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Farmers’ markets on the rise

By Kaitlen Daigle

To help combat her husband’s allergies, Kim Winslow went in search of honey at her local farmers’ market. Since local honey contains local pollen, she said, ingesting it in small amount helps build up an immunity.

It’s just one of many reasons people cite for visiting local farmers’ markets. And their popularity appears to be growing.

“I like that they have a lot of fresh produce that they pick more recently than at the grocery store, and they usually have samples so you can try out the fruit, usually the fruit, to see if it’s sweet,” Winslow said.

Farmers’ markets are full of products that are unique to the region. Many people go to their local farmers’ market to get fresh produce straight from the farmer. Between 2006 and 2014, the number of farmers’ markets in United States grew 180 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“In the last couple years it has definitely picked up its popularity,” said Mitchell Winnick, RFB Family Farm farmer. “When we first started, it was kind-of out of the ordinary, you didn’t want to tell people you went to it.”

The largest number of farmers’ markets in the U.S. – 764 – are located in California, according to the USDA’s 2014 National Farmers Market Directory.

In the early 1990s, there were only half a dozen markets in the county. Now, there are about 70, said Mike Manchor, Rex Ranch farmer and manager of the Rancho Bernardo Farmers Market.

Suzie’s farm, the largest farm in San Diego at 140 acres, allows customers to pick their own produce, including strawberries, beets or other produce that is in season.

“I know at the grocery store there’s also organic stuff but it’s nice to find your own and pick the sizes and colors,” said Samantha Flores, a Suzie’s Farm customer.

The owners of the farm, Robin and Lucila, are really passionate and excited about being able to feed their community, Suzie’s Farm farmers’ marketer Kayla DeLucia said.

“Just getting to walk through the fields with so many people there coming to pick their own food is a really fun experience,” she said.

Customers can find Suzie’s Farm’s produce at local farmers’ markets and their farm stand. Suzie’s Farm also participates in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a subscription-based program that allows customers to receive farm-picked produce on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

There are 12 other farms that also participate in CSA in San Diego County, according to the San Diego Farm Bureau.

Farmers’ markets, farm stands and CSA are the most common ways to buy local.

“I absolutely love talking to so many different people and getting to promote the farm and talk about produce and where it comes from,” DeLucia said.

Most of the farms in San Diego County, however, are not as large as Suzie’s Farm. Sixty-five percent of San Diego County’s farmers operate on small family farms, harvesting on nine acres or less, according to the San Diego Farm Bureau.

RFB Family Farm provides local, raw honey to the community by selling at four different farmers’ markets. They partner with other small farms to sell produce and eggs, as well.

“With our farm, we have bees so our bees kind-of flow everywhere but if you count the acreage that we keep the bees on it’s about 10 acres,” Winnick said.

The top three organic crops in the San Diego area are avocados, Valencia oranges and lemons, according to the County of San Diego Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures.

“Mostly, I have 1,500 trees, about 1,200 of them are all avocado. Everything else is citrus or macadamia nut,” Manchor said.

Seventy percent of consumers nationwide said that their purchase decisions are affected by how food is grown and raised, according to a survey by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.

“I like that they have a lot of fresh produce that they pick more recently than at the grocery store and they usually have samples so you can try out the fruit, usually the fruit, to see if it’s sweet,” Winslow said.

“Just by being here and basically providing the vegetables here and actually eating it myself, I could just taste the difference in something I’d get at the store compared to something here at the farm because it is organic and it is fresh,” said Fe Hernandez, a Suzie’s Farm tour guide and farm stand worker.

The majority of organic produce grown in San Diego County is sold to wholesalers, who in turn sell it to markets across the U.S. Part of the produce is sold directly to local restaurants and natural food stores.

Farmers who market food directly to consumers have a greater chance of reporting positive sales than those who market through traditional channels, according to the 2007 and 2012 U.S. census data.

“A packing house would give you like 20 cents on the dollar for an item I could sell a lot more here,” Manchor said. “So my advice for farmers is to stay away from the packing houses. Farmers’ markets will give you the best price for your crops.”

Produce for wholesalers are harvested before they are ripe and stored for long periods of time before distribution. Non-local fruits and vegetables tend to be chosen for their yield, not for flavor, diversity or nutritional value.

“I think people are learning that they can get healthy, good food at a market,” Winnick said. “They can get it fresher. They can get what they are looking for, in season and local from the actual farmer.”

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Complexity of homelessness persists in North Park

By Vassili Demos

Robert Doran once had an idyllic life.

A San Diego State University graduate and lifelong San Diegan, he was the general manager of a water company in Santee for seven years. For 12 years before that, he worked at General Dynamics making cruise missiles. For a time, he even owned a bar in La Mesa.

Then, it all fell apart. He fell on financial hard times and slipped into drug addiction. Eventually, he lost his home, his wife and began living on the streets in North Park.

“I had a good life,” Doran, 59, said. “It just all of a sudden was like the carpet got pulled out from under me.”

Doran is not alone. Homelessness has been a part of North Park for many years, and Edwin Lohr, President of the North Park Community Association, believes it’s getting worse.

San Diego’s pleasant weather and a push from other cities to move homeless people out of their communities are reasons why the homelessness persists here, Lohr explained.

“For many years we did ignore it, but I think we’ve got to find out the root of why there is homelessness here,” Lohr said. “I believe that is one of the biggest challenges our government officials have to take into consideration.”

In October 2015, North Park leaders and police held a community forum to address the homeless problem in their community. Six months later, the problem persists.

Jessica Lawrence, City of San Diego Budget and Finance Committee Consultant, acknowledged development in downtown San Diego has led to a migration of homeless people to neighborhoods like North Park.

Ariel Walker, a former homeless person, knows first hand why people stay in North Park. People and police are generally sympathetic to the homeless population there. She added that she believes it’s because North Park, situated to the northeast of Balboa Park, is a comfortable place.

San Diego had a population of 8,742 homeless people in 2015, placing the coastal city fourth for largest population of homeless people in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in their Annual Homeless Assessment Report.

