Category Archives: Youth

Dee Dowell Memorial Scholarship Award

Alex Brunk was a 2015 scholarship winner who received $3,500 from the VPOA.

The Ventura Police Officers Association (VPOA) is accepting applications for the 14th annual Dee Dowell Memorial Scholarship. The scholarships will be presented in May to honor Sergeant Darlon “Dee” Dowell, who was shot and killed on August 7, 1978. Sergeant Dowell is the only officer in Ventura’s history to die in the line of duty.

In selecting scholarship recipients, the VPOA will consider academic achievement, school and community service, and financial needs. Applications must contain all required information and be returned no later than April 14. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Scholarship Awards:

  • 1st Place $5,000
  • 2nd Place $3,500
  • 3rd Place $2,000
  • Honorable Mention(s) $500

Applicants must:

  • Be entering his/her freshman through senior year in college;
  • Plan a course of study related to the field of public service;
  • Be a Ventura resident or have graduated from a high school in Ventura within the past three years, or a Ventura Police Department employee or employee’s child.
  • Have a grade point average of 3.0 or better (based on a 4.0 system);
  • Maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or better if selected as a recipient;
  • Submit a resume of school and community activities, including a copy of transcripts through the most recent semester;
  • Submit a typed essay of 1,000 words or less on “Service, what it means to me”;
  • Submit a letter of recommendation from a public servant.

For additional information, please contact Cpl. Cameron Goettsche at 339-4400 or email at  Applications are available at the front desk of the Ventura Police Department located at 1425 Dowell Dr. – named after Sergeant Dowell.

Fair accepting entries from artists for poster contest

Anna Sorensen and Annie Sunwere were 2015 winners of the fair poster contest.

The 8th annual Ventura County Fair poster contest is now open and accepting entries from artists in grades 5 – 12 who reside in Ventura County.

The theme of the 2017 Fair is “Rooted in Tradition” and will serve as the guideline to the imagery.

Artwork may be created in any medium but may not include the use of glitter, metallic paint, or 3 dimensional objects attached to the artwork.

Poster designs will be judged on Theme, Originality, Composition and Skill.  Entries will be accepted until the entry deadline, Friday, April 7. Entries can be brought to the Fairgrounds administration office at 10 W. Harbor Blvd. in Ventura. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8AM until 5PM. Please note: Fairgrounds offices are closed for lunch daily from 12:00 – 1:00 PM.

​Rules, deadlines and other information can be found on the Fair website,  For more information about the contest call 648-3376  or send an email to (Please put “Poster Contest” in the subject line)

Prizes will be awarded to the top three entries, First prize: $500, Second Prize: $250, Third Prize: $100

The winning design will be used to advertise the Fair on Fair posters, souvenirs, advertisements and other applications. Second and third place winners will also be used in various Fair publicity applications. All entries will be displayed in the Youth Expo at the Ventura County Fair. Each child who enters will receive 2 Fair admission tickets and will ride with the Junior Fair Board in the 2017 Ventura County Fair Parade.

​The Ventura County Fair will begin its annual 12-day run Wednesday, August 2 and continue until Sunday, August 13.

For more information about the Fair, or the poster contest, please call the Ventura County Fairgrounds at 648-3376 or visit

In one day flat they  produced a remarkable music video

Guitarist Laurence Juber, Harmony Project young musicians and Jordan Laby at the sleek blue bus. Photo by Bernie Goldstein

The Lennon Bus has provided hundreds of thousands of students and educators with opportunities to tour the bus and get hands on experience with the equipment found on board.  Tours give students an overview of what really goes on in a recording or video production facility and are led by the Lennon staff.  Visitors learn about the history of the Bus, and are introduced to the various production skills needed to produce projects on the bus.

Recently the bus was at Sheridan Way Elementary School and Cabrillo Middle School working with students who are part of the Harmony Group which was formed five years ago by Jordan Laby, and his late wife Sandra.

The Harmony Group, working with the New West Symphony—includes students who were provided with musical instruments and music tuition.

