Thursday, December 16, 2010

Meet the New and Familiar Members of the COE’s Board of Education

Left to right, new Board Trustees Richard Asadoorian, Cynthia Ruehlig, and Ellen Elster, along with Superintendent of Schools, Joseph A. Ovick, Ed.D.

At the last Contra Costa County Board of Education meeting (December 8), the exciting evening featured the installation and introduction of the three newest Board of Education trustees, as well as the county’s returning superintendent of schools. The newly elected trustees will join the two sitting members, Pamela Mirabella (Area 1) and Daniel Gomes (Area 3). In addition, Joseph A. Ovick, Ed.D., was also sworn in to begin his fifth term as the county’s superintendent of schools.

Along with Dr. Ovick, most of the attendees recognized another familiar face, Ellen Elster, who has participated in many Board meetings over the years. Elster worked at the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) for 34 years, retiring last year as deputy superintendent of schools. During her tenure with the CCCOE, she also served as a special education teacher, ROP program manager, ROP director, and associate superintendent of Student Programs and Services.
She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in social studies, and a Master's Degree in school administration. Elster will be representing Area 2, which includes: Clyde, Crockett, Hercules, Martinez, Pacheco, Port Costa, Rodeo, and parts of Bay Point, Concord, Kensington, Lafayette, Orinda, Pinole, Pittsburg, Pleasant Hill, and Richmond.

Richard Asadoorian is another education veteran joining the Board, he is a former teacher, counselor, activities director and principal for schools grades K-12. In addition, he has served on two school board finance committees. Asadoorian has resided and worked in Arizona, Oregon, and Fresno, where he served as principal of Fresno Continuation High School. He has also donated many hours of his time as a counselor with several volunteer organizations. Asadoorian holds a Master’s Degree in education theory. His Area 4 covers Blackhawk, Clayton, Danville, Diablo, San Ramon, and parts of Alamo, Antioch, Bay Point, Concord, Pittsburg, and Walnut Creek.

Completing the new group of trustees is Cynthia Ruehlig, who currently works as a clerk for Contra Costa County’s Children & Family Services. Ruehlig’s additional community service also includes serving as the webmaster for St. Ignatius of Antioch Church, chief steward for American Federation of State County Municipal Employees-Local 2700, a member of the CCC Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Council, and an administrator for the Antioch Music Foundation. She possesses a Bachelor’s Degree in English. Her Area 5 includes: Bethel Island, Brentwood, Byron, Discovery Bay, Knightsen, Oakley, and parts of Antioch, Bay Point, and Pittsburg.

The five-member Contra Costa County Board of Education establishes educational policies for the programs administered by the County Office of Education. These programs include special education, career technical education, and court and community schools.

Along with Dr. Ovick and the newest board members’ installation proceedings, the board elected their upcoming year’s officers:

Pamela Mirabella, president

Cynthia Ruehlig, vice president
Richard Asadoorian, clerk

Friday, December 3, 2010

32 Year Partnership Between Chevron and ROP Proves Successful

ROP Instructor, Butter Simms with ROP graduate Stacey Reynolds.

Process Plant Operator course changes the life and future of student Stacey Reynolds.

In the latest issue of Chevron Richmond Today, CCCOE ROP graduate Stacey Reynolds shares how the Refinery/Process Plant Operator class she took 14 years ago changed the course of her life. Read the full story here.

The Refinery/Process Plant Operator course teaches mechanical skills for boilermaker, pipefitter, machinist, and welder, as well as other skills needed to pass employment tests for industries. Prerequisites: Pass basic math/reading test, valid California Driver’s License, instructor interview. To see a full listing of courses offered by the CCCOE ROP Program, click here.

For the past 32 years, Chevron has funded and provided instructors and other resources for the Process Plant Operator course taught in Richmond. You may access the Chevron quarterly news magazine Chevron Richmond Today, here.

Contra Costa County Transition Task Force Presents Transitioning Into A Social World

Tuesday, January 4, 2010
7:45 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Parents & Professionals

Come ready to network and be inspired! This year's keynote speaker will provide us with innovative approaches to social success and practical information we can use! The registration fee includes a continental breakfast, buffet lunch and enrollment in 4 breakout sessions in a wide variety of courses covering these main topics:

  • Education
  • Disability Rights
  • Employment
  • Living Options
  • Benefits
  • Mental Health
  • Relationships
  • Parent Supports
  • Resource Room

During the conference lunch, visit the Resource Room located in the Trophy Room to gather information about resources in our community.

For full details about the workshops along with a registration form, click here for the pdf.

Sponsored by the Contra Costa County Transition Task Force, and

  • Contra Costa County Office of Education
  • Contra Costa SELPA
  • Contra Costa Developmental Disability Council
  • Mt. Diablo Unified School District
  • Regional Center of the East Bay
  • San Ramon Valley USD/SELPA
  • West Contra Costa Unified School District

Friday, November 19, 2010

CCCOE and Los Medanos College Come Together to Serve Their Community

Within the past few years, the CCCOE and Los Medanos College (LMC) have come together in a special partnership to provide crucial services to East County infants, toddlers, and young adults, as well as their families, with both the College Connection Transition Program and Early Start Program. Both of these much-needed CCCOE programs are housed on the LMC campus.

The College Connection Transition Program is for students, ages 18-22, which are identified with special needs and have not yet received a high school diploma. The program offers numerous services to the students, including vocational interest assessments, life skills instruction, social and leisure skills development, speech therapy, ongoing evaluation of high school transcripts, and many more.

Instructor, Allan Saviskas said, "The CCCOE Transition class began here at LMC just a little more than a year ago. Currently, there are 14 students enrolled, with a total of 27 students who have attended since we've opened our doors." Giving an example of one of the services that the class provides, Allan said that this year the Transition Programs from DVC and LMC placed a dozen of their Summer Job Academy students in paying positions with Marshall's and CVS Drug Store.

Recently, LMC Interim President Richard Livingston visited the Transition Program. "He was quite impressed by the college classes our students were taking, and the fact that they were also working on vocational training, credit recovery toward their high school diploma, and independent living skills," reports Principal Barbara Berman.

