Solutions in Education

For Teens On Probation: One-On-One Instruction, Counseling


Christian Lamonea in the classroom.

More than 5,000 youths remain locked up in California at an estimated cost of $380,000 per day. Community-based programs have proven an effective strategy at keeping kids out of jail. Laura Flynn has this report from Rancho Cielo a community school in Monterey County.

By Laura Flynn | KUSP News -

Teacher Christian Lamonea and 13 students balance short bent wires on popsicle sticks. 18-year-old Anastasia Gonzales explains they’re watching how involuntary muscle activity works.

“We’re learning about like bones, ligaments, and bruises and all that stuff.,” she says. “It’s cool to see how, like the body works and stuff.”

Individual Attention for Students on Probation

Down the hall in Chris Dever’s class about 13 students work independently as he helps one student. 17-year-old Sheridan Sampognaro is almost done with a project concerned with instances of mathematical ratios in nature.

“The golden ratio and the Fibonacci all come together,” she says. “See in the pine cone the spirals. Three, five, three plus five is eight. Five plus eight is thirteen and so on, right?”

This is Rancho Cielo’s Silver Star Program in Salinas.  It’s one of  about 75 community schools across California serving mostly students who have been expelled from regular high school or who are on probation. The goal is to give students more individual attention. Anastasia Gonzales notices the difference.

“They take care of  you more. Their focus is on you, like they make sure you get your stuff done  an d get it.”

Kids in Court May Be Facing Difficult Choices

Retired Judge John Phillips established the program about ten years ago. He sat on the bench for 21 years, often sending young people to prison for life he says. One day while covering juvenile court for a colleague out sick, he was coming down hard on a young man in violation of probation for missing school.

“And his mother stood up and said, “well judge, he can’t. My car is broken down.” And I said, “well he can walk to school like I did,” you know. “Well I don’t want him to get shot again walking to school.” I said, “shot again?” And they said, “yeah he got shot walking to school, because he had to walk through enemy territory.””

Realizing the kids who often end up in court face difficult everyday life choices, the judge created Rancho Cielo to help them get their high school diploma or GED. But it’s easier said than done. Though Silver Star serves 15 ½ to 18 year olds, teachers like Chris Devers have to incorporate multiple strategies with students whose proficiency levels range from third to twelfth grade.

“You’re integrating everything all at once. And it takes a long time to know how to select assignments that are going to work for every kid.”

A Setting to Take Kids Out of Hectic Lives. 

Teacher Christian Lamonea likes to employ experiential learning often taking advantage of the ponds and hills on the 100 acre property they’re on – something he thinks helps the student s over all.

” But I think part of it is really is just getting out of the urban setting for students. And as a science teacher, nature, hills and its tranquility will prevail. It’s hard to be wound up in nature, you know.”

It’s also about making sure students are present and develop healthy habits.

” I think one of the great things that Silver Star, Rancho Cielo does is we pick the kids up, so truancy is really not an issue. We feed them a breakfast. We give them time to eat it. So now they have the energy regardless of what kind of home they come from.”

To deal with underlying issues that may lead to truancy or criminal behavior the school  provides counseling for mental health and substance abuse. For Anastasia Gonzales the school has changed her point of view.

“Like I feel like I didn’t really have as much respect for people and here I feel like I have more respect. …usually I would feel dumb and stupid but here like I feel like I can be smart and I can be a better person.”

Comparable to studies about community-based interventions, about 33% of youth commit a new crime after one year of participating in Silver Star versus a 50-70% recidivism rate for incarceration.  Ultimately, that’s the bottom line– creating more opportunities and keeping kids out of jail.

New School Standards Could Encourage Teachers to Take Field Trips

O’Neill sea Odyssey Education coordinator Laura Barnes. Photo: J.D. Hillard

O’Neill sea Odyssey Education coordinator Laura Barnes. Photo: J.D. Hillard

California and most of the other states will switch next school year to a new set of math and English standards called the Common Core. The hope is this change will help U.S. students improve their progress. A ‘Next Generation Science Standard’ is expected to roll out in a couple years.

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A Diploma and Construction Training For At-Risk Youths



Construction Academy and Hartnell Community College students install drywall in Rancho Cielo Campus housing under the supervision of John Anderson [red hardhat]. Photo: Laura Flynn

By Laura Flynn | KUSP News

While, U.S. Census data trends link earning less than a high school diploma or GED to lower annual income and higher rates of unemployment, research also correlates it to poorer health outcomes and disproportionate rates of incarceration. All of these factors have compounding effects on families and whole neighborhoods.

In Monterey County, Rancho Cielo offers its own set of strategies to prevent dropouts and incarceration. Its Construction Academy helps students graduate high school and learn the ins and outs of the construction trade.

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Cooking Up a Brighter Future

Students at Rancho Cielo's Drummond Culinary Academy develop restaurant skills in a professional environment. Photo: Laura Flynn.

Ana Lopez and other students at Rancho Cielo’s Drummond Culinary Academy develop restaurant skills in a professional environment. Photo: Laura Flynn.

