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Laguna Beach

LBHS Creative Writing class publishes literary journal, The New Wave


In spite of the challenges faced by students and teachers during the last few months, English teacher Dawn Hunnicutt’s Creative Writing class at Laguna Beach High School just published its literary journal, The New Wave. (To read, click here.)

As readers may remember from a February article in Stu News, the creative writing class was developed by Hunnicutt and based on college courses. It was offered to juniors and seniors for the first time this past year. The creative writing curriculum is meant to foster writing in a creative and meaningful way, through exploration and experimentation and the use of mentor texts.

Hunnicutt says, “Amidst a school closure and many obstacles, we were able to curate pieces for our journal, The New Wave, the first literary journal for LBHS in recent years. Everything was from an earlier semester, so the COVID crisis and recent events surrounding BLM are not spoken of, but we are proud of the work we did, and so we were able to honor our writers in a unique way.”

LBHS creative group

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Photo by Dawn Hunnicutt

Class in February before shutdown

LBHS’s The New Wave Literary Journal is a wonderful collection of work that all parents – actually, all adults – should read. The poems provide rare insights into the thoughts, fears, and dreams of teens living in these topsy-turvy times. 

The pieces range across a wide range of topics, from ocean pollution to cancer to the challenges of young love, as well as more light-hearted topics, from the joys of sleeping in, to the pleasures of playing baseball, to the wonder of music.

Above all, the works in this collection are sincere, beautifully written, and candid. The journal offers a deep dive into the writers’ innermost thoughts.

A number of the young writers are clearly philosophers, several with a whimsical bent. 

LBHS creative journal

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Debut of “The New Wave”

Take these first four lines from Harry Stewart’s poem:

When people tell me they know something

Like the back of their hands

I wonder

Just how well I know my hand

The warmth and humor in Sophia Seidensticker’s philosophical “Pinky Poem” is a delight – here are first four lines:

I jammed my pinky in basketball

And since then it has been quite sore

I began to wonder, after all

What are pinkies for?

Sophia goes on to contemplate the possible uses of the pinky – including, importantly, hooking pinkies with her lover while walking on the beach – and concludes with these lines:

While I may not need it for jump ball

And it feels to me more like décor

Touch is important, I do recall

So that’s what I guess pinkies are for.

Among the most enjoyable entries are the odes to items as disparate as the outdoors, one’s bed, “my pencil,” the color brown, and even edamame beans.

This is an exceptional literary journal that is also beautifully illustrated and presented. It’s a testament to the excellent creative writing program developed by teacher Dawn Hunnicutt and will forever remind the writers of their high school ups and downs.

Youth sports practices postponed in Orange County due to new State guidance

The State of California recently amended its guidance regarding youth sports practices, team drills, and training and will no longer allow these activities to occur throughout the state.

The State’s Day Camps and Fitness Facility guidelines were used by counties across the state to allow for youth sports practices, team drills, and training.

At this time, youth sports activities including practices will be postponed until further direction is provided from the State. Currently, there is no scheduled time by which the state will reopen youth sports.

The County of Orange allowed youth sports practice, team drills, and training to reopen on June 15, 2020.

For more information about the County of Orange’s response to COVID-19, visit

Laguna Beach Little League Summer Camp signups are now open 

Laguna Beach Little League (LBLL) Summer Camp will take place at Laguna Beach High School, led by Coach Jeff Sears and his crew. Summer Camp signups are now open. For dates, fees, and to register, click here.

Ed Paz, the president of LBLL describes the impact of COVID-19 on the state of LBLL: 

“Baseball has returned to the oldest little league field west of the Mississippi River: Riddle Field, Laguna Beach. Though, the return has been in a much humbler fashion in the form of a summer camp of practices where safety has become the primary focus more than ever. 

“Like most activities since March, the oldest chartered little league in Orange County (third oldest in California), Laguna Beach Little League had our season severely altered. Tee Ball players, and the other younger divisions were not even able to taste the flavor of America’s favorite pastime. One of LBLL’s biggest fundraisers and community gatherings – the pancake breakfast/picture day event – coincides with those divisions’ opening day. 

