories to classic works of literature, the written word allows us to see the world from different perspectives. It helps us understand what it means to be human and what it means to be American,” states the president’s proclamation letter in which he encourages adults to read to children.

That is especially true in low-income communities like Boyle Heights, which Navy veteran Tony Mendoza points out has a “significant immigrant population.” Taking part in Read Across America helps him help his community by exposing young people to different types of American role models and careers that they might not otherwise know of, he said.

Brooklyn Elementary kindergarten teacher Leticia Mendoza helped organize last Friday’s event. “The kids really enjoy the readings, it’s something different from the [same] teachers,” she said. They especially love to see people in uniform and even recognized some of the volunteers as being from their own neighborhood, she added.

Mendoza says it is good for children to see people are willing to “ take time out of their day to read to them.”

In another classroom, Naval Officer Gary Skags’ stories about his life as a sailor were a big hit with the fifth graders, their eyes opening wide as he tells them about his encounters with pirates out at sea. “We had to confront the bad guys” and turn them over to the police, he recounted as the students listened in awe.

But as exciting as his life may seem, Skags’ emphasizes that it is still very important to get an education. He said he is attending Pasadena College to earn a college degree and urged the students to do the same when they graduate from high school.

Naval Officer Raymundo Magdaleno told EGP his uniform seemed to impress his young audience more than his reading of Dr. Seuss’  “Shape of Me and Other Stuff.”

“They react to the medals, they appreciate us being there and we get saluted,” said Magdaleno proudly. “It makes us feel welcome,” he added.

Not all the fun, however, was reserved for students in the lower grades. Five 7th grade students with top grades were selected to help organize the reading event and were given the honor of escorting the distinguished volunteer guest readers.

And it wasn’t only the little ones who were impressed by the parade of uniforms, twelve-year-old Freddy Inocencio had a hard time not staring at the police and sheriff deputy volunteers: “I want to be in SWAT” someday, he explained to EGP.

Nayeli Jimenez, 12, thinks the Read Across America event was a good idea. “It’s good that they are reading so that the children” can have some good role models to look up to, she told EGP.

Kindergarten teacher Mendoza told EGP she wants to remind people that reading to children has many long-term benefits and should be done everyday, not just during events like Read Across America. Brooklyn Elementary welcomes volunteer adult readers year-round, Mendoza said, adding the adults may get as much out of the experience as her students.


Twitter @jackieguzman



Children ‘Abducted’ from Boyle Heights Found Safe

March 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Four children who were abducted — allegedly by their biological parents — from their maternal grandmother’s home in Boyle Heights were found safe Tuesday at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The children were found by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents about 9:30 a.m., according to Los Angeles Police Department Officer Bruce Borihanh.

“They are in good health,” Borihanh said, adding that LAPD detectives were sent to bring the children back to Los Angeles, where they will be placed in protective custody.

The children were brought back to the LAPD’s Hollenbeck Station Tuesday night.

Warrants have been issued for the arrests of the parents, Enrique Felix and Rosa Chairez, both 28, who remain at large, Borihanh said. They are believed to be in Mexico.

The parents are suspected of abducting the children — 7-year-old Enrique Felix, 5-year-old Justin Felix and twin 12-month-old girls Veronica and Janet Felix — at 12:30 p.m. Friday while the youngsters were in the care of their grandmother at her residence in the 1400 block of North Indiana Street, police said.

Social workers had placed the children in protective custody because their father was physically violent toward them and their mother, LAPD Capt. Martin Baeza said.

A restraining order against the parents required that they only see their children by scheduled appointment and under the supervision of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, LAPD Sgt. Eddie Ortiz said.

“They went to the residence of the grandmother and they forcibly took the children and left the location,” Baeza said.

A statewide Amber Alert was issued on Saturday morning, but that alert was canceled Tuesday when the children were found.

City to Consider Sales Tax Hike to Raise $4.5B for Street Repairs

March 20, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

Los Angeles’ top budget adviser Tuesday recommended going to voters with a half-cent sales tax hike to pay for street and sidewalk repairs.

The proposed tax hike to 9.5% would be for 15 years and raise about $4.5 billion for the “Save Our Streets” plan being pushed by City Councilmen Joe Buscaino and Mitch Englander.

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana said it would take an estimated $3.86 billion to fix the “city’s worst streets” and about $640 million to repair the “city’s worst sidewalks.”

The earliest the proposed tax hike could be put on the ballot is this November.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which derives funding from sales tax, also is considering asking voters to pay more, but not until 2016.

Santana’s report, responding to 24 suggestions and instructions gleaned in several public meetings, was prepared at the direction of Buscaino and Englander.

The report, released Tuesday, is being made available at SOSLA.org., and a public briefing on the plan is set for April 2 at City Hall, according to the councilmen.

“Our streets form the backbone of our local transportation system,” they said in a joint statement. “Every visitor, every resident, and every business owner uses our streets and our local economy is dependent upon the ability to move people and goods throughout the city.”

“It is critically important that all stakeholders understand the seriousness and importance of this issue, engage in the conversation, and work cooperatively toward finding a solution,” they said.

Englander and Buscaino said street maintenance had been under-funded from the 1950s until the 1990s, resulting in the deterioration of 8,700 miles of city streets.

