El Cerrito’s 100th Anniversary

3028197

By Suzanne Iarla

One hundred years ago, in August 1917, the unincorporated areas of Rust, Stege, Schindler, and Schmidtville voted to incorporate, establishing the City of El Cerrito. The vote to incorporate passed with 158 in favor and 131 opposed. El Cerrito’s population in 1917 was approximately 1,500. There were streetcars on San Pablo Avenue and the Santa Fe Railway ran where BART now runs. Farms and dairies were spread out along the flatlands, and there were very few trees. There were many stores and saloons, one local doctor, two quarries, some  flower nurseries, two schools, and a community library.

The first board of trustees (City Council) included Kirk Gray, John Sandvick, Philip Lee, George Adams, and Peter Larsen, with George Scott as treasurer. Mrs. Grace Castner was elected first City Clerk and Henry Wildgrube was City Attorney. George Barber was appointed the first City Marshal; his job also consisted of tax and license collector; street inspector; building, plumbing, and electrical inspector.

The community incorporated in order to improve their quality of life, and the City set about establishing police and fire services, and a street improvement program to pave the dirt roads. In the 1920s and 1930s, El Cerrito was known for nightclubs, gambling and speakeasies. The area grew slowly, reaching a population of 3,970 in 1930 and 6,137 by 1940.

A number of streets and sidewalks, as well as Huber Park and Poinsett Park, were constructed by the Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) program. During World War II, El Cerrito’s population skyrocketed to 16,624, and continued to increase in the post-war housing boom, reaching 18,011 in 1950.

By the 1960s, El Cerrito took on the motto “The City of Homes” and focused on improvements such as the parks and recreation system, which is still enjoyed today. Today, El Cerrito is proud to be an environmental leader and fosters environmental sustainability.

City Hall (built in 2008) is a LEED certified “green” building, as is the Recycling + Environmental Resource Center (rebuilt in 2013). The City has adopted a Climate Action Plan (2013) and an Urban Greening Plan (2015). With support from voters, over the last decade, the City has invested in road maintenance and the local street pavement condition is now rated among the top 3 cities in the Bay Area.

In 2014, the City Council adopted the San Pablo Avenue Specific Plan which has spurred new investment to help the City achieve its longstanding goal of transforming San Pablo Avenue into a vibrant place with opportunities for living, working and community life.  After many years, without much change in the built environment, the City is currently considering or has recently approved approximately 15 projects, with more on the way, which will provide approximately 1,000 residential units and 28,000 square feet of new commercial space.

El Cerrito has a proud history of civic engagement and currently has over 80 residents serving on 14 advisory bodies, as well as many activity community groups that contribute to the quality of life enjoyed by residents and visitors.

Advertisements

ZIO’S PASTA PRONTO: Catering to Your Busy Lifestyle

 

 

Zio's Salad and Breadsticks

By Vickie Lewis

Let’s face it—life is hectic!  People are working longer hours, varied schedules, and commuting farther and longer to get to school or work.  Busy families are faced with after-school or extra-curricular activities for their children, often lasting late into the evening.  With such busy lifestyles, cooking at home and sitting down with the family around the dinner table for a meal is not nearly as common as it once was.  Hence, fast food establishments can be found everywhere, many of which are undesirable due to the often-perceived unhealthy fare offered, and the mediocre quality and freshness of the products served.  Well, for those embroiled in the aforementioned hectic lifestyle, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a healthier, fresh alternative available—ZIO’s Pasta Pronto!  Located in the Pinole Vista Shopping Center on Fitzgerald Drive in the former location of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, ZIO’s is next door to Panda Express on one side, and Cold Stone Creamery on the other.

Owners of ZIO’s Pasta Pronto, Tony LoForte and Sherry Bolus LoForte, previously owned the Dickey’s Barbecue Pit franchise at this location, which operated between 2014 and 2016.  For various business reasons, the LoFortes decided to exit the barbecue business and convert the venue to a “take-out” version of their fine dining restaurant, Zio Fraedo’s, located in Vallejo. The popular Italian waterfront restaurant has been in operation for over 12 years and has been nominated as the “Best Restaurant in Vallejo” for the past several years. Tony’s father owns and operates the original Zio Fraedo’s restaurant in Pleasant Hill, which has been in business since 1974. Tony is a very experienced restauranteur, having grown up in the business, helping his father since he was only three years old.    

Leveraging some of the recipes from Zio Fraedo’s, ZIO’s Pasta Pronto offers a great selection of fresh, non-traditional fast food options that are prepared to order. The menu includes appetizer selections, entrees, salad, and a variety of sandwiches. Examples of appetizers include Fried Zucchini, Fried Ravioli, Mozzarella Sticks, Chicken Wings, and Calamari Fritter. Among the six salad choices are a traditional Caesar, Chinese Chicken, Cranberry Spinach, and Crispy Chicken BLT.  There are several Panini selections on the sandwich menu, as well as a French Dip, all of which are served with a choice of French Fries or a bag of potato chips. Popular entrees include Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Marsala, and of course, pasta! When we visited, Zio’s Pasta Pronto offered a Create Your Own Pasta option, which allowed customers to choose their own type of pasta and preferred sauce.  However, Tony informed us that this option would be replaced by traditional popular pasta dishes, such as Spaghetti and Meatballs and Fettucini Alfredo. After six months in business, the Lofortes decided to introduce revisions to the menu to remove some of the less popular items, and replace them with some new offerings for customers to try and enjoy.  The revisions to the menu have now been made, and readers can view the full selection on Zio’s Pasta Pronto’s website http://www.ziospasta.com.

The interior of Zio’s Pasta Pronto provides a bright, comfortable, and welcoming atmosphere.  The wood and tile accents, and the suspended lighting create a design that Tony described as “shabby chic.” He and Sherry did all of the interior remodeling themselves when the restaurant switched from Dickey’s to Zio’s. The restaurant has an open feel, and there are an ample number of comfortable wooden tables and chairs for customers who choose to dine in.  Customers place orders at the front counter before being seated, referencing either printed menus or the chalkboard menus on the back wall.  Displayed prominently on the wall to the right of the front counter is a large black and white canvas print of Tony’s father and other family members who inspired his love of the restaurant business. A refrigerated counter displays available canned and bottled drinks, as well as individually portioned desserts. There is also a beverage dispenser for fountain drinks that includes a seemingly endless selection of sodas, teas, and lemonades.  Everything appears very neat, clean, and well-organized.

