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Richmond: Adult literacy program celebrating 30 years on Sept. 21

LEAP, the Literacy For Every Adult Program in Richmond, has been serving the community for 30 years and will celebrate its successes at an anniversary event from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Sept. 21 at its offices at 440 Civic Center Plaza, Suite 150 in Richmond.
The celebration will be an open house with “entertainment, raffle prizes, informational workshops and networking opportunities for all.” The community can meet LEAP volunteer tutors past and present, and learn about the success stories of those served by the free program, which is sponsored by the Richmond Public Library.

Below, courtesy of LEAP volunteer Paul Ehara, are examples of lives changed by the program:

If it hadn’t been for that moment 28 years ago when she snapped at her seven-year-old son for asking how to spell a word she didn’t know, maybe Mary Johnson wouldn’t be sitting now in her office at Contra Costa Community College as coordinator of its Cooperative Education program.

Mary vividly remembers that moment and her son Rodney’s reaction to her frustration. “The look in his eyes… he was confused, surprised more than scared. I’ll never forget it,” she said. At the time she was a single mother living in Richmond, California. “My son at age seven was reading and spelling better than I was,” she said. “I felt so badly that I couldn’t help him.”

Most of the adults in Mary’s early life didn’t anchor her childhood and could not always be counted on. And so she had vowed to be a permanent resource for Rodney. “Not being able to help him, it’s when I realized I needed to do something, if only so that he could have a better life,” Mary noted. Compelled by the desire to help her son, Mary set out to become a better reader. Only later would she come to understand that learning how to read and write proficiently would also be a gift to herself.

Shortly after the incident Mary watched a television public service announcement from the local library offering help with reading and writing skills. So she called the Richmond Public Library and the staff there referred her to the Literacy for Every Adult Program, or LEAP, where she received a skills assessment. Mary learned that her overall academic prowess was at a fifth/sixth grade level, and she had the reading and writing skills of a second grader.

How could this be? While Mary had in fact graduated from high school, she had known for years that she possessed beginning literacy skills. Years of moving and changing house-holds between Trenton, New Jersey, Jacksonville, Florida and California had exacted their toll. “I kept quiet in school and was obedient,” she recalled. “I picked up enough survival skills to get to the next grade level.” Mary memorized hundreds of words by sight and thus could read to herself, but she didn’t like reading aloud in front of others; she did so slowly and haltingly. It was an embarrassing and humiliating experience.

At LEAP Mary found help. She experienced the “Aha” moment that she wasn’t alone. “We were all low-level readers,” Mary recalled. “We were all scared, not wanting anybody to know we were there.

“LEAP was like a safe haven, so we could be ourselves and not be embarrassed or ashamed. We could let people know where we were at, and learn. We could support each other, and seeing others in the same situation took away the fear.” The stigma, if not removed, had been softened.

Enter Doris Lopez. A Richmond resident like Mary, living not far from the LEAP office, Doris had recently become a volunteer and had been assigned by LEAP staff to be Mary’s tutor. “This was the best match ever made,” said Mary. “Without Doris I wouldn’t be where I am now.” LEAP had just received a donation of two Apple computers, and the learning materials were being converted from printed materials to software. “But the main resource was the tutors,” said Mary. With help from Doris, Mary worked to improve her reading and writing skills.

“Mary was my first student at LEAP,” recalled Doris. She had just started volunteering, and she remembers noticing Mary’s penchant for African American history and culture. So one day she cut out an article in the Smithsonian magazine about the acclaimed painter Jacob Lawrence and brought it in for the two of them to read together. “Doris would bring in materials she knew I’d be interested in,” recalled Mary. “An article or something to read about Jacob Lawrence, or Othello, anything that tied back to African American or African history. I’d want to read it.” Then there was the time Mary wanted to throw a Kwanzaa celebration, and the two of them worked on the invitations together. Call it a practical writing exercise.

Doris said many times Mary would bring Rodney to the tutoring sessions because she had no other childcare option. For his part, Rodney remembered how many times—for months on end—that Doris would go out of her way to pick them up at their home and drive them to the Richmond Public Library where the tutoring sessions took place. “Eight or nine times out of ten, I’d be in the Children’s Library while my mom worked,” Rodney recalled. Here he spent the time reading books. “That’s where I learned to love books, to love reading,” he said. And if it got late and the library closed, he’d head over to the LEAP office and play learning games on one of the computers. After the tutoring session was over, Doris would then drive them back home.

