Kids Helping Kids Benefit Concerts

San Marcos High School Kids Helping Kids program has to be one of the most interesting and unique. During the course of 16 years, students have raised more than 3.1 million dollars for charitable purposes—to improve the lives of disadvantaged children both globally and locally. This year’s student-run gala benefit concerts feature Ben Rector on Friday, Jan. 11, and JOHNNYSWIM on Saturday, Jan. 12.

Singer and songwriter, Ben Rector is most notably recognized for his smash hits such as “Drive” and “Brand New,” and he just released his sixth album, titled Magic, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Americana/Folk Charts and No. 44 on the Billboard 200 chart. The Oklahoma born and Nashville based singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist uncovers that feeling of “magic” within 13 anthems equally rooted in whimsical nostalgia and excitement for the future. His ceaseless touring and prolific output paid off in a big way on the 2015 breakout Brand New. Clocking 41 million-plus streams on Spotify, the single organically landed over 40 film and television placements, including a trailer for The Edge of Seventeen, a TV spot for Disney’s Moana, and MLB World Series and Olympics primetime spots.

Kids Helping Kids is thrilled to bring back JOHNNYSWIM as the headliner for this year’s Saturday show on Jan. 12. Previously an opener for KHK, JOHNNYSWIM became a KHK fan favorite when they won over the crowd with hits like “Home” and “Diamonds.” Abner Ramirez and Amanda Sudano Ramirez make up JOHNNYSWIM. The pair met in Nashville in 2005. They clicked together musically and personally, beginning a romantic relationship along with their creative connection. JOHNNYSWIM can be easily recognized by their popular songs “Diamonds,” “Take the World,” and “Home.”

Both shows take place at The Granada Theatre (1214 State St., Santa Barbara). For more information, visit


Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on December 17, 2018.

Celebrate Kids Helping Kids’ 10th Anniversary

NeedtoBreathe (l) and Andy Grammer return to perform at the 10th Annual Kids Helping Kids benefit concert. Courtesy photos.

NeedtoBreathe (l) and Andy Grammer return to perform at the 10th Annual Kids Helping Kids benefit concert. Courtesy photos.

Kids Helping Kids celebrates its 10th Anniversary at the beautiful Granada Theatre (1214 State St.) January 12-13 with performances by NeedtoBreathe and Andy Grammer.

Andy Grammer performs a benefit show for Kids Helping Kids on Friday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Granada Theatre. Courtesy photo.

Andy Grammer performs a benefit show for Kids Helping Kids on Friday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Granada Theatre. Courtesy photo.

Kids Helping Kids is an entirely student-run nonprofit organization lead by the students in the Advanced Placement Economics classes at San Marcos High School. The group works  to help children in need both locally and globally and has raised an amazing $2.5 million to date.

NeedtoBreathe performs a benefit show for Kids Helping Kids on Saturday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Granada Theatre. Courtesy photo.

NeedtoBreathe performs a benefit show for Kids Helping Kids on Saturday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Granada Theatre. Courtesy photo.

The annual benefit concert looks back on the legacy built by the students of San Marcos and the support of our community, bringing back two of the past favorite performers, Andy Grammer (Friday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m.) and NeedtoBreathe (Saturday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m.).

Past artists who have performed at Kids Helping Kids benefit concerts include:

  • Toad the Wet Sprocket and Tyrone Wells (2009),
  • Five for Fighting (2010),
  • Mat Kearney and Tyrone Wells (2011),
  • Sara Bareilles and Tyrone Wells (2012),
  • Switchfoot and Brad Corrigan from Dispatch (2013),
  • Andy Grammer and Tim Lopez from Plain White T’s (2014),
  • Ingrid Michaelson and Jon McLaughlin (2015),
  • NeedtoBreathe and Johnnyswim (2016),
  • and Gavin DeGraw and Parachute (2017).

In addition to the local chapter, the Kids Helping Kids model to is now in place at two other high schools in Sacramento and Dana Hills, California.

For more information click here, and to purchase tickets, visit the Granada website.

Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on January 6, 2018.

Local Lowdown: Let There Be Light!

LightWorks: Isla Vista Illuminates a Vibrant Community

By Leslie Dinaberg


Photo by Robert Bernstein, courtesy Kim Yasuda

The parks and streets of Isla Vista will pulse with artistic spirit on May 19-21, when LightWorks: Isla Vista comes to life. This exciting series of temporary installations and performances that transform the parks of Isla Vista into illuminated evening spaces, engaging existing underutilized spaces and animating them through visually compelling experiences that contribute to the safety, economic viability and quality of night life and sense of place.