The report also shows both San Diego city and county have 1,981 homeless people who comprise families with children.

Both San Diego city and county ranked fifth in the nation with 12.3 percent of homeless people who are unsheltered – those who sleep somewhere not intended for human residence. And that number is on the rise, Lawrence said.

The study also found San Diego ranked third for largest population of homeless veterans. San Diego also has the sixth largest population of chronically homeless people in the nation.

Someone who understands the struggles the homeless face is Melissa Peterman, Director of Homeless Housing Innovations at the San Diego Housing Commission.

San Diego’s high cost of living and its notorious expensive housing compound the  problem. Peterman says it’s very difficult to find homes for people who have bad credit histories, no prior rental experience and who can’t afford to rent a home or apartment in an extremely competitive rental market.

Walker, for example, attributes her homelessness to her not being able to afford rent in the city.

Doran said once someone become homeless, it becomes especially difficult to get back on track.

“Who wants to hire a 59-year-old guy? What do I do? Go to Walmart and greet people at the front door,” he said. “I’m lost right now.”

The sheer number of homeless people in the area is daunting.

“The reality is we don’t have enough funding from the federal government to house everybody,” Lawrence said. “We don’t have enough available units to house the over 8,000 homeless on the streets in the county.”

It’s important to understand that homelessness is always going to exist, Lawrence argues.

“You’re never going to stop somebody from falling on their luck one day, losing their job, having an incident happen to them that leads to their homelessness,” Lawrence said. “There is always going to be people that fall on hard times and wind up on the street.”

Sarah McCarthy, 23, was living in Reno, Nev., but was unhappy working a nine-to-five job. She then joined her friends in an adventure across the country. After that, their van broke down and she found herself stuck in San Diego.

“I’ve been stuck here between OB and North Park,” she said. “Haven’t really been able to get out.”

A local organization knows the pressures the homeless face all too well. Home Start, run by CEO Laura Tancredi-Baese, is focused on providing services to homeless mothers and children living in poverty.

“Some people choose to remain on the streets because of severe mental illness, bad experience with systems and some just prefer being independent on the streets,” Tancredi-Baese said.

Doran said he is better off on the streets than in a shelter. He said he grew weary of bed bugs and overcrowding. He also said he can survive on his own and works together with his friends, who are also homeless.

“I live better where I’m at right now,” he said. “I’m out here. I’m surviving. I know how to survive.”

That mindset, combined with the good but sometimes flawed intentions of city officials can be frustrating, said North Park resident Paul Richardson.

“The city wants to help them, but some of the methods in which they do so are counterproductive,” Richardson said. “Sometimes their idea of helping is – OK, lets run them out of this area into another one.”

McCarthy said she was living in Ocean Beach, but the harassment from local residents and police pushed her to North Park.

“It got to a point where you couldn’t even sit down without being harassed, so I had to go to North Park,” McCarthy said. “The cops are pretty cool, a lot easier than OB.”

Anyone can experience homelessness, Peterman said. “Most folks are just a missed paycheck away, or an unforeseen medical expense away from being on the streets.”

Doran knows that reality well.

“I was sober for four years. I went to Escondido. We had two different rehabs for two years, and I got my life straight. I slipped and I ended up coming back down here. I’m back on the streets again,” he said. “I’m not happy about that.”

Pet-friendly invention has tails wagging

By Joseph Ciolino

An owner of a 60-pound dog might want to think twice before tying their pet to a patio chair outside a coffee shop. Simply put, once the dog sees a squirrel, there goes the chair.

There is a certain responsibility that comes with being a dog owner, and that includes keeping the dog, people and the community safe, said Brian Hoffman, a dog owner and boat repairman who came up with an idea that would give people an extra hand while out on the town with their pooches.

“I was walking, and I wanted to go into the convenience store, and I had to tie my dog up to a phone booth, and it was a precarious situation,” Hoffman said. “I thought: Why wouldn’t a business want a hitch outside for people walking their dogs?”

Hoffman’s answer was to invent a way for people to secure their dogs while they were out. He started developing dog hitches in 2013 by producing six prototypes and handing them out to local North Park businesses.

It became the starting point of his business, Doghook, which is exactly what it sounds like: a plate with a bended hook welded on top of it, with holes punched on the plate where screws with washers are used to hold the plate on a sturdy surface.

The plate can be placed on the outside or inside walls of businesses, on fences or any vertical surface, and patrons can simply secure the leash end on the hook. The hooks work with every type of leash, even the larger handles that are commonly seen with extractable leashes.

“I wanted to find something that was a little more fashionable and a more modern look in the shop,” said Cielo Mathis, owner of Paws and Whiskers Grooming and Retail.

According to Hoffman, multiple shock and weight tests have put the hooks to the test.

“There have been about 6,000 hooks made at this point and there’s never been a model that has failed,” Hoffman said. “You’d have to put 800 to 900 pounds [on the hook] to disfigure it and that just doesn’t happen.”

Indeed, safety was the main concern for Hoffman when he came up with the idea to develop the dog hitch; his main vision was keeping the dogs and the patrons safe while advocating for dog-friendly communities.

“There are lawsuits waiting to happen,” said Steve Yeng, owner of OB Noodle House in Ocean Beach. “A dog pulls an umbrella and hits somebody’s head and there’s a $10,000 lawsuit.”

Yeng and his family all own dogs, and he has made it a point to make OB Noodle House a place where people can bring their pets and feel comfortable. The Asian fusion bar and restaurant has about six dog hooks placed on poles in the outdoor dining area.

“I think already that it has been a great thing for the dog-friendly community,” Hoffman said. “There’s really sort of a swell of dog friendliness going around, and we want to be at the front of that.”

The hooks can be found all over San Diego, spanning to about 50 local businesses varying from bars, breweries, restaurants, coffee shops, hotels, schools and convenience stores.

“We really concentrated a lot on the beer culture, so there’s a lot in the breweries and tasting rooms,” Hoffman said. “I frequent various brewpubs and breweries in town with some regularity, and with my dogs, I simply wanted to make it safer and easier for myself and others to drink and dine with dogs.”

