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Laguna Beach


Students learn about rustic life at El Morro Harvest Festival

Students at El Morro Elementary School are participating in a two-day Harvest Festival. Kindergarten/TK, third and fourth graders enjoyed a variety of hands-on activities yesterday (Monday, Nov. 21) and today (Tuesday, Nov. 22), 1st, 2nd and 5th graders will each spend an hour learning about our country’s beginnings, Pilgrims and Native Americans and their rustic lifestyle of hunting, sewing, leatherwork and candle making.

Parents, family members and teachers are assisting with the activities as volunteers. 

Students learn boy with turkey

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Photos courtesy of El Moro Elementary School

This youngster is going on a turkey hunt

Students learn girl with bow

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She is learning to pull a bow

Students learn boy with drum

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Understanding rhythms by beating a drum 

Students learn Benson sewing

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Volunteer Laura Benson, whose grandson attends El Morro, is helping a student sew a pillow

Students learn rustic

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The rustic life was reflective of our country’s humble beginnings


Anneliese Schools hires Nourishment Program Director Chef Andrew Johnson

Anneliese Schools has hired Chef Andrew Johnson to join their staff as the school’s new Nourishment Program Director. Chef Johnson brings to this role more than three decades of knowledge working in, and around, professional kitchens, higher education, healthcare and local farms. In this role, he will be managing the culinary program for all three Anneliese Schools campuses and the school’s satellite regenerative and organic farm, Rebel Mountain.

He has an Associate’s Degree in Culinary Arts, Bachelor’s Degree in Hospitality Management and an MBA with a focus in sustainability. He is also a certified Master Food Preserver from the University of California Agriculture & Natural Resources and holds certificates as Servsafe manager/instructor/proctor, and HACCP manager and aquaponics.

Anneliese schools hires Chef Andrew Johnson

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Courtesy of Anneliese Schools

Nourishment Program Director Chef Andrew Johnson

“I look forward to building upon the school’s long-standing Nourishment Program,” said Johnson. “I believe in a whole-food approach to nutrition, growing our own food, choosing local food producers and the holistic concept of foods as medicine.”

Chef Johnson’s first job upon moving to California in 2010 was as director and culinary instructor at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute, Orange County. Most recently, he has operated a personal chef and dietitian business, Kitchen Curative – in-home and delivered meal services, catering and cooking classes. He is the Culinary Medicine Chef for MaxLove Project, which teaches cooking classes for cancer survivor families. In conjunction with MaxLove, he authored a forthcoming cookbook. Johnson was also employed as a chef in residence for The Ecology Center, and managed the urban agriculture demonstration garden with the City of Irvine’s Great Park @ the Farm + Food Lab.

“I am excited to apply this experience to my role at Anneliese Schools, and to continue implementing the school’s existing Wellness Manifesto into the culinary program, with its goal of incorporating more organic produce, including campus-grown produce, and hot items into our snack and lunch program offerings,” Johnson said. “Some of my first initiatives will be to start offering more school-made fermented items like kombucha, sauerkrauts, pickles, cheeses and sourdough, more locally pressed oils, school-made bone broths and soups, and to maximize the use of produce from Rebel Mountain Farm. I will also be joining students each week at Rebel Mountain, integrating culinary experiences into these field trips.

“In the coming months, I will be offering family culinary workshops and education around fermented foods, sustainability, regional sourcing, pasture-humanely raised animals, healthy fats and taste development. I will be actively interacting with students at the lunch tables to educate, inspire and learn from them.”


Breakers football comes back to beat the Warriors and jumpstart playoff run 

By Gavin Zaengle

Last Friday, Nov. 4, in the first round of Division 9 CIF Playoffs, the 5-5 West Torrance Warriors traveled south to take on the 7-3 Laguna Beach Breakers, where our football team protected their turf by overcoming an early deficit and willing themselves to victory. 

Early in the first quarter, the Breakers were off to a rocky start. West Torrance quarterback Jackson Sharman connected with wide receiver Kyle Cascalenda in the end zone two drives in a row, putting the Warriors up 14-0.

“After a big breakdown in coverage, our defense’s morale was low,” said captain and safety Sam Garwal. “I started to get flashbacks to last year’s playoff loss against Claremont. Our seniors rallied together and told the rest of the team we couldn’t let it happen again.”

On the ensuing kickoff, the Breakers struck back – running back Nick Rodgers gashed the West Torrance kickoff 86 yards to the end zone. After a commanding defensive stop on the next drive, the Breakers found their offensive rhythm. Sophomore quarterback Jackson Kollock drove the Breakers all the way down the field, punching the pigskin in on a read-option, with Kollock himself rushing into the end zone to tie up the contest. 

