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Dominguez Elementary School Grand Opening and Partnership Ceremony

Ms. Dorene Dominguez with student tour guides from H. Frank Dominguez Elementary School

Ms. Dorene Dominguez with student tour guides from H. Frank Dominguez Elementary School

Dominguez & Vanir Leadership" - (left to right): -- Ms. Terri Anderson-Cardinal, Program Facilitator, H. Frank Dominguez Elementary School -- Mr. Alejandro Hernandez, Principal, H. Frank Dominguez Elementary School -- Ms. Dorene Dominguez, Chairman, Vanir Foundation -- Ms. Adrienne Cisneros-Selekman, President, Vanir Foundation

Dominguez & Vanir Leadership” – (left to right):
– Ms. Terri Anderson-Cardinal, Program Facilitator, H. Frank Dominguez Elementary School
– Mr. Alejandro Hernandez, Principal, H. Frank Dominguez Elementary School
– Ms. Dorene Dominguez, Chairman, Vanir Foundation
– Ms. Adrienne Cisneros-Selekman, President, Vanir Foundation

SAN BERNARDINO, CA-Dorene Dominguez, Chairman of The Vanir Foundation in Memory of H. Frank Dominguez, San Bernardino Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Dale Marsden and the Vanir Foundation Board of Directors celebrate the grand opening and partnership of the H. Frank Dominguez Elementary School. The festivities included a school adoption by Cross Walk Church, first grade singers, and a special presentation of the H. Frank Dominguez plaque by Dorene Dominguez. After the ceremony, a mariachi band led guests to a reception followed by school tours by Dominguez Elementary school students.

The Vanir Foundation is pleased to announce their new partnership with H. Frank Dominguez Elementary School. As stated by Ms. Dominguez, “Since its inception in 2004, the Vanir Foundation has helped thousands of students by brining academic enrichment programs to our partner schools.” The Vanir Foundation has provided funding for:

  • Apple iPad Airs for use of technology in the classroom;
  • Science & College focused field trips to enhance learning outside the classroom;
  • Honor Roll incentives to encourage student achievement;
  • School Uniforms;
  • and the highly successful “Engineering is Elementary” Program which exposes students to engineering concepts through a hands-on workshop approach.

This partnership will engage students in learning activities that stress critical thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills that are required for success in high school graduation, college, career, and life. Principal Alejandro Hernandez said, “We’re a 21st century skills school, planting the seeds of Hope, Inspiration, Knowledge, and Relationships.”

The Vanir Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3), is dedicated to partnering with schools in underserved communities by promoting achievement in math, science, language arts and engaging students in the field of engineering.

For more information and to donate to the Vanir Foundation, please visit www.VanirFoundation.org.

SBCUSD Students Reminisce About Participating in Local History

Vice President Joe Biden (Photo Credit Angela Coggs)

Vice President Joe Biden (Photo Credit Angela Coggs)

By Angela M. Coggs

How often can someone say they attended an event in their own backyard where the current sitting Vice President of the United States was a speaker? Most people can go their entire life without having such an opportunity. But two students from the San Bernardino County Unified School District had the chance to do just that. On Saturday, November 1st at a “Get out the Vote” Rally at Colton High School, Yonathan Habtemariam (8th grader- Richardson Prep Middle School) and Jonathan Rodgers (9th grader- Cajon High School) were two students in a sea of several hundred adults in the Colton High School gymnasium. Both young men attended the event with their respective mothers, both whom are officers of the SBCUSD District African American Advisory Council (DAAAC), whom were also elated to see history up close and personal.

Vice President Biden was on the campaign trail for then candidate Pete Aguilar. Aguilar, the former Mayor of Redlands, went on to win his election bid for the 31st Congressional District seat held by the retiring Rep. Gary Miller, R-Rancho Cucamonga.  The 31st district stretches through San Bernardino County from Rancho Cucamonga to Redlands.

Joe Biden arriving to event. (Photo taken by Izaiah Frazier)

Joe Biden arriving to event. (Photo taken by Izaiah Frazier)

During the rally, Biden referred to Aguilar’s childhood and being raised in a working-class family in San Bernardino. He also mentioned how Aguilar paid his way through college with two jobs and federal grants and loans. Biden urged the attendees in the Colton High School gymnasium to “pick a son of America who understands what it’s like to work hard, who understands what it’s like to put a family together, who understands what it means to struggle and get through school, who understands that every single solitary child out there deserves the same chance he had.”