Laguna Beach opening

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Photo by Stu Jones

2020 Season Opening Ceremonies on February 28 at Riddle Field

“It has also been a difficult realization for the twenty-three 13-year-old players who set a registration record for the most 13-year-olds to play their final year of Little League. 

“Another toll COVID-19 has taken on LBLL has been fiscally. As a nonprofit, 100 percent volunteer-based organization that operates on thin margins, we are faced with the prospect of refunds for our members that have not gotten to enjoy the normal season to which we’ve grown accustomed. The issue is that most of the registration fees are spent on expenses leading up to the start of the season and full refunds would place LBLL in financial jeopardy. 

“There is also uncertainty surrounding the fall season that would have had registration opportunities opened up by now. We hope, along with everyone, that a treatment or a cure for the coronavirus will be available soon, so life and little league can get back to normal, and LBLL can return as an outlet that fosters the physical and mental well-being of the youth of our community.

Laguna Beach all stars

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LBLL All-Star Team, summer 2019

“Unfortunately, there probably won’t be a picture day this year. Nor will there be yearbooks, trophies, or end-of-the-season pizza parties. But, thanks to the leadership of LBLL’s Board of Directors and the City of Laguna Beach, there will be some semblance of normalcy and closure, for the most storied tradition of little league baseball is being practiced for the older divisions at the venerable Riddle Field.

“If you would like to make a donation to LBLL to help offset the financial impacts of refunds due to the suspended/canceled 2020 season, please send a check to the following address: LBLL, PO Box 509, Laguna Beach, CA 92652. We would be happy to send you a letter accounting for your charitable donation.” 

For more information about LBLL, go to

Cox Charities surprises 10 deserving high school seniors on a video call with scholarships

It was a day of anticipation as Cox Charities Advisory Board members signed onto a video call to surprise high school seniors with scholarships to help defray college costs. Due to state and national social distancing recommendations to slow the spread of COVID-19, Cox Charities opted to virtually announce 10 recent high school graduates from Orange County and Palos Verdes as the 2020 Cox Scholars recipients. 

This year, Cox Charities awarded a total of $32,500 in scholarships to 10 students in the amounts. Charities is the philanthropic arm of Cox Communications and is funded by employee donations, matched by Cox, and overseen by an advisory board consisting of employees who volunteer their time. The donations are used to support the community in the form of scholarships and nonprofit grants. Statewide, Cox Charities has awarded more than $1.7 million in scholarships to date.

Cox Charities Kalya Lihardo

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Kayla Lihardo was named a 2020 Cox Scholar; she will attend Duke University

 “This year has been unprecedented in so many ways for our graduating high school seniors, and we’re excited to bring them some good news during this challenging time,” said Sam Attisha, Senior Vice President and Region Manager for Cox Communications in California. “These 2020 Cox Scholars are so deserving of these scholarships, and Cox and our employees are proud to recognize all of their hard work and accomplishments.”

Cox Charities Advisory Board members invited students to participate in video calls to learn about their post-graduation plans and what a scholarship would mean to them. The students were unaware at the start of the calls that they had already been selected as Cox Scholars and were surprised and excited to learn that Cox would be awarding each of them with a scholarship for college. 

“On behalf of the Orange County Department of Education, I want to express my gratitude to Cox Charities and its employees for funding the dreams of 10 exemplary students,” said Orange County Superintendent Dr. Al Mijares. “The 2020 Cox Scholars have demonstrated a commitment to academic excellence and community service. While we are proud to celebrate their successes today, we know their greatest achievements are yet to come.”