By Laura Flynn | KUSP News

It’s Friday night. Inside the Drummond Culinary Academy restaurant smiling and wide-eyed students stand ready in position. Nervous energy permeates the air. Students busily prepare to give tonight’s expected 56 diners a full-fine dining experience. Front house trainer Andrea Mullany-Moneypenny talks to students about their jobs for the night.

From Probation to Culinary Art

This isn’t an ordinary culinary school. Not all, but many of the students have had brushes with the law. The academy helps 16-25 year-olds get their high school diplomas and learn culinary arts skills by certified chefs. Founding teacher Paul Lee announces the first order:

“Soup for two,” he says. “Here we go. Rock and roll. We’re live.”

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Helping Troubled Youths Find Their Way

Campos and Bishop-edit

Elizabeth Campos credits her mentorship with Feeta Bishop for helping her turn from partying and juvenile hall to education and helping others. Photo: Laura Flynn

Monterey County this month hired a full-time coordinator for a new county wide strategy to reduce youth crime.  In Santa Clara County a volunteer program called Fresh Lifelines for Youth or FLY has helped kids who commit crime stay out of trouble.  Laura Flynn reports on the impact FLY has had on two people’s lives.

Elizabeth Campos learned she’d have a mentor form her probation officer as she was being released from juvenile hall. Flynn 1: Campos’ mentor was working with Fresh Lifelines for Youth, a nonprofit in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. FLY’ s mentor program connects adult role-models  to at-risk and formerly incarcerated youth. When it works it does more than keep a kid out of jail. FLY staff say it costs about $100,000 to incarcerate  a youth for one year whereas participating in the mentorship program is $5,500.  In Campos’ case there was a lot to overcome. Her  first  assigned mentor didn’t show up, something she was used to.

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A One Stop Shop – Helping Teachers Find Field Trips


sb_welcome_lfHadley Robinson | KUSP News

With a focus in California schools on math and language arts testing, science learning often takes the back seat. To fill in the gap, some teachers look to outside organizations that run field trips or in-class, hands-on lessons. But what each classroom gets for science, especially in elementary schools, is spotty at best. Hadley Robinson reports a group of educators hope to change that for the Monterey Bay area.

On a beach near Capitola, sixth graders from New Brighton Middle School are counting sand crabs.

“When it gets to the red line we pull it up and see how many sand crabs we got ,” says one of the students.

They determine who will count, who will dig through the sand and who will record results.  They count crabs and record data points like age, whether it’s a male or female and if it’s pregnant. The area erupts with youthful exclamation as they find a crab carrying eggs.  The activity is guided by Ann Wasser who runs  LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experimental Training for Students).

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Learning to Stop Bullying Before it Hurts Education


By Lillian Mongeau

Bullying hurts kids’ performance in school, but schools have trouble responding. Victims fear shame and retaliation so they don’t report, and some institutions fail to respond to reports for fear of besmirching their reputations. A Santa Cruz group called Kidpower plans to equip kids with effective social responses as well as some physical ones.

Photos: Lillian Mongeau

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The Right Support Makes All the Difference


A Bright Prospect crew member leads high school students on a tour of UCSC. Photo: Lillian Mongeau

By Lillian Mongeau

When a group of college freshmen give a group of high school seniors a campus tour, they cover the important things first: co-ed restrooms.

“So you can shower and a girl’s doing her hair, or if you’re a girl you can go in, and a guy’s shaving…” Adam Villa-Lobos earns laughs with this.

It’s a cool evening in October at U.C. Santa Cruz. Both the students getting the tour and the students giving it hail from Pomona near Los Angeles. They are all part of a program called Bright Prospect, that focuses on getting low-income kids into college. Villa-Lobos is one of the guide. He says college was pretty far from his mind when he was 14.

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Committed: One Upward Bound Student’s Path to College


Monique MacDaniels contemplates a gumboot chiton. A field trip to Pigeon Point was part of her recent session at an Upward Bound college preparatory summer school. Photo: Lillian Mongeau

By Lillian Mongeau

Over the past few weeks dozens of teens from western states have been studying math and biology in Santa Cruz as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Upward Bound program. The goal of the program is to get low-income students and “first generation” students into college. Lillian Mongeau has the story of one participant who says Upward Bound is just the helping hand she needs:


Monique MacDaniels has just met the people she’s about to live with for the next four weeks with and she’s beating them at cards.

“Champion!” she says playfully. “Who wants to play me?”

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A Taste of College


Teens studying math and biology at a summer session of the Upward Bound program delve into tide pools near Pigeon Point. Photo: Lillian Mongeau

By Lillian Mongeau

It’s 7 a.m. at Pigeon Point, a rocky beach 30 miles north of Santa Cruz. The chilly grey sky swirls overhead as 52 high school students grab clipboards and buckets and clamber into the frigid waters.

I get the attention of the kids’ marine biology instructor, Amanda Cohen. She’s handing out equipment and urging kids towards the water. Like the students, she’s clad in a thick neoprene wetsuit.

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