My guest and I visited Zio’s during the lunch hour on a Saturday afternoon. When we arrived, there were two tables of guests dining in the restaurant, and no customers waiting.  We were pleasantly greeted by Elisa upon entry, who was working behind the counter. Soon Tony emerged from the back, and as we talked, he ordered various menu selections for us to sample and share. First up was an order of one of Zio’s most popular appetizers, Fried Ravioli. These yummy mini pasta squares are stuffed with mozzarella cheese, and are served crisply fried, with a side of house-made marinara sauce. All dipping sauces, as well as all pasta sauces, are freshly made in-house at Zio’s Pasta Presto, and the marinara sauce was exceptional—one of the best I’ve tasted (outside of my grandmother’s kitchen!)  My guest and I both loved the fried ravioli!  They were easy to just pop in your mouth, although it was better to make them last two to three bites just to savor the flavor.  The ravioli squares are not made in-house at Zio’s, but they are none-the-less a very good appetizer option that will satisfy most taste buds!  An order consists of approximately a dozen ravioli with sauce for $8.95.

As we continued our visit with Tony, Elisa delivered to our table an order of Calamari Fritti, a generous portion of both tubes and tentacles fried to a perfect golden crispness, and served with a home-made Creole Remoulade sauce.  The calamari were tender and not chewy, and was delicious with or without the sauce. The sauce was really very good—the creole flavoring gave the sauce just a little kick, but it was not hot or too spicy.  The calamari are fresh, not frozen, and are cooked to order, and are also priced at $8.95.

Next, we were treated to a bit of a healthier (i.e., non-fried) option—the Zio’s Salad.  The salad consisted of a mound of mixed greens, topped with chunks of seasonal fruits, which included cantaloupe melon, grapes, pineapple, and honeydew melon.  A raspberry vinaigrette dressing was served on the side, along with sides of candied walnuts and bleu cheese crumbles. When all items were added, the salad was easily large enough to suffice as an entrée by itself.  Salads are served with a warm, fresh garlic breadstick, a perfect accompaniment for these lighter, fresh selections. The breadsticks are not made from scratch in-house, but are procured from the well-known local Maggiora Bakery.  We thoroughly enjoyed the Zio’s Salad, as the combination of flavors—the sweet fruits and walnuts, the tangy/tart vinaigrette dressing, and the bleu cheese crumbles—was very delightful and refreshing.  The entrée salads at Zio’s range from $9.95 – $10.95.

The parade of food continued with a dish of savory Chicken Marsala, which included a generous portion of tender chicken breast chunks,  topped with a marsala and mushroom sauce. The sauce on this dish was divine—very flavorful and rich-tasting.  As with the other dipping and pasta sauces, Zio’s also makes their own marsala sauce, and this one happens to be a recipe that originated forty-four years ago at Tony’s father’s restaurant. It has certainly been perfected, in my opinion!  There were plentiful chunky mushroom pieces in the sauce, and both my guest and I really enjoyed this sample of one of Zio’s most popular entrees.  Chicken Marsala and other entrées are typically served with a side of pasta; however, we did not have pasta since our was a sample-sized portion. However, we were served more yummy breadsticks, and I enjoyed dipping mine in the surplus marsala sauce.

My guest and I were feeling full, but were still picking at the leftover calamari, ravioli, salad, and chicken marsala, when Elisa arrived with two steaming bowls of clam chowder. Every day of the week, Zio’s features specials of the day, and the clam chowder was one of the daily specials on that Saturday. Zio’s clam chowder recipe is also one that has been perfected over the years at the LoForte family restaurants, and is always made from scratch on site. This was probably the richest and most creamy clam chowder that I’ve ever tasted, with plentiful chunks of clam, celery, potato, as well as bacon bits. Tony explained that the recipe uses heavy cream to thicken the soup, which makes it extra creamy and rich. The soup was served with a small bag of oyster crackers, which we both added to the creamy mixture. I don’t think either of us was able to finish the soup because its richness made it extremely filling—especially after everything else we’d had the opportunity to consume.  If you are a fan of clam chowder, I highly recommend that you try a hearty bowl of it at Zio’s when you stop in. The new menu indicates that this wonderful soup will be available regularly on Fridays and Saturdays, versus just an occasional special of the day.

Aware that we were likely too full to eat dessert, Tony offered each of us a piece of home-made Tiramisu to take home.  There were a couple of other dessert options to choose from, as well; but after all, what is an Italian meal without Tiramisu for dessert?  This was the first time my guest had ever tried this dessert, and she found it to be light, moist, and flavorful.  The cream was fluffy and not too rich, and the rum flavoring was definitely evident but not too strong. I have eaten plenty of Tiramisu over the years, and this one ranked right there among the best.  I would highly recommend Zio’s Tiramisu—that is, if you manage to save room for dessert!

During our visit, a steady stream of customers came in for lunch, several of which ate in the dining room and others who ordered food to go.  Tony informed us that about 50% if their business is take-out, which is good, because the idea is to provide fast and fresh high-quality cuisine that customers can take home or back to work to enjoy. The head chef at Zio’s Pasta Pronto is Martin, who has worked for the LaForte family since 1991.  Martin previously worked for Tony’s father at Zio Fraedo’s in Pleasant Hill, and is very familiar with the various recipes and food preparation.  He definitely prepares orders quickly, based on our observation that day.  Most orders were ready within approximately five minutes.

As previously mentioned, Zio’s modified their menu somewhat, and the new selections are now published on their website. During our visit, Tony told us that one of the new featured menu items would be Fish and Chips. For this dish, Zio’s uses beer-battered Icelandic Cod during, and on Fridays, will offer a special Salmon Fish and Chips. There will continue to be new daily featured specials, as well as ongoing Family Deals. Zio’s had just introduced its first Family Deal shortly before our visit.  This deal advertised 1 family-sized order of Spaghetti with Meatballs, 1 family-sized order of mixed green salad with either house or Caesar dressing, and 10 breadsticks, for $44.95. This could easily feed a family of four or five, at a cost of approximately $10 per person.  Variations on the family deal will be featured in the future; however, Tony informed us that customers can order family style meals at any time by just telling the employee at the counter that they wish to do so.  Zio’s Pasta Pronto also offers full catering options, available for pick-up or for delivery on-site. On-site catering is arranged as a buffet; seated catering service is not available.  Please contact the restaurant for further information.