Soon Doris and Rodney Ferguson, LEAP’s Learning Center evening manager at the time, both encouraged Mary to think about attending the local community college. With some trepidation, Mary would enroll at Contra Costa College and go on to earn her degree. The road was not without its washboard moments. During this time Doris continued to tutor Mary; every now and then Mary would call her, asking if they could get together so she could get some help with a paper she was working on. Thirty years later, they still keep in touch. “It’s been a great friendship,” said Doris. “I’ve been very impressed with her,” she added. “I always thought Mary was an intelligent person. To navigate in a world and not being able to read, you had to be very intelligent.”

Rodney looks back on his mother’s struggles with grace. If Mary’s beginning literacy skills prevented her from helping her son the way she wanted to, she did the next best thing. “I learned how to become self-reliant,” Rodney said, “because she taught me how to look stuff up on my own.”

# # #

§ After earning her associate degree at Contra Costa Community College, Mary Johnson went on to receive her B.A. in psychology at California State University, Hayward. In 1996, two months after graduating, she was hired by LEAP Director Isabel Emerson to be one of the organization’s Learner Coordinators, recruiting students and tutors until 2003. Mary would later earned her graduate degree in marriage and family counseling. She is currently the Cooperative Education Coordinator and an instructor at Contra Costa College, and also serves clients through her private practice.

§ Doris Lopez lives in Richmond and is a volunteer for Richmond Trees (www.richmondtrees.org), founded in 2011. To date Richmond Trees volunteers have planted over 300 trees throughout the city’s neighborhoods.

§ Rodney Wilson (Mary’s son), 35, is the father of a daughter and son who will turn seven and six, respectively, this month. He’s currently majoring in American Studies at UC Berkeley with a concentration in Race and Education. Rodney is applying to Ph.D. programs in sociology and plans to begin earning his doctorate degree in the fall of 2015.

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Caltrans continues overnight work on MacArthur Maze

Caltrans issued the following announcement about its work on the MacArthur Maze:

Full nighttime closures continue at Maze Structure In Oakland

ALAMEDA COUNTY–The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will be continuing night time full closures in Oakland on westbound Interstate 580 to eastbound Interstate 80 connector along with Interstate 580 westbound MacArthur On-ramp from July 8th through July 11th.

Caltrans has scheduled additional construction activities on westbound Interstate 80 to eastbound 580 connector starting on July 8th. Construction is expected to be ongoing until September 2014.

Full Closures of 580 West – 80 East Connector and 580 West MacArthur On-ramp
July 8th through July 11th, 2014
Sunday through Thursday 11:00 P.M – 5:00 A.M.
Friday night and Saturday night 11:59 A.M. – 7:00 A.M.

Full Closures of Westbound Interstate 80 to Eastbound Interstate 580 connector and 580 East MacArthur Off-ramp:
July 8th through August 15th, 2014
Sunday through Thursday 11:00 P.M – 5:00 A.M.
Friday night until Saturday morning 11:59 P.M. – 7:00 A.M.

Motorists are advised to use the following detour during the work. Detour Signs will also be posted. All work is weather permitting.

Detour for Interstate 580 West to Interstate 80 East traffic:
Motorists will continue on Interstate 80 west towards San Francisco, take “PARKING LOT EXIT ONLY” exit on the left to the Toll Plaza parking lot, and merge to Interstate 80 east.

Detour for Interstate 580 West MacArthur on-ramp traffic:
Motorists will turn right on San Pablo Ave (alternatively turn right on Hollis St), turn left on Powell St and merge to the 80E.

Detour for Interstate 80 West to Interstate 580 East traffic:
Motorists will continue to Interstate 880 South, exit at the West Grand Ave off-ramp, turn right on West Grand Ave and merge to the 580 east Maritime/West Grand on-ramp.

Detour for Interstate 580 East MacArthur off-ramp traffic:
Motorists will take the next exit to Webster St.

Motorists should expect delays and allow for extra travel time.

For real-time traffic, click-on Caltrans Quick Maps at: http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/
Or follow Caltrans on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/CaltransD4
For additional information please visit our website: http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist4/projects/80580bridgerehab/
Caltrans appreciates your patience as we work to maintain our highways.

