Applications open for Spotlight Program at the Music Center

The Music Center today announced that applications are open for The Music Center’s 27th Annual Spotlight Program.  Southern California high school students who are interested in the performing arts are encouraged to apply to participate in Spotlight, one of the nation’s premier arts education and scholarship programs for teens.  

The program, which provides arts training by professional artists and awards more than $100,000 in scholarships, is part of The Music Center’s commitment to helping all students receive outstanding arts learning experiences in their schools and in the community.  

More than 40,000 students have participated in Spotlight to date, and the program has awarded more than $1.5 million in scholarships to aspiring performers and artists.

Spotlight is free and open to all students who attend high school in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.

 Students of all skill levels can apply in one of seven categories, including ballet, non-classical dance, classical voice, non-classical voice, classical instrumental, jazz instrumental, and acting, a new category added this year.  

Those students applying to the acting category must apply by October 1, 2014.  Students interested in all other categories must apply by October 20, 2014.  Applications are available at musiccenter.org/spotlight.

Spotlight was developed by The Music Center to offer distinctive learning opportunities at every stage of artistic development.  According to Jeri Gaile, director of The Music Center’s Spotlight program, Spotlight provides invaluable professional guidance in the performing arts to thousands of Southern California high school students each year.

 “Spotlight is much more than a competition; it provides an opportunity not only for artistic growth, where young artists can improve their audition and performance skills, but also a pathway for personal growth as young performers gain confidence and self-esteem.  Those are skills that are critical for success in life,” she explained.

All students enrolled in the program work with professionals to develop audition skills and knowledge in their performance disciplines.  Those students selected by professional judges to advance as semifinalists participate in master classes, compete to perform at The Music Center and receive cash scholarships.  

Grand Prize Finalists in each category receive $5,000 scholarships.  Honorable Mentions receive $1,000 scholarships and semifinalists receive $300 scholarships.  In addition, selected preliminary students will receive $100 scholarships.

In addition to the new acting category, The Music Center announced several changes to The Spotlight program for 2014, including the discontinuation of the two-dimensional and photography categories in favor of a greater emphasis on the performing arts.  

More opportunities will be added for students to gain insights about preparing for college and careers in the arts and related fields.  This year, the culminating performance will be presented on stage at The Music Center’s Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Numerous Spotlight participants have gone on to successful professional careers.  Fifteen finalists are Presidential Scholars, and many more have joined or performed with professional companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theater, Metropolitan Opera, LA Opera, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic, among others.  

They include Misty Copeland, who made history as the first African American female in two decades to be appointed soloist at American Ballet Theatre; Adam Lambert and Josh Groban, pop recording artists; Erik Altemus currently starring in Pippin on Broadway; Yao Guan Zhai, associate principal clarinet of the Toronto Symphony; Gerald Clayton, Grammy Award winning jazz recording artist; and many others.  Many alumni return to the program to participate as judges and class instructors.

 Fredric M. Roberts is founding chairman of The Music Center Spotlight Awards, and Walter Grauman is creator/executive producer.  For more information about The Music Center’s Spotlight program, visitmusiccenter.org/spotlight or join the conversation onfacebook.com/spotlightawards.

Diamond Bar couple engaged where it all began, Quail Summit

Sometimes, you know from the first dance, the first kiss, that she is the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. Sometimes, it takes 17 years.

Michael Siacunco and Sarah Lin of Diamond Bar became engaged Friday night at Quail Summit Elementary. Not something you see every day in a public school.

Siacunco, an airman who works in systems engineering at Buckley Air Force Base outside of Denver, recently returned home for leave. He thought it was time for the next step in their relationship. His younger brother, Cody, pushed Michael to ask Sarah, now a cardiac unit nurse at UCLA Medical Center, to marry him.

“I thought it was time for all or nothing, the title of our first dance,” Michael said.

So the young man began his campaign to win over Sarah’s heart. Gathering his friends, Michael planned a special night that would remind her of their time together.

He recruited her friend to “hang out” with Sarah last Friday. The friend took her on some “errands.” They stopped at Chaparral, where friends held up a sign reminding her of the first kiss.

They stopped at Diamond Bar High, where other friends reminded them of their shared past, then the Diamond Bar Center, where the couple had spent so many hours talking about life.