Zio’s Pasta Pronto offers a pleasing new option to the West Contra Costa County community, serving fine dining fare without having to dine at a traditional restaurant. While there is the option to dine-in, all of the menu options are conducive to take-out, and are prepared quickly, in spite of being cooked to order. One aspect of our dining experience at Zio’s that was a bit surprising was that all items were served on paper plates (except for the soup.)  The cutlery is also plastic, which is appropriate to provide when food is taken “to go”, but not as common when dining in at a restaurant. Tony said that they would soon be moving to regular plates and flatware, as they now have a commercial dishwasher available. The paper plates didn’t really bother me; however, I could see how some of the dishes, for example, those served with sauces, could get soggy after sitting for a short while. My daughter discovered Zio’s before I did, and she has visited multiple times to get her favorites–Chicken Parmesan, Fried Ravioli and Fried Zucchini–and always gets them “to go.” The good news is that the take-out containers are all plastic, eliminating concerns about soggy food.

Tony and Sherry live in Benicia with their two daughters, Elizabeth and Isabella, who are 12 and 10 respectively. They are busy on-the-go parents, but still manage to run multiple successful restaurants. The LoFortes plan to open yet another food establishment, Sherry’s Kitchen, at the former location of Dickey’s Barbecue in Pleasant Hill, which they also previously franchised.  But for now, the focus is on getting the word out about Zio’s Pasta Pronto and introducing customers to the many great options available from their “fast and fresh” menu.  My guest and I had a fabulous experience when we visited, and as mentioned, my daughter has quickly become a fan of Zio’s over the last couple of months.I believe that once you have an opportunity to try out some of the delicious food selections here, you’ll be a fan too!

1473 Fitzgerald Avenue, Suite 102, Pinole  |   (510) 223-ZIOS (9467)  |  ziospasta.com

Hours:  Sunday – Thursday 11:00 AM – 9:00 PM  |  Friday & Saturday  11:00 AM – 10:00 PM

Laying the Groundwork – How WWI helped sculpt the Richmond we know today.

image001

By Matt Larson • Items from the Richmond Museum Collection

Commemorating the centennial of the U.S. entering World War I in April of 1917, the Richmond Museum of History presented their exhibit: “How World War I Changed Richmond.” By the time you read this, however, the exhibit will be over, so in case you missed it we wanted to help paint the picture as best we could.

WWII often gets the most attention in regards to Richmond’s wartime history. Henry J. Kaiser was recruited by FDR to come here and create the system that led to Richmond building 747 ships during the war (the rest of the Bay produced a combined total of 92). Also, about 100,000 people flocked to Richmond from all over the country. “During WWII we had over 40 war-related industries in Richmond,” said the museum’s Executive Director Melinda McCrary. That included the shipyards, Ford Motor Company building tanks and jeeps, Chevron/Standard Oil producing fuel, and much more. Richmond was such a productive force during WWII that when the allied troops stormed Hitler’s bunker, they found a list of cities he was going to destroy when he invaded the United States—and Richmond was one of them.

A much lesser known fact, however, is that much Richmond’s incredible war effort during WWII can be attributed to what they started in WWI. “The groundwork for the home front was laid during WWI,” said McCrary. “Richmond would have never been so successful during WWII if it wasn’t for all the work that was done during WWI.”

Citizens of Richmond were very enthusiastic about supporting the WWI effort, and often went above and beyond what was expected of them. By the end of the war in 1918 there were 800 members of the Richmond Red Cross chapter, which, for a town of 10,000 at the time, was a fair amount of people. Individuals were taking over vacant lots to plant food in them to aid with the hunger crisis, which would later be referred to as victory gardens. Even when the U.S. government needed money to fight the wars, Richmond raised more than they were asked to raise all 4 times. One of the museum’s original newspaper articles from the time reads: “Richmond goes over the top for the war effort.”

Even one of the greatest aviation heroes from WWI, Pat O’Brien, spent some time in Richmond. He moved here from Illinois to fight fires on the railroad and left to join the Royal Air Force. He was shot down in an airplane, escaped a German prison camp, was on the run for a month and a half in enemy territory, and later became a huge celebrity. “He was right here!” said McCrary. “He had a connection to Richmond. And on his speaking tour after the war when he was speaking about his book, he came back to Richmond.” His book, Outwitting the Hun; My Escape from a German Prison Camp is available online and is free to listen to at librivox.org.

It’s safe to say that Richmond’s efforts during WWI indirectly led to all of their accomplishments of WWII as they had laid the foundation for what was to come, and local development during these wars changed the course of history forever. When Kaiser came to town he implemented a prepaid health system at his shipyard in Richmond that he had started when constructing the Hoover Dam. Later, the first Kaiser hospital that ever existed ended up being in Richmond, CA. “Modern healthcare can tie it’s history right into Richmond!” said McCrary. Which can thus be traced back to the initial efforts of WWI.

Some businesses that were around during WWI are actually still thriving in Richmond today. Mechanics Bank (since 1905), Overaa Construction (since 1907), Chevron (since 1902), and several others. That’s actually the subject of Richmond’s fall exhibit: Legacy Businesses. “We’re seeking help from the community to gather artifacts, stories, and pictures related to Richmond’s legacy businesses,” McCrary says. Categories include business that have been in Richmond for more than 50, 75, and 100 years. So if you’ve got anything they can use—or would like more information about the museum in general—please visit richmondmuseum.org or stop on by at 400 Nevin Ave., Richmond.

Rubicon Bakers: A Bakery with a Social Mission

Whole Foods Display 2

By Vickie Lewis

Many of you have likely driven by the large brick corner building located on South 23rd Street in Richmond many times over the years—the one with a baker man perched high above the entrance that appears to be running with a cake in his extended hands. I assumed that the building had one time been a bakery, but thought that it was out of business, as I’d never seen any people around when I passed by. In actuality, this 18,000 square-foot building houses a thriving natural wholesale baking company that is very much in business, and which serves a dual purpose—it produces a large variety of delectable sweets and baked goods, and it provides employment opportunities to locals seeking a second chance to rebuild their lives and overcome unfortunate circumstances.

The bakery was originally founded in in 1993 by Rubicon Programs, a non-profit organization based in Richmond that has a mission to transform local communities by equipping people to break the cycle of poverty. Rubicon Programs started the bakery to provide employment and job training skills to hard-to-employ individuals, due to afflictions such as addiction, homelessness, or criminal records. After 16 years, the bakery was struggling to stay afloat, and Rubicon Programs decided to sell it to allow them to place more focus on managing the non-profit. They launched a search for a buyer, with a stipulation that the new owner must maintain Rubicon’s social mission. At the time, the bakery was losing money and had only 14 part-time employees, and finding a buyer seemed improbable. Fortunately, a member of the Rubicon Board of Directors knew someone with a finance background and restaurant experience who might be willing to consult on the sale of the failing bakery.