The Rabbit Hole in Normal Heights is a microbrewery that has outdoor seating with a wall facing the inside of the establishment. That wall is lined with Doghooks for customers to eat and drink with their dogs secured.

“Beer culture at its heart is a very casual, relaxed atmosphere,” said Steven Throop, general manager of The Rabbit Hole. “People think about drinking beer on their porches with their neighbor, and what’s more neighborly or more homey than having your dog with you?”

Aside from the beer scene, many veterinarians and groomers use the product as well.

Mathis has eight hooks spread throughout her pet-grooming parlor in Chula Vista, including hooks near the grooming stations, in the pet-holding areas and by the washing station. Previously, only crates and expandable gates were used in the parlor to secure dogs.

It wasn’t until a dog escaped when Mathis realized that safety takes priority and security had to be heightened in her parlor.

“It’s a great way to contain the dogs very easily and very quickly,” she said. “[Customers] love the idea that their dog doesn’t have to go in a crate, and the dogs like it too.”

Cielo’s Schnauzer, Buttons, usually hangs out at the front of the shop on her Doghook and comfortably watches her master groom the other dogs.

Hoffman has also sold his product to large companies that buy hundreds at a time, including Groomer’s Choice, a large catalog company that sells to dog groomers, and Red Cape Limited, another grooming distributor based in the United Kingdom.

One of the newer clients that Hoffman has been working with is the Canadian pet grooming product franchise known as Pet Edge.

“We’re selling them all across the board to all kinds of different people, businesses, wholesalers and distributors,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman has approached the bigger companies Petco and Petsmart but was not able to come to an agreement because of the high startup and monthly account system fees.

“It’s tough to get through with them,” he said. “Dealing with big companies – there’s a lot of expenses in the setting up of it, so I sort of backed away from doing that.”

Though the hooks are widely known, things have started to pick up for Hoffman. He has sold about 250 hooks internationally, nearly 5,000 domestically and plans to sell many more.

“It’s such a simple thing, and there’s so few ideas that haven’t been thought of yet,” Hoffman said. “With seven billion people you’d think somebody would’ve thought of this before.”

Barrio Logan finds balance between cultural preservation and anticipated renovation

Barrio Logan sign

The Barrio Logan sign, installed in December 2014, arches over César Chávez Parkway.

 

Chicano Park art

Chicano Park is filled with mural art that symbolizes the Barrio and Mexican-American history.

Located just south of downtown, Barrio Logan is one the most culturally and historically rich neighborhoods in San Diego.

With landmarks such as Chicano Park, the Barrio symbolizes much of the Mexican-American struggle in California. The San Diego Historical Site Board officially recognized the park, along with its murals, as a historic site in 1980. It will be celebrating its 45th birthday this year.

Due to the significance of its past, efforts to redevelop the Barrio typically have been met with resistance from residents; however, the community is trying to find a way to respect and preserve the Barrio’s culture and history amidst redevelopment.

The Barrio Logan Community Planning Group
In 2012, as a part of San Diego’s General Plan, the Barrio Logan Community Plan Update was developed and passed by the San Diego City Council. It was written to help encourage economic growth and redevelopment in the Barrio. The plan addressed transportation, zoning and redevelopment issues. The plan was controversial among industries in the Barrio. Enough signatures were collected by various industries and two propositions (B and C) were put on the 2014 primary election ballot. San Diegans voted the two measures down in the 2014 primary election. Currently, the original Barrio Logan Community plan is in effect.

Since the rejection of the plan, City Councilman David Alvarez has established the Barrio Community Planning Group — one of 42 community planning groups in San Diego. The groups exist to help advise the City Council in city planning and development. Alvarez asked members of the community to run the group. The group is supposed to serve as the Barrio’s official voice.

Architect Mark Steele, who has had an office in the Barrio, was asked by Alvarez to serve as the chair of the group. He says that he doesn’t necessarily have a vision for the group, but is dedicated to seeing that come out of its members.

“My strategy, rather, is to make sure that this group remains positive,“ Steele said. “When we make a statement, it’s a statement that has some unity and value to it so that the reputation of this group will build to the point where people will pay attention when we come out and take a position on something.”

Gentrification vs. “gente-fication”
Initial renovations to the Barrio focused on affordable housing for the community like the La Entrada Apartments and Los Vientos Apartments providing 85 and 89 units, respectively. The projects were completed by 2012.

Mercado del Barrio

The Estrella del Mercado apartments are located across the street from the Mercado del Barrio. The Mercado serves as a gathering place for all members of the community.

 

The Mercado del Barrio, located directly in the center of Barrio Logan alongside César Chávez Parkway and between Main Street and Newton Ave., makes up two city blocks. It includes a grocery store, restaurants and a plaza with a fountain. The Northgate-González Market is the Barrio’s first major local grocery store. The Mercado serves as a town square where residents are brought together to shop, eat and socialize.

When a lower-income community undergoes such an overhaul, the word gentrification becomes a part of the conversation.

Gentrification occurs when the redevelopment of a community raises property values and costs, thus displacing the current demographic. It is no wonder why gentrification holds a negative connotation in a culturally rich community like the Barrio.

“I don’t think [gentrification] is happening right now in Barrio Logan, there’s been one market rate development built in Barrio Logan in 10 to 15 years and those were condos built on the corner of National and Sigsbee,” Barrio Logan resident Brent Beltrán said. “Every housing development you see in Barrio Logan… is affordable housing complexes and so they are not market rate condos where a more affluent community is moving in.”

Beltrán, who regularly contributes to the online publication San Diego Free Press, also serves as the vice chair of the Barrio Logan Community Planning Group. Beltrán has been an active member of the community for more than two years.

Although Steele sees gentrification occurring, he has a slightly different view of what it means to the community.

“People are discovering the Barrio,” Steele said. “Most people I talk to, however, are interested in repurposing existing buildings and sort of fitting in with the community as opposed to changing the community.”

Derived from the Spanish word “gente,” Beltrán says some community members are referring to the recent changes as gente-fication rather than gentrification. Beltrán defines this as anything that provides something positive to the community or prompts residents to actively participate in the community.

