Spring 2012 Students

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Cosplaying is a genre-bending trend in San Diego

Cosplay means is the art of costuming and play.

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By Donna P. Crilly

One of the most popular cosplaying genres is anime, which means Japanese animation. Conventions, such as San Diego Anime Conji or Anime Expo in Los Angeles, are typically weekend-long events where thousands of cosplayers go to socialize, pose for pictures, attend panels or participate in masquerade contests held at conventions.

Academic researchers have found that many people cosplay for fun, to make friends, because they like the characters they get to portray, and to get attention.

In a survey of about 200 cosplayers at a convention, clinical psychologist and cosplayer Andrea Letamendi found some people cosplay for the “celebrity status” they get at conventions; however, the primary reason people reported they cosplay is because it’s fun.

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Gabi Pull quote

One anime, steampunk and Renaissance fan, Gabi Gonzalez, said people go “all out” at conventions. Gonzalez attends Renaissance fairs with a group of friends who like dressing up as “fay,” or fairy creatures. They hand-make all of their own costumes and props, except for elements such as corsettes, which can damage the body if not made properly.

Gonzalez moved to Southern California from Florida to become a graphic designer after she graduated from college. She said the costuming on the West Coast is more advanced than in the Southeast, though on par with the Northeast and Midwest, where large conventions draw thousands of people. However, Southern California is home to the largest anime convention in the U.S., Anime Expo in Los Angeles, and San Diego Comic-Con International draws comic book and cosplay fans from around the world.

The 22-year-old says she’s been cosplaying and making costumes for 10 years. Looking at other people’s costumes inspired Gonzalez to make her own.

As for why Gonzalez likes to cosplay, she says it’s “so much more fun than being ‘normal.’”

When Gonzalez attends steampunk, anime and Renaissance events without a costume, she said she feels “abnormal” because so many people are dressed up.

“You get into the characters, you know, you watch an anime or a comic book or something,” Gonzalez said. “You want to be like your favorite characters, so why not make their costume and dress up?”

Gonzalez’s costumes have cost her anywhere from $10 to more than $100. When she adds other elements to some of her costumes throughout the years, she could end up spending more than $500 overall for a single costume.

Gonzalez said she learned how to make her own costumes from watching other people at conventions.

“You ask them how they do it and most of them are really nice and will help you out,” Gonzalez said. “You message them on their blog, they’ll give you hand.”

So you think you can cosplay?

A panel at Anime Conji 2013, called “Intro to Cosplay,” featured veteran cosplayer Crystal Graziano, who makes and models costumes and props. Graziano, AKA “Precious Cosplay,” spoke about her first costume: Aerith from the late ‘90s video game, “Final Fantasy VII.” She said her first costume looked terrible and was poorly made. Her second costume was worse.

Throughout the next eight years, Graziano worked on her costumes and developed her craftsmanship. She now models her favorite characters for photographs and speaks at convention panels.

VIDEO: Crystal Graziano, AKA 'Precious Cosplay,' explains why she loves cosplay, and gives tips for beginning cosplayers. By Donna P. Crilly

Graziano told beginning cosplayers at the panel to start small; don’t try to make something too complex without costuming experience.

“We’ve all been there. When you start out, you’re going to suck at it,” Anime Conji 2013 Masquerade judge Johnny Zarabate said, adding that the cosplay community as a whole is accepting of newcomers.

Zarabate, a structural engineering student at UCSD, cosplays professionally for Crunchroll Ambassadors and coordinates photo shoots with a small group of cosplayers.

As a veteran cosplayer, Zarabate said beginners shouldn’t be intimidated when they start cosplaying. His first costume in 2003 wasn’t nearly as detailed as his more recent work; however, people have to start somewhere.

“It takes a lot of courage to try to get out there and make something you’ve never tried before and then wear it out in public – essentially be judged by your peers and passersby,” Zarabate said.

John Zarabate shows his craftsmanship in 2012 compared to 2003 on the Junkers Cosplay Inc. Facebook page. Photo courtesy of Junkers Cosplay Inc.

John Zarabate shows his craftsmanship in 2012 compared to 2003 on the Junkers Cosplay Inc. Facebook page. Photo courtesy of Junkers Cosplay Inc.

If it’s an authentic look cosplayers want, Graziano said people should cosplay according to their body types and choose characters with whom they share physical characteristics. However, Graziano said the most important thing is to have fun with the character.

“You should cosplay the characters you like from the series you like, otherwise, you’re not going to have a good time,” Graziano said.

Matthew Lewis and friend participate in the Anime Conji 2013 Masquerade, winning best veteran performance.

Matthew Lewis and friend participate in the Anime Conji 2013 Masquerade, winning best veteran performance.

Graziano advised new cosplayers to use resources online, such as therpf.com for costume-making tips, and to purchase heavier fabrics to give the costume a more authentic feel vs the “costumey” Halloween look.

Graziano also said cosplayers should wear makeup – men too – because it keeps the skin from looking shiny in pictures, adding that if cosplayers are going to spend time making costumes, they might as well makeup their faces.

San Diego steampunk community ‘gathers steam,’ boutique in Oceanside sells steampunk gear

The steampunk genre imagines a world where steampower is the prevailing technology. The costuming revolves around the imagined style of that world. Because time travel exists within the steampunk community, a blend of Victorian, goth, the “Wild West,” and anything sans Internet-tech-style is appropriate costume wear.

Fans within the steampunk community don’t have as many popular fictional characters to choose from to cosplay compared to anime fans; however, their costume designs are just as complex and time-consuming.

Originating from literary sci-fi and Victorian-era authors, such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, steampunk cosplayers tend to create their own characters based on – but not limited to – time travel, Western and/or Victorian motifs.

“It depends on the individual, but (the costumes) can be very elaborate,” Sam Luke, member of the popular steampunk band, Steam Powered Giraffe, said. “That goes anywhere from painting your face to look like some sort of unworldly being, to having this huge backpack, or metallic angel wings or elaborate hats. I’ve even seen paraplegic people deck out their wheelchairs to look like a tiny steam-powered tank.”

Sam Luke plays bass and performs as "Hatchworth" for  the band Steam Powered Giraffe at the La Jolla Playhouse in March 2013. Photo by Donna P. Crilly

Sam Luke plays bass and performs as “Hatchworth” for the band Steam Powered Giraffe at the La Jolla Playhouse in March 2013. Photo by Donna P. Crilly

Luke travels with Steam Powered Giraffe to play at well-known venues, such as the La Jolla Playhouse, and steampunk conventions in the U.S. The band got its start busking at Balboa Park. The costuming allowed the band to carve its niche into the steampunk community. In May, Steam Powered Giraffe’s music video, “Honeybee,” reached 1.4 million YouTube views.

Experienced “steampunks” design their costumes based on the characters they create for themselves. For many steampunks, one of the most important aspects of cosplaying is creativity.

Like anime cosplayers, making costumes may take hours of work and a lot of money.  Many steampunks say the time and effort is worth it when they go to steampunk events or conventions, such as the Gaslight Gathering: A Steampunk & Victoriana Convention in San Diego, and are complimented on their costumes.

For steampunks with minimal costume-making experience or who want to purchase accessories to add to their costumes, they can go to Dr. Watson’s Steampunk Odditorium in Oceanside, a boutique attached to a tattoo parlor that specializes in steampunk gear.

Shoppe Manager Celeste Barbier said she hadn’t heard much about steampunk before the shop opened more than a year ago, but it’s been “gathering steam” in Southern California for about 5-7 years.

Barbier grew up in the rockabilly and goth community. She says “steampunk is for the goths who discovered the color brown.”

From corsettes to Amelia Earhart-esque goggles, to vests, to bowler hats, to ornately-designed Victorian-style dresses, Barbier said she appreciates the aesthetics of steampunk.

