The Bridge to Somewhere

Admiring Santa Barbara Public Library’s Adult Literacy Programs

The Bridge to Somewhere (SB Public Library's Adult Literacy Programs) was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on March 18, 2021.

The Bridge to Somewhere (SB Public Library’s Adult Literacy Programs) was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on March 18, 2021.

Pivoting, but still paving the way to knowledge, despite budget cuts and so many services shut down during the pandemic, the Santa Barbara Public Library’s Adult Education Programs have found creative ways to provide service during the past year. I recently joined the City Library Advisory Board and was impressed with all of the free programs they still offer, despite their physical doors being closed to the public.

Headed by Devon Cahill, an adult education librarian and former volunteer tutor, the Adult Literacy Program trains volunteers to work one-to-one with learners to help them achieve language literacy and other adult education goals. Prior to the pandemic, the tutor-learner pairs would meet up at the library to work on their language skills together. Since last spring, they’ve switched to 100 percent remote and have about 50 tutor-learner pairs
working together.

Though it’s challenging, Cahill said that pandemic learning has been a success. Grants provided funding for Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots for those that needed them. “Our success rate normally is over 90 percent with learners reaching the literacy goals that they have set,” he said. “During the pandemic, we’re working with fewer learners and tutors, but our success rate has gone almost up to 100 percent—it was at 98 percent last quarter.”

Rachel Altman, a retired grant writer, has been a tutor for the past four years, working the entire time with Cecilia, a native Spanish speaker. Part of Cecilia’s motivation is that she works as a housecleaner and her employers want to be able to leave her written instructions. In addition, she is in her fifties and would like to be able to find less physically demanding work eventually, explained Altman, who was partially motivated to volunteer because her own parents were immigrants who learned English as a second language.

The two women meet for about an hour twice a week (one hour a week is the minimum requirement). They are currently meeting by phone, which is a bit more challenging than in person or on Zoom, but Cecilia is not computer savvy. Rather than read side-by-side, Altman mails materials to Cecilia from the variety of resources the library offers. “She’s very interested in history and current events,” Altman said.

While being apart isn’t ideal, there are some upsides. “I think the biggest advantage to the phone is we talk more … and she needs to practice more conversational English,” said Altman. “It seems like the phone allows for that a little more, rather than just going right to the book.”

Improving her conversational English was also one of the reasons Sebnem Vural joined the program about a year ago. “I have always struggled with my English pronunciation in the past, so I decided that it would be a good idea to obtain an environment where I could hear the language more often,” said the native Turkish speaker. “I’ve had tons of people supporting me and encouraging me all throughout my journey. I can’t explain how helpful
this program was.”

The tutors go through eight hours of initial training, with an emphasis on a learner-centered peer tutor approach, patience, cultural competency, and empathy. The nuts and bolts of how to help a learner achieve their goals depend on the person and what they want from the program. Learners’ goals run the gamut, Cahill explained, from being able to read a story to their children or help with homework to passing a citizenship test or getting a GED or driver’s license to shopping at a retail store, improving digital literacy, or being able to read and write in graduate school in a second language.

Being able to read to kids or talk to their teachers is a common goal, said Cahill. Malena Mackinlay, whose first language is Spanish, joined the program about four months ago. “I’ve always found motivation in wanting to be able to communicate in English, but my one-year-old granddaughter inspired me to continue learning,” she said. “My experience has been amazing. I got the best tutor, and I’m finally able to enjoy each of my lessons.”

Working remotely has been a plus in some cases, Cahill said. He’s been able to record his Zoom tutor trainings, so if someone isn’t able to attend, they can make it up later. In addition, “Sometimes that one hour a week that the tutor and learner meet is the only hour
that that learner has to work on their English because they’re so busy working multiple jobs or caring for kids,” he said. “This really frees up all that extra time it would take for the tutor or the learner to get back and forth to the library.”

He anticipates they will continue to offer a hybrid option for training and tutoring sessions when the pandemic is over.

Library technicians also run weekly English and Spanish conversation groups, which are open to all learners, with no registration required.

To learn more, call (805) 564-5619 (English) or (805) 962-7653 #3 (Spanish), email literacy@santabarbaraca.gov, or visit santabarbaraca.gov.

Santa Barbara Independent Cover, March 18, 2021Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent on March 18, 2021.

Flipping the Switch to Electric: A Green Building Pioneer’s Take on Heat Pumps

Dennis Allen talks about electric-powered homes on the CEC blog.