“We want to ‘peoplefy’ this community,” Beltrán said. “It’s happening, we have these spaces opening up, art exhibits and breweries opening up, they’re playing an active role in the community.”

MULTIMEDIA: Brent Beltrán describes gentrification in the context of the community and Ranessa Ashton explains the significance of the new San Diego Continuing Education campus.

Infusing culture and construction
Gentrification remains a concern for a lot of the Barrio Logan community; however, one architect is proving that is possible to develop within a community without forcing people out and actually inviting people in.

In 2013, construction began on the new San Diego Continuing Education César Chávez campus — the campus is scheduled to open in the fall of 2015. The campus is located on the Southwest corner of Main Street and César Chávez Parkway, walking distance from the trolley station.

The parking structure for the campus is located two blocks northeast, it displays a mural of César Chávez and farm worker protests in California.

San Diego Continuing Education parking structure

The San Diego Continuing Education parking structure is located two blocks northeast of the campus.

 

The continuing education center will focus on adult education and will provide vocational training, like English as a second language classes. The center will also have programs for high school students in the community. The building incorporates symbols of Mayan, Aztec and Mexican culture in its composition.

As a part of the San Diego City College District, the $50 million project is being funded by construction bonds made possible by the passage of Propositions S in 2002 and N in 2006. What makes the campus so special is the architect who designed it and his vision for the campus as a part of the Barrio Logan community.

Joseph Martinez, president and principal architect at Martinez + Cutri, grew up in Logan Heights, a neighboring community to Barrio Logan. He attended University of California San Diego, where he got his bachelor’s degree, and went on to get his master’s degree in architecture from Harvard University in 1975.

As the lead architect on the project, Martinez is able to incorporate elements of his culture into the design of the building. He says his long-term vision for the Barrio is to maintain and promote its rich Latino heritage.

“The design focus was on authenticity, capturing the spirit of the culture and ancestry of the Mexican-American/Latino residents and, in turn, synthesizing an appropriate work of architecture,” Martinez said.

Redeveloping a community like the Barrio, and preserving the culture within it, can be difficult, but members of the community are seeing the recent changes as positive and  many residents are embracing it.

Military wives in San Diego: balancing diapers, duty and diplomas

In any marriage, work, children, sometimes school and the looming fear of divorce makes it difficult to have a happy, lasting marriage. For military wives, there is the added factor of having to manage a family almost entirely on their own.

Instead of enjoying a typical honeymoon stage, Alicia and Travis Treman will only see each other a few times during his two year deployment. Photo courtesy of Alicia Treman.

Instead of enjoying a typical honeymoon stage, Alicia and Travis Treman will only see each other a few times during his two year deployment.
Photo courtesy of Alicia Treman.

For most newly married couples, the honeymoon stage of marriage is the easiest part of entering a life-long union that will most likely hit bumps further down the road.

For many military wives in San Diego, however, the days meant to be spent with their new husbands are instead spent alone and waiting for their return.

“It was hard in the beginning and we had to learn to communicate better via emails, texts and the occasional FaceTime,” said Alicia Treman, the newly married wife of Navy Chief Travis Treman. “And now it’s still hard, but feels routine,”

Alicia’s husband was stationed in Japan in May 2013 and has since been home for a week this past August when the two were married and took a mini honeymoon. Travis is currently on deployment until May 2015. During the next two years, his wife will see him for only a few weeks at a time around holiday seasons.

Despite the distance and the atypical nature of their new marriage, Alicia remains optimistic about her husband’s return.

“Absolutely I wish we could have the normal ‘honeymoon stage’ of being married,” Alicia said. “Not having it makes me miss him that much more, but we can do it all over again and have the real honeymoon and the real honeymoon stage when he comes home for good.”

In another category of military marriages, there are the wives that are not only waiting for their husbands to return, but also anticipating deployments of their own.
Jacey Eckhart, the director of spouse and family programs for the online military and veteran organization, Military.com, writes books and conducts military marriage support classes for young couples.

She said that according to a study done in 2013 by sociologists Sebastian and Brighita Negrusa and James Hosek, they found that every month of deployment that a couple spends apart in the first five years of marriage increases the likelihood of divorce.

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 11.53.05 AM

The study also found that as these couples get older and become more skilled at deployment, their risk of divorce decreases.

When asked what advice she gives to newly married couples dealing with deployment, she said, “Go spend some time at your commissary or exchange and look at all the couples around you. These people have done multiple deployments. They are not smarter than you. They are not stronger than you. They have just figured out what works for them as a couple.”

Divorce rates among military couples and coping with deployment

Divorce rates are complicated to measure, but the typical measurement for the national civilian rate is the number of divorces in a given year per 1,000 people. According to that measurement and the National Center for Health Statistics, an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the national divorce rate was 3.4 in 2009.

Because civilian and military divorce rates are calculated differently, there is no way to accurately compare the two. The civilian rate is given in terms of actual divorces per population in a given year and the military rate is given in the percentage of divorces per military marriages in a given year.

However, the Pentagon released its annual military divorce rate statistics this year and found that in 2012, the divorce rate among military couples was 3.5 percent.

Eckhart said that although the numbers are confusing, the military divorce rate is about the same as the civilian divorce rate.

“I think the rates are about the same for male service members married to a civilian female as they are in the civilian population because the same things that affect the probability of divorce matter to all Americans,” Eckhart said.

She went on to list factors such as getting married too young and how the level of education a couple achieves can affect the probability of divorce.

Lisa Kieffer, a single mom of two children in San Diego, fell victim to those factors when her marriage of nearly four years to her Navy sailor husband ended.

Kieffer now works nights as a bartender at a local bar and spends her days with her 1-year-old son while her daughter is at school. Although the cost of hiring babysitters to watch her kids while she works does take a toll on her, she says she’s grateful to be able to spend days with her kids.

VIDEO: Lisa Kieffer and her Navy sailor husband married when they were only 21 years old. She talks about her divorce and life as a single mom in San Diego.