“I never thought I would have an opportunity to see the Vice President in person. I didn’t believe it was really happening until he walked on stage. We were so close,” said Yonathan Habtemariam, who was taking pictures on his phone for proof. “Nobody will believe I was actually here. I can’t believe that I’m in the same breathing space as the Vice President”.  When asked what he remembered most about Biden’s speech he stated, “It was sad to hear how he had to move in with his grandfather and his father had to leave the family for a year just to find work. He also could not get a loan to send him (Biden) to college. Even though he was really good in baseball and football, it wasn’t enough to pay for school. That’s why he (Biden) is in favor of Pell grants. Having a Pell grant helped him get through college and he said everyone deserves an equal chance.” Hearing the speakers talk about the future in regards to making college an equal opportunity reality really resonated with Habtemariam who will be a high school freshman next year. “Anyone who wants to go to college should have the opportunity. I look forward to going to college, like my sister, in a few years.”

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Yonathan Habtemariam, Angela Coggs, Jonathan Rodgers, and Gwen Rodgers

For the self-declared future civil rights attorney Jonathan Rodgers, having an opportunity to see Vice President Biden at this time in his life made him think about what more lies ahead. Rodgers was equally impressed with and motivated by what was said during the rally.  He had the chance to hear firsthand what the Aguilar political platform was and how Aguilar plans on achieving it.  “It was a once in a lifetime experience. Knowing that I’m 15 years old, and I got to be in the same room as the Vice President. I think waiting in the rain was worth it for the reward.” Rodgers is planning ahead because he knows that college is in his future. “I’m grateful to have that moment at such a young age.”

Another student on the scene was 10 year old Izaiah Frazier. He was given a “special assignment” from his grandmother, Cynthia Frazier, to figure out where to position himself to get pictures of Biden’s motorcade. After strategically studying his environment, he decided to stand on the corner of Valley Blvd and Rancho Avenue across from the 10 freeway exit ramp. Although he did not know what direction the Vice President was travelling to the event, he believed that the corner he stood on would allow him an opportunity to get a good picture. Frazier was baffled and bewildered that local residents had no idea that the Vice President of the United States was due to arrive in their neighborhood. “It was awesome to see the Vice President and his motorcade. It is something that I will remember when I grow up,” Frazier said. Frazier was correct about is location. Minutes later after an initial police escort, the official motorcade exited the freeway and Frazier was able to take a few good pictures as he waved at the limo in hopes that Biden would see him. Even at such a young age, he knows the importance of voting and that he had a rare opportunity to see a Vice President in his community.

A valuable lesson these three young boys learned is the importance of getting involved in community events no matter what one’s age is. Another lesson they learned is that it is important to allow one’s voice to be heard at the ballot box.  Although the opportunity to attend the rally was not available to many young students, the message conveyed clearly resonated with these three.

Grad Summit: Increasing Graduation Rates through Career Pathways

San Bernardino County School Board District Members  and Assemblymember Cheryl R. Brown gather for a group shot during the Grad Summit ceremony on Saturday, November 15. (Photo credit: Angela M. Coggs)

San Bernardino County School Board District Members and Assemblymember Cheryl R. Brown gather for a group shot during the Grad Summit ceremony on Saturday, November 15. (Photo credit: Angela M. Coggs)

By Angela M. Coggs

On Saturday, November 15th, Grad Summit 2014 was held at California State University, San Bernardino from 8:30am to 3:00pm. The event was organized by a coalition of local, state and national organizations that joined forces to make college and career readiness a core educational priority in San Bernardino.

The summit convened in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and National GradNation Campaign and the San Bernardino City Unified School District (SBCUSD) and CSUSB, among other groups, which was attended by parents, students, and community officials.

The primary goal of the National GradNation Campaign is to achieve a 90% graduation rate nationwide by 2020 with no high school graduating less than 80 percent of its students.

