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Dianne’s Creature Feature (because, cows)

Cowabunga, TOW tops “Change for Change” goal


What do cows, greenhouses, and coins all have in common? Top of the World Elementary. 

Just at a time when there is the widespread notion that small things can’t make a difference, students at TOW Elementary proved that concept wrong. In a big way. Small things, spare change in this case, turn into big things (dollars to be exact) that can make significant differences.

To this end, TOW Elementary PTA created a spare change collection campaign for Giving Tuesday. They encouraged students to bring any amount of surplus change to raise $500 (with a $500 match from the TOW PTA) to support With My Own Two Hands Foundation (WMO2H), a Laguna Beach nonprofit that provides water and agricultural projects to fund education and create self-reliant projects and communities.

WmO2H chosen for focus on children, education and sustainability

 “The TOW PTA chose With My Own 2 Hands for our Giving Tuesday fundraiser because of its focus on children, education and sustainable projects. This clearly resonated with the students, which was one of our goals. We wanted to help provide better nutrition for the children in Kenya while also showing students how powerful they can be when they work together for a cause they care about. We love that this foundation’s philosophy is to empower individuals to make a difference, even in a country that they might never have visited,” says Jennifer Grzeskowiak, the community service chair for TOW PTA.

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Grayson Grzeskowiak helps count some last-minute coins 

 The funds were earmarked for purchase of two dairy cows that would each provide 45 Kenyan kids with fresh milk every day. And to make the campaign even more exciting, the classrooms competed against each other to see who could raise the most money for the honor of naming the cows. 

 And to say that the students accomplished their objective “in a big way,” is no exaggeration. The TOW “Change for Change” campaign exceeded their goal of $500 and raised a whopping $2,199. Further, the TOW PTA was so inspired by the children’s generosity, they doubled their contribution to a generous $1,000 match - for a total of $3,199.

“Every class participated in the fundraiser. This is a busy time of year for parents, teachers and students, so I was blown away that every class brought in money. Also, some students brought in bills, but more than 60 percent ($1,343) was in coins,” says Grzeskowiak. “The top class brought in $230.92. The top three are going to get to name one of the cows.” 

What will the kids name the three cows they’ve sponsored?

Max Osborne, from the class that ranked number three (in raising money), says, «Everyone was super excited about the cows. Everyone was racing to fill up the jar because they really wanted to help and really wanted to name a cow.» 

Three of the names his class is considering for the cow are Albert, Milky and Ginger. The classes will announce the names they chose at an assembly in December.

Because TOW smashed their goal, the funds will now purchase three cows 

anda sister greenhouse that will provide 400-500 children and adults fresh vegetables. In addition, the surplus of 250 pounds of crops will be sold, generating income that will fund education. 

“TOW has its own garden program that the students love,” Grzeskowiak explains, “so we’re happy to be able to provide a garden at another school in Kenya and further improve their nutrition.”

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Kids and moms holding signs at drop-off the morning of Giving Tuesday

 There’s no doubt that the students truly took the giving to heart.  “There are so many great and inspiring stories and every penny donated by the students has positively impacted the kids who inspire all of us at WMO2H every day! There is a sweet story of fitth grader Josh Novick who donated all $100 of his birthday money,” says Mary Beth Pugh, Director of Operations at WMO2H. “We had our founder Lindsey Pluimer give him a personal call to thank him as well.”

Fifth grader gives every cent of his birthday money to the cause

Josh said of his donation, “I wanted to give my birthday money to someone who needs it rather than spend it on something I want. It just felt like the right thing to do.”

Evidently, the “Change for Change” campaign, which was a huge success, is just the beginning of the fundraising experience for these students. “This is going to be a great kick-off for TOW PTA’s Dive Into Giving student-led grant program. We are encouraging classes to raise money for a cause of their choice that we will partially match. 

“Students present their ideas to the TOW PTA for a chance at grant matching funding. We want to plant the seeds of giving now and know these kids will become some of the world’s next change-makers,” Grzeskowiak added. “We’ll match $200-$500 of the money they raise. We want students to take ownership of the giving process and see what they can accomplish when they work together.” 

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At student assembly, (l-r) Ava Guziak, Jack Pugh, and Reid Guziak talk about their experiences with WMO2H projects in Kenya

 Pluimer said of her organization, “With My Own Two Hands seeks to inspire our communities to help improve the lives of children in need. This fundraiser is an incredible way to show the kids in our beautiful Laguna Beach community that everyone can make a difference. The children’s generosity will now provide better nutrition and a diversified diet for hundreds.” 