Spearheaded by UCSB Art Professor, Kim Yasuda, an Isla Vista resident who is passionate about using the arts as a positive force for community engagement, LightWorks is part of a long-term community development partnership effort with Santa Barbara County Arts Commission, and other key partnerships that include UCSB Visual and Public Arts; Offices of the 3rd District Supervisor and County Sheriff; Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District; Isla Vista Community Network; UCSB Materials Research Laboratory; Santa Barbara Center for Art, Science, and Technology and the Santa Barbara Foundation.

“This multi-agency arts initiative is the first of its kind for Isla Vista and offers a way to engage the leadership of artists and designers in helping Isla Vista reimagine its future as a creative community,” says Yasuda, who worked hand-in-hand with Santa Barbara County Arts Commission to secure grant funding for the project.

Building on momentum from last spring’s Blunite Memorial Vigil, which lit the UCSB campus and adjacent Isla Vista area with thousands of blue LED lights, Yasuda says, “All of that was really the momentum of post-tragedy healing, artists kind of moving into those spaces and engaging them. Art is always kind of a way to make a space more beautiful. …So art is our catalyst. Artists and art are, to me, catalytic in beginning something beautiful and positive and that’s kind of how…I hope this will work.”


Photo by Marcos Novak, courtesy Kim Yasuda

She continues, “I was thinking about the lighting as being a key feature that artists could tackle. Rather than having enforcement lighting or surveillance lighting or security lighting, we would have engaged lighting in beautiful illuminated spaces.”

“While public lighting and clear sight lines are critical components for safety, we have identified the arts as an integral component to affect the permanent cultural change our community so desperately needs,” writes Alex Rodriguez, board chair of Isla Vista Recreation and Park District.

Initial funding for LightWorks: Isla Vista is based on temporary art installations, but Yasuda envisions this project as the beginning of developing a more permanent exhibit. “What I imagine is that the campus and IV community actually embark on a partnership to host this event annually, so essentially we would have a kind of contemporary art festival. That’s my dream. And also that we would start a collection, an illuminated public works collection of different projects…We would actually be one of the first campus communities that would have a public art collection comprised of light and technology.”

With support from UCSB Materials Research Laboratory—the lab of UCSB Professor Shuji Nakamura, who won a Nobel Prize in physics in 2014 for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes (LED lights)—Isla Vista certainly seems ideally suited to bring the long-term vision of LightWorks to life.

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Wine Cask Hosts Fundraising Dinner for SBCC Culinary Arts Students

A Santa Barbara City College Culinary Student Chopping in Kitchen, courtesy photo.

A Santa Barbara City College Culinary Student Chopping in Kitchen, courtesy photo.

Here’s a great way to support future chefs while enjoying a delicious meal, Wine Cask hosts a fundraising dinner on Monday, April 11 at 6 p.m. to benefit Santa Barbara City College Culinary Arts students. Proceeds from the evening will provide an opportunity for students to travel to Madrid, Spain this summer with the SBCC Study Abroad program.

While in Spain, students will explore the cuisine and culture of Spain and Portugal, going to neighborhood markets, tasting artisanal chocolate confections, observing butchers, bakers, and sausage makers, and visiting wineries, olive oil mills, and farms.

“Being creative in the kitchen is more than being technically talented,” says School of Culinary Arts and Hotel Management Department Chair Randy Bublitz. “The experience of visiting other countries and delving into their cuisines is invaluable for laying the groundwork in developing a chef’s creativity.”

“Study abroad is not only an incredible experience that opens eyes and doors but a bona fide learning experience,” says Wine Cask Co-Owner Mitchell Sjerven. “This is especially true in the field of culinary arts, as chefs are constantly challenged to understand regional cuisines, keep up on global food trends, and learn new techniques. Going to Spain and Portugal will provide an incredible opportunity for students to expand their knowledge base while undoubtedly gaining much appreciated creative inspiration during their time on the Iberian Peninsula.”

With many students facing educational expenses such as tuition and materials, financing a study abroad trip may be beyond reach. Guests attending the fundraising dinner will provide great assistance to much deserving SBCC students who otherwise would not be able to afford this once-in-a-lifetime experience. “Santa Barbara restaurants in particular enjoy the immediate rewards of SBCC culinary arts graduates,” says Sjerven. “But, really, the entire community benefits from this successful program provided by one of the top community colleges in the nation.”

Support future chefs, and enjoy a multi-course dinner in the Gold Room of Wine Cask (813 Anacapa St.). The meal will be prepared by SBCC faculty chefs, SBCC culinary students, and Wine Cask Chef David Rosner.

The SBCC Foundation will be taking reservations for the event. To purchase tickets ($150 per person), please call 805/730-4401 or click here.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on March 30, 2016.