Cox Charities surprises Avery Klauke

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Avery Klauke was named a 2020 Cox Scholar; she will attend University of California, Berkeley

This 2020 Cox Scholars for the Orange County and Palos Verdes regions are: Casey Gallagher, Tustin High School, attending the University of Southern California, Santa Barbara; Chloe Gonzalez, Palos Verdes High School, hopes to pursue a degree in mathematics this fall with the intention of following a career in education; Erica Hsueh, Northwood High School, attending Princeton University; Aidan Kelly, Tesoro High School, plans to study aerospace engineering; Avery Klauke, University High School, attending the University of California, Berkeley; Kayla Lihardo, University High School, attending Duke University; Anton Lok, Palos Verdes High School, attending Stanford University; Mary Norman, Foothill High School, attending Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; Alyssa Simmons, Laguna Hills High School, attending Loyola Marymount University; and Maxwell Tumbrello, San Clemente High School, plans to study engineering in the fall.

Cox Charities awards college scholarships to graduating high school seniors across our California service areas, including Orange County, Palos Verdes, San Diego and Santa Barbara. These Cox Scholars are pursuing careers in a STEM related field with a passion for giving back to their community.  For more information on the Cox Scholars program, visit

Kendall and Chris Clark receive SchoolPower’s 2020 Bill Steel Award

On May 31, SchoolPower presented “The Bill Steel Award,” its annual recognition of exceptional volunteerism, to Kendall and Chris Clark. The Clarks have been passionate, unwavering supporters of SchoolPower for 23 years.

In 1997, their neighbor invited them to become SchoolPower trustees, prompting them to make an unusual decision – to join before their children had even entered Laguna Beach schools. “Chris and I looked down at our three kids aged 4, 2, and 6 months and wondered, isn’t it a little early for us to get involved?” says Kendall. “But Chris said it was precisely the time to get involved, so that we could help make sure the district is in solid shape on their first day of kindergarten.”  

The Clarks went on to serve as trustees for six years, with Kendall becoming President of SchoolPower in 2001. She moved on to the Endowment Board, where she served until 2006. Kendall returned to the Endowment Board in 2013 for two more years before Chris took over as President of the Endowment Board in 2015, a position he held for three of his five years of service. Kendall continues to support SchoolPower today as a member of the Real Estate Honor Roll.

Kendall and Chris Clark

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SchoolPower’s 2020 Bill Steel Award recipients Kendall and Chris Clark 

Over their 23 years of involvement, the Clarks’ four children Jack, Grace, Livie, and Will graduated from LBHS and went on to dedicate themselves to careers in engineering, medicine, law, and military service, continuing their parents’ legacy of hard work and giving back. Kendall and Chris say they cherish their time volunteering and raising children. 

“The volunteers in SchoolPower make far more of an impact on our schools and town than just raising money. You set an excellent example for your own children who will see you doing all you can for them,” says Chris. “Paying it forward in 1997 and leaving a legacy now have been a huge honor for our entire family. These years raising kids are hectic and fleeting but being in the middle of it all are the best seats you can get.”

Reflecting on their efforts, the Clarks insist they received far more in return than they gave. “We are shocked, surprised, and deeply honored. We have loved every minute of our involvement in the organization,” says Kendall. “What we gave we got back 100-fold in the way of lifelong friendships and top-notch education for our four kids.” 

The award was created in honor of Bill Steel, who championed SchoolPower’s Community Campaign (now called the Wave of Giving) for 10 consecutive years starting in 1997. That year, the Community Campaign spiked from raising $30,000 the year prior to reaching an unprecedented $81,000. He went on to grow the campaign to the significance of where it is today and added SchoolPower Board President to his resume in 2000-2001. Like Mr. Steel, recipients of this award are individuals who are not only dedicated but also possess stamina as firm believers in Laguna’s public schools.

SchoolPower’s mission is to enhance the educational experience of the whole student as they grow from TK through 12th grade. Over the last five years, SchoolPower has contributed over $4,000,000 to the Laguna Beach school district to help support a wide range of programs, including music, visual and performing arts, STEM, digital literacy, field trips, athletics, social emotional support, service learning, and academic support. 

