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VCCCD partners with NAVFAC to train Ventura County STEM Students

The Ventura County Community College District (VCCCD) and the Naval Base of Ventura County, Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC), are collaborating to strengthen skills training and local employment outcomes in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The agreement, signed February 27, focuses on four key pillars designed to ensure that students across Oxnard, Ventura and Moorpark colleges have access to a competitive STEM education and the ability to connect with the county’s largest employer. Objectives include increasing internship opportunities, facilities sharing, mentor programs, and career pathways.

VCCCD Chancellor Dr. Greg Gillespie joined NAVFAC EXWC Captain John Adametz in signing the memorandum. VCCCD Board of Trustees Mr. Stephen P. Blum, Esq. and Mr. Bernardo M. Perez, along with Oxnard College President Dr. Cynthia E. Azari and students, faculty and staff, were also present.

“The efforts of the Hispanic-Serving Institutions STEM grant program at Oxnard College have shown a commitment to STEM excellence through this partnership with the Naval Base Ventura County,” Gillespie said during his remarks at the signing. “This agreement offers students an amazing opportunity to connect with local STEM professionals, as Naval Base Ventura County is the largest employer in our county. All three of the colleges in the district will directly benefit.”

“I’m pleased that we are able to provide yet another pathway for our students to pursue high-quality STEM careers,” added President Azari.

NAVFAC EXWC offers cutting-edge career opportunities in nearly every STEM discipline. In Ventura County alone, approximately 1,100 scientists and engineers provide research and technology solutions to the Navy, Marine Corps, federal agencies, and other Department of Defense commands. Most positions are located in Port Hueneme.

“In an effort to serve as mentors for underrepresented populations, we recognize the importance of incorporating mentoring in the work that we do,” said Capt. Adametz. “This mentoring cultivates dynamic relationships that span the breadth and depth of a given profession. These relationships are mutually beneficial to individuals and collectively empower the profession and community.”

For more information on the VCCCD partnership agreement and the opportunities it provides, please contact Oxnard College STEM/Project Acabado Director Dr. Marcella Klein Williams ( or NAVFAC EXWC contact: Cheryl Monzon, MBA, CDFM-A, STEM coordinator (, Palmer Pinckney II, NAVFAC EXWC Public Affairs Officer ( 982-1069.


A buggy story

by Kevin O’Connor

Once upon a time, a college student from a good family packed her suitcase one weekend in her apartment in Isla Vista and went home to her parents for a holiday.

Little did she know that a small uninvited guest had crept into her suitcase from her apartment and emerged later at her mom and dad’s house miles away, where this small bed bug created mayhem as it laid eggs and spread in the student’s bedroom, in the immaculately clean home where she had been raised.

When the young lady got back to campus and returned to her apartment, her housemates told her they indeed did have bed bugs. That weekend they noticed them for the first time. One of the girls had even been bitten. The girls tried to handle this situation themselves, but the bugs seemed to be spreading in spite of sprays and other protective measures that came too late in the game. Try as they might, the students could not control the infestation.

The girls called O’Connor Pest Control, and we went out there to Isla Vista and worked through the entire process with these students, giving them our professional and technical expertise, working to rid the apartment of every bed bug.

Bed bugs are small, brownish insects that feed solely on the blood of animals. The common bed bug, Cimex lectularius, is the species most adapted to living with humans.

Bed bugs are resilient. Their flattened bodies enable them to fit into tiny crevices—especially those associated with mattresses, box springs, bed frames and headboards. Nymphs and adults can persist months without feeding. Bed bugs don’t have “nests” like ants or bees, but do tend to congregate in habitual hiding places. Bed bugs usually bite people at night while they are sleeping.

Bed bugs are challenging to eradicate. Repellents like those used to deter ticks and mosquitoes do not appear to be as effective against bed bugs and applying them at bedtime is not recommended. Never try to handle bed bugs on your own. Technical help is vital. It is prudent to enlist the services of a professional. Experienced pest control firms, like O’Connor Pest Control, know where to look for bed bugs and have an assortment of management tools at their disposal.