While he’s on deployment, she’s getting a degree

The notion of enrolling in a full load of college courses while maintaining a social life and a job is a daunting idea for most college students. Adding a military marriage and kids into the equation seems nearly unimaginable.

Rachel Griffith has 11 years of experience as a military wife and credits her strong marriage to a delicate balance that she has perfected in her life.Photo courtesy of Rachel Griffith.

Rachel Griffith has 11 years of experience as a military wife and credits her strong marriage to a delicate balance that she has perfected in her life.
Photo courtesy of Rachel Griffith.

Rachel Griffith does just that. Griffith is a mother of three children under the age of 7, a full time student at San Diego State University, owner of her own company, STYLED by Rachel Griffith, and wife to Antoine, a class E-6 Staff Sergeant in the Marines.

Not only has the couple been married for 11 years, but they’ve made it through multiple deployments and are now facing their move to Twenty Nine Palms this coming January.

After six years of balancing kids and her marriage and four years of adding school to the mix, Rachel said she’s found a way of balancing her hectic life.

“The best way I have found to keep some structure and sanity is to keep a schedule,” said Rachel. “It’s extremely easy to get overstressed and when I do, everything just snowballs and I feel like I lose control.”

“When I’m at school, I focus on school and when I’m home, I focus on home, the kids and the hubby when he’s around. It’s the only way to make things go smoothly.”

Rachel completes her undergraduate degree in liberal studies this December and still plans on applying to graduate school despite her upcoming move.

Mayoral election 2013: Eventful race results in runoff

 

Candidate and San Diego city councilman David Alvarez at his campaign kick-off in Sept.

Candidate and San Diego city councilman David Alvarez at his campaign kick-off in Sept.

Nearly 100 volunteers crowded San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez’s backyard, his temporary campaign headquarters, in Barrio Logan to kick off his mayoral campaign on Sept. 14th.

“We are San Diego! We are San Diego!” the group of volunteers cheered after Alvarez gave a speech thanking volunteers for their support.

“It’s going to be a lot of work, but we know how to work hard,” Alvarez said. “The reason why we’re doing this is because we’re really at a crossroads in San Diego. It’s going to be very clear that we can either move backwards or move forward.”

The large group of volunteers then went around the Barrio Logan neighborhood knocking on people’s doors to get enough petition signatures that would officially land Alvarez on the ballot on Nov. 19.

Alvarez was one of 11 candidates running for San Diego mayor during a special election to replace Bob Filner, who resigned on Aug. 30 after a string of sexual harassment allegations forced him out of office. San Diego’s city charter states that the City Council must call for a special election within 90 days of a vacancy in the mayor’s office.

“We are San Diego! We are San Diego!”

-Alvarez campaign volunteers

Time constraint causes conflicts

During a special election, a candidate must receive the majority of the votes or the top two

Faulconer received more votes than Alvarez during the special election but failed to reach a majority.

Faulconer received more votes than Alvarez during the special election but failed to reach a majority.

candidates with the most votes move on to a runoff election. According to the city charter, a runoff must be held within 49 days of the special election, which would be sometime in early 2014.

After all votes were counted, none of the 11 candidates received more than half of the votes and the election resulted in a runoff. Alvarez and San Diego City Councilman Kevin Faulconer are now in the running for mayor after receiving the most votes on Nov. 19.

The candidates had to cover a lot of ground during just eight weeks to get their name out to the public and secure votes. In a short amount of time, candidates had to reach out to the public and convince registered voters to head out to the polls.

“It’s not like when you do the primary season and you have another five months for the general election. You have a very compressed time frame, so you have less time to introduce yourself,” San Diego Mesa College political science professor Carl Luna said.

Candidates were also rushed to get endorsements and donations. The day before the election, U-T San Diego estimated that altogether, the candidates had raised around $5 million in campaign money.

Mayoral candidates reach out to student voters

Candidates faced off in several debates, including one hosted by KPBS on San Diego State University’s campus. Candidates let SDSU students in the audience know their stance on several issues and why they should become San Diego’s next mayor.

SLIDESHOW: City councilman David Alvarez attended a mayoral debate 
at his alma mater where SDSU students sat in the audience. 

Students living in and around campus didn’t have to go far to cast their votes on election day. SDSU hosted a polling place on campus at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center.

The mayoral candidates used debates, social media and home phone calls to reach out to voters across the city. Alvarez and his volunteers visited San Diegans’ homes to try to get their votes.

“I think for all of us it’s about getting to voters, directly talking to them and making sure they know who we each are,” Alvarez said. “In my case, that means a very grassroots campaign. It means going door to door and actually talking to voters and letting them know who I am and why I represent the best choice to be mayor.”

City of San Diego awards 92-year-old poll worker

In the transition period after Filner’s resignation, City Council President Todd Gloria inherited mayoral duties in his role as interim mayor of San Diego. On election day, he sent a representative from the mayor’s office to award a 92-year-old poll worker with a special commendation for years of service during San Diego elections.

 

                                                  VIDEO: Miss Johnnie Lee Byrd received special attention on Nov. 19 since 
                                                      the special election marked the last time she hosted a polling location.

City councilwoman Myrtle Cole also sent congratulations and a special plaque to the dedicated poll worker and thanked her for her service to the community in District 4, Cole’s assigned San Diego district.

What’s next for the candidates?

A poll taken by 10 News and U-T San Diego asked voters what qualities San Diego's next mayor should have.

A poll taken by 10 News and U-T San Diego asked voters what qualities San Diego’s next mayor should have.

The Oct. 19 special election resulted in a runoff between Republican candidate Faulconer and Democrat Alvarez. Faulconer received 42 percent of the votes and Alvarez received 27 percent, according to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters. The city councilmen will face off sometime in February and even though Faulconer received a majority of the votes, Alvarez is gaining some ground and winning over more voters.

A poll released by 10News and U-T San Diego on Dec. 8 revealed that support for both candidates is pretty even. Faulconer continues to lead with 47 percent to Alvarez’s 46 percent while seven percent remain undecided, according to the poll. The poll also asked what qualities are important for San Diego’s next mayor to have. The majority said that integrity and leadership are the most important qualities they are looking for.