With My Own Two Hands Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is dedicated to improving the lives of orphaned or disadvantaged children in need. Their model creates self-reliance by setting up water and agricultural business-like ventures in Kenya where surplus is sold to the local community. A minimum of 40 percent of proceeds goes toward funding education.

Grzeskowiak says, “The feedback I’ve gotten from kids and parents was that the concept of helping other kids by providing them with cows for milk and bringing in spare change was all very tangible for them. We wanted to make fundraising engaging for them.” 

And apparently, it was. It’s no cow-incidence that when you put a goal in the hands of TOW students, they set their minds and money to it, work together, and the result changes lives. 

Congratulations, TOW Elementary! 

I can’t wait to find out the names of the cows.

For further information on WMO2H, go to

When a cow laughs, does milk come out its nose?


Bah, Humbug! LBHS presents a reading of Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge on Wed, Dec 20

For a hilarious and irreverent look at A Christmas Carol, Laguna Beach High School’s Drama/Theatre II offers a twisted version of this tradition favorite on Wed, Dec 20, at 3 p.m. The reading of Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge, by Christopher Durang, will take place in the Greene Room (LBHS Room 55), and the suggested donation is $5.

Mrs. Bob Crachit’s Wild Christmas Binge was commissioned by City Theatre in Pittsburgh and premiered on Nov 7, 2002. It is a musical parody in which Durang asks the question, “What if Dickens’ Mrs. Cratchit wasn’t so goody-goody, but instead was an angry, stressed-out modern-day American woman who wanted out of the harsh London 1840s life?” 

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Jeff Howell and Kristine Nielsen in the original production in 2002

Scrooge’s tale of redemption and transformation is turned completely on its head, although most of the characters retain their original Dickensian qualities. Durang adds many classic allusions and pop-culture references to the story to make it a rollicking time for all in attendance.

The Christmas Binge reading is recommended for high school age and above due to its complete and total (uproarious) mockery, as well as some adult language.

LBHS thanks the community for supporting their programs throughout the year.

LBHS is located at 625 Park Ave.

For more information, go to

El Morro Elementary Peer Assistance and Leadership gives back to local residents 

El Morro Elementary Peer Assistance and Leadership (PAL) students had an amazing opportunity to give back to local residents recently. During the monthly Character Counts Funday Monday lunch time activity, students in grades 1st-5th assembled “Blessing bags” that contained a few basic essentials (i.e. toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, comb, granola bar, wet wipes, and a handmade uplifting note of encouragement) for the Friendship Shelter.

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PAL students assembled “Blessing Bags” to give out to local residents at the Friendship Shelter

All felt fortunate to be surrounded by ocean views while the PAL students were able to pass out hot chocolate, holiday cookies, and “Blessing Bags” to residents at the Friendship Shelter on Pacific Coast Highway. 

This life-altering volunteer experience has not only positively impacted the warm-hearted youth filling them with empathy for others, but has helped spread holiday cheer to those in need during the holiday season.

Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach announces in-house staff promotions of invaluable team members

The Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach (BGCLB) has announced the promotions of Oscar Parra, Danny Panduro, Moana Contreras, and Sophia Abjuga. After working diligently at their previous positions, these BGCLB professionals agreed to take on a new challenges. In addition to their experience and education, their dedication and desire to always provide the best services for the BGCLB youth, met the qualifications set by the executive leadership team. 

Formerly the Bluebird Branch Director, Oscar Parra will now oversee both Bluebird and Lang Branches. To ensure daily operations are meeting organizational expectations, he has the assistance of Moana Contreras and Sophia Abjuga, newly appointed coordinators for each branch.

Oscar states, “I am happy to continue my role as a Branch Director and extending it to our Lang families. I have been a passionate leader in the Boys & Girls Club movement for the past 16 years. I bring extensive youth development experience to our organization, having worked at Boys & Girls Clubs of Fullerton, Brea/Placentia/Yorba Linda, Las Vegas, and now Laguna Beach.

“I had the pleasure of learning and leading in a variety of professional roles within my current location, including Youth Development Professional, Athletic Director, Program Director, and Clubhouse Director. I have been leading Bluebird Park for over three years and I look forward in serving the Laguna Beach community, keeping our children safe and watching them grow and excel in their daily lives.”