Breakers football comes back runner with ball 1

Photos by Deborah Vellmure

Running back Nick Rodgers shakes off a West Torrance defender

When the Breaker offense got the ball back, yet again, the West Torrance defense was on their toes, taking a tipped pass 32 yards to the house. 

“After a brutal offensive mishap, what a big play potentially for us gave them [West Torrance] the upper hand,” said Kollock. “I talked to my receivers on the sideline and kept their heads in the game. We knew we would claw back.”

At the half, the Breakers’ self-belief remained high.

“We haven’t even played our best football yet,” said Coach John Shanahan at halftime.

When they returned to the field, the Breaker offense did just that. 6’4” tight end Ryner Swanson took a seam pass 62 yards for a score, tying up the ball game. 

“Before the game, I told Jackson Kollock that even if I wasn’t open, I was still going to make a play and keep sprinting up the field,” said Swanson. “Sure enough, he put his trust in me and threw a perfect ball to me over the middle.” 

Breakers football comes back player reaching for ball 2

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Wide receiver Ryner Swanson locks-on to a pass down the middle of the field

Early on, stud wide receiver Jackson Rodriguez suffered a shoulder injury, putting him out for the remainder of the game. Unfortunately, Rodriguez is the Breakers’ Swiss Army knife, as he is the kicker, punter, kick returner and punt returner. Losing him mid-game meant that a few underclassmen had to step into some big shoes. 

Perhaps Junior Nico Vidaurri stepped up the most. Although he had kicked at the lower-level last year, he had barely worked on kicking all year. As the offense began driving once again, they were stopped on the Warrior 9-yard line, bringing up 4th down on the left hash.

“Can you make this?” asked Shanahan.

“Yes sir,” said Vidaurri.

Vidaurri trotted on for the biggest moment of his high school football career. With the crowd and sideline both holding their breath, he powered the ball right through the uprights. Within moments he was showered with praise and congratulations. 

“I felt nervous but confident,” said Vidaurri. “I didn’t realize the impact the kick would have on the outcome of the game at that time. Later, I recognized the importance of making it and was happy I was able to contribute to the win.”

The game was now all up to the defense, and they came up big. West Torrance found themselves with a first down on the Breaker 28-yard line with just three minutes left. Quarterback Jackson Sharman threw up a fade to senior receiver Dominick De La Torre, and corner Aidan Mulkay’s eyes lit up. He leaped and iced the game with a clutch interception, propelling the Breakers into the second round of CIF.

“I was nervous after letting up a touchdown early on, but I knew I had to keep my head up for my teammates,” said Mulkay. “I had a feeling going into the fourth quarter that they would attack my side again, and that’s where they went wrong. As soon as I saw the ball float my way, I knew the game was over.”

Breakers football comes back 2 players 3

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Cornerback Aidan Mulkay celebrates closing the game with an interception

The Breakers will trek out to Palm Desert today, taking on the 7-4 La Quinta Blackhawks in round two of the CIF Division 9 Playoffs.

Gavin Zaengle is the Sports Editor of Laguna Beach High School’s “Brush & Palette” student newspaper.


School Notes

LBUSD Board of Education names Kim Johnson new Director of Early Learning

The Laguna Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) Board of Education voted to approve the appointment of Kim Johnson as Director of Early Learning at last week’s board meeting. She was selected from a candidate pool of highly qualified applicants.

Johnson began her educational career as a master teacher in a non-public school in North Hollywood. She then transitioned to Los Angeles Unified School District as a special day teacher and resource specialist. Johnson then made her next transition to her current district, Manhattan Beach Unified School District, as a program specialist and was promoted to the Director, Children Services in 2006 and has held that position since. In her current position, she oversees the day-to-day operations of the district’s preschool program supporting more than 300 students across 17 classrooms.

Johnson grew up in Orange County and is excited to be working closer to her hometown. “I am looking forward to working in Laguna Beach with the community and continuing to develop their early learning programs. This is such a fun age group to work with and being able to see their continual progress at the beginning of their lifelong learning is a reward in itself,” said Johnson.

Her husband is a middle school teacher who works in special education and they have two girls, 16 and 17 years old. 

Johnson earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from University of Santa Barbara and a master’s degree of science in educational leadership from Pepperdine University.