San Diego senior citizens get tech savvy to stay active and connected

By: Tara Millspaugh

Senior citizens in San Diego aren’t just sitting back and watching the digital world progress without them. Whether they follow their daughter on Facebook or keep up with their grandchildren through Facetime, seniors are increasingly learning the skills necessary to communicate in the digital age.

For 81-year-old Joanne Jenkins, Facebook is her only hope of finding her three children who were adopted nearly 30 years ago.

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Joanne Jenkins uses the computer at the Gary & Mary West Senior Wellness Center. Photo by Tara Millspaugh.

Cyber Café provides access for seniors

Jenkins lives alone in a small apartment in City Heights. Almost every day, Jenkins goes to the cyber café located within the Gary & Mary West Senior Wellness Center. The center is located in the heart of downtown San Diego and offers resources, meals and transportation to low-income seniors.

Inside the café, Jenkins, a small grey-haired woman, smiles at her computer.

“I’m the type of person, I don’t like to be by myself,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins has been battling cancer for the past 10 years and is currently in remission. Despite her health, she laughs at a Facebook post her cousin wrote and seems to enjoy herself.

Jenkins just recently got a Facebook account. She said she is hoping the social network site will help her find her children.

In 1984, Jenkins lost custody of her three children and she believes the adopted parents changed their names. She has been unable to locate any of them via Facebook, but her search continues every day.

“There are a lot of medical problems that they don’t know about,” Jenkins said. “Diabetes is in the family and Alzheimer’s too.”

Social media workshops assist the elderly

Seniors, like Jenkins, learn how to use social media and other websites to connect with family members from around the country. Volunteers at the center hold two workshops every month to teach about varying topics pertaining to the web. Last month, the topic was how and why to create a Facebook account.

San Diego State gerontology graduate student and advocacy intern Rebecca Daniels spent an hour in the cyber café teaching six senior citizens how to use Facebook effectively.

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Rebecca Daniels shows Jenkins how to use the search bar on Facebook. Photo by Tara Millspaugh.

“It’s important social interaction and keeping in touch and maintaining that social network is very important for successful aging,” Daniels said.

Daniels said isolation is one of the biggest issues concerning senior citizens. She has noticed many seniors take a lot of convincing to see the importance of staying connected with loved ones. One man in the class thought the government could watch him through Facebook and didn’t want to create an account.

But, others, like Jenkins, were eager to learn how to search for people and organizations.

“They do seem happier when connected,” Daniels said.  “That affects their outcome in life, their health and it affects how they interact with society, because they make the world so small.”

Daniels also mentioned that many homebound seniors – seniors who can’t leave their home because of their health – may only interact with their nurse or people who clean their home.

62-year-old Fred Washington has a son in college at San Francisco State and contacts him weekly through Facebook.

“I know he’s busy, he doesn’t want his dinosaur of a dad to call him every day,” Washington said. “That’s the only reason I have Facebook.”

The Wellness Center has free wifi all throughout the building and seniors inside and outside of the café are seen on a computer.

Seniors learn technology from family

San Diego resident 73-year-old Edward Foster doesn’t live in a community home, and doesn’t have the resources to collaborate with other seniors. He said his grandchildren and brother-in-law take the time to show him how to use the most up-to-date technology.

Foster is considering purchasing an iPad, so he met with his brother-in-law at a Mission Valley café to learn how to use FaceTime and other features of the iPad.

SLIDESHOW: 73-year-old Edward Foster leans how to use the iPad from his 82-year-old brother-in-law.



Wii bowling allows fun and exercise

At St. Paul’s Manor for senior citizens, the residents are using a different type of technology to stay active. Wii bowling has become the highlight of the week for 81-year-old Jim Campbell. He is the Towers Team captain and he and his team play every Monday.

VIDEO: Team captain of The Towers Jim Campbell speaks about the importance of wii bowling and how it has helped him and his teammates stay active.


The Towers play a game of Wii, showing off their skill and ability to use the technology.

Campbell said being able to play video games on the Wii allows him to play and relate with his two grandchildren who just entered kindergarten.

Mac clubs build collaboration among seniors

In another senior citizen community in San Diego, a Mac club meets twice a month to troubleshoot Apple technology. Twelve senior citizens living at Casa de las Campanas, an independent living community in Rancho Bernardo, sit inside a conference room with a Mac connected to the best projector under 200 bucks.

70-year-old Jeanine McCullough noticed many of her friends living in Casa de las Campanas owned a laptop, but many of them didn’t know how to use it correctly. So, she partnered with 73-year-old David Contra and created what is now known as the Mac club.

McCullough said 43 residents signed up for the club but only about 12 members actively participate.

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Jeanine McCullough and David Contra review the material before presenting at the Mac club. Photo by Tara Millspaugh.

“With our club fees over the past two years, we bought this,” McCullough says while tapping on a new Apple MacBook pro.

McCullough said she has had a computer for more than 10 years, but still could use some help using it.

Contra taught last week’s class on how to bookmark websites. Some of his favorites included the local library, the Safari Park and Astronomy Picture of the Day.

“There are a lot of different skill levels, if we usually have a question we all try and figure it out, but if we can’t, we’ll find someone who does,” McCullough said.

“As you get older, you know, you can’t remember too well,” Contra said. “If I teach them how to save their sites, they can always go back later.”

Contras said he must be very patient with the members of the club because the skills range from owning a Macbook and knowing a lot, to a member who thought the Macbook was an actual book that she could read.

Technology users share common ground

The Pew Research Center surveyed U.S. American senior citizens over the age of 65. Based on data collected last year, 53 percent of seniors use the Internet or email. Since 2009, Pew Research Center found a 100 percent increase among seniors over the age of 65 using social media. In April 2009, 13 percent of seniors were using social media. As of May 2010, 26 percent are now active on social media sites.

For most seniors it’s a form of communication and a way to stay up-to-date in the digital age.

“I use Facebook almost every day,” Jenkins said. “It’s so funny what my family shares on the page.”

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.

Cosplay demographicsITALIC

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.”