Arriving at Quail Summit, Sarah started crying when she saw rose petals on the sidewalks lit by candlelight, with strings of lights on the railings. A movie screen showed a special video made by Michael.

Friends led her to the amphitheater, where Sarah had chased a little boy 17 years ago. “It was kind of blurred because I was crying so hard,” she said.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story ENGAGED. 

Mt SAC VP Yamagata-Noji receives Rice Diversity and Equity Award

Mt. San Antonio College Student Services Vice President Dr. Audrey Yamagata-Noji was honored recently with the Dr. John W. Rice Diversity and Equity Award in Sacramento. Yamagata-Noji was named for the award for establishing numerous programs that provide mentorship and tutoring services for underrepresented students.

She has been a champion of diversity and equity programs at Mt. SAC that support student success, including the college’s Bridge Program for first-time college students, the Arise Program for Asian and Pacific Islander students, and the Aspire Program for African-American students.

The award was established to honor community college staff, districts, colleges and programs that have made the greatest contribution toward diversity and equity at community colleges. 

“Dr. John W. Rice wanted all community college students to be treated equally, fairly, and with respect. All he wanted was for everyone to have an equal chance at an education, and the winners of the award today want the same thing,” said California Community Colleges Board of Governors President and Mt. SAC Trustee Dr. Manuel Baca.

The award is named after the former California Community Colleges Board of Governors member and the father of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. 

“For my father, being a part of the community college system was not just a profession, but it was a passion and indeed a mission and a calling,” said former the U.S. Secretary of State, who delivered the keynote address at the 14th annual awards ceremony. “He recognized that education is not a right, it’s a privilege and that someone stood up for him and that he must stand up for others.”

Yamagata-Noji has served as Student Services Vice President at Mt. SAC since 1996. A resident of Santa Ana, she has also served on the Santa Ana Unified School District Board of Education for over 30 years and is currently serving as board president. 

Rowland Unified passes $147 million budget with $9 million deficit

The Rowland Unified School Board has approved a $147 million budget for 2014-15 with a $9 million deficit. That amount could increase millions more if both sides approve the 8 percent raise reached in Tuesday’s tentative agreement with the teachers’ union.

In March, Rowland teachers declared an impasse in the stalled contract negotiations. The Association of Rowland Educators asked the state to send a mediator to handle further negotiations.

The school district announced the tentative agreement on Thursday. They said it had been reached 8 p.m. Tuesday during the fourth mediation session.

Under the multi-year agreement, teachers will receive a 4 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2013, as well as another salary increase of 4 percent effective July 1, 2014.

The school district’s maximum contribution to employee health and welfare benefits will also increase to $11,000, effective January 1, 2015. And there will be a $1,500 cash-in-lieu payment for eligible employees who elect to opt out of the district’s health and welfare benefits coverage.

“The association is pleased that after a very long struggle that a fair agreement has been reached and can be sent to membership for a vote,” said ARE President Shay Lohman.

“I am thrilled that the teams reached an agreement yesterday,” said Interim Superintendent John Roach. “The school year will begin with all employees focused on meeting the needs of our students.”

During the negotiations, the school board had to approve a budget for the coming school year, which will now have to be amended when the teachers’ new contract is approved.

Ajay Mohindra, Rowland’s interim chief financial officer, pointed out that 82 percent of the revenue next year will come from the new Local Control Funding Formula. Another 10 percent will come from the state, with the federal government kicking in 7 percent.

Total revenues should top $138 million, up from the $133 million received in the last fiscal year. As the new formula kicks in, revenues are projected to grow to $146 million in 2015-16 and more than $149 million in 2016-17.

But Rowland will still have to draw from its ending balance of $52 million to cover the double-digit deficit. That will draw reserves down to $41 million by the end of the next fiscal year, even more depending on the salary settlement.

“Nearly half of our expenditures is for teachers’ salaries and benefits,” Mohindra explained. “When you add the other classified salaries and benefits, that’s 79 percent of our budget.”

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story BUDGET.

Rowland Unified settles contract with teachers’ union

By Rowland Unified School District

The Rowland Unified School District Board of Education announced today that a comprehensive three year (2013-2016) tentative agreement was reached at approximately 8:15 p. m. on July 8 by the RUSD and Association of Rowland Educators (ARE) negotiation teams after meeting with the State-Appointed Mediator for a fourth mediation session.

