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Watching another Dunbar class graduate; vacation bible school

Warmth in words and actions

Today’s Glen Ellen news is all about kids – their promotions, their awards and their summer plans. But as you read about all of these Glen Ellen stars, look around and find your own examples of stellar children in your own community, at your own local school.

As my friend Pat Herron recently said to me, “You sure love Dunbar, don’t you.” Admittedly, it’s true. It’s the school my boys attended and it’s our neighborhood campus, undoubtedly the most beautiful in the Valley, surrounded by towering green oaks and grassy fields, still late spring green. I am grateful for the school campus, but even more, for the great school Dunbar remains, an academic institution of excellence.

Even more, I appreciate public education as an egalitarian and democratic system that holds great promise for the future. I like to know that all children are welcome and that each of them are held dear and provided equal education. Children are our future and education is essential.

My own Mama began kindergarten (in Eureka) not speaking English. Her native language was Finnish and in the small community of loggers and fishermen, her family members and acquaintances all spoke Finnish. My mother often talked about how hard her first year of school was. She yearned to sit next to the teacher on the piano bench while songs were played and the other children sang. She deeply missed her recently deceased mother and because of that, didn’t try to speak, didn’t try to look at anyone. She simply had hopes, sadly unrecognized.

At Dunbar, I see a different world. I see non-English speakers welcomed, language shared, affection freely given, warmth in words and actions.

Stepping up, stepping out

Last Thursday morning, I attended Dunbar’s fifth-grade promotion ceremony, as I’ve done for so many years I can hardly count them. It feels to me that, not so long ago, I watched our sons Schuyler and Gabriel go through the same ceremony, under the same shining sun, surrounded by the strength and benevolence of trees. But last week, I was brought into the present by seeing beautiful, little Emilee Bess Atkinson, niece to one of Schuyler’s former classmates, Jake Atkinson. Then I watched Elias Antonio Casolla walk across the stage, the son of one of my former students.

Respectful sprightliness

Time indeed thunders on, as wildly rapid as the raging Sonoma Creek in winter and as softly sedate as a summer scented breeze. Yes, I am grateful for all we share: it is a good life in Glen Ellen.

At Dunbar’s promotion ceremony, principal Melanie Blake spoke eloquently, yet plainly, to the gathered students, all of them arrayed in their ceremonial best. From a blue silk kimono (worn by Luna Michelis) to a jaunty Madras plaid (sported by Alex Farrow) to a classic cotton brocade gown (looking sophisticated on Sara Galindo) the students wore their best and behaved in the way that dressing up promotes. I loved Amelia Lee’s red and black dress, which echoed one I had back in the ’50s. One young fellow, Nathon Zander Cox, added a respectful sprightliness to his walk with a dignified hop and a skip.

Sharply skilled, wisely kind

Principal Blake spoke of this memorable class, with unique people, who will be outstanding in the world, blessed with infectious smiles. She shared, “We are all better for having known each other,” then listed just a sample of the things those students had learned: how to garden and produce fresh, healthy food; how to give to others, providing toys for tots and food for the hungry, how to be good role models for the younger students. But, “most important,” she emphasized they have “learned how to be kind and to stand up for what is right.”

Honoring our fifth-graders

In addition to the students I’ve already noted above, the fifth-grade group included Linda Alquezada, Laura Avila-Vega, Elisa Barbagelata, Piper Bodwell, Lukas Bragg, Brayan Calderon-Archundia, Miriam Calvillo, Ema Camarena-Martinez, Rolando Rivera, Fiona Cardenas, Luna Castanon-Barrios, Aurora Claros, Aidan Clune, Lindsey Cullen, Vincent De La Barcena, Max Doyle, Alejandro Angel, Clarissa Escobar, Jose Vazquez, Elaina Garcia, Rafael Garcia, Jr., Rolando Garcia, Gabe Gissell, Marvin Gomez, Robert Greenslade, Michael Hallett, Lily Hamilton, Joshua Hernandez, Vania Hernandez, Sandra Hurtado, Diego Jaramillo, Liam Jenkins, Holly Lee, Tommy Long, Kenneth Macias, Isabella Magnani, Oscar Moya, Cassandra Murphy, Adalai Nolazco-Barajas, Stephen O’Neil, Eduardo Ornelas, Kabir Pandeya, Nicole Payne, Emma Pressley, Elizabeth Pulido-Gaona, Alonso Garcia, Areli Vargas, Jonathan Romo-Gutierrez, Dayanna Sanchez, Julianna Sanchez-Chavez, Jakob Sparks, David Taguinod, Olivia Thorgersen, Omar Torres-Tellez, Michaela Willis and Lailie Weiss.

Honor, service, courage . . .