Though Barbier says people can easily spend a couple hundred dollars at Dr. Watson’s in one trip, she said she’s amazed at the creativity of people who create their costumes on a minimal budget.

“It’s almost hard to have a steampunk shop, because almost everyone makes their own costumes or designs their own props or their own hats,” Barbier said. “So we try to provide some basic clothing so they can embellish.”

Dr. Watson's Steampunk Odditorium manager Celeste Barbier explains steampunk and theme of the shop. By Donna P. Crilly

Based on her observations and conversations with dozens of steampunks at various events, Barbier developed a theory about steampunk’s growing popularity within the U.S. She says in a consumerist society of mass-produced, streamlined products, people yearn for quality and individuality.

“With every action, there’s a reaction,” Barbier said, “and I feel with the direction that this society is going, this is almost becoming stronger as a reaction to that simplification, like the Mac look, you know, everything being white and sterile. This is a complete opposite; and it’s a reaction, and I think it’s keeping things in balance.”


Forward thinking surfers seek eco-friendly options for surfboards

Local surfers and shapers recognize the impact harmful toxins used in the traditional surfboard-making process has on the environment and, as a result, have turned to alternative methods to shaping boards.

Finding ways to build sustainable surfboards is a growing trend in the surfing community in San Diego, especially among shapers who are frequently in direct contact with toxic chemicals and materials.

EPS foam board blanks used as the core to manufacture surfboards

EPS foam board blanks used as the core to manufacture surfboards

Shapers are surfboard craftsmen who build their own surfboards using styrofoam, shaping tools and various resins. Some surfers are seeking new-school methods with less toxic materials, while other surfers prefer to stick to the original way of making surfboards in order to preserve the authenticity of surfing.

There are also other surfers, however, who believe the new approach to making surfboards is just as harmful as the new, alternative methods.

“We [surfers] are searching for materials, alternative materials, which are not necessarily better,” said Tim Bessell, shaper and owner of Bessell Surfboards in La Jolla, San Diego.

A long-time approach to surfboard making

The lightweight surfboards seen in music videos of the popular surf-pop band, The Beach Boys, were first introduced to the surfing industry in the 1950s.

The boards were made with a polyurethane core, reinforced with fiberglass and polyester resin, which has since been the traditional way of surfboard manufacturing.

To this day, 85 percent of surfboards manufactured by big surfing companies are polyurethane boards.

Although surfing would appear to be an environmentally friendly industry, with its images of nature and surfers’ efforts to keeping the ocean and beach clean, making surfboards is actually a rather dirty business.

The art of making surfboards is not known to be “eco-friendly” because the chemicals used to make the foam core of surfboards are toxic and flammable. Most surfboards today are shaped with harmful resin and slabs of polyurethane.

The waste of polyurethane and broken boards eventually end up in landfills.

A polyurethane board used by most surfboard manufacturing companies.

A polyurethane board used by most surfboard manufacturing companies.

Additionally, the shaping process produces fine foam dust, which can be harmful if inhaled, and the laminating resin gives off poisonous fumes that can harm health conditions.

“The surf industry has been using certain materials for a long, long time, mostly because they’ve been available and affordable,” said Chris Clark, CEO of Shaper Studios, a surfboard shaping company based in San Diego.

The two resin systems used in the manufacturing process are polyester and epoxy. Epoxy is compatible with polyurethane and expanded polystyrene styrofoam (EPS), which are little pallets put into a mold under steam and pressure that expand like a styrofoam cup.

Tim Bessell is a shaper based in La Jolla and has been using polyurethane in his surf shop to manufacture boards for more than 16 years.

“They haven’t labeled polyurethane foam a carcinogen, and I don’t have any reactions to it at all,” Bessell said. “There’s other people in the industry, who will state the same thing, and it’s usually people who are a lot older and have done a lot more production.”

Bessell doesn’t work with styrofoam because it is classified as a carcinogen by Center For Disease Control and Prevention, he says. These studies have found that the toxicity levels of all human beings has gone up with the daily use of styrofoam, which is why he stays away from it.

A (EPS) Polystyrene board is only compatible with epoxy resin.

An (EPS) Polystyrene board is only compatible with epoxy resin.

“I don’t even use styrofoam because I have systemic hives from it and a lot of other shapers have that also,” Bessell said.

Polyurethane foam disintegrates quicker than EPS plastic, which takes 10,000 years to breakdown, but EPS can be recycled and polyurethane cannot, according to San-Diego based surfer and owner of Pooh Surfboards, Ryan Siegel.

“The argument in the surf world is that EPS plastic is better because it can be recycled since its already been glassed,” said Seigel. “It’s recyclable foam, but the truth is no one recycles.”

An alternative approach to surfboard making

Rich Pavel, owner of Greenroom Surfboards in Ocean Beach, Calif., discusses the idea of making a green surfboard and what it means to be a shaper in the surfing community. Owner of Alen Beels surfboards, Alan Beels, explains the importance of disposing toxic chemicals used in the surfboard industry.

In 2005, the United State’s largest supplier of surfboards, Clark Foam, closed down because of the company’s use of the chemical found in polyurethane, TDI, in a residential area. Some surfing companies, as a result, started making foam with MDI, which is a carcinogenic alternative to TDI.

The use of MDI in the surf industry is rare because the marketplace is against it, since it’s hard to find and difficult to work with, according to Seigel.

“It has a stigma in the marketplace, so no one is really doing it, but you can make really good foam with MDI,” Seigel said.

The shutting down of Clark Foam caused many surfboard manufacturers to find new ways to make blanks with different materials.

“It made people realize that there are non-toxic materials out there that won’t cause cancer or irritation,” said Chris Clark. While polyester resin may be the norm for many companies, other surfers are seeking alternative, eco-friendly options for surfboards, such as the use of epoxy resin, which has become popular in recent years.

Some surfers are turning to epoxy resin, instead of polyester, which when hardened is almost non-toxic, according to the Department of Health Services. Clark uses epoxy resin at his shop, Shaper Studios, and recycled styrofoam blanks.

Chris Clark holding up a bottle of the epoxy chemicals used in his surf shop.

Chris Clark holding up a bottle of the epoxy chemicals used in his surf shop.

“Everything impacts the beach, so the materials we use are a step in the right direction,” Clark said. “I don’t think there’s ever going to be a zero-impact way to build boards, but our environmental stances is to support the organizations that protect the oceans and the environment.”

In comparison to epoxy, the polyester chemicals used to make most boards are toxic and flammable.

The process requires explosion-proof fume removal equipment and careful control of the room temperature and humidity.

“We kind of drew a line in the sand and said, ‘we’re not really going to go backwards in history,’” said Clark. “We’re going to see what out there is newer, better for the customer and better for us as shapers.”

Since epoxy is a household product, it is also non-toxic and doesn’t require vapor masks or additional equipment when applying it, he says.

Pros and Cons of using epoxy chemicals.

Pros and Cons of using epoxy chemicals.

“We’ll post a lot of pictures of people shaping or glassing,” Clark said. “And we’ll get a lot riffraff of people saying ‘why aren’t you wearing masks? Don’t you know that stuff causes cancer?’”

By the standards set by the Occupation Safety and Health Administration epoxy resins potential for respiratory exposure is fairly low, according to OSHA. Epoxy is also more durable and the process takes twice as long and costs twice as much in comparison to polyester.

Pros and Cons of using polyester resin

Pros and Cons of using polyester resin

“The price and availability has been key to keeping these really toxic items in the surfing industry for so long,” Clark said. The types of chemicals and the type of blank used will determine the life expectancy of a surfboard and the way it responds in the water. It will also take more materials and more money to manufacture the board, which will affect the consumer cost.