As a result, there will be no formal negotiations during the 2014-2015 school year and only limited negotiations during the 2015-2016 school year.

“The tentative agreement reached clearly recognizes the dedicated work of our Rowland teachers while leaving the district in a solid financial position for the future. I would like to acknowledge the hard work done on both sides of the aisle by our bargaining teams,” said RUSD Board President Heidi L. Gallegos

Highlights of the Tentative Agreement include: multi-year agreement (2013-2016); salary increase of 4%, retroactive to July 1, 2013; Salary Increase of 4%, effective July 1, 2014; District’s maximum contribution to employee health and welfare benefits increased to $11,000, effective January 1, 2015; $1,500 cash- in-lieu payment for eligible employees who elect to opt out of District health and welfare benefits coverage; late start to continue at high schools for 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years; and reduced counselor ratios.

“The Association is pleased that after a very long struggle that a fair agreement has been reached and can be sent to membership for a vote. We are very grateful for the leadership provided recently by interim Superintendent Dr. Roach and we are excited about the possibilities that lay ahead for RUSD,” said ARE President Shay Lohman.

The tentative agreement will be presented to ARE members for ratification within the next 2-3 weeks. After ratification by ARE members, it will be presented to the school board at its’ Aug. 12 meeting. As part of the District’s review process, the economic provisions of the Tentative Agreement will also be shared with the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

Each team vowed to work diligently to implement the terms of the agreement once the tentative agreement is ratified/approved by all parties.

“I am thrilled that the teams reached an agreement yesterday,” said Interim Superintendent, John Roach. “The school year will begin with all employees focused on meeting the needs of our students.”

Bargaining team members for the School District were: Ajay Mohindra, Interim Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services; Melissa Neal, Director Pupil Services; Jason Gass, Principal Killian; Sergio Canal, Principal Nogales High School; and Douglas Staine, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources.

ARE negotiation team members were: Eileen Fetters, Executive Director of ARE; John Petersen, Teacher Rowland High School; Clare Ruesga, teacher

Rowland High School; Gilbert Navarro, Teacher Oswalt Academy; Sharyn Sigler, Teacher Oswalt Academy; and Yvonne Martini, Teacher Hollingworth Elementary.

Walnut High students compete at Future Business Leaders of America meeting in Nashville

Clockwise from top left: Ricci Lam, Henry Ao, Howard Chen, Adviser Neil Jacoby, Kevin Chen, Zachary Woo and Rhea Lin.

Clockwise from top left: Ricci Lam, Henry Ao, Howard Chen, Adviser Neil Jacoby, Kevin Chen, Zachary Woo and Rhea Lin.

By Kelli Gile, Walnut Valley Unified

More than 10,000 of America’s best and brightest youth traveled to the historic city of Nashville to make some history of their own as they showcased their talents as future business leaders and vied for the opportunity to win over $165,000 in cash awards.

Future Business Leaders of America-Phi Beta Lambda (FBLA-PBL), the largest and oldest student business organization, held its National Leadership Conference in Nashville on June 29–July 2.

Four students from Walnut High School received national recognition at the FBLA Awards of Excellence on July 2.

Kevin Chen competed in Business Calculations and brought home 7th Place. Howard Chen, Ricci Lam, and Henry Ao competed as a team in Network Design and took 9th Place in the nation.

“All of the students worked extremely hard, and I am very proud of their accomplishments,” said Neil Jacoby, Walnut High FBLA adviser.

Participants from across the United States and two countries were in attendance for this exciting conference to sharpen their core business skills, expand their networks, and participate in more than 60 business and business-related competitive events.

The awards were part of a comprehensive national competitive events program sponsored by FBLA-PBL that recognizes and rewards excellence in a broad range of business and career-related areas.

For many students, the competitive events are the capstone activity of their academic careers. In addition to the competitions, students immersed themselves in educational workshops, visited an information-packed exhibit hall, and attended motivational keynotes on a broad range of business topics.

Walnut Solar Car ready to roll in Solar Car Challenge in Texas

Walnut’s solar car looked like a miniature aircraft carrier as it floated down Pomona Boulevard. I expected small jets to land on its flight deck at any minute.

But this futuristic car was only making another test run before the Walnut Valley students load it up for the annual Solar Car Challenge in Texas next week.