Playgroup provides parents and siblings the opportunity participate with the student in learning signing and building communication skills. Pictured here playing in the LMC Child Care facility yard are (left to right): Marco Roman, sibling; Liliana Roman, mom; Mireya Salamasidis, instructional assistant; Gabriel Hidalgo, student; Fernando Roman, student; Alexa Ortega, student and Giants fan.

The CCCOE and LMC's partnership with Early Start began about five years ago. The Contra Costa County Office of Education also has Early Start programs at the CCCOE sites at Marchus School and O'Hara Park.

Early Start's teacher of deaf and hard of hearing infants and toddlers Sarah Buhre said, "We get our referrals from the California Newborn Hearing Screening Program, which helps to diagnose children at birth and gets the kids into Early Start by age six months. They will begin the program from anywhere between two weeks old to nine months old, or older. The children will then stay with us until they are three years old." The program works with east county kids who have exceptional needs, such as vision, hearing, orthopedic, or other developmental delays. At this time, the program has 26 kids enrolled, with a few new referrals waiting for assessments in the wings.

Then, longtime LMC president, Peter Garcia (currently DVC's interim president), visited Early Start, during this past summer, and was quite enthused with what he saw taking place on his campus. Sarah said, "President Garcia was quite impressed with the programs and enjoyed watching the children's circle time. He asked plenty of great questions about the program, such as how many students we served, what kinds of things we did on home visits, etc. He also said how happy he was that we were on the campus, and that Early Start was a great collaboration with the LMC's Child Study Center."

Our teachers, Allan and Sarah, have witnessed so many wonderful success stories, when it comes to the students attending these two programs. These stories would never materialize without their patience and hard work, as well as their fellow teachers and support staff - and the partnership of the CCCOE and LMC.

Two CCCOE Locations Serve the Visually Impaired in Contra Costa County

For years, teachers of the visually impaired would access services for their students through the Resource Center for the Visually Impaired (RCVI) located at Mauzy School in Alamo. The Visually Impaired Program provides resource services to students with visual impairments and provides materials in Braille and large print to a wide variety of students throughout Contra Costa County who are either blind or partially sighted.

Above, VI teacher Heather Walsh (left) drops by the East County VI Resource Center to pick up materials from Braillist, Carolyn Brannan (right).

Last school year (2009-2010) Braillist Carolyn Brannan moved her services to East County (located in an office at the Joseph A. Ovick School) in order to better serve teachers in the east county, while central county continues to be served by Carol Drohan RCVI at Mauzy.

Carolyn started with the COE in 2005 working in Alamo with former lead braillist, Monica Kreiger. “Monica encouraged me to learn braille,” said Carolyn. Before coming to the COE, Carolyn worked for Brentwood USD starting in 2002, working one-on-one with, Victor Silva, the first Braille reader in the Brentwood Union School District at Krey Elementary and eventually Edna Hill School. “I knew the best way to help Victor was to learn braille,” Carolyn concluded, “but it was a long arduous task.”

Braille is a system of raised dots that represent letters of the alphabet, numbers, punctuation, and other symbols, some of which may stand for groups of frequently occurring letters. Braille may be embossed on paper, or read by means of computer-connected refreshable braille output devices, which present the raised dots on a keyboard-like apparatus. There are several levels of braille: in grade one braille, words are spelled out letter by letter; in grade two, a system of contractions streamlines the presentation significantly. Grade three is more highly contracted still and, like shorthand, often used for note taking by the older, more experienced students. Other braille codes are specialized for particular areas of interest, such as music, mathematics, and scientific notation. In order to become a Certified Braillist, Carolyn had to study and complete the Instruction Manual for Braille Transcribing produced by the Library of Congress and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Additionally she had to submit a manuscript of at least 35 full braille pages of high school level literary braille to the Library of Congress, which was then proofread by blind proofreaders.

"One of the challenges in my position is to know each student's grade level of braille, making sure that each student gets his/her daily worksheets, quizzes and tests, as well as textbooks and consumables (if they are not available from the state) in braille at their current skill level." That can mean switching between large print and the two grades of braille each day in order to best meet the students needs, and of course, keep them challenged and moving forward in their braille skills. Even though current technology has helped tremendously, Braillists must stay up-to-date on revised codes and rules.

The braillists, and Michael Parsons, braille assistant at the Mauzy site, also use a special piece of equipment called a Zychem Tactile Enhancer. It uses capsule paper which is coated with millions of “thermally-foamed” microcapsules that respond to light and cause the black image on the paper to swell, producing a tactile image (graphs, maps, tables, timelines, figures, etc.).
The county currently offers services to ten braille readers, ranging from pre-school to high school levels. From June 2009 to the present, the Braille Center has received over 153 textbooks, consumables, and novels. This figure does not include the worksheets, quizzes, and tests which the Braille center produces throughout the year. When added up, the Braille Centers have produced of more than 50,500 pages of braille and 4,800 tactiles for the school year thus far.

“I am very proud of the work Carolyn has done to create a complete Braille Center in East County,” said Diane Misasi, Student Programs principal at the East County location. “We invite our local districts and COE staff to schedule a visit, as the output from this office is truly incredible.”

Some e-circuit readers may remember former VI students, Caitlin Hernandez and Derek Czajka. They have both graduated high school and are juniors in college this year. Caitlin is a Literature major at UC Santa Cruz, and Derek is at Stanford majoring in Computer Science. 2007 graduate Jennifer Drohan is currently at DVC and plans to transfer to Saint Mary’s College and major in Psychology. She wants to be a social worker for the disabled population. Each of these students would credit their success in the mainstream classroom to their braille teachers and the Resource Center for providing their materials in braille during their K-12 years.

CTAG Projects Celebrated

Teachers and principals throughout the county gathered to celebrate the final round of County Technology Academy Grants (CTAG). The CTAG program was made possible through the generous partnership between CCCOE and The Lesher Foundation. This opportunity joined teachers, schools, and the local community in supporting education for the past 13 years.

Left, Amy Geotina (former COE employee, now working at Las Lomas High) and Mac Carey, chief technology officer for the COE, strike a pose with Frank Marrero who proudly displays the Certificate of Achievement he received for the Professional Development Grant project: Communication, Collaboration, and the Writing Process: Using Wikis and Blogs to Enliven the Teaching of Writing. Mr. Marrero teaches at Ellerhorst Elementary in West Contra Costa USD. This year's CTAG Celebration was held October 28, in the COE board room.