Although shaping an epoxy board is arguably less hazardous to the environment and the manufacturer in comparison to a poly board, the styrofoam used to make both types of boards is still one of the top three items of concern for beach cleanliness in San Diego, according to the Surfrider Foundation.

“This is our playground, and we don’t want to throw trash in our playground,” said Clark.

Old-school surfers have yet to embrace a new-school method

Since epoxy can only be used on a Styrofoam blank, it’s not sought after in the surfing community because some surfers prefer the authentic feel of riding a polyurethane board versus a Styrofoam board, Clark says.

Pros and Cons of using polyurethane boards.

“When people first heard about epoxy it was this plastic board,” Clark said. “It didn’t feel like a surfboard, or ride like a surfboard, but it’s a very good replacement for polyester, which is the standard.”

Although the majority of the boards manufactured today are made out of polyurethane, some surfers are beginning to switch over to epoxy because of the advantages to surfing with an EPS foam board coated with epoxy, even though it’s not a popular opinion.

“When you call your board an epoxy board it should have the connotation to be twice as good, last twice as long and twice as responsive, but it has this really bad negative connotation,” Clark said.

Justin Trinidad, a graduate from San Diego State University, recently shaped his first longboard at Shaper Studios and noticed the difference when riding an epoxy board.

“It’s more buoyant, so you can shape smaller boards, and it floats better,” Trinidad says. “It’s lighter and stronger for paddling and with surfing it’s faster and easier to turn.”

Some argue that the benefits of this new-school approach to using other chemicals for shaping and glassing is a marketing myth. One of the myths is that epoxy floats more than polyester, according to Bessell.

“Gravity doesn’t understand a polymer because all it understands is volume and weight,” Bessell said. “If you have two objects that are the same in volume and weight and made out of different materials, they may not react the same on a wave, but they’re going to float the same because you need specific polymers to act in certain ways.”

Pros and Cons of using EPS (polystyrene) foam.

Pros and Cons of using EPS (polystyrene) foam

Epoxy is harder, stronger, rigid and more durable than polyester, according to Clark. But Bessell said this new opinion that has emerged in the local surfing scene, mainly among younger surfers who have been influenced by the rise of manufacturing companies pushing epoxy in the surf market place.

“It’s a marketing tool,” Bessell said. “When clark went out of business, surftech came out with epoxy technology, but 95 percent of the people out there don’t realize that epoxy is a resin system, so it’s not a foam system and, so, you’re putting epoxy on a styrofoam, which is a known carcinogen.”

San Diego-based surfboard shaper, Tim Bessell, discuses the pros and cons of materials used in surfboard manufacturing. Bessell’ has a shop based in La Jolla where he makes surfboard designs using traditional polyurethane boards.

Although some people are turning to epoxy resin because they see it as more “eco friendly,” some old-school surfers still prefer the feel and shape of traditional poly boards.

Seigel, who has hand shaped over 400 boards, realizes the divide between surfers in the issue of poly versus epoxy.

“It’s really a personal preference, and it depends on the surfer and what you like,” Seigel said. “I, personally, just ride polyurethane boards because that’s what I’ve always ridden.”

Owner of CSMK Surfboards in Ocean Beach, Rick Strom, also shapes and rides a polyurethane board because it’s what he’s used to and most comfortable with.

“I’ve noticed with most people, we’ve all grown up on polyurethans boards and that’s what we’ve used for so man years,” Strom said. “And with epoxy, its a different type of foam, different flexes, different resin, so it’s a totally different flex pattern than you get with a polyurethane board and some people like that or they don’t.”

Although there are obvious differences about performance, strength and durability, there is no consensus in the surfing community whether epoxy boards are actually more environmentally friendly than polyester, especially among older and younger surfers.

“There’s nothing eco-friendly about epoxy boards,” says owner or Alan Beels Surfboards, Alan Beels.”

From a working standpoint, it’s a really nice product to work with because you don’t have the fumes, you have a little more time, but to think that you’re saving the planet from surfboard building, not so much.”

Whether surfers lean toward epoxy or polyester-based boards, the one thing they can all agree on is that wood is the only true green surfboard out there.

Beels points out that the key to building a more eco-friendly surfboard is how you dispose of the toxic chemicals inevitably used in the manufacturing process.

“Just doing little things like recycling the acetone goes a long way,” Beels said. “

You’re doing more to be green that way than anything else than just by using it, but it sounds cooler, ‘I’m using it.'”

Sidelined: Marine Corps lifestyle brings unexpected duties for some San Diegans

By Samantha Wadley

Damon Lode sorting mail

Despite being assigned to the mail room because of an injury while in Afghanistan, Corporal Damon Lode smiles while sorting.

Serving in the Marine Corps conjures up images of strength, pride and honor for many who enlist. For some Marines and their families, however, the military lifestyle has turned out to be different from what they expected it to be.

From injuries, to marital stress and depression, the pressure of life in the military can weigh heavilyl on the Marines and their loved ones.

“There are a myriad of unique problems that military personnel face,” said Lorie Sherer, a mental health therapist who treats active duty military and veterans.

“Often times these men and women are traumatized and they have been conditioned to be very reactive and it is hard for them to find a way to rationalize the things they deal with.”

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs ,11 to 20 percent of those who have served in the recent war in the Middle East suffer from some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or depression.

Camp Pendelton Sign

San Diego is home to four military bases and approximately 125,000 active duty personnel, with 35,000 of those serving in the United States Marine Corps (USMC).

“A moral dilemma has developed in most cases and the person can feel isolated, which leads to depression and sometimes self harm,” Sherer said.

Unexpected Duties

Corporal Damon Lode joined the Marine Corps as an infantryman immediately after high school in 2008, with high hopes for a long military career. Lode was deployed to Afghanistan in the spring of 2010. Three months into the deployment, Lode was injured when a roadside bomb struck his vehicle. Lode sustained brain and back injuries as a result of the explosion. Although Marines are taught to expect the unexpected, he didn’t imagine where this injury would place him when he returned to Camp Pendelton after his 7-month deployment.

Damon Lode is a Corporal in the Marine Corps and is stationed at Camp Pendelton in San Diego. Now in his fourth year of the service, Lode has experienced a chain of unexpected events which landed him in the mail room, a place he never expected to be.

Despite his injury, Lode was promoted to Corporal in April, but he does not plan to re-enlist when his contract ends this year. Instead, he will pursue a college education.

Lode’s story is one of many. Lance Corporal Jacob Sedgwick was also injured while on deployment in Afghanistan, sustaining a gunshot wound to the chest, which resulted in a collapsed lung and many months in the hospital.

“My body doesn’t work like it used to,” Sedgwick said. “I used to be able to run and swim, but now those tasks are much more difficult.”

Like Lode, Sedgwick also began working in the mailroom at Camp Pendelton during his recovery. While the self-admitted gun junkie would much rather be on the frontlines again, he believes his experience in the Marine Corps has matured him.

“I’ve been to Afghanistan, I’ve fought a war, been shot and I made it back,” Sedgwick said. “It was definitely worth it and I would do it again if I could.”

Sedgwick sorting mail

Sorting mail is more fun when you put on the tunes, according to Lance Corporal Jason Sedgwick. He prefers listening to the band Switchfoot.

Unexpected Transitions

Positive attitudes keep the Marine Corps spirit alive, according to Marine wife Sheyla Lopez, who lives on base at Camp Pendelton.

“These men do this job because they genuinely love and believe in what they are doing,” Lopez said.

Lopez met her husband Corporal Charlie Lopez in high school, but it wasn’t until he returned from deployment in 2011 that they got married. Having grown up in Los Angeles, Sheyla’s transition from city life to military life has been harder than she expected, especially since she is now the primary caregiver to their four young children.

Sheyla Lopez is the wife of Corporal Charlie Lopez, a Marine stationed at Camp Pendelton in San Diego, Calif. Living life as the wife of a Marine and the mother of their four young children isn’t always easy, but Lopez keeps a positive attitude by remembering why her husband does what he does.