“We are excited to have Mrs. Johnson join the LBUSD team as she brings a wealth of early learning experience,” said Dr. Jason Viloria, Superintendent of Schools. “As we look to expand our TK and preschool program in the coming years, Mrs. Johnson’s expertise will be invaluable in that journey.”

Under the direction and supervision of the Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services, the Director of Early Learning is responsible for the management and delivery of comprehensive services for families and children from age 3 through age 5 including early childhood learning experiences to facilitate school readiness, student screening, parent/family education, provider education, summer programming as well as building community partnerships.


LBHS Boys Basketball Team’s mission goes beyond the court

This year, the LBHS Boys Basketball Team, led by their new head coach Rus Soobzokov, has made it their mission to not only play great basketball, but to give back to the community with meaningful service projects.

The team’s first community service project kicked off on Tuesday, Oct. 25 at the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach with the team’s leading a special “skillz and drillz” clinic for the club’s youth, working with the club’s 2nd and 3rd graders on developing their basketball skills through a series of drills.

LBHS Boys team

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Submitted photo

The LBHS Boys Basketball Team – (L-R) back row: Ben Neufeld, Mason Herr, Nick Guevara, Ashton Azadian, Jack Halvorson, Dylan McEachern, Damian Reider and Ryan Cheng; front row: Mike Watts

Varsity, JV and Freshmen team players came together to foster the club youths’ love for the sport. When the club’s Program Directors Hans Laroche and Erik Vasquez asked the high school team players to raise their hands if they began their basketball journey at the cub when they were youngsters, nearly every hand on the team was raised, causing all of the club’s youth participating in the clinic to smile with excitement and pride. Those smiles were priceless.

Coach Soobzokov joined the team and quipped to the kiddos that it is never too early for high school coaches to start scouting for the next generation of high school basketball players. It really was a ton of fun, and the team returned on Thursday for Round Two – scrimmages (putting into play what the youth learned during Tuesday’s drills).

The LBHS Boys Basketball Team’s next service project will be to partner with the City of Hope to run a blood drive inside the high school’s main basketball gym on Sunday, Dec. 18. The blood drive will be in honor of Arash Rounaghi, one of the team member’s parents. The community can sign up to donate blood that day, and all donors will receive a $15 In-N-Out Burger gift card.

Laguna Beach High School is located at 625 Park Ave., Laguna Beach.


LBUSD hires new communications and community engagement director

The Laguna Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) last week announced the hiring of Anakaren Ureño as Director of Communications and Community Engagement. In this role, Ureño will be responsible for managing LBUSD’s public information and community relations strategies and developing and maintaining community partnerships.

“Effective communication plays a fundamental role in strengthening relationships, building community and instilling a sense of belonging in our students, staff and families,” said Laguna Beach Unified School District Superintendent Jason Viloria, Ed.D. “That interconnectedness cultivates a culture of care in which our students can thrive. I look forward to supporting Ms. Ureño in this role as she rejoins our LBUSD community.”

LBUSD hires Ureno

Courtesy of LBUSD

New Director of Communications and Community Engagement 

Anakaren Ureño 

Ureño joins LBUSD with nearly a decade of public relations and strategic communications experience, beginning at a public relations agency supporting accounts ranging from restaurants and hospitality to financial services and technology companies. While pursuing graduate studies, she transitioned to school communications, beginning in higher education at the College of Communications at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF) and, most recently, at the Los Angeles County Office of Education. She earned her Master of Arts in Communication and Media Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications with a focus on public relations from CSUF.

“The last few years have demonstrated how vital interpersonal connections are to our collective well-being. In a school community, opportunities to exchange ideas and information provide us with new perspectives that help us continuously improve the system of support we provide for students,” said Ureño. “I know the LBUSD school community is deeply committed to this work, and it is my privilege to join this role in a place that feels like home.”

Ureño will begin her role as Director of Communications and Community Engagement on October 31.


LBUSD superintendent update to PTA scheduled for September 28

LBUSD superintendent Viloria

Courtesy of LB PTA Council

The Laguna Beach Parent Teacher Association Council is presenting the LBUSD Superintendent’s Update to PTA on Schools on Wednesday, Sept. 28 from 9-11 a.m. at Laguna Beach City Hall Council Chambers, 505 Forest Ave. LBUSD Superintendent Dr. Jason Viloria and district staff will update the community on the areas of focus for this school year. The event will highlight information from each department and school site for the 2022-2023 school year, including the 2022 Board election, budget, data, enrollment, facilities, new hires, social-emotional wellness and more.


67th Annual Laguna Beach Open took the action to Main Beach

The 67th Annual Laguna Open beach volleyball tournament was held September 9-11 at Main Beach in partnership with the California Beach Volleyball Association and the Association of Volleyball Professionals (CBVA and AVP respectively).