The CTAG grant became a recognized grant program to support teacher and school projects that brought technology and training to staff to support student learning. Over the past 13 years, almost two million dollars in 246 grants have been awarded to more than 500 teachers in Contra Costa County.

Judy Lauper and Dennis Beck from Clayton Valley High School share steps in making a video lesson.

Angela Guidi and Monique Della-Santina from Rheem Elementary exhibit the advantages of having a Promethean ActivBoard in the classroom.

The goals of CTAG have remained consistent over the life of the programs:
  • To increase technology capabilities in classrooms in order to enhance curriculum and increase student learning.
  • To provide technical support to teachers to use new technology in ways that infuse technology into classrooms and curriculum.
  • To promote long-term community support of the local schools by requiring matching funds from each recipient's school/community.
Teachers have embraced the use of technology in their classrooms to impact over 10,000 students in Contra Costa County. A few examples of the type of technology that teachers have used funds to purchase and receive professional development on are: interactive whiteboards, document cameras, student response systems, LCD projectors, computers, and voice amplification systems.

"Acquiring the CTAG Grant and implementing our goal has not only enriched the learning environment for our students, but also has taken our teaching practices to a higher level." 
Morello Park Elementary, Martinez Unified School District

This grant has had a significant effect on thousands of students in Contra Costa County and will continue to do so for several years to come. Contra Costa County Office of Education, along with the students and teachers we represent, appreciate the generous support of The Lesher Foundation.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Academic Events Showcase Our County's Youth

2010 Model United Nations Gavel Winners

"I declare this session now open," and with a thud of the gavel the 20th Annual Contra Costa County Model UN began. The "delegates," representing countries from Afghanistan to Zambia, debated topics ranging from Post-Conflict Reconstruction to Energy for Sustainable Development. In all, nearly 300 students from 14 area high schools (Acalanes, Antioch, Athenian, California, Campolindo, Carondelet, Concord, De La Salle, Gunn, Las Lomas, Marin Academy, Monte Vista, Northgate, and San Ramon Valley) took part in this year's two-day event, held at Diablo Valley College (DVC) in Pleasant Hill. To help the whole event flow smoothly, members of the UC Davis Model UN Club acted as Committee Chairs -- guiding delegates through resolution proposals, caucuses, and voting sessions -- while volunteers from our Communications and Business departments assisted with registration and set-up. Read more about the event in the Contra Costa Times and see lots of action shots of day one at the Best Delegate Blog and day two here.

Along with our NEW Mock Trial Invitational on December 4, these fall events serve as a warm-up for the Academic Events staff as they get ready for the overlapping January and February competitions of Academic Decathlon and Mock Trial. The County Office serves as the regional host of these two events, determining the team that will go on to represent Contra Costa at the state competition. Hundreds of students acquire important real-world skills in negotiating, public speaking, research, and problem solving.

As the proud sponsor of these events, CCCOE is privileged to showcase our youth's academic achievements. We are even more fortunate so many of our staff feel the same way and volunteer each year as judges, proctors, and set-up artists to ensure that these events maintain CCCOE's reputation for quality. If you would like to be part of this program, please contact Karen Rice at or (925) 942-3400. Volunteers for Academic Decathlon can find sign-up forms here; volunteers for Mock Trial (evening courtroom coordinators are needed) please contact Karen Rice.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Local Teen Parents Learned how Sharpen their Life Skills at Independent City

On Tuesday, October 19, more than 75 Contra Costa County teen parents attended this year’s annual Independent City, to learn how to be better providers and parents for their young families. This very successful program was directed by Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCEO) Supervisor Brenda Sharp, in collaboration of the CCCOE and FIRST 5 Contra Costa.

(l-r) Ursula Taylor, CCCOE & Michelle Williams, Brighter Beginnings helping young parents

Independent City is a reality skills workshop for teen parents in our community. The Ambrose Recreation Center, in Bay Point, Calif., was transformed into a simulated city, with agency tables set up around the room for the teen parents to receive information on business and community services needed for them to live out on their own.

“You are here to learn how to take advantage of all the services we have here in Contra Costa County,” Sharp to the attendees. Supporting agencies who took part with Independent City included Bank of America/Union Bank, Diablo Valley College, John Muir Women’s Center, STAND, Families First, Regional Occupation Programs (ROP), Youth Development Services, and the Contra Costa Employment & Human Services Department.

Brenda Sharp

The businesses and agencies brought copies of actual forms needed for their clients to receive services. Participants visited all business and agency tables, leaned how to learn how to complete actual application forms, in order to receive services. On this day, they gained knowledge about housing, insurance, continued education, employment, money management, health services, and smart shopping.

As Sharp told the young parents, “By learning these skills we practiced today, and continuing your education, you will be able to offer your child, as well as yourselves, so much more in life!”

For more information about this event, you can read this recent article in the Contra Costa Times.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Delta Vista Students get a Hall of Fame Lesson from One of the Greatest

Well known for his incredible football career, as well as his numerous generous philanthropic gestures, Hall of Fame former San Francisco 49er Ronnie Lott took time out, on October 18, to spend the afternoon with the students at Delta Vista High School. Delta Vista is located inside the Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility (formerly known as the Byron Boys’ Ranch), in Byron. On this day, the All Pro offered up the boys plenty of encouragement, empowerment, and entertainment.

As the close-to-100-young men (clad in orange, blue, or kaki jumpsuits), took their seats, Lott made it a point to great each one of them with a handshake and a warm hello. When his hour-and-a-half presentation began, he held all of the boys’ undivided attention as he talked
about his younger days, football career, after-football career, the current status of the National Football League (NFL), and his philosophies on being successful in life. The only time the boys would look away was when they were passed Lott’s Super Bowl ring, for each of them to hold and try on for size.

Still looking like he could play this coming Sunday, Lott told the boys how important it is to take responsibility for your actions: “Every one of you has some game! It’s what you do with it that’s important.” Lott also talked about his important influences in his life: his coaches, friends, and especially his dad. “My dad always told me, ‘You have to exhaust life, because you never know when your number will come up.’” Lott’s accomplishments certainly prove that he was listening to his father.