Gia talking about necklace

Making beaded necklaces is a fun activity that Gia and her sister Lelani enjoy doing together while their dad is deployed.

Although Lopez admits the adjustment takes some time, she still believes that living in a military setting has its perks.

“Some days are harder than others,” Lopez said. “But overall, I still get up some mornings and feel like I am living the American dream.”

According to Sherer, getting acclimated to life in the military or after the military is a process.

“There is a reconnecting process,” Sherer said. “It is crucial to find a comfort zone and people with whom they can relate to so that the process can move along in a healthy way. But recognizing that you need help is the first step.”

Help for those in need 

There are tons of resources out there for veterans and active duty military personnel, as well as their families.  The Military Helpline  is a program that offers free, anonymous support and helps people gain access to resources along with confidential crisis intervention and sensitivity to military-specific issues such as anger management, post traumatic stress disorder and much more.

Also, Homefront San Diego  is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families of those in the military. From food to computer repairs, Homefront San Diego is in the business of aiding those who serve.

From pit bulls to bunnies: San Diego animal rescue organizations stress adoption and education

by Catlin Dorset

Kara with rescues Mason and Sunshine

Kara with rescues Mason and Sunshine
Photo by Catlin Dorset

San Diego is known for its inviting temperatures, sandy beaches, downtown nightlife and great eateries. But even visitors quickly realize you don’t truly fit in until you’ve got a companion alongside you – preferably, a four-legged furry one.

Locations such as Balboa Park, Ocean Beach and Fiesta Island cater to pets, as well as most apartment complexes and even some restaurants. It comes as no surprise then, that San Diego is also home to several animal adoption and rescue organizations. No matter the type, size, breed or age of animal, a group of people likely has their furry backs.

Kara Bonamo is an animal rescuer and avid pit bull advocate in San Diego. Being raised with adopted and and rescued pit bulls, Bonamo and her family believe in the importance of the local organizations working to find forever homes for their animals.

“We’ve always adopted dogs from local rescue organizations, because there’s really no reason to give a breeder a bunch of money when there’s so many good dogs already waiting,”  Bonamo said.

Kara Bonamo has a history of rescuing pit bulls off the street and making them part of her family. She believes pit bulls have a negative image because of media attention, but actively tries to promote the good in the breed.

Meeting the needs of local animals

San Diego Animal Advocates (SDAA) uses its all-volunteer support system to work toward ending the abuse and exploitation of animals. Through education and community outreach, SDAA not only focuses on the local pets needing adoption, but also the safety and welfare of local wildlife and animals in captivity (think SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo). Linda Kelson, vice president of SDAA, says they typically only focus on a few major campaigns at a time, usually addressing issues that other local groups are not tackling.

“We still work on the usual animal rights and animal welfare issues that impact San Diego County, but now that there are other large animal rights groups here in San Diego, we no longer try to tackle all these issues at once, at full throttle,” Kelson said. “We are able to concentrate on a single campaign at a time that in the past would have fallen through the cracks.”

The San Diego Humane Society is one of these large organizations offering many other services beyond just the shelter and adoption of animals. The humane society provides behavior and training classes for pets, educational programs to strengthen the human-animal bond, veterinary care and even a pet loss support group. Kelli Herwehe, PR Coordinator for the San Diego Humane Society, says their goal is to provide community members with the resources they need to be best parent for their pet.

“The San Diego Humane Society offers many resources to keep pets with their families, so I would encourage anyone to look into the resources that are available to them before relinquishing their pet to a shelter,” Herwehe said.

All types of pets in need of homes

Judith Pierce and fostered rabbit Lila Rose

Judith Pierce and fostered rabbit Lila Rose
Photo by Catlin Dorset

Although dogs and cats are probably the animals that most people think need saving, San Diego has its own niche for rescuing rabbits as well. The San Diego House Rabbit Society depends entirely on volunteers and foster families to shelter and support local bunnies in need of permanent homes. Co-chapter Manager Judith Pierce says the House Rabbit Society helps adopt out about 100 rabbits each year, and believes the education and training they provide is a crucial step in the adoption process.

“The education we do is key to finding good homes for our rabbits,” said Pierce. “That’s teaching people to change the way they think about them – from a pet that you keep in the backyard in a cage, to a family companion that you bring inside the home.”

The San Diego House Rabbit Society plays an important role in the rescue, education and adoption of domestic rabbits in the local area. Judith Pierce, manager of San Diego House Rabbit Society, explains why this organization is just as important as any dog rescue and why Easter is a particularly difficult time for them.

While every San Diego animal organization has different objectives, a similar belief is shared by all of them. Educating the general public is the first step toward attaining a goal of reducing the number of abandoned pets. Many of these organizations also have strong opinions against so-called puppy mills, breeders and the people who choose to pay for a designer dog, rather than adopt one waiting in a shelter.

“It’s very important that you do not rush into the decision of adopting a pet,” Herwehe said. “Caring for an animal is a big responsibility and you’re making a life-long commitment to that animal.”

Bilingual families enhance their skills and culture through education

By Diana Crofts-Pelayo

Eloy and Twin boys walking to school

The boys are dropped off at the Language Academy by their father. Taken by Diana Crofts-Pelayo.

Emilio and Santiago get up every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning knowing what to expect of their day: preschool. They wake up, get dressed and eat breakfast. After eating, they are dropped off by their father and  picked up later in the day. This routine now comes as an expectation for a day ahead with other four-year-olds.

Little do the twins realize that the routine they have known for almost a year is a strategic plan their parents have put in place for them to benefit their future.

The preschoolers are enrolled in the Language Academy in San Diego, Calif., which teaches English-speaking students either Spanish or French.

Hillary Park, a Spanish high school teacher, said having full immersion of another language in school is a rarity.

“I don’t think schools do enough to expose students to a second language or culture,” she said. “Immersion in high school is very rare.”

As a teacher for 18 years, she said the American culture usually doesn’t reward those who already speak a second language.

“We (the American culture) do not value being bilingual or bicultural,” Park said. “Rather, we fear them.”

Since the twin boys come from a Hispanic background, their mother, Dawn Wirts, an educator herself, said it’s important for them to maintain the culture through the language.

“They spend a lot of time with their grandmother who only speaks Spanish,” Wirts said. “We want them to bond with their extended family not only in the U.S., but also in Mexico.”

Wirts, a teacher for nearly 10 years, sees the value in the foundation she and her husband are placing for their children. The Language Academy is a single-track, year-round K-8 school, which also emphasizes acquisition of a different culture.

Dawn and boys sit down to read a book

The twins and their mother get ready for bed after a long day at preschool. Photo by Diana Crofts-Pelayo.

Edith Saldivar, a staff analyst for Qualcomm, is a first-generation migrant. She said having family members in Mexico reinforced her to maintain the language.

She said understanding both the language and culture are important factors that Hispanic children should be familiar with from an early age.

“The Spanish language is a cultural heritage for Mexican-American children,” Saldivar said. “I believe that Latinos that have the opportunity to speak Spanish and learn about their cultural roots and history have a good sense of belonging and appreciation.”

Saldivar, who manages projects that deliver services to disadvantaged communities internationally, sees her ability of not only being fluent in Spanish, but also Portuguese,  as an asset.

“I am very appreciative of my bicultural upbringing because it has made it easy for me to adapt to different environments and relate to many of the people and communities I serve through my job,” she said. “I’m one of the few Spanish speakers and the only Portuguese speaker in my division and since we work globally, I am well positioned and competent to complete assignments in many parts of the world.”

Alejandro Renteria is a recent college graduate. He is the first in his family to graduate from college.

He said graduating was not easy, but others helped him ultimately reach his dreams.