Enter Andrew Stoloff—an MBA graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who formerly worked as a financier on Wall Street. Years later, he moved to Berkeley and opened restaurants in three bay area locations.  Although two of these are now closed, the Red Tractor Café in Dublin is still going strong after over twenty years. Andrew assessed the state of the business and agreed to help shepherd the sale. As the search for a buyer ensued, Andrew spent a considerable amount of time at the bakery listening to the employees’ stories about how important it was that they had been given a second chance, and how working at Rubicon Bakery had literally changed their lives. As he listened to their stories, he fell in love with the mission of the bakery and ultimately decided to buy the bakery himself!  And that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship!

Rubicon Bakery—re-branded in 2016 as Rubicon Bakers—is now a Certified B Corporation, which is a for profit business dedicated to social and environmental issues. Under Andrew’s leadership, the staff has grown to just over 100 full-time employees who keep the bakery running from 6 AM to 10 PM Monday through Friday in three separate shifts. Ninety percent of the employees are Richmond residents, and half of the original fourteen who were employed when Andrew purchased the bakery still work there today. They receive living wages, health benefits, paid vacation, and sick leave, and even have access to no-interest employee loans for unforeseen and/or emergency situations. As stipulated as part of the sale, Rubicon Bakers has stayed true to the social mission of the original bakery, hiring those who are looking to turn around lives that have been derailed by addiction, incarceration, unemployment, or other afflictions.  Anyone who comes through the door of Rubicon Bakers and demonstrates a true desire to work may be given a chance to do so, regardless of their circumstances. The bakery refers individuals to Rubicon Programs who are in need of job training, and also hires referrals from the program who have completed training. To retain the Rubicon name, Stoloff agreed to pay a percentage of the bakery’s annual sales in royalties to Rubicon Programs, which greatly benefits the non-profit and furthers its work in the community.

My guest and I had the good fortune to visit the bakery, and we met with Marketing representative, Frankie Whitman, who was happy to share with us the history of Rubicon Bakers and tell us about the many products made there. After our chat, Frankie graciously offered to take us on a tour of the facility. We donned white jackets and hair coverings before entering the bakery floor, where we were immediately immersed in wonderful sweet smells.  Since purchasing the bakery, Andrew has invested over $500,000 in upgrades and new, state-of-the art equipment which has enhanced the operation of the bakery and enabled increased production levels. During the tour, we saw many of the new pieces of equipment in operation, each of them measuring and weighing ingredients precisely to ensure product consistency. We made a brief stop to watch employees packaging Salted Caramel Brownie bites in clear plastic containers, and then moved to the production line where several employees were making blackberry and blueberry crostatas. Flat pastry rounds with scalloped edges were placed under a machine from which an employee dispensed equal amounts of berry mixture directly into the middles of the dough.  The pastries then moved along via conveyor belt where other employees expertly folded the edges toward the middles, leaving small openings on the top. The crostatas are made in three different fruit flavors, and are packaged, frozen, and shipped to stores where they are available as “ready-to-bake” purchases. At our next stop, we observed a huge container of prepared chocolate cake batter and watched as another employee operated a machine that filled eight-inch cake pans with equal amounts of batter before moving them down a conveyor where other employees placed them on baking trays. Trays of cupcakes were filled a dozen at a time with just the pull of a lever, and we also saw giant sheets of chocolate brownies being placed into a cutting machine which cut an entire sheet into equal portions at once. In the finishing room, we observed baked carrot cakes being expertly hand frosted and finished with delicious cream cheese frosting and garnish. Each process appeared to be very efficient and the employees seemed to work together very well, taking pride in the quality of their work.

During the tour, Frankie also pointed out the huge ovens that sit near the center of the bakery, and the store rooms where huge lots of pre-mixed ingredients had been manually combined, bagged, and weighed to make the overall production process more efficient. We also saw the refrigeration units, and finally, the large dishwashing rooms where all of the baking pans and utensils are washed and sterilized. The entire bakery production and dishwashing areas were neat, clean, and well-organized, and the employees were friendly and welcoming and seemed to be enjoying their work. Before ending the tour, Frankie gave me and my guest free samples in the form of 8-inch finished carrot cakes and containers of salted caramel brownies.  What a treat!

Rubicon Bakers makes so many wonderful products that it would be hard to list them all. Some of the core branded Rubicon items include Mom’s Chocolate Cake and Carrot Cake; a wide variety of cupcakes, including their best-selling Chocolate Cream; and an assortment of muffins, including Fruit and Bran, Blueberry and Greek Yogurt, and Chocolate Streusel, just to name a few.   Certain flavors of cakes and cupcakes are sold to retailers as “blanks”, meaning that they are ready to be iced/frosted by the stores to which they are shipped.  Retail ready cakes and cupcakes are already iced and filled, and each item is finished by hand by a Rubicon employee.  Rubicon Bakers uses only high quality, all-natural ingredients, and never uses artificial flavors or colors, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated fats. All items are made completely from scratch with hand-finished touches.

Rubicon’s baked goods can be found in a variety of retail stores in select geographical locations across the nation, with a higher concentration in the west and northwestern United States. Locally, their products are found in many Whole Foods stores, as well as in well-known supermarkets such as Lunardi’s, Safeway, and Mollie Stones.  They also sell to many independent markets and locations. The Rubicon Bakers website includes an interactive map showing locations where their products are typically sold.   

Seeking additional samples for the review, I was fortunate to find a beautiful display of Rubicon baked goods at a local Whole Foods Market. It was difficult to choose from the array of products and flavors available, but ultimately, I chose the following items: Triple Lemon and Strawberries and Cream cupcakes; an 8-inch Double Chocolate Cake; and Chocolate Streusel Muffins. Needless to say, my family and I had plenty of sweets to keep us satisfied for a while—but not as long as I expected! That’s because every single item we ate that was produced by Rubicon Bakers was pure indulgence! So, our supply of “samples” were eaten up very quickly!