Allan Cacciaroni, longtime Delta Vista teacher and program coordinator, has put together a number of these types of speaking engagements for his students. “I couldn't be more pleased with Ronnie Lott taking the time to talk to our kids; we can’t thank him enough, reported Cacciaroni. It was obvious to all the teachers, staff, and probation officers, that Lott shared the same desire of making a difference with this group of kids. “He had them fully captivated, like no other guest we’ve had in the past,” continued Cacciaroni. “It was his personable approach that caught the attention, not only with these youths, but with the full staff and administration. He was a true inspirational speaker with elaborate answers to all questions given, and I'm sure it will have an effect.”

An All-American defensive back at the University of Southern California in 1980, Lott was chosen by the San Francisco 49ers in the first round of the 1981 National Football League (NFL) draft, and for the next 14 seasons he amassed one of the most successful football careers any player has experienced in the league. Along with the 49ers, Lott played with the Oakland Raiders and the New York Jets. His many NFL accolades include being four-time Super Bowl champion, playing in 10 Pro Bowls, fifth on the NFL all-time interception list, and was named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1995.
Lott answered plenty of questions about his professional football career with the 49ers and Raiders, as well as his collegiate play at the University of Sothern California. He answered many questions about today’s NFL players and teams. There was also plenty of interest about his post football life. Lott now enjoys a very successful business and family life. He owns a carwash and an auto dealership in Tracy, Calif.

Obviously understanding his audience, Lott finished the session by telling the incarcerated boys: “Take my advice, I know you have rage inside you, I do as well. I know it’s hard. But, like me, you need to turn that rage into something positive and productive in your life! I know every one of you can do that!”

The Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) operates many different programs, such as Delta Vista High, for high-risk juveniles, including those referred by probation and by local school districts for expulsion, behavioral issues or school attendance problems, and those in probation court facilities. The programs provide challenging academic curriculum and assist students in developing positive social skills. For additional info, visit our website.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

County Teacher of the Year Named

Concluding an energy-driven and exciting evening at the Concord Hilton, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Joseph Ovick, Ed.D., announced the night-long anticipated naming of the county’s next Teacher of the Year – it was Pinole Valley High’s Michele Lamons. Lamons (at left) has been teaching English and sign language at Pinole Valley High for the past eight years.

After being named by the West Contra Costa County Unified School District as their district Teacher of the Year (TOY), this past March, Lamons successfully proceeded with the other 17 eligible county candidates through a rigorous county-wide selection process, which included an application screening, classroom evaluation, interview, and speech presentation. Her fellow finalists were John Korzick, San Ramon Valley Unified SD, (California High) and Lori Leach, Brentwood Union SD, (R. Paul Krey Elementary).

Close to 400 attendees were on hand for an evening that will certainly not be forgotten. The audience was made up of the TOYs’ family members and friends, as well as numerous local educators, business partners, and officials. Kicking off the festivities was a rousing version of “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” performed by Alhambra High School’s “Pivotal Vortex,” directed by teacher Julianne George. Master of ceremonies, Dr. Ovick introduced the TOY class of 2010-2011 (19 TOYs were on hand) by sharing stories to the audience about his visits to each of the teachers’ classrooms. This was followed by speeches of the three TOY finalists, their topic: “What I have learned from my students.” Following the three speeches, Lamons’ announcement was made.

Along with the courses she teaches at Pinole High, Lamons serves as an adviser and coordinator for several school student groups and activities, including the Forensics (speech and debate) Team, the African American Student Union, Black History Month, Day of Peace Celebration, and annual college fair. She also teaches English at Solano College, in Fairfield.

Lamons will now compete with all the other county representatives in the California State TOY competition. The California State Teachers of the Year are expected to be announced in early November.

The county TOY program is produced by the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). (For additional TOY info, visit the CCCOE website).

The Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration was taped by Contra Costa Television (CCTV), and is scheduled for the following dates:

*October 13, 7:00 p.m.
*October 14, 4:00 p.m.
*October 18, 10:00 a.m.

CCTV is on Comcast channel 27, Astound channel 32, and AT&T U-Verse channel 99.

For additional air dates, check CCTV's program guide at

Thursday, September 9, 2010

CCCOE's Summer Jobs Program Student Interns Learned First Hand about Career Life

While many of their classmates were enjoying the pleasures of summer vacation, high school students Benjamin Quach, William Quach, and Carlos Rivera were working hard, and learning applicable education and employment skills at BioCare Medical, in Concord. These three young men were enrolled in the CCCOE Contra Costa Youth@Work Summer Program. "It's so inspiring to see these three young men thrive and do so well with their jobs here at BioCare," says CCCOE Youth Development Specialist Oscar Blackwell. These three summer interns were just a few of the many Contra Costa high school students Blackwell works with directly, throughout the year.

Headquartered in Concord, Calif., BioCare Medical is an innovator in advanced care and diagnosis technologies to aid physicians to correctly diagnose challenging cancers. This was the second year the company has participated in the program.

"Students who qualify for Contra Costa Youth@Work program come from low-income homes, are in foster care, or qualify for Special Education," says CCCOE Youth Development Services (YDS) Manager Catherine Giacalone. "Whether they are flourishing, or not, in their classrooms, the majority of our summer program students demonstrate a capacity to be very successful in the work area." Without such a program, many of these students would not have the chance to work at such a company as BioCare Medical. This hands-on learning opportunity certainly sparks their interest and enthusiasm about their personal education and career paths.

With funding from the Contra Costa Workforce Development Board, YDS has developed county-wide work-site partnerships and hired staff to develop and implement an innovative and successful summer employment program. During summer 2010, 280 students each worked 132 hours, at $8.25 an hour.

Oscar Blackwell with Ygnacio studentsLeft to right, William and Benjamin Quach, and Oscar Blackwell, YDS specialist, in the lab at Bio Care.

Brothers, Benjamin and William, served as BioCare manufacturing assistants, working with the company's testing solutions, carefully mixing and filling containers for shipment. They both agreed that working with health care company was certainly an outstanding opportunity to be employed in a field related to their career choice, serving as medical doctors.