Conservation education opens young minds around San Diego

by Dustan Reidinger

The air is crisp and the birds are chirping, but these aren’t any regular birds – these are raptors.

They are not in their natural habitats but at the Living Coast Discovery Center in Chula Vista.

The center specializes in conservation education for children in kindergarten through eighth grade.

“We provide each student that comes here with ideas of ways that they can make small changes and help our environment in their own home,” said Sherry Lankston, the guest and marketing coordinator at the LCDC.

Other centers in San Diego County also focus on conservation education including Project Wildlife, and the Birch Aquarium at Scripps.

Learning about conservation education

“The more people learn about conservation the more it will inspire them to care about the environment,” said Kevin Hovel, a biology professor at San Diego State University.

One of the birds in its enclosure at the LCDC. Photo by: Dustan Reidinger

One of the birds in its enclosure at the LCDC.
Photo by Dustan Reidinger

Hovel focuses his research on the conservation and ecology of marine invertebrates and has done studies on the survival and behavior of the spiny lobster in Souther California.

A study done by researcher Assaf Schwartz, for the science journal Plos One, evaluated the effectiveness of conservation programs to see if they were having the desired outcome.

The study was conducted in Paris, with questionnaires and interviews regarding the participants interest in conservation and biodiversity.

The results were that after participating in the program, people who took part in the study had an immediate interest in conservation.

“In terms of conservation education, it inspires (children) and instills in them that the environment is important to protect,” Hovel said.

Hovel suggests habits that people create habits such as driving less or recycling more that could help the environment.

Educating the children

A sign at the LCDC that illustrates if a coyote is a friend or foe. Photo by Dustan Reidinger

A sign at the LCDC that helps visitors understand if a coyote is a friend or foe.
Photo by Dustan Reidinger

Rose Rosquillas has been volunteering at the Living Coast Discovery Center since 2012.

“We have to teach the younger generations that these animals that they might see as predators for example sharks are not really predators,” Rosquillas said.

Sharks may be seen as predators because they attack humans that are mistaken for sea lions, she said.

Rosquillas feeds animals such as snakes, lizards, frogs and many more. She says that feeding and interacting with the animals can open the children’s eyes and reduce the fear that they had.

After children and adults touch and feel the animals, their perception of them changes, she said.

Programming at the center

The center has more than 20 different exhibits that showcase the animals that live in San Diego’s waters and on the land.

Many of the exhibits blend together. An exhibit of a shark can lead to information about protecting their habitat and learning about local watersheds.

The center also hosts “Biologist Days” for children and students who want a career in biology or with animals.

The outside of one of the buildings at the Living Coast Discovery Center.

The outside of one of the buildings at the Living Coast Discovery Center.
Photo by Dustan Reidinger

“When students connect on a personal level with the native flora and fauna, they develop a deeper sense of stewardship and then want to do things to protect our environment,” Lankston said.

Sandra Jimenez, 22, used to go to the Living Coast Discovery Center, then called the Chula Vista Nature Center, when she was younger.

“The educational programs there are great, very well organized so you can walk around and explore each kind and then read about them as you go, Jimenez said.

She said she enjoyed learning about all the plants and animals around the Sweetwater Marsh.

The experience made her appreciate the animals and learned a great deal about conservation.

Sierra Mathews, a resident of Chula Vista, loves the programs they have at the LCDC.

“It teaches the kids to love nature in a fun way and to respect it,” Mathews said.

Guest Experience Coordinator for the Living Coast Discovery Center Sherry Lankston explains the importance of conservation for young children and talks about some of the exhibits at the center.

Preserving Seahorses

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps also has programs that promote conservation education in conjunction with the University of California, San Diego.

The Birch Aquarium has three goals when educating children:

  • Providing ocean science education
  • Interpreting research that is done by the Scripps Institute
  • Promoting ocean conservation

Kristin Evans, the education director for the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, tries to engage all the children that come to the aquarium and explain the importance of conservation.

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps is doing some work with the conservation of seahorses.

According to Evans, seahorses are vulnerable to overfishing because certain cultures use them for their medicinal properties and also because of human encroachment on coastal environments.

“(Seahorses) are found in vulnerable environments and those environments are often near shore or coastal,” Evans said.

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps has been breeding seahorses for more than a decade which lessens the need to get them from the wild.

The Birch Aquarium has numerous exhibits and conducts research to further efforts to conserve and protect seahorses.

“Here at the aquarium we like to think about conservation as an enjoyable part of their visit, as something that they can take away and continue to learn and expand on after they have left with us,” Evans said.

At Birch the children are taught through science and the research that is happening at the aquarium but are also are involved with animals and the environment.

“So if we can remind them how important (the conservation ethic) is, show them the beauty of it, make a connection, to their personal lives and everyday lives, this is something that will help preserve and protect out environment,” Evans said.

Changing for the future

There are other educational programs run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which also stress the importance of conservation.

Conservation Education, is a program run through the U.S. Forest Service and helps people understand the importance of the natural resource found around the United States and is based in Washington D.C.

Vicki Arthur, an education specialist with Conservation Education, understands that education young children is very important for the future.

“When they are young and you connect them with nature and their place in it, the education becomes a pillar for their development,” Arthur said.

Arthur says that conservation education is not just for young children but also for everyone.

“To be environmentally literate people need to understand their responsibilities as citizens and understand how lifestyle choices can impact the environment,” Arthur said.

A study done by the Nature Conservancy took a poll in 2012 and the majority of Americans would support “portion of federal offshore drilling fees already being paid by oil and gas companies is dedicated to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which was created by Congress so that these fees could be used for conserving natural areas, wildlife, and clean water and providing access to outdoor recreation throughout the country.” Source: The Nature Conservancy

The results of a 2012 poll taken for the Nature Conservancy were that the majority of Americans would support a portion of federal offshore drilling fees to be dedicated to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Source: The Nature Conservancy (click for PDF)

Despite budget cuts, Cajon Valley elementary schools fight for student success

By: Carl Hensley

The education budget is the largest budget in the state of California, and because of that, public schools are the first to face cuts.

