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The News Gallery

October 2008

SAFETY CHECK - The Friday Night Live program creates a seat belt safety program and brings it to the City of Woodlake

News Gallery - October 2008 Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
(559) 733-6606

Contributors to this issue:
Christine Chapman, Marlene Moreno, Priscilla Gomez, Shelly DiCenzo, Lorena White, Gene Mendes, Tony Cavanagh, Tom Byars, Kari Wilson, Adam Valencia, Sara Sutton, Jeanne Croson and Nancy Bellin.

The News Gallery is published monthly with the exception of double issues printed for July/August and December/January. If you would like to receive the News Gallery, please contact Marlene Moreno at marlenem@tcoe.org or (559) 733-6172 and provide your name and address.

Cover Photo:
~ Woodlake High School students will begin installing signs promoting their safety campaign around the city this month.

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Safety Program Being Implemented Locally
Seat Belt Safety Study Grows to Include Public Sign Campaign

Woodlake Friday Night Live In 2007, the Tulare County Friday Night Live (FNL) Mentoring and FNL Kids programs were each awarded seat belt safety grants from the California Friday Night Live Partnership (CFNLP) funded by OTS (Office of Traffic Safety). Schools that participated in developing the projects funded by these grants included: Woodlake High, Woodlake Valley Middle and Castle Rock Elementary Schools in Woodlake; Orosi High, El Monte Middle and Palm Elementary Schools in Orosi; and Jim Maples Academy in Porterville.

The project involved students conducting pre- and post-surveys at their respective schools. Choices Program School Community Liaison Gene Mendes says, "The pre-survey indicated not all students were wearing their seat belts. The reason students gave for not buckling their belts was that it was quicker to get in and out of the cars when dropping off friends at different schools."

Woodlake Friday Night LiveBased on the knowledge that the single greatest risk of death to young adults ages 15-20 is traffic accidents and that one of the key contributing factors is unbuckled seat belts, Woodlake FNL Mentoring  which includes students from Woodlake High School and Woodlake Valley Middle School  and Castle Rock FNL Kids clubs took the project one step further. The students wanted the message to reach the entire community. FNL Mentors, FNL Club Member Cody O'Dell and advisor Tori Johnson got approval to post signs throughout Woodlake to raise awareness of the issue. The message for the campaign, Don't Forget. . .Get Your Buckle On, was developed this year by Friday Night Live Mentoring students and printed on bright yellow signs which will be installed this month. The California FNL Partnership, which is based at the Tulare County Office of Education, has already taken the slogan and reprinted it on key chains for statewide distribution.

"The benefit to students in this and other Friday Night Live projects is that they get hands-on experience addressing a significant issue," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "The amount of learning that goes on in discussing the problem, researching the cause, identifying a solution and seeing it implemented is tremendous."

Photos above:
~ Members of the Woodlake FNL Mentoring program meet to discuss sign distribution and hang their first sign. Members Cody O'Dell, Heather Wood, Juana Ventura, Gaby Equihua, Christy Ramirez, Valeria Aguirre, Madison Beck, Annette Marquez, Selesta Cazares, Eddie Vidal, and Noah Johnson work under the direction of Woodlake FNL Advisor Tori Johnson.

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Class Plans to Mentor Middle School Students
Reconnecting Youth Program Puts Step Up Service Learning Grant Into Action in Tulare

Reconnecting Youth Program Speaking to a group of his peers, Tulare Union High School student Frank Kennedy suggested: "I think we need to pick Cherry Avenue. I have a cousin there and he should be part of this." Frank and his classmates are recipients of a $5,000 Step Up Service Learning Grant. The students began work last month to implement their grant proposal of conducting a series of eight to ten lessons for at-risk eighth-grade students who will attend Tulare Union High School next year.

Reconnecting Youth Program The lessons will use proven Reconnecting Youth (RY) curriculum to help the middle school students improve their self-esteem, decision-making skills, stress management and interpersonal communication. The Tulare students, who are all graduates of the RY program, will likely conduct their lessons in Tipton, Pixley and Tulare for 15-20 students at each site. The Tulare project is one of six community grant projects funded by the Tulare County Board of Supervisors designed to reduce adolescent violent crime, aggression, substance abuse and/or delinquency.

