El Cerrito: Memories, artifacts and more at Portola Junior High celebration Sept. 26

portola 1953

The buildings of Portola Junior High School in El Cerrito are gone, but the memories of the generations of West County students who attended there live on and will be celebrated at a gala event from 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 26 at the El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane.
Tickets are still available for the Portola Junior High School History Celebration, which will feature dancing to live music by The Sundowners, a band of Portola alumni, no-host food and drink and a silent auction of artifacts from the school similar to those pictured here.
Tickets are $20 general, or $10 for past and present WCCUSD teachers, available by clicking here.
For more details contact Marnie Fricke Mufti at 510-410-5028 or marniemufti@gmail.com; or Donna Houser at 510-508-6830 houserini@sbcglobal.net.

portola fogerty 8th grade
Can you spot future music great John Fogerty in his Portola class picture from eighth grade in 1958-59? (Answer below).

portola growing up

portola polly posture


portola flier

(Answer: John Fogerty is in the front row behind the “6”.)


Richmond’s Salesian High raising funds for Middletown High School students in Valley Fire

Salesian College Preparatory in Richmond is raising funds for its counterparts at Middletown High School in the aftermath of the Valley Fire and is asking for community support. Salesian made the following announcement Thursday on the school’s Facebook page:

Salesian College Preparatory sends its thoughts and prayers to our long-time friends and sports rivals at Middletown High School who were affected by the Valley Fire. In order to show our support, the Salesian community members are organizing a fundraising drive for Middletown High. We are accepting cash or check donations and will be sending 100% of our collections to Middletown High School. We will be accepting donations throughout the end of day tomorrow and once again during the week of Triduum. Let’s join together to help our friends at Middletown High School.
For more information on how to give, contact us at (510)234-4433. Thank you for considering to help our friends in need.


Richmond: Entertainment, activities, classroom supplies at RPAL Back to School Carnival

rpal carnival

The Richmond Police Activities League (RPAL) and Richmond Police Explorer Post are hosting a Back to School Carnival and Festival today through Sunday (Aug. 21-23) at 25th Street and Barrett Avenue.
Today is opening day from 5 to 11 p.m., with games, face painting, food and vendors along with carnival rides from Helm and Sons Amusements.
The carnival rides will be offered all three days, with a 10-ride ticket book available for $20.
The carnival continues From noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, with a giveaway of backpacks and school supplies and a chance to meet community leaders.
“We plan to encourage youth to go back to school with a positive mental attitude and better prepared for school. PG&E and the Hotel Mac, along with other supporters, will sponsor the backpack give away, including school supplies and other important information and safety tips to help our youth succeed in school and feel safe,” write event organizers.
The event concludes with Family Day from noon to 11 p.m. Sunday, with a picture booth, games, more giveaways and other attractions.
For more details contact Richmond PAL at 510-621-1221.


El Cerrito: Korematsu Middle School construction update meeting Aug. 13


The PTSA at Korematsu Middle School is holding a meeting at its current campus on Moeser Lane at 7 p.m. tonight, Aug. 13, where school district officials will update the community on the new campus at the former Castro School and have a discussion of the completion schedule.


Thursday, August 13, 2015
7:00 p.m.

1021 Navellier Street, El Cerrito

Korematsu Cafe’ (#35 on the Map)

Please join WCCUSD officials Thursday, August 13, 2015, 7:00 p.m., Korematsu Cafe for a construction update and discussion of the completion schedule. All welcome!

HOW TO FIND US: Korematsu Middle School is located on Moeser Lane directly across from Cerrito Vista Park (Pomona Ave and Moeser Lane). Park on Moeser or Pomona and enter the campus through the gate on Moeser.


West County Ed. Fund scholarship winners will be celebrated at April 30 ceremony in El Cerrito

The West County Ed. Fund has announced this year’s scholarship winners. Recipients will be recognized at a celebration on April 30 at El Cerrito High Schoo,.

Celebrating Excellence in Education:
Honoring Scholarship Recipients

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The Ed Fund, West Contra Costa County’s Public Education Fund, managed an extremely competitive scholarship application season this year. A total of 243 applications were received and reviewed by 66 volunteers to choose the top students with the grit and passion it takes to succeed in college and give back to their community. With the generous support of College Futures Foundation, Irene S. Scully Family Foundation, James Irvine Foundation, Schroeder Family Foundation, and Whittier Educational Foundation, $160,000 in scholarships will be awarded over the next academic year to 68 West Contra Costa Unified high school seniors to realize their college dreams.

The 2015 scholarship recipients from the West Contra Costa Unified School District will be honored and celebrated at the Ed Fund’s 27th Annual Soaring to Excellence Celebration on Thursday, April 30 from 6:30-9:00PM at El Cerrito High School’s Performing Arts Theater at 540 Ashbury Avenue in El Cerrito. One of the highlights of the evening will be hearing from two of the scholarship recipients speak to how they overcame all obstacles to become college-bound students. Tickets are $25 per person. To purchase your ticket, visit the Ed Fund website at www.edfundwest.org or call Zuhair at 510-233-1464.