Of course, Daughters of the American Revolution representative, Muriel Owens attended, as she always does at every Sonoma Valley school’s promotion and graduation. I think it’s the first time I’ve not seen Muriel in her patriotic blue suit adorned with an array of fancy ribbons and DAR awards. Last Thursday, Muriel looked like the lovely grandmamma that most children see her as. Wearing a soft, rose pink suit that made her distinctive white curls glow, she greeted the students with solemn enthusiasm.

Every school graduation and promotion I’ve attended, Muriel’s been there. She is ever proud to award the DAR pin to a deserving student, who, in Muriel’s words, “exhibits honor, service, courage, leadership and patriotism.”

With those standards in mind the entire faculty chooses the students who most display those outstanding characteristics. This year, the faculty chose Elisa Catherine Barbagelata and Alex August Farrow. Congratulations to these two good citizen students and many thanks to Muriel Owens.

Loving language

The La Luz Award is annually presented to a fifth-grade student who has excelled as an English language learner, while still honoring their birth language. The award was presented by Osmaira Marquez, a young woman who is a former high school recipient of a La Luz academic scholarship in 2007, which helped in her expenses while attending Sonoma State University. The Dunbar fifth-grader awarded this honor is Areli Rojas Vargas. With sincere thanks to Osmaira and congratulations to Areli.

High octane characters at GE Church

Now that school is out, youngsters can begin thinking of summer opportunities. A fun and simple one is available right away. The Glen Ellen Community Church on O’Donnell Lane at Henno Road in the heart of Glen Ellen is sponsoring its annual Vacation Bible School, June 30 – July 3, Monday through Thursday evenings from 6 to 8 p.m. at the church.

Here’s the scoop from Sandy Zimmermann, one of the camp directors: “Hey Kids … get revved up for ‘The Incredible Race.’ You’re invited back for more of the high-performance action, souped-up adventure, and more learning about Jesus with your friends at Glen Ellen Community Church. Some high-octane characters will take you through ‘The Race to Help’ Mission Station, ‘Bible Pacesetters’ Story Station, ‘Drive-In Theater’ Snack and Theater Station and ‘Full Throttle Games’ Station. And so much more.”

All Sonoma Valley youngsters ages 4 through 12 are invited to attend for free. The Thursday program includes parents at a BBQ by Pastor Jim Hill and a program by the children, capped by the breaking of the piñata.

You can register online at gechurch.com or just show up the first day. If you’d like more information, call the church office at 996-1479.

Summer-dry gardens

Last week’s Blooming Backyards Garden Tour was a grand success. In addition to my friend Ann Peden who worked hard on this project, other local folks involved included her co-chair of the tour day, Kathleen Fitzgerald-Orr. Another Master Gardener. Kathleen is also a member of the board of the Sonoma County Master Gardeners, serves as a co-chair of their Santa Rosa help desk and is also one of their specialists in the Garden Sense program, designed to help the home gardener make wise use of our water resources.

Linda Simonds adds “Ann and Kathleen have done an outstanding job steering this project, Sonoma County Master Gardeners single, largest educational effort.” Their goal was to reach 1,000 home gardeners with information about gardening in a summer-dry climate.

Other Sonoma Valley gardeners from Glen Ellen and Kenwood who helped on this huge project included Diane Kenworthy, manager of BBY garden captains, Kate Roach, involved in the education Committee part of the tour, Steven Hightower, docent at Cathy’s garden, Erika Asande, publicity committee, Betsy Karrer, head of education committee, and Carla Carvajal of the education committee.

Forests forever

Finally, a note of interest to local landowners concerned with sound forestry practices. Steven Swain, environmental horticulture advisor, University of California Continuing Education in Marin and Sonoma counties sends this important news: On Saturday, June 14, the Sonoma County Forest Conservation Working Group will present a forest stewardship workshop in Glen Ellen. This workshop is intended for owners and managers of forest or woodland properties in and around the Mayacamas Mountains. In the morning classroom session, researchers and land management specialists will discuss the ecology and historical development of the region’s forests, and agency representatives will describe funding sources available to land owners and legal tools for long-term land conservation. The afternoon field tour includes lunch and will emphasize applied management techniques such as shaded fuel breaks, oak establishment and removal of fish passage barriers.Class limited to 30 participants. Register at: ucanr.edu/stewardship.

. . .

The Folks in Glen Ellen column also appears online. Look for it at sonomanews.com/category/lifestyle-history. Or look at the bottom of the home page at sonomanews.com where all I-T columnists are listed.

Want to see your own name in the news? Share your stories with friends and neighbors in Glen Ellen. Call or write me at 707 996-5995 or P.O. Box 518, GE 95442. Or email me at Creekbottom@earthlink.net. Glen Ellen chatter rarely requires timeliness; however, if your news does, please be sure to contact me at least two weeks before your desired publication date.