We have the technicians with the expertise and experience—as well as the tried and scientific equipment—to deal with the entire range of bed bug infestations. O’Connor Pest Control 1-800-284-7985

The power of purpose

“I can only do so much to make the world a better place.”

by Karen Leslie, writer with heart

Venturian, Jeri Bendot has found purpose in her life. She possesses an innate compassionate heart in making a difference for what she terms, the ‘Houseless”, giving people without homes a kind of dignity for those struggling in life to have a roof over their heads. She has become “Relational” in her efforts to find solutions to this surmountable ongoing community challenge.

Her story starts out with one that had many curve balls. In the mid 70’s she was diagnosed with sudden-change, rapid-cycling Bipolar disorder. She battled numerous illnesses, had several surgeries, and survived two marriages. Jeri has four grown children and five grandchildren. In 1997 she began another relationship that changed her destiny.

Twenty years ago, Jeri met her husband Joe when he worked for the Navy as a rocket scientist. Then came the slippery slope of back problems for both, which lead to an addiction to pain killers for Joe. Joe spent one year in Ventura County jail, and so he would not need to do time for 7-11 years, he ended up residing in a recovery program.

One day Joe was riding his bike and took a different route than was usual. This turn led them to a new life, a life of meaning and purpose. Music caught his attention from a special Sunday service, in the Fellowship Hall of the Presbyterian Church. Run by college kids, the hall was full of people, food, coffee and a laid back atmosphere. Jeri shares “The Pastor would stop and let people discuss among themselves or pray”.

Through her healing process and a developed tenacious attitude, they found a home like no other home they had ever known. Jeri shares, “The Presbyterian Church loved us when we didn’t love ourselves.”

Jeri started volunteering at the church one day a week, and after 3-4 months they offered her a part time job as a receptionist. Joe and Jeri got married in 2008 and now live on the church grounds in a lovely apartment as caretakers. Jeri shares, “God put me in the perfect position to help others facing hardships” and added “most people really have no idea who the homeless consist of, or what is worse how to really help.”

Through Jeri’s struggles and triumphs, her soul mission and quest is to educate and find roofs to house and preserve the less fortunate. She works diligently hand in hand with many Ventura organizations working to lower the staggering homeless statistics.

`Jeri touchingly shares, “I can only do so much to make the world a better place. While I want to help everyone, I may only have the chance to help one. As long as my heart is pure and my deeds are righteous, I have hopefully made a positive life changing impact on another human being, to be kind and help others who are struggling to live in this world.”

Life can turn on a dime. Many fear they are only one paycheck away from living in the streets. One misstep, one choice, one wrong decision can lead to misfortune. As a people, we deserve the most basic of human needs such as food, clean water, shelter, a bed, companionship and a chance. We are living in abundant times where resources and education are just a click away.

If one step for mankind can send a man to the moon…one step for humankind can feed and house the world!

How did World Central Kitchen come to help Ventura during the Thomas Fires?

Chef Jose Andres at the Plaza Park benefit held for fire victims. Photo by Pam Baumgardner

by Jennifer Tipton

The nonprofit organization, World Central Kitchen was launched by Chef Jose Andres (born Jose Andres Ramon Puerta), a Spanish American chef credited for bringing the small plates dining concept to America. The celebrity chef owns 27 restaurants that spread from Las Vegas to Miami and has been recognized by Time Magazine as one of the most influential people in the world. He received the James Beard Award for his humanitarian work here during the Thomas Fires (it was not his first).

Ventura’s very own Dr. Susanne Lammot, a pediatrician known for her charitable involvement with the Boys and Girls Club had a connection with one of the relief directors at World Central Kitchen. Responding to a local disaster like the Thomas Fires, the organization likes to connect with a local chef and Susanne called our own Chef Jason Collis on December 6th, just two days after the Thomas Fires erupted and relief efforts began.

I spoke with Chef Jason, one-time owner of Ventura’s restaurant “Jonathan’s” and “J’s Tapas & Martini Bar”. Jason and his wife, Jocelyn have a son and daughter, they sold the businesses when he realized how many birthdays and holidays he had missed, “I didn’t want to be stuck behind the grill to realize one day that I’d missed seeing my kids grow up”.

Their new business, “Plated Events” does exclusive catering and venue management for Limoneira Ranch and The San Buenaventura Mission, doing weddings, corporate events and local fundraisers including being one of the co-producers for the benefit at Plaza Park. Jason said, “when I saw how big it was with World Central Kitchen, I called up Chef Tim Kilcoyne and we worked side by side throughout the entire relief effort along with other local chefs such as Kayla Hernandez, the instructor for the culinary program at Ventura High School”.