You can also make a donation in tribute to a student to the Help a Student Soar to Excellence campaign at https://www.crowdrise.com/edfundscholarships/fundraiser/edfundwest. The campaign will culminate the night of the event.

Full list of 2015 Scholars
College Futures Foundation
Carlos Arauz-Hernandez, Kennedy High School
RaTrail Armstead, Kennedy High School
Lavonia Bobo, El Cerrito High School
Monet Boyd, El Cerrito High School
Saidy Brizuela, Richmond High School
Casina Butler, Kennedy High School
Astrid Flores Castillo, Richmond High School
Matthew Chamberlain, Middle College High School
Quincy Chapple, Pinole Valley High School
Alexis Garcia, Pinole Valley High School
William Garcia, Pinole Valley High School
Evelyn Corral Gonzalez, Richmond High School
Alexander Hagan, De Anza High School
Tyler Ho, Pinole Valley High School
Richard Howard, Vista High School
Tareke James, De Anza High School
Michael Jameson, Richmond High School
Jose Jimenez, De Anza High School
Latisha Katigbak, Hercules High School
Luis Ledesma, Leadership Public School – Richmond
Maggie Li, El Cerrito High School
Alfred Machacon, De Anza High School
Kenyatta Marcelous, El Cerrito High School
Christian Medina, Richmond High School
Andrea Munoz, Pinole Valley High School
Adrian Navarro, Richmond High School
Linda Ngo, De Anza High School
Luis Nunez, Kennedy High School
Francisco Ortiz, Kennedy High School
Mareiana Pembrook, El Cerrito High School
Cristina Pham, De Anza High School
Hannah Pham, Richmond High School
Yann Picouleau, Pinole Valley High School
Martin Ponce, De Anza High School
Andrew Preston, Richmond High School
Eva Arias Ramirez, Middle College High School
Serena Saelee, Middle College High School
Kimiko Satterfield, Middle College High School
Jay’La Donaville Smith, El Cerrito High School
Kimaree Solomon, Hercules High School
Nasario Sylvester, Kennedy High School
Ashley Tejada, Middle College High School
Keith Thomas, El Cerrito High School
Juliana Valencia, Leadership Public School – Richmond
Vanessa McMillon Vanbuskirk, Hercules High School
Deisy Villalobos, Richmond High School
Hero Vo, De Anza High School
Akeilah Ward-Hale, El Cerrito High School
Frederica Webster, De Anza High School
Brandon Wong, Hercules High School
Maria Zavala, Middle College High School

Ed Fund
Nanette Thompson, El Cerrito High School
Roberto Vega, Richmond High School

Irene S. Scully Foundation
Joan Binalinbing, Kennedy High School
Antonio Gonzales-Romero, Richmond High School
Dennis Pimentel, Richmond High School

James Irvine Foundation
Chi Chung, Hercules High School
Jing-Yi Chung, Hercules High School
Jasmine Gill, De Anza High School
Maria Nunez, Leadership Public School – Richmond
Jesus Pedraza, Richmond High School
Justin Rodriguez, El Cerrito High School
Brittany Tran, Pinole Valley High School

Schroeder Family Foundation
Lauren Darnell, El Cerrito High School
Jomoris Stewart, El Cerrito High School

Whittier Educational Foundation
Luis Perez Rodriguez, Kennedy High School
Daniella Vela, El Cerrito High School
Brizjon Wilright, De Anza High School


Winning students in annual Richmond Writes! poetry contest will be honored April 18

Students in Richmond schools selected as winners in the fifth annual Richmond Writes! Poetry Contest will be honored at a ceremony at 6 p.m. April 17 in the City Council chamber at 440 Civic Center Plaza. The public is invited to attend.

Below is the official announcement, including the names of the contest honorees who wrote poems on this year’s theme of Poetry in Motion.

Richmond Writes! Poetry Contest Announces Winners

Richmond Writes! Poetry Contest winners have been selected for 2015. The contest, conceived of by the Richmond Arts & Culture Commission (RACC) as a way to celebrate National Poetry Month, is in its fifth year.

Students from fourteen elementary, middle, and high schools in Richmond submitted both haiku and short poems. This year’s theme was Poetry in Motion and students wrote nearly 600 poems about it. The world is in motion, always moving and changing. They found motion in events, time, seasons, physical movements and activities, travel, music, and more.

Students from fourteen schools submitted nearly 600 poems this year! Poetry was judged by an eight-member selection panel: Susan Antolin, Lincoln Bergman, Donte Clark, Brenda Quintanilla, Maryann Maslan, Susan Anderson, Steve Early, and Connie Van Guilder. Three of them are Richmond’s own Poets Laureate (Quintanilla, Clark and Bergman); Antolin is a member of the Haiku Poets of Northern California; early is a published writer; Van Guilder is a professor and Liberal Studies Chair at JFK University in Pleasant Hill; and Maslan and Anderson are both commissioners on the Richmond Arts & Culture Commission.

Judges reviewed the contest entries in teams of two, picking favorites together in their packets. This method allowed for discussion and compromise, yet still accommodated individual taste. Poetry, for both the writer and the reader, is extremely subjective, and the judges made a point of honoring that in their final selections.