Reconnecting Youth Program At the planning session, with the support of RY teachers Kari Wilson and Al Rodriguez, students reported on the progress they have made organizing games, ordering supplies and creating a slogan. Ms. Wilson informs students that they will have to make a presentation to Tipton School board members and should meet with their principal, Dr. Nunley, to update her on their progress. "If we want this project to continue year after year, we need to let people like Dr. Nunley know what we're doing." While a bit apprehensive about making presentations to school boards and administrators, the students are enthusiastic about the potential their program will have with the selected eighth graders. "Some people may not get it, but we'll know inside we're doing something good," says team member Trini Badilla.

Photos above:
~ Frank Kennedy is one of 12 Tulare Union High School students involved in the Step Up Service Learning Grant to help build self-esteem in middle school students. Frank is supported by RY teachers Al Rodriguez (middle photo) and Kari Wilson (lower photo).

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Middle School Students Gain Valuable Skills
Annual Leadership Training Event Doubles in Size in Two Years

Jr. High Leadership Summit The annual Junior High Leadership Summit is a high-energy event designed to develop early leadership skills in middle school students. This year, the event had double the energy with twice as many students participating compared to just two years ago.

Jr. High Leadership Summit Approximately 130 students from 18 Tulare County middle schools attended the event with a full day of training activities. "We involve students and their advisors in a variety of exercises designed to encourage leadership including action plan development, event planning, bullying prevention and drug awareness," says Choices Program Manager Tom Byars. A session on Friday Night Live chapter development was also offered.

Jr. High Leadership Summit "Friday Night Live school liaisons Tony Cavanagh, Angelina Huwe and Gene Mendes do a great job of organizing and motivating the participants," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "It's wonderful to see young people empowered for leadership and the promotion of healthy lifestyles through this event."

For ideas on leadership development or programs promoting healthy lifestyles free from alcohol, tobacco, drugs and gang violence, contact Tom Byars at (559) 651-0155.

Photos above:
~ Springville advisor Lisa Coorough works with students on a planning exercise. The Springville students develop plans for the school's Red Ribbon Week activities.
~ Students also have fun with some team-building activities and attend breakout sessions.
~ Tom Byars conducts a presentation on bullying awareness.

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Educators Honored at 15th Annual Event
Elementary School, Middle School and High School Teachers Selected for Awards

Around the world, the birthday of Confucius  China's great philosopher and advocate for universal education  is often celebrated as a teacher recognition day. In Tulare County, over 300 gathered at the 15th Annual Confucius' Birthday/Educators of the Year Celebration on September 25 to honor three of Tulare County's best teachers. Family members, friends and colleagues filled the courtyard of Visalia's Chinese Cultural Center to support Oak Valley's Melissa Hill-Stanfield, Woodlake Valley Middle School's Courtney Hengst and Exeter High School's Jim Stanaway. "We greatly appreciate the partnership we have with the Chinese Cultural Center," says Tulare County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "For 15 years, we have had the privilege of honoring exceptional teachers like Mrs. Hill-Stanfield, Mrs. Hengst and Mr. Stanaway, who are doing fantastic things for our children and for their communities."

Melissa Hill-Stanfield Melissa Hill-Stanfield is a fourth-grade teacher at Oak Valley Union Elementary School in Tulare. After graduating from Chico State University, she was offered her first teaching position at Oak Valley  the little "country school" where she has remained for 36 years. Mrs. Hill-Stanfield strives to pass on a lifetime love of learning to her students by focusing on their intellectual, physical, emotional, and social development. She has been a "Master Teacher" for student teaching candidates for the past 20 years.

Courtney Hengst Courtney Hengst teaches a seventh- and eighth-grade academic seminar class at Woodlake Valley Middle School. The class was conceived by Mrs. Hengst and school administration to help academically at-risk students improve their performance on the California Standards Tests. The program helped Woodlake Valley Middle School make significant gains on the state tests last year. She serves as the school's History Day Coach and eighth-grade advisor. She is also an instructor in the Woodlake 4-H program.