Renteria said he lived in two very different cultures at school and at home. However, he said this is a positive in regards to his career aspirations.

“As a lawyer I see the benefit of speaking Spanish because I will be able to reach twice the number of people,” he said. “I can bridge the gap between many individuals because of my multinational background.”

For 4-year-old Emilio and Santiago, they have many years ahead until they realize their parents provided a path for them to become diverse not only culturally, but also linguistically.

Coaches making an impact on and off the field

By Antonio Morales

Coaches have a very profound impact on many young men and women’s lives. The wisdom they impart can last with one of their athletes for a lifetime.

For some children, coaches almost serve as another parental figure in their life as they receive guidance and lessons from their instructor.

The role of coach entails much more than coaching, though. Coaches serve as a role models, teachers, counselors, leaders, disciplinarians and parental figures.

John Singer has been the head basketball coach at Helix High School for nearly the last 30 years and realizes how many roles he plays in the lives of his players.

“It’s all the stuff. You have to be coach, counselor, teacher, father, mother, everything to a high school kid,” Singer said.

Helix High School head basketball coach John Singer describes the ins and outs of his job, the challengers and how much longer he’ll stay on the sidelines.

Connecting with players

In order for most coaches to be successful, they need to connect with players and ride the same wavelength.

But riding that wave is difficult for some coaches to do. Not everyone is able to put their finger on the pulse of their team, but if they do, coaches earn the respect of their athletes.


Tim Sullivan, a columnist for UT-San Diego, has had run-ins with some successful collegiate and professional coaches in his time as a journalist. He’s encountered Hall of Fame football coach Paul Brown and Hall of fame basketball coach Bobby Knight. He’s covered teams coached by Marty Schottenheimer and Steve Fisher on a regular basis, too.

Sullivan said there are a number of ways styles coaches use in order to be successful in communicating with their players.

“Some try to intimidate their players,” Sullivan said. “Some are calculated and make strong impressions. But they all communicate well and don’t allow things to get monogamous. There’s a risk to losing people’s attention. There is some art in it. They have to have a feel for how much (players) can absorb, learn and take in.”

If a coach fails to effectively connect with his or her players then they’re danger of losing their team, which could lead to a coach losing his job.


Many challenges come along with the position.

Coaching takes a lot of time and effort both mentally and physically. The job is a grind and it can eat away at time from with the family. Running a team, whether it be little league, high school, college or professional requires is a heavy burden to carry.

Ryan Schuler, who has covered San Diego State men’s basketball for The Daily Aztec and will be sports editor at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, realizes what the amount of work coaches put into their job.

“Say you have 13 players on a team,” Schuler said. “It’s like you have 13 children you have to watch out for, make sure they’re not getting in trouble, not going to parties and getting arrested or anything, it’s added responsibility on top of family.”

Even when coaches aren’t on the job, they still think about their team at almost all hours of the day.

“You’re always thinking about your team, whether it’s summer, fall, winter,” Singer, of Helix High, said. “It’s always in your head. It’s just that you physically can’t do anything because you’ve got another priority little bit higher at that time.”

More than winning

Coach giving a post-practice speech

Chase gives his players a speech after a two-hour practice.

Damon Chase, who is the athletic director at Helix High School, coaches his son’s little league teams.

It’s not something he planned on doing, but after seeing some subpar coaching, he decided to get involved.

The success of a coach ultimately depends on if he or she wins enough games and they are deemed as a success or failure based on their ability to do so. But the truth is coaches can impact the lives of the people they coach in more ways than by just teaching mechanics.

Chase recognizes this need and tries to make sure he does with his teams.

“I think there’s more to coaching, more to teaching than just winning a little league game,” Chase said. “I think those type of things benefit kids down the road.”

Little league coach Damon Chase gives insight into why he chose to become a little league coach, how it is to coach is sons and what he tries to teach his players.

Pacific Beach has the highest crime in all the beach communities

By Rachel Perkins

Sunset at La Jolla Beach

Photo by: Rachel Perkins

Southern California is known for the beaches, sunshine and near-perfect weather, and San Diego is no exception. San Diego has 70 miles of beaches traveling from by the border at Imperial Beach to San Onofre State beach. There are 19 beaches in San Diego, ranging from beaches for tourists and families, to people wanting to get a drink, to even having beaches for dogs.

There are many people who visit the beaches of San Diego and help keep the police and lifeguards busy.

One of the beach communities in San Diego that attracts a younger crowd is the Pacific Beach, Mission Beach and South Mission areas.

The different types of lifestyles are a part of the reason why the crime is different in the beach communities up and down the coast.
“Pacific Beach is a thriving life, vibrant, going out lifestyle and Ocean Beach is more of an ‘organic’ or hippie lifestyle,” said Lt. Andra Brown, a Police Department spokeswoman.

One resident, who calls himself “Trader” lives the Ocean Beach lifestyle.

Trader comes to Ocean Beach during the winter season. He picks up copper from the roadways and he sells them to the people in Ocean Beach

Crime statistics show  Pacific Beach had the highest crime rate from all the other San Diego beach communities last year, totaling 1,893.

A few of Pacific Beach crime statistics from January 2011 to December 2011:

  • 14 rapes
  • 14 armed robberies
  • 38 strong armed robberies
  • 149 aggravated assaults
  • A total of 1,065 larceny thefts

The total crime in Ocean Beach last year was 537.

A few of  Ocean Beach crime statistics from January  2011 to December 2011:

  • 2 rapes
  • 8 armed robberies
  • 13 strong armed robberies
  • 91 aggravated assaults
  • A total of 257 larceny thefts

“Also, Pacific Beach is a larger community than Ocean Beach and that makes for more crime, says Brown. There is more parking, a lot more activity, more tourists who come to Pacific Beach and that makes for more potential for problems.”

The police has more police  patrolling the Pacific, Mission and South Mission areas.

“To put it in perspective, said Brown the police department has three beach teams to patrol the beach goers in the Pacific and Mission Beach areas, while O.B only has one.”

Even though there is more potential for crime in Pacific Beach, that doesn’t stop the party goers from a having a good time.

“I know the reputation of the Mission Beach and Pacific Beach areas. But the only crime that I have witnessed is people drinking too much and getting into fights. I feel though, that can happen at any bar in San Diego”, said Mission beach visitor Tiffanie Sojourner.

Pacific, Ocean, Mission beach communities were one of the last beaches to ban alcohol.

La Jolla, which is more known for being a “family friendly” beach, banned alcohol more than 20 years ago.

“The alcohol ban in La Jolla has been in place for years so people are used to going to La Jolla for family outings, while the ban for Pacific Beach areas has only been in place since 2008, said Brown.”

Roberta Burnette, La Jolla Beach visitor, takes her children to La Jolla because it is a family atmosphere.

Roberta Burnette has been coming to La Jolla Shore since she was a little girl. Now 20 years later, she takes her children because it is a safe and kid friendly beach.

Alcohol increases water rescues

The number of lifeguards on duty depends on the season and the geographical distance of the beach. The busiest times for lifeguards are during the summer.

“During the peak season La Jolla Shores, including Scripps can have anywhere from 10 to 12 lifeguards on duty, says Lifeguard Lt. Andy Lerum. Pacific Beach, which is Santa Clara to Crystal Pier can have anywhere from 15 to 18.”

Some of the water rescues in Pacific Beach are due to alcohol.

Alcohol impairs people’s judgment. Since the ban on alcohol in 2008 people walk into the water after consuming alcohol from a bar and they are not able to swim as well, says Lerum.

In La Jolla, the rescues are mostly due to water conditions.

There are far more drinking rescues in La Jolla says Lerum. Most of the rescues are due to rip tides and currents.