Older brother, William Quach, recently graduated from Ygnacio Valley High School, with an impressive 4.35 grade average. Through William's hard work and success, he earned an undergraduate scholarship to enter U.C. Davis this fall to study pre-medicine, with a concentration in neuroscience behavior physiology.

Younger brother, Benjamin Quach, entered his sophomore year this fall at Ygnacio Valley High School. Like his big brother, Benjamin's schedule of classes will be filled with honors courses, including pre-calculus. In addition, he joined the school's Health Academy. His goal is to begin his pre-medicine studies at Stanford University, after graduating high school.

Carlos RiveraCarlos Rivera (at right) and his mother came to the United States three years ago, from Puerto Rico. This summer, Carlos worked in BioCare Medical's accounting department. The junior at Mt. Diablo High School, will continue attending courses in the school's Architecture, Construction, Manufacturing and Engineering, (ACME) Academy. After high school, Carlos says he will attend Diablo Valley College, then transfer to University of California, Berkeley, where he will study to become an electronic engineer. But this past summer, he enjoyed his work in the accounting department. When asked if he saw any similarities to accounting and electronic engineering, Carlos quickly smiled and answered, "Yes, lots of numbers!"

Adding more about the importance of the summer work program, Giacalone says, "A key predictor of consistent employment in adulthood is early exposure to the world of work through summer and year-round employment, internships, and service opportunities in the teen years. Teen employment exposes youth to careers, promotes job readiness, and develops their skills in particular industries."

After meeting with his three students, Blackwell beamed with pride on how well they are doing with their work, as well as blending in so easily with the BioCare Medical staff and management: "These three young men share many of the same qualities to become successful in life. Their work here really showcases how bright and motivated they are!"

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dr. Ovick Elected President of California State Superintendents’ Association

In looking for a leader with proven success, guidance skills, and applicable experience, during these challenging times in California public education, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Joseph A. Ovick, Ed.D. was recently elected as the 2012 president of the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA). His commitment to this post will begin in January of 2011, serving as president-elect, with his presidency following in January 2012.

CCSESA provides the organizational mechanism for the 58 County Superintendents of Schools to design and implement statewide programs to identify and promote quality cost-effective educational practices and services, and provide support to school districts in the areas of student services, curriculum and instructional services, fiscal accountability and business services, and technology and telecommunications. CCSESA advocates on behalf of K-12 and early childhood education at state and federal levels. The organization maintains a website at

“Our state’s public schools have been forced to continually find ways to do more with less, as we watch our education budgets plummet,” says Dr. Ovick. “I look forward to working as president of CCSESA organization with county superintendents across the state to provide the stability in leadership and advocacy for our children’s education that is so crucial to the future of California.”

Dr. Ovick was elected to this position due to his extraordinary capabilities as a leader and manager who has developed strong coalitions of educators, community members, business leaders, and legislators in support of public schools. He has always been known to successfully communicate a compelling vision, and bring together the people and resources required to accomplish that vision.

Congressman George Miller, Chair of the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee says, "I have often turned to ‘Joe’ for unvarnished, detailed information about education and youth. His keen insights and wealth of information often help me make decisions about shaping, supporting or opposing key pieces of legislation."

Dr. Ovick advocates for all learners in the state and the nation by providing sound, practical counsel to legislators in the crafting of key education legislation.
In addition to his tireless advocacy for K-12 funding, he has gone to bat for establishing universal preschools, because he supports a young child's right to enter elementary school prepared. He is a strong advocate for funding of community colleges and state universities. He travels to Washington, D.C. annually to update and discuss educational concerns with our members of Congress and the U.S. Senate. He is also a longtime strong voice for special education in his quest to secure full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

Dr. Ovick has been an educator for more than 40 years. He began his career teaching special education students in Santa Clara County, followed by serving as an assistant principal and principal. Later on, he joined the Contra Costa County Office of Education, as director of special education; assistant superintendent, student services; and associate superintendent, business. Since 1996 he has been the county’s superintendent of schools. In each of these jobs, he has maintained direct contact with students, and as superintendent, he visits classrooms regularly.

Dr. Ovick obtained his BA and MS at San Jose State University, followed by earning his Ed.D. at the University of La Verne.

California’s 58 County Superintendents of Schools and their respective county offices of education support the financial and academic stability of every district and school in the state. The primary aim of County Superintendents is to work collaboratively with school districts to ensure that every student benefits from a quality educational experience, regardless of their circumstances.

County Superintendents

The position of County Superintendent of Schools, established in the California State Constitution in 1879, has evolved to meet the changing needs of the state and its students. The responsibilities of these constitutional officers fall generally into these categories:

  • Educating specific student populations (i.e., special education and disenfranchised youth);
  • Monitoring and oversight of student academic environment;
  • Implementing regional support activities to assist district and school staffs;
  • Monitoring and oversight for district fiscal stability;
  • Providing direct services to small school districts; and
  • Providing academic support and assistance to districts and their schools.
*Quick Facts:
  • There are 6.2 million students in California (Source: California Department of Education, Educational Demographics Office (CBEDS, 2008/2009)
  • There are 1,043 districts in California (2008/2009)
  • There are 58 County Superintendents in California
  • 53 County Superintendents are elected; 5 are appointed
  • Appointed County Superintendents include: Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Clara
  • There are 7 single district counties in the state: Alpine, Amador, Del Norte, Mariposa, Plumas, San Francisco, and Sierra

Two CCCOE Cabinet Appointments Have Been Filled

As part of the senior managerial portion of the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s (CCCOE) reorganization plan, Superintendent of Schools Joseph A. Ovick, Ed.D. recently announced two prominent changes to the organization’s cabinet. Current CCCOE cabinet member, Karen Sakata, has been named as the new associate superintendent of human resources and Pamela Comfort, Ed.D. has been hired to serve as the associate superintendent of educational services, a move that combines the departments of Educational Services with Student Programs and Services and eliminates one associate superintendent position.