Last weekend, world-class competition hit the beach in addition to welcoming back the local “Battle of the Beaches” for the third year. This fan favorite pitted the four iconic and historic volleyball beaches of Laguna against each other in a four-person battle: Finals between two very spirited teams: Emerald Bay vs. Main Beach with Emerald Bay winning a tight final. Victoria Beach and Three Arch Bay came in third and fourth, respectively.

67th Annual Laguna Battle of the Beaches

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Photo by Mitch Ridder

Battle of the Beaches 4Man teams on the sand: Emerald Bay (left) won their first 4Man championship; Main Beach Misfits in pink shorts (right), won the 4Man in 2019; Victoria Beach (not pictured) won in 2021 and came in third with Three Arch Bay competing each year, coming in fourth

67th Annual Laguna Open Field

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Photo by Mitch Ridder

Troy Field (left) squats in defense as his partner Paul Lotman (in white hat) stretches to block eventual Champion Silila Tucker during the Men’s Open finals match

Laguna Beach, home to the world’s longest running “open” tournament in the world featured many great players and Olympians who have played at Laguna over the years. Olympic gold medal winner and Laguna hometown favorite, Dain Blanton was in the announcer’s booth alongside beach legends Sinjin Smith (Olympic Silver Medalist), Randy Stoklos and Dane Selznick. Smith/Stoklos are the most successful winning pair in pro beach history. The famous McKibbin Brothers brought their YouTube video magic (YouTube, Facebook, Instagram) to the tournament and local DJ Steve “The Ruckus” Whelan kept it lively spinning the tunes.

The athletes battled under some of the arguably toughest conditions on the beach with rain, 90+ degree heat and stifling humidity and still came through with amazing volleyball. 

67th Annual Laguna Open Lotman

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Photo by Mitch Ridder

Paul Lotman (left) reaches to block eventual champion Andy Benesh as he swings to sideout

The Men’s and Women’s Laguna Open tournaments awarded $24,000 in prize money, up 30% from last year. The Open tournaments are 100% volunteer supported with entry fees going directly back into the prize purse.

Adding to the festivities, on Saturday (Sept. 10), a beach party from 5-8 p.m. took place at Hotel Laguna with tacos and a no-host bar. The band PartyPeople played a cool reggae socal funk on the patio overlooking the sand. The Hotel Laguna Beach Club hosted Smith and Stoklos alongside Laguna legend Selznik. Those three held court and talked story as locals reminisced about the great legends of beach volleyball and Laguna Beach.

67th Annual Laguna Open Tucker

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Photo by Mitch Ridder

Silila Tucker (left) watches as Andy Benesh swings while Troy Field attempts to block

2022 Laguna Beach Open Men’s Final Results

–Andy Benesh and Silila Tucker – Finished 1st, awarded $4,500

–Paul Lotman and Troy Field – Finished 2nd, awarded $2,500

–Jacob Landel and Lev Priima – Finished 3rd, awarded $1,250

–Chase Frishman and Avery Drost – Finished 3rd, awarded $1,250

–John-Michael Plummer and Travis Mewhirter – Finished 5th, awarded $750

–Taylor Sander and Brenden Sander – Finished 5th, awarded $750

–Logan Webber and Evan Cory – Finished 7th, awarded $500

–Kacey Losik and Colton Jeffrey – Finished 7th, awarded $500

–Seain Cook and David Lee – Finished 9th

–Leor Schiffer and Scott Cronick – Finished 9th

–Stafford Slick and Tim Bomgren – Finished 9th

–Djordje Klasnic and Mark Burik – Finished 9th

2022 Laguna Beach Open Women’s Final Results

–Carly Skjodt and Molly Turner – Finished 1st, awarded $4,500

–Kelly Reeves and Delaney Mewhirter – Finished 2nd, awarded $2,500

–Kimberly Hildreth and Teegan Van Gunst – Finished 3rd, awarded $1,250

–Sarah Pavan and Mackenzie Ponnet – Finished 3rd, awarded $1,250

–Emily Stockman and Megan Kraft – Finished 5th, awarded $750

–Kahlee York and Macy Jerger – Finished 5th, awarded $750

–Natalie Myszkowski and Jaden Whitmarsh – Finished 7th, awarded $500

–Brandie Wilkerson and Victoria Corcoran – Finished 7th, awarded $500

–Megan Rice and Jessica Gaffney – Finished 9th

–Ella Connor and Jessica Smith – Finished 9th

–Kate Reilly and Ana Costa – Finished 9th

–Nicole Reinking and Megan Gebhard – Finished 9th

67th Annual Laguna chilling

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Photo by Mitch Ridder

Chilling on Main Beach, watching great volleyball

For complete Laguna Beach Open results, visit https://lagunaopen.org and www.volleyballlife.com.