The summits goal is to build on dropout prevention efforts by elevating San Bernardino County-Wide efforts to link classroom innovation with career development to improve graduation rates and college/career readiness. The day-long summit featured inspirational speakers and dynamic workshop sessions that demonstrated rigorous academics emphasizing real-world application critical for college and career.

Dina Walker (Photo Credit:: Angela M. Coggs)

Dina Walker (Photo Credit:: Angela M. Coggs)

Officials in attendance included SBCUSD Superintendent Dr. Dale Marsden, SBCUSD Communications Director Linda Bardere, Superintendent Elect SBCS Ted Alejandre, CSUSB President Dr. Tomas D. Morales, SBCUSD Board President Mike Gallo, SBCUSD Board Member Abigail Medina, and Executive Director Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE) Rev. Samuel Casey.

Two SBCUSD students helped to kick off the morning with encouraging and inspirational words. Raihanah Medlock, Grand Terrace High School sophomore, recited an uplifting spoken word and Alexander Mattison, San Bernardino High School senior, also represented the student voice and challenged students to graduate from high school and to sign the pledge banner. His speech reverberated with the audience.

Dina Walker, newly elected member of the Rialto School Board and President/CEO of BLU Educational Foundation, was the moderator for the event.

“I thought the Summit was excellent. We had great buy-in from many community leaders, educational leaders, as well, parents and students. The connection for career and college was definitely evident. The feedback I received from some of the students was that they were very interested in everything especially about the entrepreneurship. It gave them ways to connect what they want to do and make money out of it. Even if they did not go onto college how they would be viable,” said Walker.

The keynote speakers, Eric Schmidt, Co-Founder of Exquadrum Inc. and Garner Holt, Garner Holt Productions, Inc. addressed the attendees with their inspirational stories of how their passion was realized at a young age and how they made a living from something the loved. Their message really resonated with the students, as well as the parents, in the audience. Walker agreed, “One of the things they (students) got out of the speakers today was taking their personal interest, even as a young person, and making into a business opportunity.”

Rev. Sam Casey with members of the SB County Sheriff Department (Photo Credit: Angela M. Coggs)

Rev. Sam Casey with members of the SB County Sheriff Department (Photo Credit: Angela M. Coggs)

In addition to the speakers and the many valuable workshops, including Building Ideas for Teen Entrepreneurs, Career Pathway Success in Public Safety Academy, College Knowledge 101, and Building Ninjas Robots, there were vendors on hand with information and giveaways. Edison International representative, Wendell Jones, attended the summit to promote their 2015 Edison Scholars Program and was very impressed with the day-long event. “The Summit was amazing. It had a lot of valuable information for the students and the parents here. It was a great informational session and I look forward to being a part of it again next year.” Jones spoke to many students and parents about the scholarship opportunity from Edison in hopes to motivate them to apply for the program. “Edison is offering thirty (30) $40,000 scholarships to high school seniors looking to go into a four year university in an S.T.E.M (Science Technology Engineering and Math) program. They must live or go to school in an Edison region, have a 2.8 grade point average. The application pool was low last year and this is why I am out here and going to other events and schools and letting students know about this opportunity.”

Performances from local schools Richardson PREP Jazz Band, San Gorgonio High School Dance Group, and Arroyo Valley High School Dance Company in the afternoon were a real crowd pleaser. All the students put on a flawless routine and received standing ovations.

Brianna Robertson, 9th grader from Cajon High School, was empowered after the Summit. “I was really surprised how much of a good time I had. I learned a few new things that will better prepare me for college. Plus, I had friends there and we will remind each other of what we learned and to stay on track. The school band, BSU dancers, lunch and raffle prizes made the day even better.” Robertson attended the event with her mother who was also a vendor. Devona Robertson is an engage mother of three, community leader, District African American Advisory Council (DAAAC) Officer and Vice President of Young Women’s Empowerment Foundation (YWE), signed the San Bernardino 2014 GradSummit Call to Action Pledge banner after accepting the challenge given to the educational leaders, parents/caregivers and students during the opening welcome and remarks.

As a growing movement of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities working together to end America’s dropout crisis, this day-long summit to help ensure that all students graduate from high school prepared for college and a career was a success.