Changes in journalism present opportunities and challenges for reporters in San Diego

By Samantha Tollin

NBC's Jason Austell and Marianne Kushi at the anchor desk

Jason Austell and Marianne Kushi anchor NBC San Diego’s morning show daily from 5-7 a.m.

Before the Internet and social media existed, people had very few ways of getting news. There were traditional print newspapers, radio and other small news outlets.

However, with the emergence of the World Wide Web and social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, journalism has developed an entirely new purpose. Now, most news outlets have an online presence, which has slowly eliminated the tradition of print journalism.

According to Pew Research Center, “Specifically, among local news enthusiasts under age 40, the internet is the preferred source for eight of the 16 topics asked about, including:

  • Local restaurants, clubs and bars
  • Other local businesses
  • Schools and education
  • Local politics
  • Jobs
  • Housing
  • Arts and cultural events
  • Community or neighborhood events

Many reporters, photographers and other journalists have been laid off due to the unpredictable changes seen in journalism. This doesn’t mean journalism is diminishing or on the path to non-existence.

Journalism will never die

Former reporter for Voice of San Diego, Adrian Florido, was laid off from his position at the nonprofit news organization, but quickly got picked up by the public broadcasting station, KPBS within a short time period. Since he was hired, he has been covering border issues and now has his own radio segment. Florido says the change to broadcast has been challenging but rewarding.

KPBS border reporter Adrian Florido talks about the importance of journalism and his experience working at the Fronteras desk at KPBS.

Jill Steeg, former sports writer for USA Today and Sports Illustrated, says she can’t wait for what journalism has in store for the upcoming years. Even Facebook doesn’t know what’s in store for the future. Facebook has become one of the dominant sources for news in the past years. “More than twice as many digital news consumers follow news recommendations from Facebook than follow them from Twitter,” according to Pew Research Center.

Social media is changing the way people get the news, but even social media platforms are changing rapidly.

“My friend who is a social media guru was on the phone with Facebook last week and they said, ‘we’ll call you back in a couple days because the world will have changed by then,’” Steeg said.

Changes call for new skills

Journalists nowadays have to possess as many skills as possible—that’s the only way they are going to succeed in the industry. The days of having multiple reporters and photographers are over. Many journalists now are a ‘one man band.’

Adrian Florido at his desk editing segment

Adrian Florido using Final Cut Pro to edit audio tracks for the KPBS radio segment.

“I think its an exciting time for journalism. You have to constantly educate and update and almost reinvent yourself to stay up with all the technology,” Steeg said.

Bye-bye conventional media

With the emergence of technology, it can be very difficult to run a publication distributed once a day. People want news instantaneously, as seen in Twitter and other social media platforms.
“I never thought I would get all my news on Twitter. I don’t even go to websites anymore. It’s an adventure. A lot of conventional forms of media are struggling to keep up,” Steeg said.

Dagny Salas, web editor for Voice of San Diego, says she has to constantly reassess her tasks, as they are always shifting.

“As a web editor, I manage a lot of different tasks at the same time and I am constantly busy. I have gotten really good at juggling different things and constantly reassessing my tasks. It’s a challenge but it’s fun,” Salas said.

Journalism is a risky business

It’s extremely important that journalists take risks and educate themselves constantly on the new forms of media.  Senior vice president of communications at LTE Media Group, Paul Taylor, stresses the passion journalists need in order to succeed.

“With the advent of technology, most things we read in today’s newspaper are no longer new. Journalists have to be on their toes today in a more expeditious fashion than ever before with the rapidly changing world of technology,” Taylor said.

There is no “cookie-cutter” journalist lifestyle, but many journalists love not knowing what’s going to come next. This is an exciting time for journalists.

“Change can be hard but that doesn’t mean it’s bad,” Salas said.

Jason Austell, NBC San Diego morning anchor, is an example of a journalist who is extremely passionate about what he does and loves the rush of starting his early day with his viewers.

NBC San Diego morning anchor Jason Austell has been at the station for eight years. He has a passion for broadcast journalism and this has shown during his time as an anchor.

The artisan lifestyle: Turning passion into paychecks

By Nichole Naoum

Up until recently, art was considered a pastime, not a prospective career choice. Ideally, the odds of someone becoming a successful artist were often against them. One reason being that the creative industry is a competitive one. While many of them may be talented, only a few earn enough to support themselves.


About 63-percent of the artists in the US are self-employed, according to Collegegrad.com. “The median annual earnings of salaried fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, equated to $38,060 in 2010, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $14,740.”

Self-employed sculptor, John Marin, says that fierce competition is expected for both salaried jobs and freelance work in any art-related field.  “The number of eligible workers exceeds the number of available openings because the arts attract many talented people. However, the field is rapidly transforming, which is most likely a good thing” he says.

Outdoor art exhibit in the Spanish Village in Balboa Park

The Spanish Village in Balboa Park often hosts events featuring local artists. Here, painters and sculptors are given the chance to showcase their pieces and interact with customers.

New media, new careers

Marin agrees that the recent wave of new media has given birth to new art forms. Not only has the definition of art widened, but the career opportunities for those who consider themselves artists have as well. Here are a few modern day job options that require some creative professional experience:

-Graphic Designer: They are responsible for developing concepts to meet the client’s needs, in addition to keeping up to date with emerging design programs such as Adobe, FreeHand, and Dreamweaver.
-Animator: Producing animation involves a wide range of tasks that stretch from creating storyboards to mastering the use technical software packages like Flash and Lightwave.
-Photographer: Work activities vary according to their employer. However, common tasks for most include conducting research before carrying out a shoot and keeping up to date with industry trends.

Muna Andraws has been a freelance graphic designer for over 15 years and specializes in creating advertisements and logos for local businesses.

“I see graphic design as the lovechild of art and technology. It lets me communicate my ideas more clearly than if I was to do it on paper. After all, art is much easier to producer on a computer screen,” she says.
Even with the multimedia revolution sweeping across the art world, there still are those who prefer conventional methods.

Original works by Patricia Lyerson

These pieces were created by Art Glass Guild member, Patricia Lyerson. She has dedicated more than 20 years of her life to the craft of glass-blowing.

The art of using your hands

Art Glass Guild member, Patricia Lyerson, says that, “I feel like real art is messy and should be done with your hands. Computers and gadgets take all of the fun out of creating.”

While Lyerson favors experimenting with physical materials to produce her artwork, she acknowledges the advantage digital artists have over traditional artists. Ultimately, job opportunities will be the best over the next ten years for art and design students who have completed some type of commercial art or product development program, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This slideshow highlights the work of local glass-blowing artist and instructor, Patricia Lyerson. She is a long-time member of the San Diego Art Glass Guild and volunteers in the glass-blowing studio in Balboa Park once a month.

The changing definition of art

Essentially, contemporary art has become more about the concept than the finished product itself. It is now about the merging of the old and the new. Even if the meaning of art has changed for better or worse, it is changing and changing fast. Whether it’s made through brush strokes or still photos, it is still meant to tell a story and tell it well.

Raquel Azhocar is an SDSU student and self-proclaimed collage artist. She uses the outdoors as inspiration for her artwork.

Now adults, youth violence survivors strive to make sure their experiences aren’t repeated

By Jennifer Bowman

An average of 16 people between the ages of 10 and 24 were murdered everyday in 2007, according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Johanna Orozco was almost one of them.

That same year, her abusive teenage boyfriend shot her in the face after she accused him of raping her. She was 17 years old at the time.

She spent the next six weeks recovering in a hospital, where her doctors had to build her a new jaw out of a piece of bone from her leg.

But her recovery didn’t stop there. She needed to make sure no one else had to experience the same kind of horrific event.

Now, Orozco is making efforts to educate young people to prevent others from becoming victims. She is not alone. Other adults who were once involved in youth violence have stepped up to serve as a voice and a mentor.