Gabe Smith (Lennon Bus), Brian Vincik (Securematics), Laurence Juber (Lead Guitarist for Paul McCartney’s Wings)

On the bus, Grammy winning guitarist Laurence Juber , from Los Angeles came to coach the youngsters. In one day flat they  produced a remarkable music video featuring the young Harmony students who attend several Ventura schools.  Their video was premiered at Harmony Group’s Feb. 12 fundraiser at the Marriott Ventura Beach..

Ivor Davis (writer of The Beatles And Me On Tour) told the Breeze “John Lennon has been dead for 36 years—but his irrepressible spirit lives on in Ventura County  in the shape of a   $6 million bus—the best mobile recording studio in the world. The John Lennon Educational Bus—a living legacy to the late Beatles life– came to Ventura as part of its mission as Yoko Ono puts it,  ‘to give young people a chance to express themselves through music, video and broadcast productions.’ The original purpose in getting the bus to come to Ventura, was to publicize the Laby’s  magnificent efforts in launching the Harmony Group here. But alas, Sandra didn’t live long enough to see it herself.”

Festival of Talent

Ventura Education Partnership invites members of the community to the 16th annual Festival of Talent to be held on Saturday, Feb. 25 at 7pm at the Ventura High School auditorium.  The theme for the annual All-VUSD talent showcase will be “Rock the World”.  “This year’s theme will celebrate our community’s incredible diversity, as well as our strength and unity,” stated Festival Director Brian McDonald, of the Rubicon Theatre.

Ventura Education Partnership produces the event in conjunction with Ventura Unified School District and the Ventura Kiwanis Club.  Festival of Talent raises funds for VEPGrants, a grant program for VUSD teachers that has a big impact on learning.

In addition to the show, tickets are available for a pre-concert pasta dinner from 5:00 to 6:30pm hosted by the Ventura Unified Leadership Council.

Time to get yourself and/or your kids signed up for a fun, exciting learning experience  

Classes provide participants the opportunity to study with “teaching artists”.

Rubicon offers process-oriented acting classes for kids (beginning at age five) and adults. These programs focus on developing skills and technique, basic theatre terminology, building confidence and stage presence, learning proper voice techniques and developing an awareness of body language through character work, and other fundamental techniques through improvisation, scene study and theatre games. Participants are encouraged to increase their comfort zone and participate at their own pace.

Classes provide participants the opportunity to study with “teaching artists.” Teaching artists are working theatre professionals who hold a high level degree or experience in voice and speech, acting, playwriting, Shakespeare, movement or audition techniques. With an average class size of 16, these courses offer close interaction and individual attention and culminate with a final presentation of the student’s work for family and friends.

Acting (Ages 5-7): A perfect introduction to the world of theatre! Students play imagination games and learn the elements of storytelling.

Acting (Ages 8-12): This is an introductory class that exposes students to scripted scenes and monologues. Students will learn memorization techniques, stage presence, listening and working together with a scene partner as they work on contemporary scripted material.

Acting (Ages 13-18): These fast-paced classes are challenging and great fun. In a nurturing environment, students learn self-assurance while acquiring intermediate acting skills

Acting (Ages 19+): This very popular class looks to further student’s skills or try acting for the first time. Students focus on script analysis, character development, memorization techniques and stage presence while learning how to free the voice and body for individual expression.

Brian McDonald (Education and Outreach Director) is the instructor for the classes. He has directed many of Rubicon Theatre’s (and other theatre’s). As an actor Brian was honored to receive a Mayor’s Arts Award as “Emerging Artist” from the City of San Buenaventura.

Brian has been on staff at Rubicon since 2002 and served as Production Manager and Associate Producer before becoming the Company’s first Education and Outreach Director. Brian is a B.F.A. graduate of the Boston Conservatory of Music, Dance and Theatre.

Individual attention is given to each student and each class culminates in a final presentation for parents, family and friends.

Prices of classes range from $180-$240. To read more about specific class information, such as dates, pricing and class descriptions, and to register for classes please visit the Education and Outreach section at or call  667-2912 ext. 234. Classes start on March 4.


The YMCA helping the community in many ways

Matt Stevens, volunteer; Jim Duran, volunteer; Amy Bailey, Ventura Family YMCA Executive Director and Danielle Brinkman, Board of Managers Chair attended Breakfast with Santa.

