Thursday, March 12, 2009


State Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter with Rialto City Councilwoman Deborah Robertson. Photo by Ellen Porter

State Senator Gloria Negrete-McLeod addresses about 120 women, including Rialto Council Member Deborah Robertson, on the challenges of the state budget during the third annual State of Women: A Dialogue Between Women conference held March 7 in Rialto. Photo by Ellen Porter

(RIALTO, Calif.) “Santa Claus isn’t coming. The Easter Bunny is dead and the Tooth Fairy will take all your teeth.”

State Senator Gloria Negrete-McLeod (D-Rialto) might have added that Prince Charming isn’t looking for a new relationship, were the news not bad enough that she brought to a roomful of about 120 women and a few men who attended the Third Annual “State of Women: A Dialogue Between Women” conference Saturday, March 7 at the Rialto Senior Center.

This conference was hosted by Rialto council members Deborah Robertson and Ed Palmer and Rialto City Clerk Barbara McGee.

Senator Negrete-McLeod and Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter (D-Rialto) brought bad news about the state budget. Other speakers spoke of challenges women face in the education of their children, in maintaining their and their family’s health, and in other aspects of daily life.

Still, each speaker offered hope that by working together, women can get through these tough times and bring forth new solutions.

“The world has changed dramatically,” Senator Negrete-McLeod said. “Not just in California, but all over.”

The two state legislators were both fighting colds, each said they had contracted while the Legislature was in lock down trying to resolve the $42 billion state budget deficit. Since then, both said, they’ve had to face angry constituents who were upset either about taxes being raised, or their favorite social program receiving less.

“It was a budget we all hated,” Assembly Member Carter said. “There was something in it for everyone to hate.”

“We had very irate calls; we had curse-laden calls,” Senator Negrete-McLeod said. “They said ‘How dare you raise taxes? How dare you cut services to school children? How dare you cut services to seniors and disabled people? Furthermore, I want more services!”

With real estate foreclosures and high unemployment, there just isn’t enough money to give everyone what the previous state budget has promised, she said.

The two state legislators agreed, one good thing that will come from this financial difficulty is that it will force people to work together. Assembly Member Carter even suggested one way local groups, such as school boards and parents, could work together is by determining what state-funded programs they would most be willing to sacrifice until the state budget can be more generous.

“We have to develop ways we can work together,” Assembly Member Carter said. “We’re going to have to pool our resources and work together.”

Other speakers were:
• Fontana City Councilwoman Acquanetta Warren, who in 2010 will run as a Republican candidate for State Assembly in the 63rd District. She also urged people to work together for the common good, and to set goals for what they want to accomplish. She also talked about Healthy Fontana, a program that helps that city’s residents get exercise by joining one of the city’s walking groups and also promotes other healthy lifestyles.

• Rialto City Clerk Barbara McGee, who talked about how people can apply for passports or obtain forms for voter registration at Rialto and other city halls. She also discussed Healthy Rialto, which promotes healthy lifestyle choices in her city.

• Brenda Parker, the coordinator for Healthy Rialto. Just before the lunch break, Parker led the audience in exercise, singing and cheering, all designed to make people more aware of what they can do to promote a healthier lifestyle. She also used visual aids, such as a cardboard tube symbolizing an artery, stuffed full of paper scraps (symbolizing junk food) that clogged the artery until plastic fruit (symbolizing real fruit) came in and pushed the bad stuff out.

• Rialto School Board Member Joanne Gilbert, who advised parents on ways they can help their child to succeed in school. Her tips were to ask their children questions about school regularly, to develop a relationship with their children’s teachers and to be an advocate for their children by communicating first to teachers, then to administrators and school board members when they feel something is not right.

• Dr. Maxwell Ohikhuare, Public Health Officer for San Bernardino County. He gave a Powerpoint presentation on health conditions affecting women in this county. Unfortunately, San Bernardino County, especially Blacks and Latinas, is higher than the nation in many incidences of health problems.

• Dr. Diane Woods, CEO of the African-American Health Institute of San Bernardino County. From 2003 to 2005, Woods headed a comprehensive county-wide study that also showed Blacks suffer disproportionately from many health conditions. That study, the African-American Health Initiative, also made recommendations for change. Woods updated the conference participants on what has happened since then. While there’s been progress, much more needs to be done.

• Beverly Powell, Regional Manager for Southern California Edison, who talked about her company’s goals for providing “green” energy.

• Sheriann Johnson, Manager of Countrywide Home Loans in Colton, who talked about programs to help people buy homes for the first time, modify their mortgages or refurbish their homes to increase its property value.

For more information about the “State of Women: A Dialogue Between Women” conference, call (909) 820-2519 or email



Arturo Rodriguez, eighth-grader at Ruth O. Harris Middle School in Bloomington, tells judges what his dream bedroom would have looked like as a preteen, for a Competitive Recognition Event held by FHA-HERO at Ontario High School.  Arturo and many other students from throughout California now advance to a state championship Competitive Recognition Event in Fresno on March 29.

Even at the regional level, judges for FHA-HERO's Competitive Recognition Events are among the top in the industry. At the regional held in Ontario, the Fashion Design judges included Sherry West, Director of Fashion for The Art Institute of California - Inland Empire, and Jessica Trujillo and Francheska Hughes, who are fashion design instructors at another university.

Travis Rothwell, a student at Sultana High School in Hesperia, competes in Commercial Food Preparation, a Competitive Recognition Event for FHA-HERO. Travis competed in a regional at Ontario High School, and advances to a state championship on March 29 in Fresno.
This cake was made and decorated by Randy Rodriguez of A.B. Miller  High School in Fontana for a Competitive Recognition Event regional competition in Ontario. He will create another one like it for the state competition on March 29 in Fresno.