Danny Panduro, formerly the Lang Park Extension Director, will now direct the Teen Program Services Programs based out of the Canyon Branch. Danny shares, “I am ecstatic to be the new Teen Services Director for the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna

Beach. I have been a part of the Boys & Girls Club movement since elementary school when I attended Canyon Branch as a Club member. In a professional capacity, I have been with the Club in various roles since 2009. 

“I began as a volunteer in April 2009 and was quickly hired on as summer staff for four summers at Canyon Branch. After finishing college at the University of Redlands, I returned to the Club and spent two years at Bluebird Branch where I served as Athletic Director. In May of 2015, I became the Director at our Lang Park Extension and have remained in that role until now. I am excited for this new opportunity and to return to the Branch where I began my career. Over the years, I have built many relationships at all three locations, and look forward to building new ones and continuing to foster the old.”

He adds, “To the Lang Park families: I will forever cherish the memories we have made together throughout the past two and a half years. Thank you for choosing Lang Park as your after-school destination and I can’t wait to see your members in our Teen Center. This year is going to be an incredible year for our organization and I am thrilled to continue serving the community that I grew up in and love.”

Previously the Bluebird Branch Education Coordinator, Moana Contreras, will now serve as the Bluebird Branch Coordinator. Moana says, “I have been with the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach for over three years. When I was hired as a youth Development Professional I brought extensive customer service and professional competencies that helped me achieve a promotion as the Education Coordinator. I have a deep passion to help kids achieve their academic goals and social skills. I am excited to accept this new role and look forward to the new relationships I will build on behalf of our organization.”

Sophia Abjuga, a Lang Park Extension Youth Development Professional, will now be the Lang Unit Coordinator. Sophia says, “I was hired in June of 2016 as a Youth Development Professional. My experience in child care and customer service along with volunteering in my community makes this opportunity my ‘perfect job,’ which I plan on making as my career choice. I love every minute of it! I started in the summer doing all that was asked of me from programing, supervision, club décor, housekeeping and outdoor activities. 

“When the school year started, I was able to direct the art programs for our Lang members. Due to the children’s interest and my love for the arts, I hope to introduce a theater arts programs sometime this year with the assistance of our organization’s Art Director. I am so happy for this advancement opportunity and sharing my positivity and talents with our incredible children and families.”

For questions or additional support, reach out to the newly promoted Club staff individually at their location. For additional comment regarding these staff changes, call Chief Operations Officer of Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, Addie McHale at 949-715-7669.

For further information about the Boys & Girls Club, go to or call (949) 494-2535.

Spring basketball signups start for Girls Spring Basketball League at the B&GC 

Spring basketball signups start soon for the Girls Spring Basketball League at the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach-Main Branch. The cost for Club members to participate is $150 per player, which includes a new team uniform.

Non-club members who wish to participate for the spring season will be required to pay $150, plus yearly Club membership ($100). Registration takes place Feb 1 - 28. A late fee will be applied for all registrations after Feb 28. Scholarships are available for qualifying families.

 Player evaluations are mandatory and will be held the week of March 5 - 8. Thereafter, teams are formed. One-hour practices begin March 26, and games will start on April 10. 

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Girls just want to have fun playing basketball

Boys & Girls Club Athletic Director, Hans Laroche, has an outstanding reputation among both Club kids and parents for making this league a great experience for everyone involved. From grades Kindergarten through ninth grade, all participants learn basketball skills, enhance their self-esteem and have a great time being part of a team.

Volunteer opportunities are also available for parents interested in coaching teams. It is the best instructional basketball league for girls around.  

Annual sponsorship opportunities that support Boys & Girls Club Athletic programs are available. For just $500, your family or business name can be displayed on a colorful banner hung in the Club’s gym for one year. These banners are seen by more than 600 Laguna families each year. 

For more information or to become a member, call 949-494-2535 or go to

LBHS cleans up at Scholastic Surf Series Event #3 with individual champions Travis & Tess Booth and Jackson Jenkins

Written by coaches Alisa Cairns and Scott Finn

     The LBHS Surf team members were very strong on Sunday at the Scholastic Surf Series Event #3 and made the Individual Finals in all four Divisions with multiple winners. Once again, with a smaller than normal group, many of the kids available competed successfully in multiple divisions.