LBHS senior earns both Girl Scout Gold and Eagle Scout awards

Ani Hovanesian, a senior at Laguna Beach High School (LBHS), received her Girl Scout Gold Award last month in addition to the Eagle Scout award she earned in 2020. Earning the top rank in both Girl Scouts and Scouts BSA (formerly known as the Boy Scouts) has been accomplished by only a few people across the country.

LBHS senior empower

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Courtesy of Robot Dolphins FRC robotics team

Ani Hovanesian (center) with Camp emPOWER girls from El Morro Elementary

Hovanesian completed her Girl Scout Gold Award service project this summer, focusing on inspiring girls to take an interest in engineering and technical fields. She worked with a nonprofit called Stem Sisterhood that serves girls at the Roots Community Academy at Crown Valley Elementary. She created and taught a program she called Camp emPOWER, teaching girls about circuitry using sustainable energy by creating electricity from wind turbines, water turbines, racing solar-powered cars and more. She led the teaching and mentoring with teammates from her First Technical Challenge robotics group from Capistrano Valley High School, the “Robot Dolphins from Outer Space.”

“Having high school girls from my robotics team serve as role models really helped the younger girls see that STEM is not just for boys. Girls can be successful in math and science too,” said Hovanesian. She also taught the camp at the local Boys & Girls Club to reach 50 girls altogether.

Two years earlier, Hovanesian’s Eagle Scout project, performed in the summer of 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic, created a Space Camp pilot program at the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach. “I wanted to get elementary-age kids excited about science, technology, engineering and math,” she said. She created a STEM curriculum, complete with lesson plans and materials lists, and she carried out the first lessons with help from other Scouts under her leadership. “First we had a test group of young Cub Scouts and Brownies and later we worked with actual students at the Boys & Girls Club. The Club loved it and learned a lot and they are continuing these programs even today.”

LBHS senior water wheel

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Courtesy of the Hovanesian family

Hovanesian (right) teaching girls at Roots Academy how to build a water wheel to light a light bulb…making science fun

Scouts BSA began allowing membership for girls in 2019. But when Hovanesian joined scouts BSA, no troops for girls existed – “So I created one,” she said. To start Troop 35 for girls, sponsored by the VFW of Laguna Beach, she recruited nine friends who had similar outdoor adventure interests, to make the minimum required troop of 10 girls. “While our first meeting was run by our Scoutmaster, Jane Heath, from then on it was all led by us girls,” she said. Hovanesian was the first female Eagle Scout to come from the troop, followed shortly by Alexandra Keyser, Alexandra Nottage and this year, May Chapman.

No official records are kept by either the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts organization as to which Scouts have earned the highest awards of both organizations. Only 4% of Boy Scouts and 6% of Girl Scouts earn each organization’s top award, let alone both.

LBHS senior team captains

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Courtesy of Robot Dolphins FRC robotics team

Team captains with Hovanesian (center) racing solar-powered cars at Roots Academy at Crown Valley Elementary

Hovanesian’s future aspiration is to become an aerospace engineer working for NASA. “My dream is to work on the Orion project, helping send people to Mars.” In her limited spare time, she is also becoming a private pilot, flying a Piper Archer out of John Wayne Airport at Pacific Flight Aviation school. She is currently applying to top aerospace engineering colleges across the country.

“People always told me that I could pursue whatever I wanted, but both in Scouts and the field of engineering, girls need an extra push. And I want to provide that nudge so that girls too can reach their dreams.”


Breakers football comes alive in second half to beat Northwood, 35-31

Photos by Scott Brashier

Laguna Beach High School (LBHS), after trailing at the half, 17-7, scored 15 unanswered 4th quarter points to beat Northwood last week, 35-31. The win was the first in three games for the Breakers.

Breakers football comes alive Ethan Das 18

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Junior quarterback Ethan Das (18) fires deep looking for paydirt

Breakers football comes alive Ryner Swanson 80

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Junior Ryner Swanson (80) looks to rumble after catch, all 6’4’, 230 lbs. of him

Breakers Football comes alive Jackson Rodriguez 11

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Speedster Jackson Rodriguez (11) attempts to get outside and down field after reception

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