Friday, December 19, 2014

Santa Barbara High School’s Dons Net Café honored as 2014 top-rated nonprofit

News release

Dons Net Café has been honored with a prestigious award by GreatNonprofits, the leading provider of user reviews about nonprofit organizations. Dons Net Café was part of the inaugural group to qualify for the year.

“We are excited to be named a Top-Rated 2014 Nonprofit,” says Amazing Grace Llanos, CEO of the Dons Net Café. “We are proud of our accomplishments, which include the 21st year as a top rated free tax site through the IRS VITA program, and the formation of 10 other student-run ventures that all ‘do some good in the world,’ giving at least 5,500 hours yearly to the Santa Barbara community.” The Top-Rated Nonprofit award was based on the large number of positive reviews that Dons Net Café received — reviews written by volunteers, mentors, and clients.

People posted their positive, personal experience with the nonprofit. John Trotti of Forester Communications wrote, “Of the many benefits of the program, the one that I see as most important is its promotion of citizenship...the aggregation of an entire range of attitudes and behaviors that are the key to success in a society that values the individual and individual achievement. Its foundation lies in presenting its participants with challenges that relate academic pursuits with real world actions within a team-based framework...the lifeblood of the free enterprise system.”

“Savvy donors want to see the impact of their donations more than ever,” said Perla Ni, CEO of GreatNonprofits, “People with direct experience with Dons Net Café have voted that the organization is making a real difference.”

About GreatNonprofits

GreatNonprofits is the leading site for donors and volunteers to find reviews and ratings of nonprofits. Reviews on the site influence 30 million donation decisions a year. Visit for more information.

About Dons Net Café — Media Contact

The Dons Net Café, a Regional Occupational Program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office, is a group of 11 student-run businesses that represents a 21-year commitment to inspire students to create positive social and environmental change through ethical commerce and service learning. The main aspect of the Dons Net Café is “Doin’ Some Good in the World,” by following the teachings of Dr. Jane Goodall to benefit students, people in general, the environment, and/or animals. Further information is available by contacting

Joyful child advice

Radio Commentary

The Joyful Child Foundation provides important safety advice for young children. It’s a good idea for parents to go over these items with young members of the family.

Advice from the foundation includes:

  • Big people should never ask you to go with them without letting you ask your parents if it’s okay.
  • Big people should not look at you without your clothes unless your parents say it’s okay, like at the doctor’s office.
  • Big people should not tickle or touch your body’s private parts — the places covered by a bathing suit or underwear.
  • Big people should not tell you to keep secrets or say they will hurt you or anyone else if you tell.
  • Big people should not ask you to help them find things like lost pets. They should get help from other big people.
  • Big people should not take your picture or give you presents without asking for your parent’s permission.
  • If anyone makes you feel scared or hurts you, YELL, SCREAM, RUN and TELL a grown-up you trust — a parent, teacher or principal.

This advice is important for every child. It can provide peace of mind for all involved if children are well-trained in these concepts.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Partnerships make the difference

News column

Partnerships were on display at the annual business appreciation breakfast of the Santa Maria Valley Industry Education Council recently, demonstrating what takes place when businesses join hands with education to make a real difference in the lives of young people countywide.
The annual Computer Connections distribution at the breakfast provided eight area students with new computers. In September and October, 10 computers had been provided, and over the past 10 years, the program awarded more than 200 computers to young people who otherwise would be on the wrong side of the digital divide that separates students with access to technology from those without.
In modern times, such tools are essential to the learning process and to the workforce. The research opportunities, the connections made through email, and the chance to take part in online learning can no longer be duplicated through any other medium. Students need Internet skills for schoolwork and for workforce preparation as well. Young people without those skills and tools will be at a real disadvantage in an ever-more-wired world.
The Computer Connections program, a model partnership with many area businesses, including Santa Maria Energy, Wells Fargo Bank, and the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce, therefore makes a real difference in young lives. In the South County, the Computers for Families program, another major partnership, helps bridge that divide as well. This is enlightened self-interest on the part of all our business partners — by investing in our students they help secure an educated, informed, and skilled workforce and consumer base.

At the SMVIEC awards breakfast, each north county school district superintendent selected a company, individual, or nonprofit organization for special recognition, in light of outstanding efforts to support education. The broad range of honorees this year included:  Altrusa International Foundation of Santa Maria, Assistance League of Santa Barbara, Colette Hadley of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara,  Del Taco #833, long-time educator and master teacher Georgia Schrager, Plantel Nurseries, and Rabobank. The diversity and range of honorees underscores the breadth and depth of partnerships that abound.

These organizations, institutions, and individuals, along with scores upon scores of others honored at the program, provided funding, program support, and mentoring opportunities that will truly change young lives.

It is not possible to overstate the positive impact of these partners and all those countywide who pitch in to help students and schools.

I have always believed that the strength that comes through partnership cannot be matched by any other individual effort. That is why my office strives to form and nurture partnerships in all aspects of the programs we provide to students. Partnerships are the central thread that runs through the fabric of all we do countywide. Those partnerships create a synergy that benefits students, teachers, schools, and programs.

We salute all those businesses, large and small, who provide resources or support that makes a difference in the lives of children. Partnerships are key. In this most loving and giving of seasons, we thank all our partners for their generosity of spirit.

Tips for self-esteem

Radio Commentary

Study after study shows that students who have a basic level of self-confidence perform better in the classroom.

They are more willing to take part in discussions and offer opinions. They are less hesitant to ask for help when they need it.

These are all important to school success.

Here are some self-esteem building tips for parents to help cultivate those traits in their children.

The suggestions all involve “accentuating the positive.”

• Give plenty of love and hugs. Children thrive on it.

The opposite is also true: Never physically or mentally hurt your child. The wounds go deeper than you think and are longer lasting than they seem.

• If both parents work, arrange the best child care possible. If your child is alone, provide safety and activity rules that are to be followed without fail. Whenever possible, avoid changing childcare arrangements.

• Be a confident role model. Children need parents to set the pace. Shore up your own self-esteem — but avoid having your children feel that they could never rise to your lofty level.

• Place a value on education by providing quiet time for homework, and help out when necessary. Talk about school, and show support by keeping your school appointments and by attending school events.

All these actions help children feel good about who they are and what they do.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Find the positive

Radio Commentary

Negativity appears everywhere in media reports, because conflict makes news.

Violence and negativity also appear in movies, games, and music videos, mostly because the manufacturers consider it entertaining — and because they are rewarded financially by producing this sort of content.

This negative bombardment can give a false impression to young people that the world around them is not very positive.

For this reason, it’s important to find time to talk with children about good things.

Focus especially on what is positive in their neighborhood and their school.
Positive stories surround us if we make a point of looking for them – neighbors who’ve helped neighbors, people who support worthy causes, and so forth.

It’s also very clear from the research that developing a positive attitude in school-age children is important to success in the classroom.

In fact, hearing positive news can help your child feel good about school in general and schoolwork in particular.

Make it a special point to share your enthusiasm about students who help out and make a difference in the community.
By holding up those young people as a model, your children may then strive to be one of them.

That’s how the chain of compassion begins, and that’s how we can help pass it along for future generations.