Early in the morning In team competition LBHS was up against J Serra and did very well with most of the team advancing on to the Individuals, and we were able to take a big win 63 to 25. The event was held at Ninth St in Huntington Beach and the weather was gorgeous with hot offshore winds. The two-three foot surf was clean looking, but very difficult to ride.

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Tess and Travis Booth

Once the Individual competition kicked in the LBHS surfers clearly stood out and were the surfers to beat. In Boys Shortboard, Travis Booth, Liam McCue and Jackson Jenkins all took wins advancing to the Finals. Once the Finals hit the water Travis continued to shred a number of lefts and rights and was on top of his game taking the overall win. He did double duty and took third in Bodyboard. 

Meanwhile Liam had some impressive rides and finished runner up, while Jackson was another surfer to take on multiple divisions with huge success, taking the win overall in Longboard and fourth in Shortboard. 

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Jackson Jenkins

Jameson Roller was a standout in several heats in Longboard, but in the end finished fourth. Tess Booth continued her run competing in both Shortboard and Longboard to take both big wins. Meanwhile Jade Howson took secon in Longboard and Kelly Smith took third in Shortboard, both putting in some nice rides. Other surfers to do well but not final were Sam Starr and Joseph Schenk.

The next Scholastic Surf Series event will be Feb 11 at San Clemente Pier.

Thank you to the kids who participated and the parents, and friends who helped out.

St. Catherine of Siena Parish School will celebrate their 60th anniversary with A Starry Night Gala 

On Fri, March 23, St. Catherine of Siena Parish School will celebrate its sixtieth anniversary at the Port Theater with A Starry Night Gala.  

There will be a live and silent auction, dancing, gaming and music by one of Orange County’s favorite DJs as well as delicious food and drinks. Cocktail attire is suggested. 

The event takes place at 6 p.m. The Port Theatre is located at 2905 East Coast Highway, Corona Del Mar. 

All funds raised will go directly towards school programs and facility needs.

“The Sixtieth Anniversary Starry Night Gala brings families together to build camaraderie, celebrate Saint Catherine of Siena Parish School and raise money to support the spiritual, academic and artistic development of our talented students,” said principal Mike Letourneau.

“Throughout the years, the event has raised money to support new academic, technology, artistic and faith programs that benefit all of our students, many of which would not have been possible without the generous support of our families, parishioners and local businesses.  

“Saint Catherine provides students from Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo and other surrounding communities with a strong academic education blended with the arts and faith that help our students develop into successful young adults. ”

St. Catherine’s is a 501 c (3) non-profit, Catholic elementary (TK -8) school located in Laguna Beach.

Laguna Beach High School counselor receives 2018 College Board recognition

Laguna Beach High School counselor Nichole Rosa has been recognized for her exemplary work as a professional school counselor in the Laguna Beach Unified School District by the College Board’s inaugural 2018 Counselor Recognition Program (CRP).

In an effort to showcase how school counselors throughout Orange County are making a difference in creating opportunities for all students, the College Board, in conjunction with the Orange County, California, Department of Education, launched its first Counselor Recognition Program. 

The award seeks to highlight the important work of innovative, results-oriented school counselors who exemplify excellence and commitment to student success and opportunity.

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Nichole Rosa receives honor of College Board recognition 

“Mrs. Rosa and the entire counseling team offer amazing support, guidance and care for the students of Breaker Nation,” said Dr. Jason Allemann, principal at Laguna Beach High School. “It is great that our students are able to use the expertise and resources that our counselors have to offer them,” he added.

The evaluation committee selected Rosa for her commitment to ensure that all students have a specific, solid, and attainable plan upon graduation that includes postsecondary options. 

In addition, the committee praised Rosa for the framework she has built to support students’ comprehensive success by leveraging diverse partnerships with community organizations and individuals to disseminate critical information about financial aid and scholarships. 

As a recipient of the award, Rosa was presented with an all-expenses paid complimentary trip to the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) Annual Conference in Los Angeles this July where winners will be recognized.

Boys & Girls Club announces AZUL employee recognition award winners 

Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach (BGCLB), Canyon branch presented the first annual “AZUL Leadership Awards” during the Youth of the Year Awards ceremony on Feb 2. These distinguished awards recognize the staff who demonstrate exceptional leadership beyond their position description and through accountable measures in their daily performance in 2017. AZUL stands for:  “Be the Change. Embody your ideals and set the cascade of transformation in motion. Empower PoZitivity. Positive mind, positive vibes, and positive life. 