Volunteers and supporters with the Ventura Family YMCA support local people in need through a variety of charitable drives. About 600 people attended Breakfast with Santa in December, which collected hundreds of toy donations for local low-income families through the ACTION Foundation of Ventura.

The YMCA Adventure Guides, a program designed to strengthen the relationship between a parent and a child, held a food drive and created 10 baskets for families in need and donated the rest of the food to the Food Pantry. The YMCA also held a coat drive in partnership with the Rotary Club of Ventura, which brought in more than 150 coats for children and families in need.

The YMCA is introducing a new swim curriculum that accurately develops children’s swimming skills by placing them in corresponding stages that best match their age and ability.

This new curriculum will detail what stage each child should begin at and give information on what they will learn as well as the pathways they can lead into as they progress.

“The Ventura Family YMCA is proud to offer instruction in a skill that is not only fun, but also saves lives,” said Brie Young, Aquatics Director.

In the “Swim Starters” classes, accompanied by a parent, infants and toddlers will learn to be comfortable in the water and develop swim readiness skills through fun and confidence building experiences.

As a leading nonprofit committed to youth development, the Y has been a leader in providing swim lessons and water safety instruction for more than 100 years. The Ventura Family YMCA offers a variety of programs to help youth and adults experience the joy and benefits of swimming, while feeling healthy, confident and secure in the water.

Registration for the swim classes is open. Cost to join is $30 for YMCA members and $60 for non-members. Financial scholarships are available .  For more information, contact Brie Young, Aquatics Director at  642-2131 or

Beyond instruction, the Y also provides recreational, competitive and specialty aquatics programs for all ages and abilities, including parent-child classes, water exercise and therapy, water safety and rescue and water sports.

The YMCA is committed to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. To learn how to get involved with the Ventura Family YMCA, visit or call 642.2131.


Ventura Unified School District Female Student of the Year

Aaliyah is planning to become a doctor.

by Victoria Usher

Many people gathered together to help celebrate the 20th Annual Poinsettia Awards luncheon on Thursday, December 8 which is presented by the Ventura Chamber of Commerce. It was a wonderful time for everyone involved that took place at the Marriott Ventura Beach. It was an event that gave deserving recognition to specific individuals and organizations that have made great accomplishments and contributions.

One of these deserving people is Aaliyah Staples-West, a senior at Buena High School in Ventura who won the award for Ventura Unified School District Female Student of the Year.

The principal of her high school nominated her for her accomplishments and when her name got called it was a complete surprise, a wonderful surprise! It’s wonderful to see someone be so determined and passionate about their education and about their future at such a young age.

When Aaliyah isn’t too busy being a hardworking student she is busy playing basketball. She is on the girls’ varsity basketball team and you can tell how passionate she is about her team and about the sport. “I’ve been playing basketball since I was in fourth grade, I love it,” says Aaliyah.

After she graduates from Buena High School, Aaliyah is planning to attend college where she will study biology and then go on to graduate school where she will then study to become a doctor.

San Diego State University and Point Loma are the two universities that Aaliyah is considering for college. The city of San Diego and either one of those universities would be extremely lucky to have someone as down to earth, smart and determined as Aaliyah Staples-West.

Ventura Music Festival Student Jazz Competition

High school jazz musicians performed for the judges and audience.

On Jan. 22, in the Pavilion of the Pierpont Inn judges awarded cash prizes to outstanding Southern California’s best high school jazz musicians as the Ventura Music Festival (VMF) kicks off their new year.

This was 11th annual competition for students and was attended by over 100 who enjoyed some great jazz musicians and the rain.

Renowned musicians Bevan Manson, Eddie Arkin and Steve Marsh were the judges for the completion.

The 5 finalists that performed were Ben Farahi (guitar, 16 Hamilton Academy of Music Los Angeles), Jonah Goldstein (guitar, 16 Calabasas high School, Matthew Michalek (16, alto sax Thousand Oaks High School), Henry Urschel (also sax, 16 Dos Pueblos High School Santa Barbara) and Angelo Velasquez(drums, 18 Newbury Park High School). They were backed up by Bevan Manson on piano, Tom Etchart on bass and Charles Levin on drums.