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Caltrans work at MacArthur Maze will mean overnight traffic detours

Caltrans issued the following announcement today about its planned overnight work at the MacArthur Maze that starts June 5 and is expected to last through June 30:

Caltrans Plans Concrete Removal and Bridge Deck Overlay at Maze Structure

ALAMEDA COUNTY–The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is performing night time full closures of either or both westbound Interstate 80 to eastbound Interstate 580 and westbound Interstate 580 to eastbound Interstate 80 connectors to remove concrete and overlay bridge deck. Construction is expected to be ongoing until September 2014.

To ensure worker and public safety, the MacArthur on and off ramps will be also rehabilitated and closed during construction.

Full Closures of 580 West – 80 East Connector and 580 West MacArthur On-ramp
June 5 through June 30, 2014
Monday night until Friday morning 11:00 P.M – 5:00 A.M.
Saturday night and Sunday morning 12:01 A.M. – 7:00 A.M.

Full Closures of 80 West – 580 East Connector and 580 East MacArthur off-ramp
June 5 through June 30, 2014
No full closures will take place until June 23rd

Motorists are advised to use the following detour during the work. Detour Signs will also be posted. All work is weather permitting.

Detour for Interstate 580 West to Interstate 80 East traffic:
Motorists will continue on Interstate 80 west towards San Francisco, take “PARKING LOT EXIT ONLY” exit on the left to the Toll Plaza parking lot, and merge to Interstate 80 east.

Detour for Interstate 580 West MacArthur on-ramp traffic:
Motorists will turn right on San Pablo Ave (alternatively turn right on Hollis St), turn left on Powell St and merge to the 80E.

Detour for Interstate 80 West traffic:
Motorists will continue to Interstate 880 South, exit at the West Grand Ave off-ramp, turn right on West Grand Ave and merge to the 580 east Maritime/West Grand on-ramp.

Detour for Interstate 580 East MacArthur off-ramp traffic:
Motorists will take the next exit to Webster St.

Motorists should expect delays and allow for extra travel time.

For real-time traffic, click-on Caltrans Quick Maps at: http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/
Or follow Caltrans on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/CaltransD4
Caltrans appreciates your patience as we work to maintain our highways.

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As Memorial Day approaches, a look back at El Cerrito honoring military personnel 70 years earlier

ec vets memorial 1944a

In the photo above from the Richmond Independent from June 1944 (click it to enlarge), the Louis Hagen post of the American Legion in El Cerrito dedicates a plaque in front of the veterans building on Stockton Avenue honoring those from the city on active duty in the armed forces during World War II. Members of the post at that point were veterans of World War I, where El Cerritan Hagen had died in combat.

The annual placing of flags for Memorial Day on the graves of military veterans buried at Sunset View Cemetery in El Cerrito will take place on May 24 and volunteers who want to help are welcome to take part.
There will also be a first-ever Memorial Day observance on May 26 at a veterans assistance office in Richmond.
You can find more details here.

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Friends of 5 Creeks gardening tips to minimize water use

Some advice from the latest newsletter from Berkeley-based Friends of 5 Creeks (www.fivecreeks.org):

Water-saving tips

Learn how to lose your lawn: For many homeowners, the easiest way to save water (along with effort and money) is to shrink or get rid of lawn. The Bay Friendly Coalition offers a free workshop, with individual advice, at 10:30 AM Sat., May 3, at the California Native Plant Society’s Native Here Nursery, 101 Golf Course Dr., in Tilden Park. This also is a great place to find drought-tolerant, wildlife-friendly, replacement plants.

Nursing new plantings through the summer: Our delicious late rains have been a reprieve, but summer will be dry. With time, it is possible to develop a flourishing garden that needs no watering. (Summer water under coast live oaks, our species of the month, can kill them.) But even drought-tolerant plants generally need some summer water until their roots are established. At F5C’s restoration projects, we found that tough natives survived with deep watering once a month from June or July to October.
Drip irrigation usually saves water, but it can be leak-prone and costly to install. Here are some techniques that don’t require even drip irrigation:

Most basically, plant in fall, giving plants a rainy season in which to get established. Use lots of mulch, which holds water like a sponge, shades the soil, and discourages water-stealing weeds.
Along with a new plant, install a tube with a small opening at the bottom that lets water drain slowly to deep roots. Fill it occasionally. The tube can be a commercial product – or an upside-down plastic soda bottle.
Use a bucket or bag with a small opening that drains slowly. As with tubes, these can be commercial products – or old buckets or plastic trash bags.
Consider a tree tube or tree shelter. This is a translucent plastic tubes, held in place with a stake, serving mainly to protect young trees from hungry animals. But they also help retain moisture in windy areas, and condensation inside the tube can provide a little extra water.
Consider commercial gels that release water slowly, such as DriWATER.