My guest raved about the salted caramel brownies, which she found to be moist with a rich chocolate flavor, accented by hints of sea salt bits that provided an addictive sweet/salty effect. I totally agree with her assessment, and would emphasize the addictive effect, as it’s really hard to stop eating these tasty brownies once you start! (Hint: Keep a glass of milk nearby!)   We both also enjoyed the carrot cake, which was dense, yet moist, and was filled with raisins, carrots, and yummy spices.  The cream cheese frosting was not overly thick or intensely sweet—basically, it was just melt-in-your mouth perfection!

The items I’d purchased from Whole Foods were also absolutely delicious. My favorite was the Triple Lemon cupcakes, which had a true lemony flavor and a lemon gel-like center filling, topped with a light white frosting and a small garnish of lemon gel on top. These cupcakes were extremely moist and delicious, and reasonably priced at only $3.99 for a package of four–much more reasonably priced than custom cupcakes that cost between $3 – $5 each. In my opinion, Rubicon’s cupcakes are among the best I’ve ever eaten! The Strawberries and Cream cupcakes were my family’s favorite–moist white cake with strawberry flavoring and a creamy white center, topped with light pink strawberry flavored frosting.  The Chocolate Streusel Muffins were similar in size to the cupcakes but had a denser texture, although they too were moist and flavorful. There was no topping or glaze on the muffins, but the chocolaty swirl that ran through them gave them a rich and delicious flavor. Finally, if you are a chocolate lover, the Double Chocolate Cake is not to be bypassed! We refrigerated the cake, and when eaten cold, the cake had the consistency of a moist, chewy brownie, with a deep, rich chocolate flavor. The frosting had an equally rich, deep chocolaty decadence that was reminiscent of a thin fudge topping. It was better than excellent! I can only imagine how much more delicious this chocolate cake would be with multiple layers separated by and topped with that deep chocolate fudge-like frosting! Suffice to say, I’m a fan of Rubicon’s baked goods based on the items I’ve tried, and will be on the lookout for their products in local stores so that I can sample more items made by this local bakery.

Rubicon Bakers is truly an amazing place not only for the high quality, all-natural baked goods they produce, but more importantly, for the social values they embrace. Andrew Stoloff did a wonderful thing when he bought the bakery in 2009, and the continued growth and expansion of the business has provided more second chances for individuals who express the desire to turn their lives around. In return for the opportunities provided, Rubicon Bakers gets very loyal employees and people who want to work hard.  People like Fred Earl, formerly a drug user who worked odd jobs to earn enough money for his next fix, until he became involved with Rubicon Programs in 1989. Fred started working at Rubicon Bakery when it opened in 1993 and still works there today.  And then there’s Sheila Young-Eberhart, whose drug habit led her to time in prison, after which she decided to turn her life around. She, too, received support through Rubicon Programs, and started working at the bakery putting labels on packaging. She quickly moved up the ladder and is now the Quality Assurance Manager for Rubicon Bakers—the first employee to move from the floor into an office job. These are just two stories of the many people who have walked through the doors of Rubicon Bakers looking for a chance, and who have emerged enriched with job skills, a life purpose, and a new start. They are contributing members of a successful and thriving business, and they are a part of the Rubicon Bakers family. I encourage you to purchase Rubicon products when you see them in your local grocers. You will not only be purchasing high quality, delicious desserts, but you will also be supporting a local enterprise with an admirable social mission that is helping members of our communities turn their lives around.  Kudos to Andrew and the team for making Richmond proud!

154 South 23rd Street, Richmond  |   (510) 779-3010  |   rubiconbakers.com

Not Open to the Public | Bakery Hours:  6:00 AM – 10:00 PM (M-F) | Closed Saturday & Sunday

Sour Grapes – A past and present look at Richmond’s defunct massive winery

'04 Point Molate-302AA-DG

By Matt Larson

There was a time when the largest wine producer in California was right here in Richmond. It was known as Winehaven and existed from about 1908 until around 1920, halted by Prohibition. Though it was never an established city of its own, Winehaven had its own school, its own fire department, a hotel, and an abundance of wine. In full production it stored up to 12 million gallons of wine. There were 3,000 vats and 100 year-round employees that rose to 1,000 at the peak of the season. And they had 40 vineyards from all over the state of California that provided grapes for this winemaking powerhouse. Never heard of it? Well you’ve probably seen it, whether you knew it or not.

“I was driving across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and … what’s that building that looks like a castle out there?” That’s a question that Melinda McCrary, Executive Director for the Richmond Museum of History, gets about once or twice a month. “It’s a really interesting part of our history,” she says. Winehaven might have still been around today if it wasn’t for Prohibition which practically stopped them dead in their tracks. “They did try to stay in business for a while after Prohibition in 1920, bottling sacramental wines for the church, but it just kind of petered out.”

For the next 20 years the area wasn’t used very much at all until the Navy took possession of the facility in June of 1942 after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Winehaven, with its large buildings and giant storage facilities among 413 acres, then became known as the Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot. The Navy buried 20 large concrete storage tanks in the hillsides and the site was used to refuel ships during WW2, fitting right into Richmond’s active history with both world wars. The space remained as a fuel depot but has been mostly inactive for decades. It was finally closed in 1995 and then given back to the City of Richmond in 2005, along with $28.5 million to have the site cleaned and reused for the economic benefit of the region.

“In terms of the environmental cleanup end, it’s been proceeding very well,” said Craig Murray, Development Project Manager for the City of Richmond. From the Winehaven buildings to the shoreline and out to the pier there’s about 12 acres of land called Installation Restoration (IR) Site 3. “That’s where we just spent about $11 million to clean up this area the navy used for wastewater and disposal of petroleum product.”

Opportunities are seemingly endless when it comes to deciding what to do with the Winehaven space here at Point Molate in Richmond. The Point Molate Community Advisory Committee is comprised of 19 community members appointed by the city council to review all matters occurring here. Unfortunately they’re waiting for litigation to clear up regarding something about a previous developer and a potential casino that was promptly voted down, so until then the Committee can only plan. The Point Molate Beach Park, however, is now open to the public for your enjoyment! If you’d like to join the Committee Murray urges you to head to the City Clerk’s Office and ask for an application at 450 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond; (510) 620-6513.

Winehaven is now on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to what we’ve addressed so far, there’s a rich history at Point Molate even before Winehaven began. For generations Point Molate was home to the Ohlone Indians. In the late 19th century from about 1860-1880 the site was occupied by Chinese shrimpers who founded small villages along the shores. And it was actually due to the 1906 earthquake and fire in San Francisco that led to the California Wine Association moving to Point Molate to continue wine production.