SchoolPower’s Wave of Giving campaign is on now at

LBHS Walking for Water Club creates art piece reflecting emotions during quarantine 

By Ayda Tuncay

The students of Laguna Beach High School’s Walking for Water Club have come together to create an art piece depicting their feelings while being in quarantine since the coronavirus outbreak. After having virtual meetings two times a week, the group decided to put its free time to use and create something that would represent this moment in history. 

With the virtual walk quickly approaching on June 27th and 28th, students got to work on their individual art project. Each member who chose to participate was given two canvases, one to show how they felt being stuck at home and another to illustrate what they wanted the outcome of this quarantine to be. Once they are all finished, they will be put together to form a collection of 25 different viewpoints of the teenagers in Laguna Beach. 

This type of project allowed everyone to share their unique perspectives on what life is like and how they want it to progress. The coronavirus pandemic forced everyone around the world to practice social distancing and stay in their homes. A lot of people turned to art as a way to express themselves and inform others about their situations and what was happening in the world. 

LBHS walking art

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Art piece created by members of the LBHS Walking for Water Club

In years past, it is evident that art is one of the most significant ways to display history. The AIDS epidemic of the 1980s left a massive impact on art forever, with artists creating paintings, and taking photographs documenting this moment. One of the most well-known images from the epidemic is a Benetton ad, now seen as a marker in the history of AIDS imagery. A more recent example would be all of the pictures of protestors and different signs that are being produced in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

 All of these different forms of art through history are crucial in normalizing the different hardships that we face. Some of the diseases and injustices that have caused people to share their creativity in different ways only apply to certain people but during the coronavirus, a vast majority of the world collectively kept themselves safe at home. Through this art project the Walking for Water Club was able to demonstrate how the younger generation of society was feeling during this time. These students have never experienced something like this, and it gave everyone a different perspective on how we live our lives. Some of the seniors from the high school were robbed of a graduation and the freshman didn’t get to experience a full first year of high school. 

Although these are hard losses, people in other parts of the world were suffering much worse. As a part of the Walking for Water Club, which works alongside nonprofit Wisdom Spring to spread awareness about the threatening water crisis in West Africa, the students had to learn about how this crisis was affecting different parts of the world. 

LBHS walking virtual

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Susan Hough and current members of Walking for Water Club at KX FM

They learned that decades of chronic underfunding of water infrastructure is putting many countries at worse risk, with more than half the global population lacking access to safely managed sanitation. Since good hygiene is the first line of defense against the coronavirus and a vast range of other diseases, the importance of building wells and access to clean water in underprivileged countries is even more evident now. Seeing as the annual walk to raise money for these underprivileged regions was canceled, the students had to come up with a different solution to continue providing help.

 A common phrase that a lot of younger kids have been hearing is that “[They] are the future.” Based on this statement, it is apparent that these teenagers are the core of our culture and humanity and the things that they create will be remembered in the future and used as a foundation for bettering our world. 

A virtual walk is happening on June 27th and 28th from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., featuring multiple events and activities such as guest speakers, a screening of the PBS documentary on Walking for Water, music, and a silent auction. One of the silent auction items will be the unified canvases that each student made. The art piece is first set to show in a local gallery but will then be sent to the highest bidder in the auction. To participate in our event, please go to, and to find out more about Water for Water go to

LBHS 2020 Graduation

Photos by Scott Brashier

LBHS 2020 principal

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LBHS Principal Jason Allemann congratulates graduate

LBHS 2020 car

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Driving to receive diploma 

LBHS 2020 grad

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Happy times, congratulations 2020 grads!

For more photos by Scott Brashier, see slideshow below

Anastasia (Staci) Ensminger: Stu News salutes Laguna Beach High School 2020 Graduating Senior

Staci Ensminger might have been best known around campus for her grace and poise as a dancer. Coaches and trainers may have targeted her strength and dexterity as an aerial artist. Teachers probably considered the diligence that landed her a Scholar Award and three years on the Laguna Beach High School Honor Roll. Staci’s parents – proud of it all – are possibly most impressed by her compassion, her moral character, her patience, and her devotion to the underdog. 