In continuing to successfully meet the demands of providing quality service to the county’s students, teachers, and school districts, while also working within its own ongoing budget cuts, the CCCOE has been enacting a number of changes within its organization. The most significant change has been the recent voluntary early retirement of 51 CCCOE teachers, classified staff, administrators, and directors. Of those 51 vacated positions, approximately 20 (primarily teachers and instructional aids) will be replaced by new hires in the very near future. Another considerable
adjustment with the CCCOE is the recent merging and restructuring of departments inside the agency, which makes these two cabinet updates so important. Since May 2008, Sakata has been the CCCOE’s associate superintendent of student programs and services. Prior to joining the CCCOE, Sakata was serving as principal of Ayers Elementary School, in Concord (Mt. Diablo Unified School District). Sakata brings more than 35 years of experience as a classroom teacher and an education administrator to her new position. She will be replacing the recently retired Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Michael Bowers.

“Karen [Sakata] was the perfect choice for this position because of her experience regarding personnel issues and because she is a graduate of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Personnel Academy and has attended the ACSA Personnel Institute,” reports Dr. Ovick. “She has assumed a leadership role backed by ten years of experience with negotiations, and she has both school district and COE experience with recruitments, staff evaluation, and conflict resolution, as it relates to providing quality services, while fully recognizing that the most important resource that we have is our staff.”

With the recent vacancy of Sakata’s former position and the retirement of Associate Superintendent of Educational Services Susan Magnone, the departments of Educational Services and Student Programs and Services were recently merged and will now be directed by Dr. Comfort.

Dr. Comfort joins the CCCOE after serving for the past two years as the assistant superintendent of educational services with the Newark Unified School District (Newark, Calif.). Prior to that position, she was the director of instruction and program improvement with the San Lorenzo Unified School District (San Lorenzo, Calif.). Her impressive work experience also includes other administration, principal, and teaching positions held with other Alameda County schools and schools districts, beginning in 1992.

“We feel very fortunate to have Dr. Comfort join us here at the CCCOE,” continues Dr. Ovick. “Her excellent background and vast applicable experience will be so important to fill this new cabinet position.”

These two appointments, as well as a number of other CCCOE employee and departmental changes were officially enacted on July 1, 2010.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Aster Tadesse Named CCCOE's Teacher of the Year

In acknowledgment of her exceptional work and longtime commitment to assist others to become more successful members of society, the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) selected instructor Aster Tadesse as their 2010-2011 Teacher of the Year (TOY). For the past 14 years, Aster has been a health education and human development instructor for the Oakland Parole STAR program.

The STAR (Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery) program is a curriculum-based educational program designed to motivate parolee substance abusers to participate in post-release recovery activities. New skills are presented which help individuals understand the relapse process and prepare for smooth, drug-free community transition. The core components of the STAR curriculum address the process of addiction, the method of recovery, anger management, and community transition, as well as other essential elements that provide participants with information designed to ease substance abuse recovery.

Before coming to the CCCOE, Aster worked with substance-abuse patients serving as the director of a methadone clinic in San Francisco and later worked with chemically addicted parole violators at the Santa Rita Jail in Pleasanton. "Working in these two environments, I found that to be effective, I had to combine counseling and psychotherapeutic methods with practical advice-giving to motivate and empower these clients," says Aster. "I would say that I see my fundamental role as that of an educator, someone who teaches students how to learn, not simply what to learn. I use inspiration, care, and humor to help my students deal with the demons that pursue them."

"The majority of Aster's students face significant barriers, and she assists them in facing their fears, and teaches them new ways of living their lives free of illegal drugs and alcohol dependence," says Principal Shannon Swain. "Through a curriculum that focuses on anger and stress management, effective communication skills, the development of healthy relationships, and relapse prevention tools, she continues her tireless quest to see all students succeed."

Aster has a B.A. degree in linguistics from Addiss Ababa University, located in her native country of Ethiopia, and earned her M.A. degree in clinical psychology from New College of California, in San Francisco. Additionally, she has received teaching credentials from CSU, Hayward; CSU, San Jose; and the University of Phoenix.

Along with her 19 fellow distinguished TOY district representatives, Aster will be honored at the upcoming Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration on September 23, at the Concord Hilton. The special evening will conclude with the exciting announcement of this year's Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year. The reciepient will then go on to represent the county in the California State TOY competition.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gardens Abound at County Office of Education Sites

When you look at the impressive activity and bounty in the COE's gardens, it's obvious that spring is here with summer right on its heels! Recently, we had a chance to visit the bustling gardens growing on our education sites: O'Hara Park Middle School (Oakley), Liberty High (Brentwood), Turner School (Pittsburg), Mauzy School (Alamo), and Delta Vista High School at the Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility (Byron). Here's a brief crop report:

O'Hara Park Middle: Brian Brady, SMH teacher, recently applied for, and was awarded, a grant for $1,200 from the California Fertilizer Foundation. Pam Emery, representative of the Foundation, presented Brian and his class with a check, a shovel, a Home Depot gift card, and a supply of fertilizer to get their garden started. This grant will help fund a planned multi-layered campus learning garden. Plans for the garden include fruit trees, shrubs, fast-growing fruit vines, bulbs, and flowers. The garden, and its student-learning activities, will support facets of the school's curriculum on a daily basis. 

Above, Brian Brady and Sean hold the grant ch
eck presented by the CA Fertilizer Foundation.

Liberty Transition students, Christine (left), Jonny (center) with Instructional Assistant (IA) Cheri Aranda, and David (above), love their work in the Liberty garden.

Brian Brady plans to consult with James Koch, CBI teacher at Liberty High, on their new garden. Liberty is home to the first COE garden. Named in honor of former East County Student Programs Principal Evelyn LaTorre, the Liberty garden is a beautiful site to see, featuring fruit trees, flowers, and many types of vegetables. James holds a degree in conservation of natural resources with an emphasis on native flora of California, and brings a wealth of knowledge to the program.

Left, Turner IA, Marlene Laisure, shows Malik the chard before the harvest. Teacher's assistant and volunteer, Harland (standing), from Sue Madole's Antioch CBI class, helps Sam with the hand trowel in preparation to plant their spring veggies.

Turner School:
Last year, Turner's garden project got off the ground with the help of Augie Marabuto of General Services, and Eloise
Lovelace of Pittsburg CBI. Augie built the handicapped-accessible raised garden beds, and Eloise helped with raising garden donations. All of the classrooms at Turner participate in the garden, planting, weeding, and harvesting the bounty of vegetables which are enjoyed by students in the classroom, as well as the students' families and staff members. This year's winter garden included chard, spinach, cilantro, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, and onions. "We are currently planting our spring and summer veggies," said Marleen Laisure, instructional assistant in Robert Keller's SMH class. "We look forward to enjoying tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, string beans, and cucumbers with our students this season." 