The sleek, aerodynamic vehicle was testament to clever engineering by two dozen students from Diamond Bar and Walnut high schools, as well as Suzanne Middle School.

The team will be the only challenger from California in the challenge. But hopes are high that the Walnut Valley team will do well again. Last year, the team captured second place in the open division.

 

 

And the students have learned from their mistakes, building a new car from the ground up. It’s taken a full year to design and develop, but the car, dubbed Horus after the Egyptian sun god, is ready.

The petite pilot, co-captain Rhea Lin, was all smiles as she slid into the sleek shell. Clambering under the large solar panels, only her helmeted head appeared in the custom tear-shaped canopy.

“We’ll do well, the Walnut Solar Car team has worked really hard to finish our new car,” said Lin from the safety of her three-point harness.

In fact, the local teens have been meeting every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to build their solar sailor. Horus is powered only by the rays of the sun.

Read more in Rich Irwin’s story SOLAR.

Online registration for Mt SAC begins July 16

Online registration for Mt. San Antonio College’s fall semester credit classes begins July 16.  Classes begin on Monday, Aug. 25.

New and continuing credit students must register for classes online at my.mtsac.edu. New students must also submit an admission application online. For students who do not have computer access, computers and assistance are available in the Student Services Center during business hours.  The Admissions Office is open Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Before registering, new students are required to activate their personal Mt. SAC portal account at the same website, which provides set-up instructions.  Students will be able to view a registration date and time in their portal account and will not be allowed to register before their assigned time.

New students must also sign up for their assessment tests at the Assessment Center.  Appointments can be made atwww.mtsac.edu/assessment, by calling 909-274-4265, or in person at the Assessment Center.  

In addition, new students must also contact the Counseling Center to sign up for the required orientation session before registering for classes. For more information about required orientation sessions, call the Mt. SAC Counseling Department at (909) 274-4380.

The enrollment fee is $46 per unit for California residents, and all fees are due upon registration. 

For more registration information, call the Mt. SAC Admissions & Records Office at (909) 274-4415, or visit www.mtsac.edu.

Music teachers at Walnut and Diamond Bar highs named quarter finalists by Grammy Foundation

Four Inland Valley educators were among 222 music teachers from 208 cities in 41 states who were selected as quarter finalists for the Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation.

They were selected from more than 7,000 nominations from all 50 states.

The local honorees are Steven Acciani of Diamond Bar High, Anthony Allmond of Kaiser High in Fontana, Buddy Clements of Walnut High and Eufemio Escalante of Vina Danks Middle School in Ontario.

In September, a list of semi-finalists will be announced after which 10 finalists will be selected.  One recipient will be selected from the 10 finalists and will be flown to Los Angeles to accept the award, attend the Grammy Awards ceremony, and receive a $10,000 honorarium.

The other nine finalists will each receive a $1,000 honorarium, and the schools of all 10 finalists also will receive matching grants.

 

The Music Educator Award was established to recognize current educators (kindergarten to college, public and private schools) who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools.

 

Link: http://www.dailybulletin.com/social-affairs/20140605/four-area-educators-nominated-for-national-award

Mt SAC health career students win gold medals in Orlando

 Mt. San Antonio College health career students recently won eight gold medals at the Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) national competition in Orlando, FL. More than 6,000 secondary and post-secondary students competed in 56 different health-related events at the national leadership event held June 25-28. 

 Deborah Delgado (Norwalk), Felicia Dunn (Upland), Jessica Munoz (Riverside), and Cecily French (Pomona) all won gold medals in the biomedical debate competition. 

        Nichole Campos (Covina), James Nma Onwuka (Highland), Blanca Tovar-Garcia (Mira Loma), and Denise Workman (Diamond Bar) all won gold medals in the creative problem solving competition.

Mercedes Hamilton (Pomona), Darlene Cabrera (Rowland Heights) and Lori Osterman Fructuoso (La Verne) were finalists in the creative problem solving event. 

 “We had 11 competitors this year, and all 11 ranked nationally as finalists. That is quite an achievement,” said Mt. SAC psychiatric technician professor and HOSA advisor Mary Ellen Reyes. “Being involved in and competing in HOSA is a life-changing experience for students.”

HOSA, established in 1976 by the U.S. Department of Education, is the national organization for secondary and post-secondary health career students. The organization provides students in 40 states with skills, leadership development, and career development.