(ONTARIO, Calif.) Nearly 900 of California’s most talented teenage culinarians, designers and community educators competed Saturday, Feb. 7 at seven high schools throughout the state.

The best of these will compete again on Sunday, March 29 when their school organization, FHA-HERO, hosts the state finals of Competitive Recognition Events as part of its State Leadership Meeting March 28-31 in Fresno.

The events in early February were the Competitive Recognition Events Regionals. These were held at Pleasant Valley High School in Chico, Westmoor High School in Daly City, San Juan High School in Citrus Heights, Buhach Colony High School in Atwater, Golden West High School in Visalia, Santee High School in Los Angeles and Ontario High School in Ontario.

Competitive Recognition Events showcase the talents middle and high school students have learned in their Home Economics Careers and Technology courses. FHA-HERO is a career technical student organization open to all who are or have been enrolled in a HECT course.

“Competitive Recognition Events showcase the development of the participants’ career skills,” said April Rosendahl, who coordinated the FHA-HERO Region 10 Finals at Ontario High School, and who teaches HECT courses at Chino High School. “Students enrolled in HECT courses and pathways are developing professional skills for their future as well as skills for living.”

There are 21 competitions within the Competitive Recognition Events. These include commercial food preparation, six categories of culinary art, salad preparation, apparel construction, fashion design, interior design, child development, public speaking and more.

In the Interior Design competition at Ontario High School, college instructors serving as judges were impressed to see middle school students using Auto-CAD (Computer Aided Design) software to create their entries. Auto-CAD is a program a least one of those colleges teaches its third-quarter students.

But for the young teens who did this, learning Auto-CAD from family members was just one of the many ways they have enriched their lives through learning. To create entries that showed the judges their concepts of an ideal room for a pre-teen child, the students also relied on freehand drawing, math and public speaking to create entries that included display boards, cost and materials analyses and five-minute speeches.

“It was fun,” said Arturo Rodriguez, an Interior Design competitor and eighth-grader at Ruth O. Harris Middle School in Bloomington. “I designed the room I would have wanted at that age.”

Rodriguez, like many of the competitors, started work on his presentation months in advance. FHA-HERO members learned the theme in October, he said, so he began designing the bedroom shortly after that.

Students in the Commercial Food Preparation competition had to rely on only one skill – cooking. Their competition required them to prepare pork chops, cabbage, salad and a fruit compote within a time limit of less than two hours.

“We assume they learned how to cook this recipe in school already,” said Ontario judge Eyad Joseph, academic director of the International Culinary School at The Art Institute of California – Inland Empire. “And, hopefully, they have been practicing all year.”

As high school juniors and seniors, most of the students taking part in the commercial food preparation competition have been studying cooking for at least three or four years. Many of these students dream of careers in the culinary industry, which is exactly for what an advanced high school cooking course is designed to prepare them.

“I’ve always loved cooking,” said Commercial Food Preparation competitor Spencer Horton, an 11th-grader at Silverado High School in Victorville. “It is something I would like to get into as a career, and this competition gives me an idea of what it’s like to work in a restaurant.”

Another 11th-grader, Angie Mungia of Chino High School, hopes to open her own bakery after high school. With that focus, she has been involved in FHA-HERO for two years, and competed both times in the culinary arts categories of the Competitive Recognition Events. She always gives herself an extra challenge – whatever she makes complies with her strict vegan diet.

Last year, as a 10th-grader and first-year FHA-HERO member, Mungia won second place at the state Competitive Recognition Events for a display of vegan breads. This year, she instead made a vegan patisserie (pastry) display.

“It was much harder to make than the bread,” she said. “And I am working now, so I had less time to prepare. I took the last two weeks off work to get ready for this. I wanted to do so much more, but school got in the way.”

Her dedication paid off. She not only won her Region 10 competition and will head again to the state level, she also won the “Best of Show” award, given the best entry in all six of the Culinary Arts categories.

The “Best of Show” award was especially gratifying, as before it was announced, Mungia started to walk away with her first place medal. Then upon hearing her name again, she turned around and pumped her fist into the air. Many other teenagers who won their events displayed similar emotion. Some hadn’t expected to win anything.

At the regional level, three winners in each competition receive a first, second or third place medal. Two others per competition receive “honorable mention,” which gives them the right to travel with the place winners to the state level event.

At the state level, more medals are in store for the top three winners. But these students will also receive prizes, including kitchen knives, chef’s jackets, sewing machines and scholarships to some of the top schools in the culinary and fashion industries.

A first-place win at the state level allows a competitor to further advance to a national FHA-HERO competition. However, these are held in summer and often on the east coast, so for most west coast FHA-HERO members, participation in the State Leadership Meeting will be a highlight of the year.

The program now known as HECT has undergone a transformation over the last 40 years. Prior to the 1960s, the program focused on training women in skills they would need as wives and mothers. But, as more women began working outside the home, California changed its home economics curriculum to reflect this, and added the career component.

As all professions, including those in home economics related industries became more dependent on technology, so did the courses offered in secondary schools. To reflect this change, California renamed its home economics program Home Economics Careers and Technology in the 1990s.


NOTE: A list of winners, including awards earned, is available on request for the competitions held in Chico, Citrus Heights and Daly City. All students earning first through fifth place advance to the state finals. For the competitions held in Atwater, Visalia, Los Angeles and Ontario, a list of students advancing to the state finals is available on request.