The story goes much deeper than we can address here. The best resource to get more information is, naturally, the Richmond Museum of History. To follow up with your own research, call them at (510) 235-7387 or stop on by at 400 Nevin Ave., Richmond; richmondmuseum.org

Ohlone Karkin Natives

Native American wigwam hut

By Samantha Larrick

There have been protests in Vallejo, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, and San Jose over public land that is considered sacred to the Ohlone people. New parks and building construction sites threaten to demolish the land, but Ohlone tribes continue to protest for protection of the natural habitats and ancestral lands.

Some anthropologists and archeologists think that the people of the Ohlone tribes arrived in San Francisco from the San Joaquin area in about the 6th century CE. The Ohlone people did not view themselves as one distinct group, but lived in over 50 different tribes (or triblets, as historians tend to call them). These tribes were located all over northern California: San Francisco, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, and the East Bay. These tribes were as distinct from each other as countries are now, with a variety of different languages and distinct leaders, only interacting occasionally for trade and intermarriages.

The tribe known as the Karkin tribe was located in the Martinez/ Concord area. Their language, the Karkin language, was gone by the time settlers came, but the scraps of vocab that remained show a language that has similar origins to other languages of the Ohlone tribes, but was also very distinctive. Historian Randall Milliken compared it to the difference between Dutch and English; two very different languages, but linguists can see elements of similarities. Historians say that the Karkin tribe was extinct before anthropologists settled which is why there is so little information on the tribe. However, historians have begun to speculate differences between the Karkin tribe and Ohlone villages.

The Ohlones lived completely off the land, through hunting, fishing, and gathering. The Karkins, a village of no more than 300 people, were no different. They did not have a Safeway or Lucky’s to go to when they needed some fish or game; they had to hunt like everyone else, and they had to hunt in the Carquinez Strait. Anthropologists studied the area around Martinez and believe that the Karkins must have been very skilled to survive. The Carquinez Strait is a unique area, as is the terrain around it, and to survive, they must have had to adapt to the conditions.

The arrival of the Spanish missionaries in the mid-1700s was something to which they couldn’t adapt. When the Spanish missionaries reached what is now Monterey, they established missions, introducing the Spanish religion and culture to the Ohlones. As the Spanish built a chain of missions and recruited the Ohlone people to live and work there, their way of life was disrupted. Other Native Americans were also brought into these missions and many, including those from the Ohlone tribes, died soon after from European diseases and drastic diet and lifestyle changes. Because of these deaths, the Ohlones lost a lot of their population.

The Ohlone population continued to decline. The Ohlone living today belong to a few distinct groups in the San Francisco Bay Area, Monterey, and Southern California. These groups are not the 50 distinct Ohlone tribes they once were, but have melded together, though they still recognizing the tribe where their ancestors came from. Those with a tie to their Ohlone heritage are now fighting to be a federally recognized group. Right now, members of the Ohlone Natives are non-federally recognized. This means they have no legal standing as California Indians with the government. They are denied healthcare, education, housing, and religious freedom until they can prove their authenticity. Many people with Ohlone ancestors focus on gaining this legal standing and protecting the Ohlone heritage, culture, and sacred grounds.

Lenny & Lola – Raising a son with autism can have it’s ups and ups

IMG_0263

By Matt Larson

We are all different in our own unique way, and it’s the celebration of our differences that makes us stronger as a whole. That’s certainly been the experience for Lenny Taylor, a 38-year-old man living with autism, who manages to find himself being treated like family no matter where he goes. With his love for life he carries a magnetic energy that both friends and strangers have gravitated toward throughout his life. Even his friends in high school rallied together to make him their official Prom King. This June, 2017, Lenny is excited to go back to Pinole Valley High School for his 20-year reunion.

“20 years ago we left high school and went to our own destinations,” said Lenny. “We went to colleges and universities, then to careers after that. Some went to broadcast stations, TV and radio, Safeway, Lucky’s, 7-11, gas stations…” So really, the full gamut. After high school Lenny took classes at Contra Costa College from 1997-2001, and ended up filming their college football games for about 7 years, from 1997-2004, so the coaches and players could review their performance. One year he even made the team as a backup place kicker, and he was later promoted to being the onsite field manager from 1999-2003.

Lenny has come a long way since his childhood, but he hasn’t done it alone. His mother, Lola Taylor, has been his guiding light. “She’s been teaching me everything,” said Lenny. “She’s my mother. I love her a lot.” The relationship between the two of them is so special that Lola has published a book about their journey through life together. It’s called The Spirit King: A Parent’s Journey with her Autistic Son. It’s self-published and available for purchase at her website, educationequalssuccess.com.

Lola is an educator by profession, and has always done her best to prepare Lenny for success. “He surprises me every day with more than what I think he can do, so I never underestimate him,” she says. “I’ve always prepared Leonard. That’s one thing that’s really important: prepare your son or daughter. Like when it’s time to move out and all of that, you prepare them ahead of time, you don’t just dump it on them in the last minute.”

We asked Lenny how his friends would describe him, and he responded: “Upbeat.” He’s always got something to talk about and has a wonderfully positive outlook on life. “He loves life. He loves meeting people and having friends,” said Lola. “There’s so much more to him than just his autism.”

Lenny is a big fan of amusement parks and he loves the songs they play. “My favorite songs are retro throwback songs from the 1960’s, ’70’s, 80’s, the Beatles, Rolling Stones, all the way to Selena Gomez and Katy Perry.” And he’s proud of his musical tastes! “Whenever my downstairs neighbor has hip hop music on, I put on my own amusement park music.”

Of all the amusement parks out there, Scandia is where Lenny can be found the most, watching all the sports and eating cheese pizza. “And playing Galaga, my favorite arcade game,” he said. “Leonard’s like part of the family down there,” Lola adds. “They’ve known him so long, they even let him run the New Year’s Eve countdown. They have him for all their big parties.”

Thanks to the Scandia team offering their support, Lenny has become a force to be reckoned with when it comes to playing the Galaga arcade game. In fact, he even gave a speech on the subject at the annual California Extreme arcade games show in Santa Clara. “I did a lengthy speech about Galaga’s tips and tricks,” said Lenny. “Told them how to capture early, how to gain double power, how to avoid bombs … I can reach a high score up to 200,000 or so on some Galaga machines that behave properly.” When Lenny asked to do this speech, Lola was pleasantly surprised.