No longer is the high school experience just about puberty, dance formals and teenage crushes. To many, it’s about coping with dysfunctional families, juggling the temptations of drug and alcohol use or living with poverty in their communities – dealing with real-life issues that often lead to youth violence.

But even young people without the common risk factors can fall into youth violence, said Emilio Ulloa, professor of psychology at San Diego State University.

“Yes, there are risk factors for victimization,” he said, “but the fact is that the phenomenon cuts across many social and economic categories.”

Neighborhood war zones: Gang violence becomes part of life for children early in some communities

Eric King once ran the streets of southeastern San Diego as a gang member — a lifestyle that often dominates the community. Now, as a youth mentor, he’s telling local children they don’t have to do the same.

For Eric King, even a tight-knit family couldn’t hide the attractiveness of street life.

“When it came to getting money or taking the easy out, I ended up turning to gangs because I saw these guys with the money and the cars, not knowing that someone had to go through something to have those things,” he said.

Photo of former gang member and youth mentor Eric King

Eric King, a one-time gang member with southeastern San Diego’s Skyline gang, continues to live in his childhood neighborhood as a youth mentor.

Gang activity has long been an issue in King’s neighborhood in southeastern San Diego. There, rival neighborhoods have labeled themselves with colors and have plagued their communities with the not-so-flattering reputation of being ridden by gang violence. Members of the Skyline gang wear red; Lincoln Park wears green.

The neighborhoods are so plagued by gang violence that a popular intersection in the community has been popularly nicknamed the “Four Corners of Death.”

Because many community members are deeply involved, gang life is often ingrained in families and children are quickly inducted into the culture at an early age.

Gang Violence Statistics“Just knowing [gang members] affects you,” King said. “It gives them the chance to say something to you.”

In 2007, 28 San Diegans were killed in a gang-related murder. Most of them were under 30 years old – and some were under the age of 18.

Homicide is the second leading cause of death for people between 10 and 24 years old, according to the CDC.

While there has been a drop in the number of homicides in San Diego County, other crimes haven’t seen the same effect. There continue to be hikes in the number of gang-related assaults and car thefts. Meanwhile, the cost of incarcerating a gang member in California is about $43,000 a year.

Photo of San Diego Police Department sign

Southeastern San Diego have long been plagued by an unfavorable reputation — its neighborhoods are best known for its active gang culture and violent crimes.

But for those seeking to get out of the gang life, it is possible, said King. He knows from experience.

“Gangs nowadays, it‘s not the same like it used to be,” he said. “It’s not like, unless you die out you can’t get out. For me, I just changed my life and changed my movements. And people respect that.”

King continues to live in his Skyline neighborhood and is now a youth mentor. To stop gang violence, the entire community — including residents of neighborhoods not usually afflicted by gang violence – needs to get involved, he said.

“Everyone should do what they can when we have a problem,” said King. “We all have to live in the same world.”

Puppy love gone wrong: Dating violence affects one-tenth of US high school students

Dating Violence StatisticsOrozco’s attacker, Juan Ruiz, pleaded guilty in 2007. He is currently serving a 27-year prison sentence without eligibility for parole. He was 17 years old when he was convicted.

The couple weren’t dating during the time of the attack. Orozco had broken up with him a short time before in hopes of it being their final breakup.

“The most dangerous time, the point at which a person is at highest risk for death or serious harm, is immediately after choosing to leave an abusive relationship,” Ulloa said.

Now 23, Orozco works as a teen educator at the Domestic Violence and Child Advocacy Center in Ohio. She has played an instrumental role in getting two Ohio laws passed which aim to put a stop to domestic violence among teenagers.

She has moved on from the attack – in fact, she has been busily planning her wedding. It’s a long way from the days when her attacker told her no one would want her.

But it wasn’t easy, she said. After her attack, Orozco said she struggled with her self-esteem and was single for three years until she met her fiancé.

“What I did was, I set high standards for myself,” she said. “And I wasn’t going to settle for less.”

“I feel that every woman deserves that feeling,” Orozco said. “There is no greater feeling than to love yourself for who you are. We all can have that. We just need to stay strong and think positive. It isn’t always easy but in time it all gets better.”

Stopping before it starts: Prevention is key to ending youth violence, experts say

Elin Stebbins Waldal suffered through an abusive relationship as a teen. Years later, she gathered the courage to bring her story forward. Now the dating violence survivor is using her experience to help young people — including her children — stay away from violent relationships.

On every anniversary of the attack, Orozco celebrates it as a “rebirth day,” she said.

“It is a day of survival and it has made me the person I am today, thanks to God,” said Orozco. “I do have my days when I get flashbacks or nightmares, but I have many family and friends that are always there for me.”

Having people close to you is a part of stopping youth violence, experts say.

“Prevention is the key,” Ulloa said. “And the key to prevention is a multi-level, multi-method approach that is comprehensive and involves teens, parents, teachers, and other school officials.”

Other experts suggest strong collaboration between high-level leadership and the community to help prevent gang violence.

“San Diego is a caring community,” said Lynn Sharpe-Underwood, executive director of the city‘s commission on gang prevention and intervention. “Many folks come together to respond to the concerns about our work on the issues of gang prevention and have indicated various ways that they care about all the youth in our community.

“Neighborhoods are part of San Diego. What impacts any neighborhood affects us in our community.”

What may be most key, however, is caring – and making young people are aware of that.

“There is a bright and happy life ahead of them,” said Orozco. “My advice is not to be afraid to speak out and get help. They are not alone. There are people who care and want to help them through their situation.”

Ramona: Living in the Valley of the Sun

By Rea Stowell

Ramona: Living in the Valley of the Sun

Ramona countryside scenery

A view of Ramona’s countryside.

Ramona, also referred to as “The Valley of the Sun,” is a small unincorporated community in Southern California. More than 30,000 people have made this town their home, partly due to its unique location. Ramona is about 30 minutes from Julian, which tends to get a lot of snow in the colder months. It is also about a 30 minute drive from neighboring cities, such as Poway and Escondido. Most local beaches are about an hour drive, as is downtown San Diego and the U.S./Mexico border. Residents say they can literally have it all- snow, surf, city and more.

Lots of land

Other than the suburban feel Ramona has, there is also countryside. Many people have moved here because of the abundant amount of land they can own. Some families run their businesses off of their property. They have farms, orchards, dairies, ranches, and even emu farms.

The Pluss family have lived in Ramona for almost 20 years. In 1995, they began raising emus. Tyler Pluss works with his family on their emu farm in the outskirts of Ramona. They have 10 acres of land and house about 500 emus. The emus are used for the oil they produce.

“Emu oil can be used for a number of things,” Pluss said. “It can relieve sunburns, sore muscles, scars, rashes, burns, and can also keep your skin looking younger and healthy.”

The Pluss family got lucky during the Cedar and Witch Creek fires. Because of their location, which is northeast of town where a lot of land is, the fires were a threat to their home and emus. But not only did their house survive, but they also didn’t lose any emus to the fires.

“They are some tough birds,” Pluss said.

Tyler’s brother Travis also works on the emu farm. Travis has lived in Ramona since he was five and talks about the other aspects of what it’s like to live there.

San Diego Country Estates Association

About 10 minutes east from the center of town lies the San Diego Country Estates, a subdivision of Ramona. Janice Baldridge has lived in the Country Estates for 36 years. She is also the editor of the San Vicente Valley News, a newspaper which is specifically written for the estates community.

“The San Vicente Valley News was implemented 19 years ago to communicate the financials to homeowners,” Baldridge said. “It has evolved into a resource for articles and pictures about what is going on in the community.”

Baldridge said while the country estates were originally thought to be a retirement community.

But it now supports two elementary schools “within the 3,000 plus acre piece of breathtaking country,” Baldridge said.

There are many reasons why people choose to live in the estates.