This story was originally published on cecsb.org on February 10, 2021.

“The nice thing about electric equipment is that it just keeps getting more refined, more efficient, quieter and better,” said current CEC Partnership Council member and past CEC Board President Dennis Allen. He’s certainly an authority on the subject. In addition to building two different state-of-the-art eco-conscious homes for his own family, the founder of green building specialist Allen Construction has been bringing his passion for energy conservation and sustainability to his work building quality, healthy homes for neighbors in Santa Barbara for almost 40 years.

As the costs of heat pumps have gone down, their efficiency has continued to improve. When he was building the LEED platinum certified Victoria Garden Mews project in downtown Santa Barbara in 2011 (where he and his wife Jenny currently reside), “we didn’t even consider a heat pump,” said Dennis. “At that point they were pretty expensive. Now they are much more reasonably priced and they’re much more efficient with what they call the coefficient of performance — it can be up to four times what a forced air gas/heating system would be. All of these things are just coming on big time.”

With all of the new residential projects in California now required to have solar power, Dennis predicts that the demand for heat pumps will continue to rise. “Heat pumps are safer and healthier because you’re not burning natural gas and having the combustion fumes from the gas system, which are usually in the house. (This is why you have to have carbon monoxide detectors in homes to sense whether there is too much carbon monoxide being put out by the natural gas burning appliances.) Those are both safety and health issues. And more recent research is finding that the health issues are more serious than we were all led to believe even five years ago.”

Higher upfront costs are the primary stumbling blocks when it comes to installing electric heating and cooling systems, but, Dennis explained, “if you take into account the operational side, then it has a payback period – and from then on you’re saving money. The upfront costs are still a little bit more expensive, but that’s coming down all the time and pretty soon it’s going to be a no brainer to go all-electric. The ordinances and the state regulations are nudging people in that direction, and there are some incentive programs and so forth that help people go there. Once they go there it keeps helping to drive the cost down and it helps people save money and be healthier. So even with the slightly higher costs today it’s still worth doing.”

This story was originally published on cecsb.org on February 10, 2021.

Flipping the Switch to Electric: CEC’s Board President is Pumped About Her Heat Pump

Barbara Lindemann on going electric with a new heat pump for cec.org.

This story was originally published on cecsb.org on February 10, 2021.

The desire to cool down her house, rather than heat it, was what inspired CEC Board President Barbara Lindemann to investigate switching to a heat pump.

The air conditioner in her home in the Santa Barbara foothills was on its last legs and the furnace was more than 30 years old. After getting a bid on replacing the gas-powered furnace, Barbara pondered the purchase. “I began to think, well why am I putting in another gas furnace?” she laughed. “Given my commitment to getting off of fossil fuels this doesn’t make any sense at all.”

She asked for advice from a few knowledgeable friends, including green builder and past CEC Board President Dennis Allen and architect Dennis Thompson, who had done a remodel for the Lindemann’s a few years ago. Both of the experts agreed that heat pumps were a good alternative to another gas furnace. “Dennis Thompson pointed out that it’s not going to be long before you’re not allowed to put more gas into homes and new homes won’t be allowed to be built with gas,” said Barbara. “He said it’s really become the new thing.”

In the meantime, Barbara had also been researching getting backup batteries for her 18-year-old solar panel system. Living in a high fire zone with frequent power outages, and knowing that her solar power system would soon need to be replaced, Barbara realized that installing a heat pump would make even more economic sense when she replaced the solar with a system that included storage batteries.

Getting the heat pump “is a matter of looking to the future and taking care of our current needs at the same time,” Barbara said. While the initial upfront cost of the heat pump was slightly more than a new furnace might have been, Barbara said her gas bill has gone down and her electricity use is only up a little, “so we’re already saving money on the heat pump, even though it was more expensive to put in — and I haven’t had a chance to give it a full test with air conditioning yet.”

When summer comes around, Barbara is looking forward to her new heat pump being able to cool her home just as effectively as a standard air conditioner would, but without relying on fossil fuels to keep her family comfortable.

This story was originally published on cecsb.org on February 10, 2021.

Ecosmarts: Dressing for the Great Outdoors

Ecosmarts, originally published in the March 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.With time on her hands during the
pandemic stay-at-home orders, 12-year-old Santa Barbara tween Reese Large
launched Real Life (wearreallife.com), a
clothing company devoted to spotlighting
nonprofit groups that support activities
she cares about.