Editor’s Pick: Kids Helping Kids

kids helping kids

Photo courtesy Kids Helping Kids

There are a lot of ways to learn about philanthropy and economics, but the San Marcos High School Kids Helping Kids program has to be one of the most interesting and unique. Over the course of 11 years, students have volunteered more than 10,000 hours of work, resulting in $700,000 being raised for charitable purposes—to improve the lives of disadvantaged children both globally and locally. This year’s completely student-run annual gala benefit concert features Needtobreathe as headliner, with an opening set by Johnnyswim. | Jan. 8-9. The Granada Theatre, 1214 State St. 805/899-2222,,

(Editor’s Note: A second concert, on Jan. 8, has been added and is not yet sold out.)

–Leslie Dinaberg

This story originally appeared in the winter 2015/16 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Growing Green Schools

Laguna Blanca Coastal Clean Up

Laguna Blanca Coastal Clean Up, courtesy photo

Inspiring students—and their families—to think globally and act locally, schools have become a vital incubator for environmental stewardship.

Students in Santa Barbara High’s Green Academy learn about green biology, environmental science and chemistry, but they also get their hands dirty by maintaining a large production garden, complete with row crops, native plant insectary, fruit trees, grapevines, chickens and bees. They also deliver regular orders of greens to the school cafeteria and take food home to enjoy with their families. Plus they provide native and edible plants to support thoughtful landscaping on campus.

Environmental awareness is woven into the curriculum at Laguna Blanca School. Captaining our local California Cleanup Day last fall, they helped clean up Miramar/Hammonds Beach and Hope Ranch Beach and collected a total of 65 pounds of trash and more than eight pounds of recycling. In addition to the daily discipline of an environmentally conscious curriculum, composting, recycling and using eco-friendly products, the school also celebrates Earth Day in a big way with their own festival, community service projects and even student-produced environmental short films.

As part of an architecture unit on developing the “perfect” school, students at The Knox School of Santa Barbara research “green” architecture and look into the future for energy sources beyond fossil fuels, ultimately constructing their own plans for green buildings.

At Midland School, boarding school students combine rigorous academics with a simple self-reliant lifestyle, close to nature, that emphasizes a connection to the environment and teaches students to be good stewards of the earth. For example, with the solar panel program, 10th graders have installed photovoltaic arrays every year since 2003—now more than 25% of the campus is powered by these arrays.

The outdoor education program at Santa Barbara Middle School offers a unique approach that takes students and staff on rigorous expeditions in the wilderness—with self-discovery in mind. These “trips” are learning adventures that take students by bike, boot or boat on journeys where they learn about pushing through personal boundaries while building communities.

Water Filling Stations are at schools throughout Santa Barbara

Water Filling Stations are at schools throughout Santa Barbara

At Cathedral Oaks Nursery School, an official Green Care Provider School, teaching children to live a green lifestyle is one of the main components of the school’s philosophy, with a garden program that provides snack-time treats fresh from their own fields, grown from seedlings sprouted in the school’s greenhouse.

Sprout Up!, a nonprofit youth-to-youth environmental education program that was founded at UCSB, sends college students into first- and second-grade classrooms at elementary schools to teach children vital concepts in environmental science and sustainability. Among the schools participating are Monroe, Adams and Isla Vista Elementary Schools.

Also a nonprofit, Lets’ Grow! (formerly the School Gardens Program funded by Orfalea Foundation), has installed or enhanced 35 school gardens in the county, including a recent one at McKinley Elementary School.

These are but a few of the exciting and positive developments on the local green school front. Stay tuned…

–Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in the Spring 2014 issue of Santa Barbara SEASONS Magazine.

Wine Cask and bouchon Award SBCC Students with Scholarships + Internships

(Wine Cask)

(Wine Cask)

Alejandro Guillen, Alexander Italia and Alejandro Martinez have each been awarded a $2,500 scholarship on behalf of Mitchell Sjerven, owner of bouchon and co-owner of Wine Cask.  The American Riviera Scholarship is a grant program Sjerven created on behalf of his Santa Barbara restaurants, bouchon and Wine Cask, awarded to several deserving students enrolled in Santa Barbara City College’s School of Culinary Arts.

Created in 2012, the annual American Riviera Scholarship is awarded to highly motivated students who demonstrate commitment and motivation to complete the major, as well as the potential for success as a chef.  Sjerven has taught the “Restaurant Ownership” course at Santa Barbara City College’s School of Culinary Arts for the past several years.  The scholarship aims to draw from the excellent pool of culinary potential at Santa Barbara City College and helps develop Santa Barbara’s reputation as a popular food and wine destination in California.  Originally awarded to two students, this year, an additional student was offered a scholarship after enough funds were raised at Wine Cask’s 30th Anniversary Dinner, celebrated in September.
bouchon logo“Santa Barbara is a high cost-of-living town and being a student at City College— no matter how affordable the education itself— is even more challenging,” Sjerven says. “My long-term vision is to see enough financial aid available so that each and every student in the Culinary Arts program can receive tuition assistance to some degree.  To that end I challenge every Santa Barbara restaurant that has ever had a student or graduate of the program in their kitchen to create a scholarship.  Our community provides unlimited possibilities to give but here is a meaningful way to give back directly to the institution that provides so many staff for so many of our local restaurants.”