Mauzy School:
"Dave Verdin, our facilities worker, has worked very hard on the garden to get it ready for this season's planting," reports Paula Ramsey, office assistant at the school. "The tomatoes are in and we will be growing zucchini, beans, and herbs this season." MaryAnn Purcell's class is very involved in working the garden, as it is located right outside her classroom.

Delta Vista High School (DVHS):
Students at DVHS are also learning gardening skills in their huge on-site garden. Annually, the Discovery Bay Garden Club collaborates with the school to provide plants for the garden. In addition, the club works closely with the boys in the garden. "There is a therapeutic aspect woven into their work with our students," said Lynette Martelle, instructional assistant at Delta Vista. "The volunteers teach the students how to love and nurture the plants, flowers, and vegetables. The hope is that the boys will learn gentleness and nurturing skills that they can apply to their life." Lynette shares that many of her students have benefited from their time in the garden. Their comments have included, "I love working in the garden... when I go home maybe I can help my grandma in her garden." Others have said, "I am going to have a garden and do this at my home. This will keep me busy, focused, and out of trouble." The harvested vegetables from the garden are taken to the kitchen for all of the residents and staff members on site to enjoy.

We wish all of our sites a bountiful harvest this season!

Contra Costa SELPA Annual End of the Year Celebration to Honor Several COE Employees

Eight employees of the CCCOE (along with business partners and outstanding students) will be honored at the 20th Annual End of the Year Celebration to be held at the Lone Tree Golf Course in Antioch, May 20.

Congratulations to the following employees for their individual achievements:

  • Lisa Ecker - teacher, severely handicapped (SH), Turner School
  • Katherine Grant - teacher, severely multiply handicapped, Heritage High School
  • Anthony Lucas - teacher, SH, Los Cerros Middle School
  • Jim Mattson - teacher, multiple subjects, Delta Vista High School
  • Frank Escarnio - instructional assistant, Golden Gate Community School, Martinez
  • Lori Tovar - instructional assistant, Transition Program

Additionally, the CCCOE administrative support team will receive an award in the Distinguished Program category. Members of the team include:

• Susan Lee, accountant, Special Education
• Georgia Williams, administrative assistant III, Student Programs

Congratulations to all of you for your recognition!

Above from left, Georgia Williams and Susan Lee.

Monday, May 17, 2010

ROP Auto Tech Students from Las Lomas High Win Scholarships

Left to right, Alexey Fedorov, ROP Teacher Steve Boone, and Lionel Khan at the
Las Lomas High Auto Shop.

Two ROP seniors from Las Lomas High won first place in the Northern California division of the Ford AAA Student Auto Skills competition held at the Blackhawk Automotive Museum on May 7, 2010. The team of Alexey Fedorov and Lionel Kahn got a perfect score on the hands-on aspect of the competition, diagnosing and repairing everything that was malfunctioning on their test car, and scoring very high on the written test as well. As a result, they each won a $20,000 scholarship from Universal Technical Institute. This is the first time the Contra Costa County ROP Auto Tech students have won this annual competition. The purpose of the competition is to encourage highly qualified students to enter the field of auto technology.

"Being part of this competition was a confidence builder for these students," says ROP Instructor Steve Boone. "It opened the door of opportunity for a career in the auto industry."

Congratulations to ROP Instructor Steve Boone and his winning ROP students!

ROP Robotics Team Wins Award at World Championship Competition

Photo, top row: David Lambertson, Andy Renwick, Kristian Strotz, Nick Bublitz, and Daniel Baldwin. Bottom row: Shelby Lope, Kevin Mayo, Ethan Padilla, Matt Johnson, and James Hodgskiss. Not pictured: Will Grebe and Kyle Albert.

Students from Michael Smidebush's CCCOE ROP Robotics Engineering class (pictured above) at Concord High took home three trophies in a Northern California spring competition, and qualified to go to the VEX World Championships in Dallas on April 22-24, where they won the Educate Award.

The Educate Award is given to a team that has successfully integrated VEX Robotics into their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) curricula. The students were interviewed on several occasions by multiple judges. When the award was presented, the judges said, "This robot was built as a bi-product of the school's STEM curricula that encouraged the students with great enthusiasm to learn about robotics. Students proved themselves with great integrity and innovation to earn funding from the ROP sponsor for building their robots. The creativity and out-of-the-box thinking of the students was just an outcome of the school's sheer support through the inclusion of robotics in the curriculum."

Congratulations to ROP Robotics Engineering Instructor Michael Smidebush and his Concord High robotics team!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Region VI ACSA Awards Recognize COE's Educational Leadership

Dr. Joseph A Ovick, Contra Costa County Superintendent of School and Marie McClaskey, Director of Student Programs.

Marie McClaskey, CCCOE Director of Student Programs, received the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Region VI Nels Nelson Award at the organization's recognition dinner Friday, April 23. Region VI is comprised of all chapters in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. The person receiving this award is chosen based on educational leadership that is visionary, ethical, demonstrates a commitment and dedication to student achievement, and whose influence is far reaching.

During her 37 years in education, Marie McClaskey has been a model of integrity, honesty, and professionalism. As director of Student Programs and former program manager for the CCCOE, Marie's commitment to public education and to ACSA has been exemplary and unwavering. She has served ACSA as Region President, and Treasurer, and Delegate to the General Assembly. She devotes herself to providing the highest quality education possible and to giving back to the profession. Marie was honored for her tireless work, strong values, and her many contributions to public education.

Dr. Joseph A. Ovick, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools, was also honored at the ACSA Region VI recognition dinner. Dr. Ovick received the Ferd. J. Kiesel Memorial Distinguished Service Award that goes to a person whose contribution to public education has had a significant impact over a wide geographical area, state or national.

Joe was awarded this honor due to his extraordinary capabilities as a leader and manager who has developed strong coalitions of educators, community members, business leaders, and legislators in support of public schools. He is able to communicate a compelling vision and bring together the people and resources required to accomplish that vision.