“I was very surprised he would do that,” she said. “A lot of autistic people wouldn’t want to stand up there in front of a bunch of people and start talking, but he did! Everybody clapped, everybody thought it was great, and I did too.” Lenny is always surprising his mother on practically a daily basis with how much he’s still growing and developing. “As he gets older he seems to be doing more and more things that are out of character with autism.”

Someday Lenny hopes to become a digital DJ with two turntables lighting up the night! He’s also got a great eye for film and has been trying to land an internship at a local TV station. But he’s got his 20-year reunion coming up, and he’s happy with all that he’s got going on.

To anyone out there with autism, or who knows someone who could use some advice, Lenny has some for you: “I would tell them they have special powers,” he said. “They also need to work on motoring and eye coordination tools on electronic old-school gaming.”

To any parents out there who have kids with autism, Lola wants to share her story with you and let you know that there is lots of support out there. “I know what it feels like to have this situation happen to you,” she said. “You feel like you’re alone, but you’re really not alone. The is hope, and it’s okay, because these kids bring lots of really great gifts to us, if we would just open our eyes and look at them.”

Interactive Art – Designed by kids, made for all.

play

By Matt Larson

If you’ve yet to visit the Richmond Art Center (RAC), why haven’t you? Their galleries are free to visit! And they’re local. And they do great things that deserve communal support. Since 1936 they’ve been devoted to providing art-making experiences to young people and families throughout Richmond and West County. Their classes are fee based, but very affordable, and for people of all ages. Kids and adults can take classes in painting, drawing, fibers and weaving, ceramics and printmaking.

Still can’t find the time to pay them a visit? Well, if you happen to live near the Mathieu Court Alley in Richmond, you may have already seen some of their communal impact! Last Fall, in a special partnership with RAC, a group of 5th and 6th graders got to be instrumental in designing a public play space, officially deemed the Mathieu Court Alley Play Street, and unofficially deemed the Environmental Protection Alley.

The City of Richmond and The Trust for Public Land together approached RAC to take on this project. The Mathieu Court Alley is located very close to Peres Elementary School, a place where RAC was already conducting after-school programs, so they decided to make this alley project the focus of their 8-week after-school class.

“The first day of class it was very clear that we were working with the right group of kids,” said Rachel Schaffran, Art in the Community Director for RAC. “They totally understood the concept, and they were very much environmentalists!” To everyone’s pleasant surprise the kids wanted to focus on environmental themes for the alley—hence the Environmental Protection Alley alias. The official theme is water, as well as protection of water and protection of animals, and they wanted to illustrate the interconnectedness of life and nature. “It was their visions and themes that came out of the class that turned into the final design,” she adds. “So they’re the designers of the play space!”

At this writing, the first stage of the play space is complete. You’ll see a mural on the ground, a series of games including an adapted version of Twister, a painted pond with stepping stones you can hop through, and much more! With more to come! Many of the games here are designed to leave the rules of play open to interpretation. Lead teaching artists, Vreni Michelini Castillo and Sofie Siegmann wanted there to be plenty of different sites in the alley to play games, but not necessarily a game you would know, allowing for more creativity to flourish when kids enjoy the space.

This all came about with a grant from KaBOOM!, a national non-profit dedicated to bringing active play into children’s daily lives. Out of 200 finalists in KaBOOM!’s Play Everywhere Challenge last year, the City of Richmond was among 50 winners across the county. The challenge called for communities to reimagine what and where a play space is and can be; they had to think outside the box. $1 million in prizes were awarded to the 50 winners, a fraction of which went to the Mathieu Court Alley Play Street.

This project has been a very communal effort. RAC held a community input session where local residents could also have a voice to help the kids consider how the alley was designed, families who live in the neighborhood came out and helped paint, and local residents are full of innovative ideas to keep adding to this amazingly transformed alleyway. There is still more work to be done, and Schaffran tells us they look forward to a ribbon cutting soon. We’ll try and keep you posted, but be sure to keep in touch with RAC in regards to this, and everything else they’re up to, at richmondartcenter.org or call (510) 620-6772. “We’re kind of having a boom in terms of our education programming,” said Schaffran. “We’re open to the public, we’re free! Our classes are fee-based but we have scholarships for all ages, so we keep encouraging people to come and check us out.”

Fix our Ferals

fof logo cat

By Jeannie Howard

Starting with a desire to lessen the suffering of kittens in her community, Linda McCormick founded Fix Our Ferals, a community-based, non-profit organization with the goal to humanely reduce the cat population in the East Bay region.

“Linda got into working with cats accidentally, like most of us do,” said Dairne Ryan, long-time volunteer and board member with Fix Our Ferals. “She was taking walks in one of our East Bay regional parks and saw some kittens eating out of dumpsters. She felt really bad about it and started feeding them.”

Ryan described how this simple action led to McCormick connecting with a few local organizations in the East Bay who were working with feral cats, and began learning about their efforts to help the cat population. McCormick began trapping cats to take them to her veterinarian to be spayed and neutered, a practice known as trap-neuter-return (TNR), and would then adopt out any kittens she could socialize.

TNR is a practice that simply involves trapping cats from a colony and bringing them in to be spayed or neutered and then, once they have recovered, they are released back to their colony. When done in mass volume, Ryan said that this is how to reduce the feral cat population humanely.

“Linda paid for a lot of spays and neuters out of her own pocket, but she wanted to find a way to help the rescue community who were doing this and paying for all of it with their own money,” Ryan described.

After connecting with the Feral Cat Coalition, an organization in San Diego doing high volume clinics to spay and neuter cats, McCormick started Fix Our Ferals in Berkeley in 1998 with a dedicated group of volunteers and a $10,000 grant from the city of Berkeley.

“The mayor and a couple of city council members in Berkeley were really in favor of finding humane and effective approaches to the feral cat population.” Ryan described how, with that initial grant from the city, McCormick was able to establish clinics run entirely by volunteers, including the veterinarians. While the city of Berkeley had put a restriction on the start-up grant that she could only service the feral cats from within Berkeley during the first year, McCormick was not only able to get the residences of Berkeley active in the cause but word of what she was doing quickly spread to surrounding areas.

“For about eleven years we ran bi-monthly high volume clinics. We had to hold the clinics on Sundays because that’s the day the vet offices we would borrow were closed,” Ryan recalled.