“When choosing nonprofits, I thought about things that I missed doing during the coronavirus pandemic,” says Large. “A lot of that had to do with outdoor activities.”

Her line of sustainable, sweatshop-free hoodies, sweatshirts, and tees supports outdoor-oriented organizations such as the National Park Foundation; the American Eagle Foundation, which protects various birds of prey; and Project Aware, which is dedicated to shark conservation and the elimination of marine litter.

Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Dishing It Out for Charity

Dishing it out for Charity, originally published in 805 Living Magazine, March 2021.In an astounding demonstration of generosity, local
restaurants stepped up to the plate for the fifth annual 805 Living Dishing It Out for Charity challenge in 2020, presented by Montecito Bank & Trust. Despite the pandemic’s
catastrophic impact on their industry, 23 restaurants participated in November and December by donating $2 per
designated dish to the charity of their choosing. Although, slightly fewer eateries participated than in 2019, those who did raised $17,182 for their charities — very nearly as much as 2019’s 27 participants, whose donations totaled $17,303. Special thanks to these community-minded eateries of 2020, who continued to give to others at a time when restaurants needed support more than ever:

BELL’S (bellsrestaurant.com), Los Alamos, for No Kid Hungry

BELMOND EL ENCANTO (belmond.com), Santa Barbara, for the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade

BIBI JI (bibijisb.com), Santa Barbara, for La Casa de la Raza

CELLO RISTORANTE & BAR (allegrettoresort.com), Paso Robles, for Bailliage de Central Coast Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs

CHULO’S CAFE & CANTINA (chuloscafecantina.com), Templeton, for R.A.C.E.
Matters SLO

FINNEY’S CRAFTHOUSE & KITCHEN (finneyscrafthouse.com), Westlake Village, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo, for Support for the Kids

GOAT TREE AT HOTEL CALIFORNIAN (goattreecafe.com), Santa Barbara, for
Dream Foundation

HELENA AVENUE BAKERY (helenaavenuebakery.com), Santa Barbara, for Know Your Rights Camp

THE LARK (thelarksb.com), Santa Barbara, for Know Your Rights Camp

LIDO RESTAURANT & LOUNGE (thedolphinbay.com), Pismo Beach, for the Ocean Conservancy

LITTLE CALF CREAMERY & CAFE (littlecalfcreamery.com), Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village, for Special Olympics Ventura

LOQUITA (loquitasb.com), Santa Barbara, for Know Your Rights Camp

LOS AGAVES RESTAURANT (los-agaves.com), Westlake Village, Oxnard, Goleta, and Santa Barbara, for the Santa Barbara Zoo

LUCKY PENNY (luckypennysb.com), Santa Barbara, for Know Your Rights Camp

MILK & HONEY TAPAS (milknhoneytapas.com), Santa Barbara, for Organic Soup Kitchen

OKU RESTAURANT (okusantabarbara.com), Santa Barbara, for CADA (Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse)

OLIO PIZZERIA (oliopizzeria.com), Santa Barbara, for Teddy Bear
Cancer Foundation

OPAL RESTAURANT & BAR (opalrestaurantandbar.com), Santa Barbara, for the Arthritis Foundation

PICO RESTAURANT (losalamosgeneralstore.com), Los Alamos, for Save the
Waves Coalition

SANTO MEZCAL (santomezcalsb.com), Santa Barbara, for the Santa Barbara Zoo

THE BISTRO AT VINA ROBLES VINEYARD & WINERY (vinarobles.com/visit/bistro), Paso Robles, for SLO Food Bank

WATER’S EDGE RESTAURANT & BAR (watersedgeventura.com), Ventura, for Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties

WOOD RANCH (woodranch.com), Agoura Hills, Moorpark, Camarillo, and Ventura, for the Happy Trails Children’s Foundation.

Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Overarching Principals

From 805 Living Magazine's Pulse section, winter 2021.

From 805 Living Magazine’s Pulse section, winter 2021.

The global pandemic may have made it difficult to hang out with neighbors, but Spotify has made it easy to plug in and connect.

The new Archewell Audio podcast series (sptfy.com/5nto) from Montecito residents Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, launched in December with a holiday gathering of inspiring guests from around the world.

Joining the royals to reflect on the challenges of the past year and offer hopeful toasts to 2021 were former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés, University of Houston research professor and best-selling author Brené Brown, self-help guru Deepak Chopra, CBS’s The Late Late Show host James
Corden, music icon Elton John, three-time tennis Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka, and entertainment mogul Tyler Perry, among others. The series continues this year.

Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

See-Worthy Ships

See-Worthy Ships, originally published in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

See-Worthy Ships, originally published in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

A new exhibit at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (SBMM, sbmm.org) spotlights the work of artist of the fleet Arthur Beaumont, who used impressionist techniques to paint the rich history of the U.S. Navy, from the USS Constitution to atomic bomb tests to expeditions to the North and South Poles.

“SBMM is proud to be one of only 10 museums in the United States selected to exhibit Arthur Beaumont: Art of the Sea,” says the museum’s executive director Greg Gorga. “This exhibit fits in perfectly with our other military displays,” Gorga adds, pointing to the museum’s appropos location inside the former Naval Training Center building and the area’s rich naval history, including visits by the Great White Fleet, the USS Constitution, and the USS Ronald Reagan; as well as some of the tragedies like the Honda Point Disaster and the Shelling of Ellwood Beach. In the last show on the West Coast, the artist’s 53 works are on view from December 3 through May 30, 2020.

Cover of 805 Living December 2020 Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Coding Meets Community at Providence School

Coding Meets Community at Providence School, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

Coding Meets Community at Providence School, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

Students Create App to Connect Kids with Nonprofits

Challenged by their teachers in their coding class to create some sort of an app, Providence Engineering Academy junior Sydney Whited and sophomore Ruby Kilpper created the Santa Barbara Volunteer Opportunities (SBVO) app, matching service-minded students to volunteer-seeking nonprofits.

Coding wasn’t either one of the girls’ favorite aspects of engineering prior to the project. But Kilpper explained, “I like to tackle each problem on its own and each assignment on its own, so I kept an open mind, and I really ended up enjoying it.”

Inspired in part by Whited’s experience with the National Charity League’s sign-up program for volunteering, the pair designed the SBVO to improve on that concept with an easier interface and a bit more emphasis on the types of work (homeless services, elderly, special
needs, children, animals, etc.) that might interest students. The idea is to find a service opportunity with the best fit for you.

“Especially in the beginning of the app, I was definitely the brainstormer,” said Whited. “But Ruby was the go-getter the whole time,” she said, recalling the various challenges they went through to create the project. “Having a one-step signup was something we thought would really increase the amount of student volunteers in Santa Barbara.”

The girls were recognized for their creative efforts by Representative Salud Carbajal, who presented them with the Congressional App Challenge award on January 6, 2020, and invited them to a reception at the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. “My office and I looked at all the entries,” Carbajal told them. “It was a very competitive pool, but your app rose to the top very quickly. It was innovative, practical, and user friendly. Concept-wise it is very strong, but the way you approached it was very well executed.”

The students were excited to go to D.C. to participate in the annual #HouseOfCode on March 24, but that was canceled due to the pandemic. Additionally, work on the app, which is still in the development and testing stage, was derailed a bit when school went online last spring. But with Providence students back in class as of mid-October, Whited
and Kilpper are hoping to continue to fine-tune SBVO and eventually make it available for the whole community to use.

providencesb.org

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020. To read the section as it appeared in print, please click here.

 

SBCC Foundation Delivers the Promise

SBCC Foundation Delivers the Promise, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

SBCC Foundation Delivers the Promise, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

An Update on the College’s Signature Project

The SBCC Promise — which provides regional high school graduates the opportunity to attend Santa Barbara City College full-time, free of charge, for up to two years — started its fifth year this fall, with 5,000 students projected to have benefited by the end of the year.

SBCC Foundation CEO Geoff Green gave us an update.

Have there been any changes to how the SBCC Promise works? We’ve been adjusting the offerings of the Promise based on feedback, so for us it’s a real-time experiment. One of the things we’re trying to figure out is how many students complete two or three years of the Promise but still have to stay one or two or three more semesters to be ready to transfer.

We’ve also gotten requests from a few students saying, “I’m ready to go, but I can’t afford to pay for all of these transfer applications.” So we just added that if they go to a counselor and say, “I need help with this,” we’ll pay for their transfer apps. We’ll do that for students who were Promise students in, say, 2016-17 and are just now completing what they need for transfer.

You also changed the program so students who have a unit load accommodation, and take fewer classes because of a disability, can stay in SBCC Promise for longer. Yes, as we learn about different things, we’ve been doing that kind of stuff as we’ve also tried to measure and monitor.