From the time Staci was small, she pursued gymnastics with intense enthusiasm. She read books while doing the splits. Walking down the street, she might break into a handstand. She could cartwheel down the beach or carry a conversation in a backbend. Never content to simply sit, Staci would contort, invert, and flex herself into impossible positions. By the age of 10, she began winning state titles in various events and all-around competitions. But by the time she turned 12, she grew restless for something more. That’s when she took flight – literally. 

Anatasia Staci closeup

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Photo by Jeff Rovner

Staci will attend San Diego State University in the fall to study psychology and occupational therapy

Staci discovered the aerial arts while training with The Ruby Karen Project. Under Ruby’s coaching, Staci took 1st place in different categories at the 2014, 2015, and 2018 West Coast Aerial Arts Festival; 1st place in static hoop at the 2017 VIVA Fest in Las Vegas; gained acceptance at the prestigious Ecole Nationale De Cirque in Montreal 2016 and 2017 summer programs; and was chosen as a coveted guest performer multiple times at Irvine’s Barclay theater. Once she mastered the craft, she began coaching and choreographing pieces of her own. 

“Because of her very strong fundamentals, both academically and artistically, her attention to detail, and methodical and organized approach, Staci developed skills to create and bring to life choreography carrying not only beautiful stories but important social messages, that continuously inspire many students, younger and older, that look up to her,” Coach Ruby Karen says. “But Staci’s ultimate success is mainly contributory to her personality and character. 

She is driven, dedicated, persistent, hardworking, eager to learn, and always keeps a positive attitude.” 

Anatasia Staci dance

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Staci’s performances have garnered her many awards

That strong character drove Staci to also join the humanitarian organization Le PeTiT CiRqUe, committed not only to the circus arts, but also to giving back to the community. In 2018, Staci flew with the troupe to Oslo, Norway to perform for the Nobel Peace Prize Concert. Her efforts also financially benefited children battling Treacher Collins Syndrome and other disadvantaged and disabled youth.      

At 18, Staci has already figured out how to combine her lifelong skills into a compassionate career. Staci discovered RAD Camp (“Rising Above Disabilities”) in 2018. She devoted her school vacations to working with children and young adults with developmental disabilities, logging more than 900 hours of community service time to the cause. 

Combining years of flexibility, dexterity, and core strength training, Staci plans to study occupational therapy and someday open a circus studio offering therapeutic treatments for developmentally disabled individuals. “The hope is to help them strengthen their balance, coordination, and self-esteem,” says her mother, Irina Ensminger. 

Anatasia Staci beach

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Staci hopes someday to open a circus studio offering therapeutic treatments for developmentally disabled individuals

“From what I have seen of Staci, she is above the rest,” says Laguna Beach High School Dance Director Estee Fratzke. “When she puts her mind to something, she commits wholeheartedly and selflessly.” 

Staci plans to study psychology at San Diego State University this fall. We can’t wait to see where her journey will take her, but we know wherever she goes, she will soar to ever-greater heights.

Congratulations, Staci! 

In order to celebrate our graduating seniors’ achievements together as a community, we would like to extend an invitation to graduating seniors and their parents to submit announcements about college acceptances and plans for next year. Please submit your information to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

LBHS Graduation 2020

LBHS Graduation 2020

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Photo by Cory Sparkuhl/Sparkle Films

From Superintendent Jason Viloria via Twitter: “Those of us behind the scenes know that no graduation ceremony goes off without a small hitch here and there. This year’s a looked a little different! Congrats to the LBHS #Classof2020, I have no doubt that you will make us very proud as you set off in pursuit of your dreams!”

El Morro 5th Grade Promotion and clap out

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

El Morro clap out

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El Morro 5th Grade Promotion: After a Zoom promotion ceremony, there was a car parade at the school and all the teachers and staff did a clap out (an El Morro tradition) for the kids in their cars

El Morro Rocco

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Rocco and family

El Morro signs

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Teachers and staff congratulate students

For more photos by Mary Hurlbut, see the slideshow below

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