Joe advocates for all learners in the state and the nation by providing sound, practical counsel to legislators in the crafting of key education legislation. In addition to his tireless advocacy for K-12 funding, he has gone to bat for establishing universal preschools because he supports a young child's right to enter elementary school prepared. He is a strong advocate for funding of community colleges and state universities. He travels to Washington, D.C. annually to discuss educational concerns with our members of Congress and the U.S. Senate. He is a strong voice for special education in his quest to secure full funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Congressman George Miller, Chair of the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee says, "I have often turned to Joe for unvarnished, detailed information about education and youth. His keen insights and wealth of information often help me make decisions about shaping, supporting or opposing key pieces of legislation."

Congratulations to both Dr. Ovick and Marie!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Special Olympics Track & Field Events Coming Soon

More than 600 student athletes from the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s Special Education progams and East Bay school districts will be participating in two upcoming Special Olympic Track & Field events at the following locations:

Central County School Based Special Olympics
May 7, 2010
Ygnacio Valley High School
755 Oak Grove Road, Concord
Classroom & Athlete check-in: 9:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.
Opening Ceremonies: 9:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
Competition: 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
East County School Based Special Olympics
May 14, 2010
Liberty High School
850 Second Street, Brentwood
Classroom & Athlete check-in: 9:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.
Opening Ceremonies: 9:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
Competition: 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
For more information, please contact:
CJ Mills @ or phone 916-947-5008
To download a flyer, click here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Letter to the PTA Following Education Rally at College Park High School

PTA Article
Submitted by Joseph A. Ovick, Ed.D.
April 16, 2010

Yesterday, April 15, I had the honor and pleasure of attending and speaking at the 32nd District PTA rally hosted at College Park High School in Pleasant Hill. It was a rally to restore adequate funding for schools. There were approximately 100 people in attendance, and we were fortunate that Senator Mark DeSaulnier, Assembly Member Joan Buchanan, Assembly Member Tom Torlakson, and the district director for Assembly Member Nancy Skinner were also present. The event was coordinated by Nancy Vandell with support from other members of the 32nd District PTA.

It is always a pleasure to meet with educators and parents of the children and youth who attend our public schools. It is a sad note, however, that the purpose of the meeting was simply to make known to the general public that our state is currently ranked 47th in the nation with regard to funding per pupil; and with the addition of $2.5 billion in reductions that the governor is requesting in next year’s budget, we will rank 50th among our 50 states.

This is truly a travesty when you consider the wealth of our state. Yes, we are in a deep recession, but we shouldn’t place the loss of revenue as a burden on the shoulders of our children and their future. If the people of California choose to continue to ignore the needs of our children, the impact will be felt for several generations, beginning with our children today. I feel limited by my command of the English language to be able to express how urgent it is for each and every one of us to write to our governor and share our concerns regarding his lack of leadership and his unwillingness to do what is right for our children and their future.

We were once the leader in the nation as a state regarding the dollars we spent to provide a wonderful education for our children. I personally benefited from that, and as Assembly Member Joan Buchanan shared at the rally, we can thank two former California governors—one a Republican and the other a Democrat—for their vision and commitment to our youth. Those men were Earl Warren and Pat Brown. Through their leadership, our K-12 education system, community college system, California State University system, and University of California system were stellar institutions for learning. We need to bring that back, and we need your help.

Thank you.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Two ROP Members Acknowledged with ACSA Awards

The CCCOE was well recognized with awards at the recent Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Region VI, Diablo Valley Charter Awards and Recognitions Dinner, held on March 18, at the Marriott Hotel, in Walnut Creek. Along with each award, there was a heartwarming story told about the recipient. One of the evening’s highlights was a story about two ROP awardees that had a special bond between themselves: an ROP student and an ROP business partner.

(l-r) Valeria Navarrete, Sally Savage, Amy Adams

ROP student, Valeria Navarrete earned the Every Student Succeeding Award and the John Muir Medical Center was presented the Partners in Education Award. The two were presented, that night, with their awards by ROP Principal Sally Savage, who had nominated the honorees late last year.

The John Muir Medical Center has been very involved with the CCCOE’s ROP since 2004, when they became interested in creating a summer internship/education program for high school students in Contra Costa County. Working together, John Muir and ROP produced such a program, with the first students beginning their internships in the summer of 2005. Qualified students are interviewed, evaluated, and hired to work in paid positions at John Muir, 40 hours a week, for eight weeks in paid positions. This admirable curriculum of work and education was created for students to gain important work skills on the job and in their ROP classes, which are held one day a week during their 8-week tenure at John Muir. Along with the real-life skills gained in such a program, the students also earn high school elective credit.

John Muir Medical Center’s Work Force Development Manager Amy Anderson, who received the Partners in Education Award in the hospital’s honor, has spent countless hours evaluating student applications, interviewing candidates, arranging department interviews for final candidates, and overseeing every aspect of the program. She arranges class schedules that include guest speakers from various hospital departments and many department tours.

Valeria Navarrete is a junior at Mt. Diablo High School, in Concord. Last summer, she applied and was accepted into the John Muir Medical Center’s summer internship/education program. Valeria is self-described as “the quiet and shy girl” who never does anything “extra” at school. Along with a challenging home life, Valeria has an IEP, which means she has a caseworker and a speech therapist that help her with her academic work. So with their help, Valeria wrote her résumé, completed the required essay, and successfully filled out the online application. Valeria was selected to interview at John Muir, which went very well. Amy Anderson said that Valeria was articulate, polite, and was clearly interested in doing something to better herself. Amy was anxious to place Valeria in the Medical Staffing Office at the Concord campus.

Valeria was hired and spent a very productive summer with a group of hospital workers who nurtured and cared deeply for her. The internship proved to be a life-changing experience for her. When asked what kind of an impact this made on her, she stated that she has started asking questions in class, and is no longer afraid that she might embarrass herself when speaking in the classroom. In the International Hospitality Academy, she feels she has become a quiet leader. It's quite obvious that Valeria has become more self-confident, and she looks forward to a future in the medical field.

It was agreed by all the attendees, that this special partnership was certainly worthy of celebrating with their awards.