Jim Stanaway Jim Stanaway teaches English, media literacy and humanities at Exeter Union High School. Mr. Stanaway holds a masters degree in English education from Michigan State University. As an educator, he believes that he has the absolute responsibility to promote real learning each day and with every act. Mr. Stanaway is a dynamic and engaging teacher who creates a classroom that is truly alive. He is a mentor teacher, part of Exeter High's site leadership team, and has been a California Scholarship Federation (CSF) advisor since 1980.

Photos above:
~ (top to bottom) Educators of the Year: Oak Valley's Melissa Hill-Stanfield, Woodlake Valley Middle School's Courtney Hengst and Exeter High School's Jim Stanaway.

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On People in Service and Support

New Planetarium projection system In July, the Peña Planetarium became home to the world's first digital projection system by "Warped Media." This new system, developed for smaller planetariums, provides exciting full-dome imagery at less than a fifth of the price of other formats. The public is invited to experience the new projection system on October 17 at the premiere of "Dawn of the Space Age"  the world's first full-dome 3D stereo movie. The program portrays man's first steps into space  from the launch of the first artificial satellite Sputnik, to the magnificent lunar landings and privately-operated space flights.

Business and Children Award The Tulare County Child Care Planning Council selected two local businesses to honor at its legislative breakfast event last month. The firms received the first annual Business and Children Award. TPG Consulting  an engineering and transportation planning firm in Visalia  is presented with a sculpture by councilmember Rosemary Caso. State Assemblymember Bill Maze and Ms. Caso congratulate Karen Bruce of Visalia Ceramic Tile, Inc. Nominations for these firms praised company owners for accommodating the schedules of employees with young children. Both firms also made improvements to their offices to welcome children visiting after school, including a gymnasium built at Visalia Ceramic Tile.

TCOE Blood Drive CHARACTER COUNTS! Coordinator Kelley Petty was one of 57 employees to participate in a TCOE-sponsored Blood Drive August 28. The event was held at both the Doe Avenue complex and the Burrel Avenue building. The drive supports the work of the Central California Blood Center (CCBC) which serves five counties and over 1.5 million people. About 35 percent of the CCBC blood supply comes from group drives. To date, TCOE employees have donated 227 pints of blood drawn during several drives. This equates to potentially saving 681 lives. Child Care's Flora Medina-Alvillar (center) served burritos, ensuring Doe Avenue donors had a hearty breakfast. If you would like to know more about the process of donating blood, contact Human Resources' Jeanne Croson at (559) 733-6322. The next TCOE-sponsored Blood Drive will take place in April 2009.

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Gallery Notes

Red Ribbon Week (October 27-31) is an annual opportunity for schools to make a visible stand against drugs, showing their commitment to a drug-free lifestyle through the symbol of the red ribbon. This year, committee members Marlene Moreno, Leslie Berry, Maria Marquez, Christina Sartuche, Priscilla Gomez, Donna Orozco, Lorena White, Katie Moore, Shelly DiCenzo, Gene Mendes, Elisa Boatman, Kathleen Green, and Linda Peña have chosen a theme of "I Elect to be Drug Free." Proceeds from the sale of t-shirts and other items will be donated to Tulare County Youth Council, a group of young people whose mission is to promote positive achievements in students. Copies of the t-shirt order form, a schedule of activities and a list of raffle prizes are available online at

High school business and technology teachers from Tulare, Kings and surrounding counties are invited to assemble teams of students for an introduction to the 2009 Gas Company Student Entrepreneur Challenge. Registered teams will attend a kick-off event October 22 at the Visalia Convention Center. The Challenge is a competition designed to engage young business minds in creating economic growth opportunities for the Central San Joaquin Valley. Prizes up to $1000 per team will be available to Challenge winners. Registration forms are available at www.tcoe.org/Challenge.

With National CHARACTER COUNTS! Week approaching (October 20-25), schools and community members have until October 3 to nominate Tulare County students for a Kids of Character Award. The program is designed to recognize school-aged children (grades K-12) who demonstrate by deeds and example the Six Pillars of Character  Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. Entries are available online at www.tcoe.org/KidsofCharacter, or contact Kelley Petty at (559) 740-4303.

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Jim Vidak, County Superintendent of Schools
Tulare County Office of Education
All mail to: P.O. Box 5091, Visalia, CA 93278-5091
Physical address: 6200 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia, CA 93277
phone: (559) 733-6300 • fax: (559) 627-5219

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