World Central Kitchen “tries to tap into local resources to stimulate the local economy” (buying from local farmers and businesses), but they were blown away with the generosity of Ventura”, said Jason. FOOD Share, local farmers and businesses all donated. Buena, Villanova and Thacher schools provided food because “schools were closed, and they had all that food in the cafeteria!”. Ventura Party Rental was instrumental in donating their time and resources by picking up and delivering everything in their trucks.

With 200 volunteers a day for 60 days straight, the World Central Kitchen delivered greater than 35,000 meals to first responders and victims of the Thomas Fires in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, they were presented a portion of the proceeds from the Plaza Park benefit because the committee from the benefit “felt the City of Ventura was blown away with what they did, and we wanted to pay it forward to help the organization with Chef Jose Andres’ mission”, I was told.

Chef Jason contributed 16 hours a day of his own time December 7th to December 27th with World Central Kitchen. Catholic Charities gives an award to those that go “above and beyond”; the San Buenaventura Mission has nominated Chef Jason and wife Jocelyn for their help with World Central Kitchen and Thomas Fire relief efforts.

Maria Ventura Named Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura Board President

Maria has been the “Top 50 Women in Business”

SoCalGas Public Affairs Manager Maria Ventura has been selected by her peers on the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura (BGCGV) Board of Directors to serve as its Board President. Ventura has been a member of the BGCGV Board of Directors since Fall 2014, she will serve a two-year term as the board president ending December 2019.

In her role, as the local Southern California Gas Company representative throughout Ventura County, she serves on several community boards, BGCGV, El Concilio, American Red Cross of Central California, United Way of Ventura County and the Ventura County Economic Development Association (VCEDA).

She has received prestigious recognitions for her professional accomplishments and commitment to the community including Pacific Coast Business Times’ 2017 “Top 50 Women in Business” and Hispanic Lifestyle (an independently produced television program and event producer that promotes positive images of the Latino community) recognized her as a 2017 Latina of Influence.

“With over 15 years’ experience in communications, community and governmental affairs; she is a trailblazer, role model and true advocate for children and families.” said Patti Birmingham, CEO Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura.

“I am excited to assume the board leadership role, after the devastating Thomas Fire, there is a profound determination to rebuild Ventura and grow stronger, this vision must embrace all our citizens including children and their families.” said Maria Ventura.

For 80 years, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Ventura has provided a positive place for all youth, especially those who need us most, and quality programs to help them become healthy, responsible, confident and productive members of our community. According to an independent study by Dr. Jamshid Damooei of Cal Lutheran, 97% of club members are on track to graduate from high school, 92% have improved self-confidence, 83% have improved family relations.

Ventura County is breaking the chain of human trafficking

Community leaders, advocates and concerned citizens attended the sold out viewing of the groundbreaking film Break the Chain recently at the Museum of Ventura County. The film gave a detailed look at how sex and labor trafficking goes unnoticed and is happening in our backyard. In attendance was producer and co-director, Laura E. Swanson; Interface Children & Family Services’ Human Trafficking Program Manager, Christan Perez; VC Coalition Against Human Trafficking, April De Pretis; Ventura County DA Investigator II, Michael Munn; The Acorn Project Founder, Junemarie Justus; and Ventura City Councilmember, Cheryl Heitmann.

When asked their perception of the prevalence of human trafficking in Ventura County, Mike Munn responded “Human trafficking is definitely here. We’ve identified it. If we don’t combat it, it’s going to just fester; it’s going to be like a cancer because the pimps are going to know that they can operate in the county that’s not going to enforce those human trafficking laws.”

Since the start of the human trafficking program last year, Interface Children & Family Services has served 36 human trafficking survivors in Ventura County. Situated between major trafficking hubs of Los Angeles and San Francisco, the U.S. 101 freeway through Ventura County serves as a corridor for human trafficking activities along the central coast. Interface’s human trafficking program provides a trauma-informed and confidential shelter for adult survivors of trafficking. Survivors are provided a safe and supportive residential setting to begin healing from their trauma and work towards reclaiming their independence. Immediate, in-person response is available when requested by law enforcement or medical providers, to emotionally support adult survivors of sex and/or labor trafficking (both U.S. born and foreign nationals). The advocates assess for basic and immediate needs, provide referrals and linkage to supportive services, inform survivors of their rights and discuss options for safely exiting their trafficking situation.