In addition to the cash awards, recipients have the opportunity for a paid internship at Wine Cask and bouchon, where they can gain valuable hands-on training working for two of Santa Barbara’s critically acclaimed establishments. Sjerven says, “We are fortunate to be able to draw from this growing and valuable pool of prospective culinary professionals who show real promise in a challenging field.”

Wine Cask is located at 813 Anacapa St. Bouchon is located at 9 W. Victoria St.

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on March 16, 2014.


Howard School Gets OK to Expand Capacity

Howard School courtesy photo

Howard School courtesy photo

The Carpinteria Planning Commission recently voted unanimously to allow The Howard School  to expand its enrollment capacity from 80 to 100 students.

Offering  pre-Kindergarten through 8th grade instruction, the Howard School, located at 5315 Foothill Rd. in Carpinteria, is the only school in Santa Barbara County that offers an education based on the Carden Method—a curriculum that cultivates development of the whole child, and focuses on teaching students how to think rather than simply what to know.

Courtesy The Howard School

Courtesy The Howard School

“It is important for us to create a nurturing, sound environment that equips children with the skill sets they need in order to go out and thrive in the post-education world,” says headmaster, Joel Reed. “The tenets of the Carden Method provide the ideal foundation for critical thinking, confidence-building, and a balance of self-reliance and cooperation with one’s community.”

The Howard School is accepting applications through mid-March, and the admissions materials are available online at, as well as the school’s office.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on March 2, 2014.

Santa Barbara’s Teen Stars Shine at The Granada on Feb. 8

2014 Teen Star Santa Barbara Finalists

2014 Teen Star Santa Barbara Finalists

Congratulations to the Teen Star Santa Barbara 2014 finalists:

Jason Paras — Dos Pueblos High School
Karlie Mack — San Marcos High School
Zoë Lynn Burritt — Cabrillo High School
Nathaniel Neumann — Dos Pueblos High School
Grant Bower — Santa Barbara High School
Mary-Grace Langhorne — Goleta Valley Junior High School
Brandi Rose Lentini — Santa Barbara High School
Luana Psaros — Dos Pueblos High School
Sulema Mejia — Pioneer Valley High School
Dylan Ortega — Santa Ynez High School

And the 2014 alternates:
Olivia Huffman — Solvang School
Sydney Shalhoob — La Colina Junior High School

They will perform in the final competition on Saturday, February 8 at The Granada at 7 p.m. (1214 State St.).

The way the finals work is that each of the final contestants performs a song of their choice in the first round. Voting by text message, the audience selects their top choices and the celebrity judges (Catherine Remak of KLITE 101.7, casting director Wendy Kurtzman and record producer Randy Spendlove) choose theirs; then votes are combined for a second round.

After the second round, text voting occurs again by the audience and the winner is determined!

Along with the prestigious title, contestants have the chance to follow in the footsteps of previous winners like 2013 champ Allie Nixon, who is currently working with her celebrity mentor JR Richards on an album to be released this spring. Here’s one of her songs, which has been featured on the CW network:

The winner’s prize package also includes a $1,000 scholarship, opportunity to record  in a world-class studio, radio and TV appearances, plus being the opening act performer at a number of local events.

Here’s a great video that gives an overview of the program.

For more information regarding Teen Star Santa Barbara, click here.

The Teen Star Santa Barbara program was established in 2010 to give our youth an outlet to showcase their talent in a healthy environment and provide long lasting benefits for our community and our students as well as enhance opportunities for their futures. Proceeds from this event are donated to performing arts programs in Santa Barbara County Schools.

To purchase tickets click here.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on January 28, 2014.

Free Screening of “Dislecksia: The Movie” and Q & A with Filmmaker Harvey Hubbell

DIS-400x600_R3Dyslexia affects 1 in 5 individuals, and Harvey Hubbell (who has dyslexia) is spreading the word across the nation that dyslexia is a difference, not a disability. The award-winning independent filmmaker screens his well-reviewed film, Dislecksia: The Movie at a special appearance at Santa Barbara High School on Friday, January 17 at 7 p.m. (700 E. Anapamu St.).

The event is FREE to the public and is the only Central Coast showing scheduled during Hubbell’s West Coast tour. A Q & A session will follow the film.

The film explores the issue of learning differences that are widely misunderstood, and the reason for much difficulty in school; due to increasing research and technological advances, these differences can be handled in a positive way  when there’s greater awareness and understanding.

The event is sponsored by the Santa Barbara School District, the Santa Barbara Education Foundation, The Kirby Jones Family Foundation and The Dyslexia Project. Spanish interpretation will be available.

For more information email

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara SEASONS on January 13, 2014.