The council members initially suggested a bond measure to fund the street repairs, but opponents of the idea said the financial burden of fixing city streets should not be placed solely on property owners.

Santana offered the sale tax alternative, saying it would be more equitable and include taxes from “those who do not live within the city.”


After Nearly 30 Year Absence, Musical Theatre Returns to Roosevelt High

March 20, 2014 by · 1 Comment 

The performance of the Romeo and Juliet inspired tragic love story “West Side Story” last Friday on the Roosevelt High School stage marked an important first step in a new direction for theatre at the school, one where students and faculty have joined forces to bring the Performing Arts back to the eastside campus.

Four months in the making, the production was the return of full musical theatre to the school for the first time in nearly 30 years, according to post-show press release.

The production was made possible through a unique partnership between SHOUT (Striving to Heighten Outcome by Uniting Teens), an after-school program offered at Roosevelt since 2009 run by the Salesian Boys and Girls Club of LA and Jaxx Theatre.


The West Side Story musical was presented at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights on Friday night.(Courtesy of Roosevelt High School)

The West Side Story musical was presented at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights on Friday night.(Courtesy of Roosevelt High School)

While most of the performers in high school plays are students, Roosevelt’s cast included Dr. Christopher Berru and Elizabeth Bjornen, both social studies teachers, and Principal Bruce Bivens along with 24 students.

This is Bivens first year as principal of Roosevelt and according to the school he has made the return of the performing arts one of his “tasks” for improving student achievement and graduation rates.

Over 300 Roosevelt fans, including students, teachers and local residents attended the production, according to Bivens.

“On Friday night, we marked a new era at Roosevelt,” Bivens said in a written statement in which he also extolled the performances by the school’s “neophyte thespians that performed with confidence and perfection in song, dance, and stage acting.”

“Friday night’s rendition of West Side Story was an excellent reinvigoration of the Arts for a campus loaded with talented and enthusiastic students,” said Br. Tom Mass, executive director of Salesian Boys and Girls Club. “The administration and staff have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into caring for the kids at Roosevelt and we at SHOUT are proud to be a part of this Renaissance,” he added.

According to Tam Nguyen, program administrator with Salesian Boys and Girls Club, the idea to put on the play evolved out of the partnership between the school and the after-school program, and took four months of diligent work by the production team.  The program “provides an opportunity for students to explore their creative side and motivates them to take their passion into reality” with the support of professionals and staff, Nguyen told EGP via email.

“These activities are offered free to students from Roosevelt and the local community through the 21st Century Community Learning Center grant,” Nguyen added.

Another play will be coming soon, Nguyen said.


Cantwell Defeats Sierra Canyon to Earn Spot In Final Four

March 20, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s on to the state final four for Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High School in Montebello.

The Cardinals defeated top-seed Sierra Canyon, 62-54, Tuesday night in Chatsworth to advance to Saturday’s boys’ basketball Southern California Division IV championship game against second seed Bishop Montgomery at Colony High School in Ontario. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.

E.J. Mejia scored 15 points to lead Cantwell, which is 23-8, past Sierra Canyon (29-4) in Tuesday’s semifinal. The senior guard hit four 3-pointers and was one of four Cardinals to score in double figures.

Guard Joey Covarrubias leads the Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High School basketball team into Saturday’s CIF Southern California Division IV championship game. (EGP Photo by Mario Villegas)

Guard Joey Covarrubias leads the Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary High School basketball team into Saturday’s CIF Southern California Division IV championship game. (EGP Photo by Mario Villegas)

“E.J. played a phenomenal game and Balsa Dragovic had probably his best game of the year,” Cantwell Coach George Zedan said. “Four of our five starters scored in double figures and the fifth, had nine points, so it really was a team effort.”

Dragovic, a 6-foot-10 junior forward, scored 11 points and had 10 rebounds, five blocked shots, three assists and two steals.

Senior guard Joey Covarrubias also had 11 points, converting seven of eight free throws, including four straight down the stretch to help secure the win. Junior post player Gligorije Rakocevic scored three baskets to start the second half and finished with 12 points. Andrew Martinez chipped in nine points.

“Sierra Canyon is a scary team and we have a lot of respect for them,” Zedan said. “Our players were excited about playing them, but we had to play at a certain pace and we managed to do that.”

The Cardinals avenged a 45-42 nonleague loss to Sierra Canyon earlier this season with Tuesday’s victory.

In the rematch, Cantwell took a 12-point lead into the fourth quarter and quickly increased it to 15 on a 3-pointer by Martinez to take its biggest lead of the game. Sierra Canyon rallied back, but the Cardinals answered with clutch free throw shooting to hold off the Trailblazers.

Besides Sierra Canyon, Cantwell, an at-large entry, also scored victories over Village Christian and Bakersfield Christian in the state playoffs. In the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs, the Cardinals lost in overtime to No. 1 Mater Dei. All eight of Cantwell’s losses have been to teams that played in the Open Divison.

Bishop Montgomery defeated Serra, 74-52, Tuesday to reach Saturday’s Southern California championship game. The Knights (26-6) had a first-round bye before defeating Oaks Christian in the quarterfinals.

“It’s going to be a contrasting style of basketball,” Zedan said in describing the matchup between the Cardinals and the Knights. “They have two standout guards and they share the ball really well as a team. It’s going to be another tough game, but all these games are tough at this point. Every team is here for a reason.”

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