Category: Education

Fun in the Sun

These camps and programs on the Westside offer plenty of activities for kids and teens By Kamala Kirk From coding to cheerleading, we’ve rounded up local camps and programs that cover a wide range of interests to keep kids and teens entertained in the spring and summer. Cheer Mania Taught by professional cheerleaders, Cheer Mania participants will learn jumps, cheers, dance and intro to stunting. Cheer Mania was founded by Michelle Boehle, a former Los Angeles Lakers Girl and UCLA cheerleader. Each day will begin with fun arts and crafts, followed by stretching, cheer and dance instruction, teamwork activities, outdoor lunch at the park, and afternoon freeze dance. On the last day, campers will perform a cheer/dance routine, learn how to make pom poms, create banners, work on teamwork – and maybe even take home the spirit stick! Designed for ages 4 to 12. cheermania.com Coastal Kids LA This roaming adventure camp offers drop off and pick up at various locations in Santa Monica. For their field trips, they meet at Memorial Park. All other meet-up locations are local to Santa Monica. At Coastal Kids, children are guided as they explore all the wonders of nature. The child-inspired emergent curriculum is based upon the children’s interests and what the environment provides. Their popular summer camp is spent mainly on the beach in Santa Monica and the average age of...

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Youth Stories

‘Dream Catchers’ features poetry and prose from kids impacted by incarceration By Kamala Kirk Almost 3 million children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent which puts many of these youth at higher risk for psychological and behavioral problems, antisocial behavior and depression, among other challenges. In 2013, author and prison rights activist Amy Friedman and her husband, Dennis Danziger, founded POPS the Club, a school-based program that offers a safe and supportive space where youth can share their feelings and support each other in recognizing their strength and resilience. The program launched at Venice High School and has expanded nationwide to 19 schools in five states, and continues its mission of helping kids whose loved ones are incarcerated. “What inspired POPS was a personal experience,” Friedman said. “I was previously married to a man I met, fell in love with and married while he was incarcerated. I raised his daughters, and although he and I eventually divorced, my daughters remain my beloveds. But throughout their young adolescence and well into adulthood, I saw the way they hid who they were – cowed and bowed by the stigma they had experienced as a result of their father’s incarceration. Years after we divorced, I remarried Dennis who is a high school teacher, and he and I began to understand how many of his students were coping with the same trauma,...

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Back to School

SMMUSD hosts panel discussion about the pandemic’s impact on education By Alex Hutton The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) recently held a seminar covering the relationship between COVID-19 and schools. The event, held over Zoom and streamed on Facebook Live, was a panel discussion mainly focused on efforts to return to in-person learning for the district’s schools. It was moderated by California state Sen. Ben Allen, a former SMMUSD board member who represents the 26th District, which covers most of the Westside. The panelists included district superintendent Ben Drati, UCLA professor Jamie Lloyd-Smith, immunologist Rita Kachru and LA County Health Impact Evaluation Center Director William Nicholas. Allen began the main portion of the event by discussing progress made in reopening efforts thus far. He focused on the positives, such as increasing vaccination rates and the county potentially being moved from the red to orange tier under California’s COVID-19 guidelines. “We’re really making progress,” Allen said. “So that’s what gets us to this conversation today. How do we take advantage of that progress and get to a place where we can open our schools safely?” Allen then asked the panel about its reactions to new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which suggest that social distancing in classrooms can be as little as 3 feet rather than 6 feet. In his response, Lloyd-Smith focused on...

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Youth of the Year

Venice High School senior honored by Boys & Girls Clubs of Venice By Kamala Kirk Every year, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Venice hosts an annual Youth of the Year Competition that celebrates youth who have overcome enormous odds and demonstrated exceptional character and accomplishments. This year the competition and ceremony were held virtually, and the club’s four Youth of the Year candidates shared stories about their achievements, challenges and how the club has prepared them for a bright future. The Youth of the Year recognition is the highest honor a club member can receive, and the 2021 Youth of the Year winner was Alonna Deshotel, a senior at Venice High School. She has been a member of the club for three years and also received a scholarship. “What I enjoyed about being a member of the club is that I get lots of opportunities such as scholarships and training for jobs,” Deshotel said. “The club goes out of its way to help you achieve your goals and works to set you up for a better future. I’ve gained a lot from the club including friends and counselors I can go to if I ever need help. But my biggest takeaway from the club would be that they helped me discover my passion for art, which has really helped me in my personal life.” Deshotel has proven that...

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Advancing Achievement

Westside Neighborhood School helps students succeed during the pandemic By Kamala Kirk Schools are the cornerstones of communities and COVID-19 has impacted educational institutions around the world, resulting in the shutdown of schools and posing major challenges to teachers, students and families. As a result, children’s academic performance has been affected, along with their progress in cognitive, emotional and social developmental. Since the onset of the pandemic last March, Westside Neighborhood School (WNS) in Playa Vista quickly pivoted and worked diligently with public health officials to address ongoing changes to health and safety regulations while supporting students’ academic needs...

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