This year’s winners are:

Elementary Schools:

1st Prize: Anthony Alvarez, Washington Elementary
1st Prize: Ariella Benavides, Caliber Beta Academy
1st Prize: Clarissa Castro, Washington Elementary
1st Prize: Silvia Coca Cruz, Washington Elementary

2nd Prize: Amelie Banuelos, Washington Elementary
2nd Prize: Hannah Benavides, Washington Elementary
2nd Prize: Sania Kaleko, Wilson Elementary
2nd Prize: Citlali Mano, Washington Elementary
2nd Prize: Gloria Zearett, Washington Elementary

3rd Prize: Angel Abreau, Bayview Elementary
3rd Prize: Leah Ambernathy Saphon, Caliber Beta Academy
3rd Prize: Giselle Barragan, Washington Elementary
3rd Prize: Reiley Dillon, Washington Elementary
3rd Prize: Amitra Kellogg, Washington Elementary

Honorable Mention:

Alicia Acosta, Washington Elementary; Carlos Acosta, Washington Elementary; Mara Bravo, Coronado Elementary; Aaliyah Castillo, Washington Elementary; Rogelio Contreras, Washington Elementary; Selenah Corona DesSilva, Wilson Elementary; Gloria Diaz, Washington Elementary; Asia Jacobson, Coronado Elementary; Melvin Lopez, Jr., Coronado Elementary; Antonia Mason, Bayview Elementary; Parker Mina, Washington Elementary; Jacqueline Plascencia, Coronado Elementary; Maryanna Preciado, Coronado Elementary; Daniel Rodinson, Washington Elementary; Savannah Qualls, Washington Elementary; Daniel Rodinson, Washington Elementary; Kylie Alyssa Velazquez, Washington Elementary; Jimena Villarreal, Washington Elementary; and Tyrah Weems, Washington Elementary.

Middle Schools:

1st Prize: Teressa T. Bigbee, DeJean Middle School
2nd Prize: Jade Synott Brandow, Fred Korematsu Middle School
3rd Prize: Santiago Sixto, DeJean Middle School

Honorable Mention:
Juan Zamara, DeJean Middle School

High Schools:

1st Prize: Gabrielle Green, De Anza High School
2nd Prize: Yaritza Gomez, De Anza High School
3rd Prize: Angel Wiley, DeAnza High School

Honorable Mention:
Eugene O. Gaines, III, Kennedy High School
Jasmine Gill, DeAnza High School
Chandandeep Kaur, De Anza High School
Yajaira Sandoval, Kennedy High School
Austin Williams, Kennedy High School


1st Prize: Teo Scura, LEAP

The Award Ceremony will be held at 440 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond in City Council Chambers on Friday, April 17th at 6:00 pm. All participants of the poetry contest will receive certificates of recognition from Mayor Tom Butt, and a copy of the chapbook containing all of this year’s poetry entries.

The Richmond Writes! Poetry Contest helps students learn how to write poetry as a way of expressing how they see the world. Each year their poems touch the hearts of the art commissioners, judges, teachers, parents, city staff, and all who read them. The public is welcome, and the poetry chapbooks will be available on a first-come first-served basis once the students have received their copies.


El Cerrito: Views inside the renovated Chung Mei Home for Chinese Boys

Below are photopraphic details of the historic 1935 Chung Mei Home for Chinese Boys that visitors have been able to see at two recent open houses hosted by the Richmond-based Chamberlin Family Foundation and the El Cerrito Historical Society following a nine-month renovation.

chungmei 1
Ornamentation over the entry to the building.

Decorative panel under one of the front windows.

chungmei 3
The original bannister was retained and painstakingly raised to meet modern height requirements, while a standard modern bannister was installed on the inside.

chungmei 4
One of the new finials made of fiberglass that weighs four pounds, left, compared to 60 pounds for the originals, right. The originals were taken down by Windrush School due to safety concerns.

chungmei 5
Windows were carefully renovated to keep the original detail.

chungmei 6a
A mural, signed by artist Dupont, that is original to the Chung Mei days. The inscription on the scroll translates to “Whenever you open a book, you benefit.”

chungmei 7
Special steps were taken to seismically reinforce the top of the building without removing the original roof.

chungmei 8
View looking out of the basement, where a pillar was strengthened with a half-inch wrap of carbon fiber for reinforcement. A new drainage system was also installed to take rainwater away and prevent persistent flooding.

chungmei 9
Decorative details of ceiling beams.

chungmei 11
More detail is seen on the rear of the building.


Richmond: Students invited to free screening of “Selma” on Monday

Students will be admitted free to the 10:50 a.m. Jan. 19 showing of the film “Selma” at the Century Hilltop 16 Movie Theater, 3200 Klose Way, in celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Admission is on a first-come, first-serve basis and the ticket price for adults will be $7.
All other screenings that day will be at the regular ticket price.
Free bus transportation to the showing, leaving at 10 a.m., will be available at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church, 684 Juliga Woods St.
The shpwing is sponsored by Richmond Cease Fire/CCISCO and Cinemark Theaters.



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.