The Boys & Girls club strive to create an environment that allows members to make positive choices. Youth-Centric. Embrace challenges that lead to a better experience for the kids and empower them to explore, discover, fail, and learn. If a kid can do it, a kid should do it. Embrace diversity. Foster a culture of respect, equality and inclusiveness, and celebrate that we are all unique beings. Creative togetherness. The sum of the parts (Innovation + collaboration) equal more than each quality on its own.

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Sophia Abjuga

Staff had the opportunity to nominate their peers for these awards as a reflection on how they work, live and breathe these values to attain the Club’s goals each day.

“Our impact in providing creative and innovative programs in a safe, fun and engaging atmosphere is priceless for our youth,” states BGCLB Chief Operations Officer, Addie McHale, who also delivered the awards to the recipients.   She adds, “It takes each and every single member of our staff to bring our mission to fruition, and we are thrilled to have an avenue that enables staff to recognize their own team members for exceeding expectations in so many honorable ways, making these awards extra special.”

The 2017 Award Winners are,
Sophia Abjuga, Lang Unit Coordinator and a former a youth development professional, she (in less than 18 months) has demonstrated the desire to learn their new role, is approachable and friendly, participates with activities/meetings/events, and is involved with planning, safety, housekeeping and organizational improvements while embracing the mission.

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Mar Stash

Mar Stash is the fine Arts Youth Development Professional/Creative Marketing Coordinator at Bluebird Branch, who consistently exhibits a positive, spirited “can-do” attitude and outlook, GREAT energy and enthusiasm that colleagues, club members, and volunteers (and others) alike find contagious and uplifting. Mar is the person that people are drawn to get the job done, and receive a motivational pep talk or a high five!

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Caitlin Reller

Art Expressions Director at the Canyon Branch, Caitlin Reller embraces impact, service, dedication, professionalism, accountability and compassion in dealing with internal or external customers (staff, kids, parents, partners, volunteers, guests, donors). In addition, Caitlin inspires an overall sense of belonging, usefulness, influence and competence that leads to a welcoming club/organization environment.

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Jesus Villegas

Program Development Director at the Canyon Branch, Jesus Villegas exemplifies the kind of collaboration, teamwork and respect it takes to make others great! He leads by example, is passionate about the mission and helping their fellow employees succeed and reach their goals. 

The Boys & Girls club is thrilled to announce these winners and welcome the community to congratulate them on their achievements. For more information, contact Addie McHale at (949) 715-7669. To become a member, call (949) 494-2535 or go to

LBHS shines at Scholastic Surf Series Event #Four. Champions Kelly Smith, Jade Howsen and Kiko Nelsen


     The LBHS Surf team members were very strong today (Feb 11) at the Scholastic Surf Series Event #Four with several top finishes in the individual finals. Once again, it was a smaller than normal group, as many of available kids competed successfully in multiple divisions.

The day started out with team competition, and we were up against El Toro who had a limited team. It was mostly a chance for the Laguna surfers to get some good practice in before the individual competition began. We ended up taking a lopsided team win 62 to three.

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Kiko Nelsen, first in longboard, third in shortboard

The Laguna surfers were on a roll, surfing well and progressing to the various finals. Our women continued to sweep the shortboard and longboard finals, going one and two. Kelly Smith took the shortboard win, followed by Claire Kelly in second. Jade Howsen took the longboard final with Maya Takabayashi taking second.

Our men were also very strong with multiple division finalists. Kiko Nelsen led the way, taking first in longboard and third in shortboard. Meanwhile, other impressive performances were put in by Lucas Jablon, taking fourth, followed by a first-time finalist Luca Elghanayan, who took fifth. Sam Nelsen rounded out the final in sixth and again took a sixth in longboard. Joseph Schenck was another surfer to do double duty and made the finals in longboard taking fifthoverall.

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Photo by Ellen Nelsen

Shortboard winner Kelly Smith

The event was held at San Clemente pier under sunny skies and glassy small surf in the morning, but as the tide bottomed out for finals, it was tough to find decent waves.

The next Scholastic Surf Series event will be March 18, and the High School Championships will be April 21.

Thank you to the kids who participated and the parents, especially Ellen Nelsen for her support and great action shots!

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