All of the judges agreed that the students were all outstanding and how hard it was selecting the best but finally decided to award first place to drummer Angelo Velasquez who was the oldest of the students so we can expect several of them to be back next year.

They will be the performing for the public throughout the year, including on Feb. 21st when the VMF announces the 2017 July Festival program at City Hall. So be sure to attend to enjoy the music and be introduced to this year’s VMF.


Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast Provides Girls with STEM Activities Focusing on Conservation

Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast (GSCCC), with the support of a $15,000 grant from the Amgen Foundation, has announced the launch of the 2017 Imagine Your STEM Future program, which will provide STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities to approximately 325 low-income girls, ages 5-18 in Ventura County.

“We are very excited to implement the Imagine program thanks to the continued generous support from the Amgen Foundation,” said Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast Interim CEO Jody Skenderian.

The goal of the Imagine program is to expand girls’ STEM skills as they enjoy hands-on experiments, explore STEM careers, and care for their environment with the help of a strong network of volunteers. Girl Scouts helps foster a life-long passion for STEM and inquiry-based learning as girls engage in cooperative partnerships—working together to solve problems, conduct experiments, and plan and implement STEM-based projects. Whether girls want to learn how to build a robot, a catapult, or participate in global conservation efforts, Girl Scout programs helps them imagine their STEM future with help from grantors such as the Amgen Foundation.

The Amgen Foundation seeks to advance excellence in science education to inspire the next generation of innovators, and invest in strengthening communities where Amgen staff members live and work.

Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast serves over 10,400 girls across six counties and is committed to making the Girl Scout Leadership Experience available to girls in ways that impact their lives both in the moment and into the future. To join or volunteer in Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara or Ventura County, visit:

Twenty-four teens with the Ventura Family YMCA were part of the team

The Ventura Family YMCA Youth and Government delegates at their second Training and Elections Conference in Fresno.

The Channel Islands YMCA Youth & Government delegation joined more than 3,500 youth from across the state in Fresno for their second Training & Elections conference held Jan. 14-16 at the Fresno Convention Center.

The Youth & Government program offered at YMCAs — including the Santa Barbara, Lompoc, Stuart C. Gildred, and Ventura branches of the Channel Islands YMCA — gives students a chance to learn about California’s legislative and judicial processes by writing bills, preparing briefs, and governmental role-play (lobbying, running for office, debating bills, voting on legislation).

“I’m always astonished by the amount I can learn in a three-day conference. Even after a semester of AP Government, in this particular conference, I learned more about the process of trial by jury than I had ever learned in class,” said Caitlin English, senior and fourth-year delegate at Ventura High School and delegation Vice President. “Being able to act out the democratic process and actively participate in trial is such a different experience and is extremely helpful in understanding how our government operates.”

Youth and Government is a six-month program offered by YMCAs across the nation that provides students the opportunity to experience government first-hand and learn how to solve community problems through the democratic process as well as debate and discuss issues with their peers.

“This program is amazing for teens,” said Julie O’Brien, Youth Program Director at the Ventura Family YMCA. “To see a group of high schoolers become so passionate about this type of program is an amazing experience for me, not to mention a life changing experience for them!”

In California, the experience culminates with Model Legislature & Court in Sacramento in February. The Channel Islands delegation will participate in the 69th Model Legislature & Court held Feb. 16-19 at the Sacramento Convention Center. Their first Training and Elections Conference was held in December. Both serve as opportunities for the students to prepare.

To support this program or to learn about how to participate, please contact Julie at 642.2131 ext. 23, or visit

Established in 1887, the Channel Islands YMCA is a charitable organization of seven YMCA branches serving Santa Barbara and Ventura counties including: Camarillo Family YMCA, Lompoc Family YMCA, Montecito Family YMCA, Santa Barbara Family YMCA, Stuart C. Gildred Family YMCA in Santa Ynez, Ventura Family YMCA, and Youth and Family Services YMCA which operates Noah’s Anchorage Youth Crisis Shelter, the St. George Family Youth Center and My Home.