Does SBCC Promise pay the college the same amount it would get if the students were paying individually? Yes, and in fact this was one of the unanticipated benefits that [former SBCC president] Jack Friedlander told me about the first semester we did this, before he retired. He said, “Do you realize you actually generated a half million dollars last semester for the college? All of those students, who based on previous data would not have been full-time, they went full-time so they could take advantage of the Promise. Because of those additional units they paid for, that equaled half a million dollars of revenue for the college.”

How are you doing right now in terms of funding? It’s tough. We have now sustained it for 4.5 years. [Initially,] we raised about $3.5 million within six months. So we raised enough money to get all the way through year one and two and part of year three very early and then it sloughed off. Basically, we were excited, we put all our energy into the program, and now we have to circle back and kick up our fundraising. So you can expect after the pandemic moment starts to shift back to whatever our new normal is, you’ll see a big public campaign around funding the Promise.

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020. To read the section as it appeared in print, please click here.

 

Big Learning on the Littlest Little Farm

Big Learning on the Littlest Little Farm, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

Big Learning on the Littlest Little Farm, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

O’Connor Family and AHA! Engage Students on a Hope Ranch Annex Property

Organic farming utilizes the interconnectedness of nature, but an even more bountiful example of community connectedness has sprung to life on the Littlest Little Farm.

Tucked away in the Hope Ranch Annex neighborhood, this dynamic collaboration brings together teens from AHA! to work alongside two facilitators/farming educators to create, maintain, and grow a biodynamic farm. And it all takes place at the home of Laurel and Matt O’Connor, who host the farm in what is literally their backyard, working alongside the team to turn a little less than half an acre of “hard pan dirt” into an impressive urban farm.

Along with revitalizing the land, the Littlest Little Farm has also sparked something special in the teens. “At the beginning of the program, I’ll admit I was reluctant to join because I’m normally not someone who enjoys the outdoors,” said Owen Hubbell, a senior at San Marcos High. “But the amazing facilitators and environment allowed me to enjoy the outdoors more than I ever have before. I was able to learn about the value of nature and the value of taking care of it. Not only that, but I also learned the science of farming, which was very eye-opening to me, because I was never aware of the amount of work that goes
into farming. The feeling of watching something grow and develop, and to do it with a community of people I trust, is a gift I will never forget.”

The Littlest Little Farm, which celebrates its one-year anniversary this month, was indeed inspired by the documentary The Biggest Little Farm. Both Laurel (a clinical therapist) and her friend Jennifer Freed (the cofounder of AHA!’s nonprofit social-emotional education
program) were fans of the film.

“I was having my dream of wanting a farm, and she was trying to figure out how to bring a farming program to the teens,” said Laurel. “It happened really fast. Jennifer is a visionary; she’s amazing. That was in the summer a year ago, and (with support from the Manitou Foundation and other generous donors) we had kids with boots on the ground in early
November.”

Under the guidance of two AHA! alums — Julian Castillo, a clinical therapist, and Stevie
O’Connor, a facilitator (and Laurel and Matt’s daughter) — teens learn about soil nutrition, composting, row planting, amending soil, irrigation installation, worm composting, and noninvasive and chemical-free pest and weed management at the same they’re building social and emotional skills and self-awareness.

“I work with a lot of adolescent boys, and it’s definitely way better to meet outdoors and explore something than just sit there,” said Castillo. “The bigger picture that I like to tell them is that this is a little part of changing the world. The soil can actually sequester carbon. A lot of them have taken home not only plants and produce, but they’re starting
their own little home gardens. So we really think it’s a lot bigger deal, and I think they’re getting that it’s a much bigger thing than just putting stuff in the ground.”

“It’s exciting to see teens get excited about their impact on the planet,” said Stevie. “Also, we’ve harvested a ton in the last couple of months, so the teens are able to take some home and then we donate the extra produce to the Unity Shoppe. It’s great to be able to give that fresh produce back, because we want this to be appreciated.”

“Once we get more volume going, then we can expand to give to other nonprofits,” said Laurel. “So many people are always like, ‘Thank you so much for this,’ and I always feel like I’m the one who should be saying, ‘Thank you.’ I feel so lucky. It’s just a win-win situation. And especially given this time. Things are hard, and this is just such a positive
experience out here every time. It’s just a feel-good place for all of us. And we all come together in a safe way and get in touch with ourselves, with each other, with the soil, just all of it. It’s really amazing.”

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020. To read the section as it appeared in print, please click here.