Many school districts across the state are seeing less funding and more layoffs since the state budget crisis hit in 2007.

Cajon Valley School District in San Diego’s East County is seeing the same issues the rest of the state is up against regarding education budgets.

 The district has about $166 million in total funding and about $160 million in total expenses.

 A new budget that Gov. Jerry Brown wants to implement will bring class size down to about 24 students to 1 teacher by 2021.

 “I’m hopeful, but I’m not sure when or if it will happen,” said Scott Buxbaum, assistant superintendent of business services for Cajon Valley Union School District.

Brown’s budget proposal will allow districts to hire the teachers they need to reduce class size, but it is also unrestricted money.  The district can use it for other expenses like technology or maintenance.  Brown also wants to increase spending in California for K-12, community colleges and higher education.

Gail Boone is the Principal of Avocado Elementary in East County. It is her first year with the school and says even though they have money for the basic supplies from the district, the don’t have enough for the extras.  The PTA pulls their own money for these extras.

Around the County:

The largest school district in San Diego is not free from these cuts either.

For the San Diego Unified School District, 25 percent of its budget has been cut since 2007.  This is a loss of about $500 million district wide.  With these cuts, enrollment has remained at a stable level while teachers and district employees are being laid off.

Because of the layoffs, the student-teacher ratio in the district is going up.

In the most recent budget proposal, SDUSD is seeing an $88.2 million deficit, which translates to about 1,000 jobs in the district.

 Cajon Valley Union by the numbers:

Cajon Valley Union is a large suburban school district within San Diego, consisting of 741 teachers and more than 16,140 students. It has a student teacher ratio of 21 to 1.  This district covers  Santee, Lakeside, Alpine, Jamul-Dulzura, La Mesa, Spring Valley and El Cajon.

Its budget is spread among:

  • 20 elementary schools

  • 5 middle schools

Students in the Cajon Valley Union School District feed into the Grossmont Union High School District after middle school.

San Diego Unified by the numbers:

San Diego Unified is the largest school district in San Diego, consisting of 6,518 teachers and 131,417 students.  That is a student-to-teacher ratio of 20.2 to 1.

The total funding for the district is about $1.5 billion dollars, which is spread out between:

·      113 elementary schools

·      24 middle schools

·      10 alternative schools

·      27 high schools

·      25 charter schools

 What Cajon Valley is doing to help:

The district is trying to balance its budget for the 2013-2014 school year without having to lay off more teachers.

Board members rejected a more traditional budget that would lay off about 1,000 teachers for the new school year in a 4-1 vote in late February.

Their new plan involves selling off surplus properties of the district and not filling jobs that would be empty from this reduction.

 According to board members, this plan will end the cycle of layoffs and job restorations district wide.  The district also will not issue pink slips this year because of this new budget plan.

 The essentials:

 Buxbaum also says there are some ways outside organizations are keeping extra-curriculars in schools.

 He said the Parent-Teacher Association is fundraising to keep arts, music and language classes in elementary schools.

 “We are trying to bring back the well rounded student with the new budget,” Buxbaum said.

One program provided by the state is not being impacted by budget cuts.  Special education programs statewide are actually receiving more money because they need certain resources for special needs students.  Michele Kmak is a special education teacher at Northmont Elementary school.  “They all have a specialized education plan. That plan becomes a law, so the district has to provide resources for these students,” Kmak says, “They need the resources.”

There is some good news for the district.  This past year the district utilized a $156.5 million bond called Proposition D to pay for improvements to schools in the district .

Also, last November, voters approved Proposition C., which allowed for the reauthorization of $88.4 million in previously approved bonds so that many of these improvements will be completed on schedule.

In 2008 , Proposition D was passed which allowed for some of the greatest improvements to Cajon Valley.  These improvements included technology upgrades at nine schools, modernization of Rancho San Diego and Vista Grande elementary schools, and the completion of the Greenfield Middle School gym, locker rooms, theater, band room, school offices, kitchen and six classrooms Proposition D committee chairperson, Karen Bunkell, said.

Some school’s extracurricular programs are thriving despite major cutbacks around the state. Cajon Valley has implemented several programs at a few schools to increase student engagement and learning.  These programs include:

  • Spanish Dual Language program

  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program

  • International Baccalaureate

  • FAME-Fine Arts Magnet Education

These new programs are a relief for teachers, parents and students. Last year, nearly half the school districts in California cut programs like these from their schools.

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.”

It’s easy to believe in tourism with the sand, surf and sun of San Diego

By Jesse Delille

Downtown san diego at night from coronado

Downtown San Diego at night

There are many perks to living in San Diego, from the weather, to the beaches, to the malls, theme parks and miserable professional sports teams. But hey, it’s better than living in Cleveland where not only are the sports teams atrocious, but it’s also freezing. It’s also better than living in Virginia where there are no professional sports teams.

The point is San Diego has a lot to offer and benefits greatly from the tourism industry. According to Jesse Dixon, a professor of recreation at San Diego State University, tourism is San Diego’s third biggest industry.

From Jess Ponting, SDSU professor of recreation and sustainability:

  •  Thirty-two million visitors per year spend $7.7 billion in San Diego
  •  11.4% of total regional economic production comes from visitors
  • Visitors account for $430 million in tax revenues to San Diego city and county

Ponting says there are many reasons why tourists are attracted to San Diego.

“Great climate, great natural and man-made attractions, excellent hotels, restaurants … Perhaps the best beer city in the world,” Ponting said .

Craft Beer in San Diego

San Diego has built a reputation as a destination for beer enthusiasts from all over the globe. In fact in 2009 San Diego won more awards for its beer than Germany at the World Beer Awards. Dennis Borlek, a local home brewer since 1989, has a passion for beer and loves how the micro brewing industry in San Diego has become a tourist attraction of its own. Continue reading

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By SDSU JMS 550 Students

This final project of the journalism 550 class at San Diego State University was produced by: Carissa Casares, Natasha Paul, Alix Davis, Nichole Sellon, Jessica Columbo, Aleesha Harris and Kerri Sargent.