“Golfers love San Vicente Golf Course, hikers love the myriad of trails right out their back door and we can’t leave out the horse enthusiasts that keep both of our equestrian centers at capacity,” Baldridge said.

But those aren’t the only reasons.

“The people who have chosen and are choosing SDCEA to be their home is for the overall community,” she said.

Coming home to Ramona

Ramona resident Brynne Plett

Ramona resident, Brynne Plett, holds a chicken on one of the many farms in Ramona.

Brynne Plett has lived many places, including Poway, Ramona, and even Grand Junction in Colorado. She said even though she originally grew up in Escondido, Ramona always felt like home to her.

“I was always moving around. But every time I came back to Ramona, I felt like I was escaping the rest of the world. That especially felt like the case when I worked down the hill. I could leave it all behind by coming home.”

Plett said while she felt restless living in Ramona when she was younger, she’s realized it’s the kind of place she would want to settle down.

“It’s safe and quiet. Everybody knows one another and people here all give each other a hand. It really feels like a big family.”

Ramona Municipal Water District

Another unique aspect about Ramona is that its main governing body is the Ramona Municipal Water District. Not only is the district involved in making sure the town has water, but it also runs the fire department, parks and recreation, and wastewater operations.

An interesting fact about Ramona’s water is that it’s transported from the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve, which is near Lake Poway. Because the water needs to be pumped uphill and to town for people to receive it, the cost can run quite high.

The general population relies on most of this water as do the many farm and ranch owners. However, some of Ramona’s population are able to survive on well water which comes in handy during emergency situations.

Entrepreneurial scene in San Diego small, but may be heating up

Downtown San Diego's skyline from Coronado Island.

Downtown San Diego, the city’s business hub, may soon have more small, local and tech-based businesses than large, international corporations.

By Matt Salwasser

America’s Finest City is widely known for several different cultures, most of those being related to surfing, bio technology and the military. Small, venture capital-based startup companies are most often correlated with Palo Alto and Silicon Valley in the north, but in the wake of the economic recession, San Diego may have an emerging entrepreneurial industry.

“I definitely see some things changing in San Diego,” Aaron Fulkerson, co-founder and CEO of MindTouch, a self-help service for tech companies, said. “I see way more (entrepreneurial) activity than I ever have,” he said.

Fulkerson, an entrepreneur in his own right, came from Microsoft in 2005 and began addressing a problem companies were having of not being able to document inner technical information. He and his co-founder, Steve Bjorg launched MindTouch in 2006 and turned it into a business in 2008 when they realized it was one of the top five open source projects in the world.

“We made our first million bucks that year,” Fulkerson said.

While Fulkerson and Bjorg were finding success at the beginning of the economic downturn, San Diego State University alum Wesley Keegan was launching his company, TailGate Beer, finding a way to establish business credit and with the help of credit cards. Now in his fifth year of brewing craft hefeweizens and blonde ales, Keegan notes the abundance of information in San Diego when starting a business.

“You gotta be willing to spend a lot of different money and a lot of different time on resources,” he said. “There are resources available if you’re willing to do it.”

The Hive building in downtown San Diego.

The Hive building at 770 11th Ave. in downtown San Diego has become a hot spot for entrepreneurship and idea-sharing thanks to its communal vibe.

Keegan specifically cited Score’s San Diego branch and La Jolla-based Connect.

Score is a consulting company for small businesses, and according to its website, connect.org, Connect is “a regional program that catalyzes the creation of innovative technology and life sciences products in San Diego County by linking inventors and entrepreneurs with the resources they need for success” since 1985.

Others, like Michel Kripalani, president of Encinitas-based Oceanhouse Media, Inc., are also broadening San Diego’s tech scene. Oceanhouse Media is an app-based digital publishing company focusing mainly on children’s stories such as Dr. Seuss or The Berenstain Bears book series.

Kripalani said in an email that Oceanhouse, like the others, was launched within the last four years, his being bootstrapped in 2009. Much like Keegan, Kripalani noted myriad resources San Diegans can use to jumpstart their company.

“There’s a lot of high tech in town,” he wrote. “There’s a lot of people that know how to write code and do great graphic design. In many ways it is a blessing that we don’t have the same type of competitive issues that you have in the Bay Area.”

But Kripalani also notes how thanks to the Internet, how geographically unrestricted his business is.

“For us, it’s not about what the business in San Diego is like,” he wrote. “It’s about what the business in the world is like. We sell worldwide. We happen to be in San Diego and we love it, but the business climate in San Diego is almost irrelevant to us on a day to day basis.”

Jason Weinert comments on starting his own company and being his own boss at Innovative Sports Network.

Fulkerson might say something similar.

He said he came to San Diego to start his company because of the weather – not the venture capital scene – and is in the Bay Area about two days a week.

While he doesn’t see much interest in venture capital in San Diego, he maintains things may be heating up.

“(The job scene) is forming in a way I’ve never seen it form before,” he said, adding he believes making San Diego into its own tech-scene is definitely a possibility.

Zak Kronick talks about working at a new advertising firm, 3D Ad Net, which specializes in 3D advertising without 3D glasses.

Chaldean youth devote life to community and refugees

By Jennifer Meram

A new convent and seminary within St. Peter’s Chaldean Catholic Diocese has young men and women devoting their lives to the church, as well as helping new Iraqi refugees.

The Seminary of Mar Abba the Great and the Workers of the Vineyard Convent, are two new establishments created in recent years at St. Peter’s Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in East County, San Diego. Both institutions allow men and women to pursue the religious life, devoting their lives to God while giving back to the local community. Currently with 4 seminarians and 6 women in the convent, the seminary and convent create and lead youth retreats, hold bible studies, have tutoring programs for refugees, run a Chaldean media center, and manage a Saturday church school for low-income refugees.

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigrant Services, approximately 19,910 Iraqi refugees have come to the U.S. from the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003 to February, 2009. Iraqi Christian refugees have immigrated to San Diego, where a large community live in East County with Chaldean Catholic churches serve as the center of their community. Fr. Michael Bazzi, pastor of St. Peter’s Cathedral, said there are close to 50,000 Chaldeans living in El Cajon, the second most concentrated city with Chaldeans in the United States next to Detroit.

Devoting a Life to God and Church

David Stephen, a 20-year old Chaldean Catholic seminarian at Mar Abba the Great Seminary, came to this country when he was 10-years old. He said he relates to the struggles and hardships refugees today face, and wants to be able to help them adjust to a new lifestyle–a reason why he wants to devote his life to the church and the Chaldean community.

“It’s hard to come to a new country where you don’t even know the language,” said Stephen. “God has a calling for me, and I know he wants me to help these newcomers and teach them what I’ve learned through the years.”

Sr. Miskenta Mariam, the Mother Superior of the Workers of the Vineyard, said that new Chaldean refugees often times don’t have much after they flee from Iraq. Most suffer from religious persecution and have trouble adjusting to society. Sr. Miskenta said that the Chaldean community is a family where everyone helps each other in times of need.

“We all have a calling. Mine so happens to be the religious life,” said Sr. Miskenta. “I realize it’s not for everyone, but helping the community and serving the church makes me happier than I’ve ever been. These refugees need help, and I’m able to help them more than I ever could by being in the convent.”
Sr. Miskenta will take her final vow for a life of obedience to the diocese and the bishop on Thursday, May 10th, at only 25-years old. She hopes that the convent will be able to start a new school using the church’s facilities to educate and assist Chaldean refugees and the youth in the community.

Helping a Family

Other organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus and Ladies of Hope, also assist in fundraising money and supporting Chaldean refugees. Every Friday at St. Peter’s Cathedral, donations from St. Peter’s congregation and other churches in the diocese, pay for mattresses and blankets to be distributed to those in need. Refugees also seek help from other non-profit organizations, such as Catholic Charities, as well as the government.