McCormick also set up an externship program with the vet school students at the University of California, Davis.  For several years the bi-monthly clinics had veterinarian school students helping as surgery assistants and doing anesthesia. “They loved it because they were getting hands-on experience they weren’t getting on campus in those days and we loved it because we were exposing the young students to the issues of community cats,” Ryan said. “They came and saw that these cats were like any other cat. Today], many of the vets who are in practice in our community developed sensibilities about compassion for these feral cats by volunteering at our clinic.”

The clinics grew from fixing 32 cats at their first clinic to more than 200 per clinic.  And demand for Fix Our Ferals went beyond what the roaming clinics could sustain. After moving from location to location, the organization found their permanent home in 2012 with the help of generous donations from community members who believed in their work and a $75,000 PetSmart Charities grant, Ryan said.

“The cats are getting wonderful high-quality care. We want that for our pets, but for those of us who work with free roaming cats and know that  after surgery they are going back out on the streets to their colonies we believe it is essential they receive the best care possible,” Ryan said.

The free roaming cats are not only fixed, but they are also vaccinated, micro chipped and treated for fleas. “We do everything that we can in that one sitting to make sure they get the best treatment possible,” said Ryan.

The clinic also provides veterinary services to pet cats at a slightly higher fee than for the free-roaming cats.

Fix Our Ferals has since become a model for other organizations looking to provide similar services throughout the Bay Area. With a website full of useful information, they serve as a resource to citizens wanting to help the cause.

“We lend out traps to people and provide detailed instructions how to trap the cats,” Ryan said. “I think we really are a unique community resource in West Contra Costa that just wasn’t available before.”

Increasing the number of spays and neuters to reduce effectively reduce the free roaming cat population, and continuing to educate residents throughout the the East Bay  is a main focus for those at Fix Our Ferals, according to Ryan.

“We want to change the community standard so that our community understands that a fixed animal, whether you care about animals or not, is the best thing for animals and for reducing the population, to reduce suffering and end euthanasia at our shelters” she said. “Feeding a stray cat isn’t enough. If you really care, fixing the cat is critically important because that is how to prevent more little kittens from living out on the streets and suffering.”

De Anza High School “Fix It Day”

deanza

By Jade Shojaee | Photo Credit:  Ben Gill

Four times a year, community members take their broken, slow, and old computers to De Anza High School in Richmond to be fixed for free by students of the Information Technology Academy (ITA) on what the school refers to as “Fix It Day”. The West Contra Costa Unified School District has developed a series of comprehensive high school pathway programs in which students modify their educations based on their preferred career pathway. Too good to be true? The stats prove otherwise with some 98% of enrolled seniors receiving diplomas in the 2016/2017 school year.

“Every one of our students is involved in a pathway,” said Information Technology Academy’s Pathway Lead Teacher Ben Gill. 10th grade students choose a pathway, which is essentially a series of work-based learning opportunities that inform the entirety of each student’s education, and they stay together as one class throughout the high school experience. “It allows us to create a small learning community where students can get to know teachers on a deeper level and work together on bigger collaborative projects. It’s a school within a school.”

Students form what Gill refers to as “student cohorts,” or high school communities in which students are able to grow their preferred skill with the support and camaraderie of a close group of peers. According to Gill, this creates a mentor/friend type relationship between teachers and their students. “Teachers are able to meet collaboratively on a weekly basis, and since we all have that same students we can troubleshoot and provide support in a way that would be harder in a traditional school system.”

De Anza’s Information Technology Academy started in 2009 after the California Partnership Academy (CPA) received a grant enabling them to implement the program. The program is funded under an SB70 state program that, according to Gill, is taking the place of vocational education.” We’re looking to bridge that gap between academic education and career vocational training,” said Gill. “When I was in high school classes weren’t aligned in any matter, so kids could take woodshop and other classes as they see fit. The program now merges academic and technical classes.”

The district works with several community partners in order to provide an optimal and cohesive preview into a life in each potential career “pathway,” one of which is Linked Learning, an approach to education based on the idea that students work harder and dream bigger if their education is relevant to them. The Linked Learning approach integrates rigorous academics that meet college-ready standards with sequenced, high-quality career-technical education, work-based learning, and supports to help students stay on track.

“The West Contra Costa County Unified School District has been working for a number of years to establish high quality Linked Learning pathways and to systematically advance Linked Learning opportunities for students in the East Bay,” said Hilary McLean, Executive Vice President of Linked Learning. For Linked Learning students, education is organized around industry-sector themes that are woven curricula. Teachers collaborate with working professionals to ensure the classes are current and relevant.

“The IT Academy is a great exemplar of a Linked Learning pathway,” said McLean. “The data shows that this approach to education is making a real difference in the lives of students who are participating, by helping the students gain real-world experience through internships, as well as career and college knowledge and preparation. We hope to see pathways like the IT Academy flourish and improve the futures of students throughout the state.”

This past school year, the department spearheaded an effort to secure free Wi-Fi for the school. “English students helped write up the grant proposal and did case studies on where stuff like that had been implemented throughout the community,” said Gill. Just one example of how the program manages to keep common core curricula relevant to each chosen career pathway.

As it stands, the ITA at De Anza is about 35% female and 65% male. “Not as good as I’d like it to be,” said Gill who is making efforts to see female enrollment increases including partnering with an organization called Girls Who Code which actively recruits girls to enter into the STEM Worldwide Organization. The program also provides training materials and hackathons at which students can come together to work on a coding problem over the weekend. “It provides networking opportunities for girls to network with other girls.”

“My experience in the ITA academy was one to remember,” said Antonette Robinson, former ITA student. “I never knew girls could be so fluent in the industry. I always had this image of men in the tech field. That’s something I no longer picture. I got to go on trips that opened my eyes to new opportunities. Now that I am out of the academy I am trying to figure out how to further my education.” Robinson currently studies at Dev Bootcamp for coding.

“I’ve definitely seen our female enrollment increase steadily since I’ve been here,” said Gill. “You hear girls talking about opportunities studying computer science and electrical engineering. When I was in high school, it definitely wasn’t that way.”

Born and raised in raised in Richmond, Gill currently lives in Stockton and commutes to his hometown to teach. “I’ve turned down teaching jobs in Central Valley and do this commute every day because of the connection I have with these kids in this community.”

“Fix It Days” concluded for this year on Saturday May 28th but come October, there will be more opportunities to receive the complimentary IT help at De Anza High School’s cafeteria. Visit http://wccusdpathways.org/information-technology-de-anza-high-school/

You can also Contact Ben at dahsitlead@wccusd.net