Assembly Member Jacqui Irwin will be hosting a second Break the Chain screening at California Lutheran University, titled Combating Human Trafficking: Local Efforts on a Global Issue on March 28.

For community members who would like to further support human trafficking efforts in Ventura County, Interface Children & Family Services will be hosting the 5th annual Love is Brewing at the Kentucky Derby Champagne Luncheon & Tea on May 12, 2018. Proceeds from this inspiring and educational event will be used to directly support domestic violence, child abuse and human trafficking prevention, intervention and awareness programs. Tickets are on sale for $100 per ticket/$1,000 per table and sponsorships are still available. For reservations or for more information, visit or contact Laura Everest at 485-6114, Ext. 628 or

Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation has received a $10,000 Edison International grant to help fund the 2018 Rodney Fernandez Leadership Fund STEM Scholarship Program.

The Rodney Fernandez Leadership Fund STEM Scholarship Program, created in 2011, honors the legacy of Rodney Fernandez, Cabrillo’s founder and Executive Director for 30 years (1981–2011). The Scholarship continues Fernandez’s legacy of community building by cultivating the leadership of residents to attain their goals, empower themselves and to take action and improve the quality of life in their communities.

“Cabrillo will provide STEM scholarships for underrepresented groups to help reduce financial barriers for those with academic and leadership potential and the desire to pursue STEM careers. We recognize that to increase diversity in the technology workforce, we must increase diversity in undergraduates,” said Cabrillo CEO Margarita H. de Escontrias.

In addition to high quality, safe and secure affordable housing, Cabrillo creates a ladder of opportunity for its low-income residents through comprehensive housing services and educational programs, which include the Rodney Fernandez STEM Scholarship program.

The program provides scholarships for students who wish to pursue education and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). To be eligible, students must be enrolled in and/or continuing college education, in the process of applying to an accredited institution, or enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program, and household income must be less than or equal to 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) for Ventura County. High school applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 to apply.

Cabrillo is currently scheduling applicant information sessions. Dates for these sessions, applications, and additional details will be available on the Cabrillo website ( in April. Please contact the Resident and Community Services Department at with any questions.

Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation’s mission is to provide comprehensive housing services and community economic development activities through a community-building approach that facilitates self-sufficiency for individuals and families who are most lacking in opportunity in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and adjacent areas of Los Angeles County.

Cabaret coming to Ventura

The next major event of the Ventura Music Festival’s 2018 season will take place on Thursday, April 19th with the 3rd annual VMF Cabaret. A celebration of music and culture, the Cabaret will take place at the Wyndham Garden Ventura Pierpont Inn, honoring Spencer & Nancy Garrett and the Pierpont Racquet Club for their outstanding contributions to the Ventura community and culture.

The Cabaret will feature a performance from guitar virtuoso and Latin Grammy-winning singer Twanguero, as well as a live auction to benefit the VMF Young Artists Fund. Tickets for the Cabaret are $150 and will be on sale mid-March on the Ventura Music Festival website. Cabaret Table and Tribute sponsorships are also available.

Since 1994, the mission of the Ventura Music Festival has been to bring world-class music to the community, build audience-artist relationships, and enhance the joy of music through diverse offerings for all ages. For more information, please visit

Are you ready to stand up for a child who needs you?

Find out how at the next CASA(Court Appointed Special Advocates) Informational Session: Monday, March 19 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm .

Today, there are nearly 1,000 children in the Ventura County Dependency Court System who are victims of abuse and neglect. With a string of people, often including their own parents, in and out of their lives, these children are in desperate need of a consistent adult. A CASA Volunteer becomes the one adult who stands up for a child and commits to advocating for the child until he/she is placed in a safe, permanent home.

CASA needs more volunteers! Please consider attending the next CASA Informational Session to learn how you can make a difference in the life of a child in our community.

For more information or to reserve your seat, contact Ken at 389-3120 or Location will be furnished upon registration.