Submit your own water-saving tip to the group at https://app.icontact.com/icp/sub/survey/take.

Click here for to read the F5C information sheet, “Why Should You Save Water? And How?”

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Richmond and its industrial neighbors in 1939

Above, is an early 1939 promotional aerial view/map of Richmond and its surrounding area. Much of the Richmond shoreline in the foreground has yet to be reshaped for the Kaiser shipyards, including leveling a large hill.
In the background (below) are the West County towns past Richmond on two-lane Highway 40 and San Pablo Avenue, including the forgotten heavy industry company settlements, such as Giant (dynamite manufacturing), Oleum (oil refinery) and Selby (metal smelting).
Click on each photo for a larger view.

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Police offer tips on how to avoid being “skimmed”

Police are circulating this flier explaining “skimming” and how to avoid falling victim to a thief when using a debit card at an ATM or a store checkout counter.
An incident involving a “shoulder surfer” was reported in Hercules last week.

skimming

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1940s El Cerrito home movies offer glimpse of life during wartime and after

amerio
Fairmount School crossing guard in front of Amerio Drugs on San Pablo Avenue.

Posted here are excerpts of home movies of El Cerrito in the 1940s and 1950s that the family of Arthur Lorenzo Hopkins shared with the El Cerrito Historical Society that show slices of life in a city was still early in its development and in many ways still rural. Living just a few doors north of El Cerrito High School, the Hopkins family raised crops and livestock in the double-deep back yard of their home on Pomona Avenue, including cows, chickens and turkeys.
A team of horses is seen plowing a vacant lot across the street (still there) to plant a World War II victory garden and student crossing guards from Fairmount Elementary School stop traffic on San Pablo Avenue (look for Amerio Drug Store and the old Bank of America location).
Home movies that seem to be of little interest to anyone outside the family that took them can be an invaluable to historical societies trying to record what life was like in different eras. They add a dimension different that complements still photographs and written records.
Maybe you have a reel of film or an old VHS or Beta tape tucked away somewhere that could be digitized and shared with future generations (the original returned, of course). Historical societies would love to find out.
Contact the El Cerrito Historical Society at elcerritohistoricalsociety@yahoo.com, the El Sobrante Historical Society at eshistory@gmail.com, the Pinole Historical Society at info@pinolehistoricalsociety.org, or the Richmond Museum of History at 510-235-7387 or info@richmondmuseumofhistory.org.

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JFK High in Richmond is seeking Career Fair speakers to inspire students

Kennedy High in Richmond is looking for people from the community to discuss their jobs at its Career Fair on Jan. 24.
The event was selected to fall on the week of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as part of the “I have a dream” message, writes Jamie Myrick, who is lining up guests for the event.

Ninth grade JFK student Luis Calixto wrote the following for the Kennedy Eagle Eye:

Kennedy High school is hosting a career fair and looking for speakers to talk about their jobs on Jan. 24th. We want people to come in and motivate students to succeed in their high school years. Too many students are dropping out during their senior year based on failing classes in their 9th grade year. If someone were to come and speak to them about their struggles in school and how they managed to succeed in life maybe the dropout rate would decrease. That way our schools test scores will continue increase.
John F. Kennedy high school is designed to prepare us for life and college. We have many programs and academies to help students get ahead, including Saturday school and parent workshops. The test scores have gone up this year because of this and the quality of the school has improved. As I type this, there are workers outside renovating the science buildings. However we still need great speakers for the career fair.

President Kennedy once said “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Too often people talk about the government not doing things for youth, but today we are asking you to join in changing the youth of our community. When you give time to the Kennedy High school students you are helping them become successful in their academics. As the future leaders of America we need help and support from people who have made it in life. We ask you do send someone to Kennedy to speak to the 9th grade class and tell them how important it is to do well in school.
The careers that appeal to me are working in law as a Judge or medicine as a Doctor. They pay well and help people in need.

Like many 9th grade students, I haven’t really thought seriously about what I want to be when I get older but I am leaning towards these jobs and hearing about how the classes we take relate to employment, careers and starting businesses will help each of us. We would love to meet people from a wide variety of fields, hear about how to succeed in high school and college. Many people celebrate

Dr. King’s holiday by giving time to their community, we hope you will spend time with the students of Kennedy High.
The career fair is scheduled for January 24th. Speakers may talk in 30 minute increments for more information call Ms. Myrick at 510-333-1306