Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Contra Costa County to graduate 86 foster youth with real life skills for college and work, Tuesday

Monday, June 15th, 2015
Erica Wagoner Don Graves Contra Costa County to graduate 86 foster youth with real life skills for college and work, Tuesday

Erica Wagoner, discussing college scholarships with ILSP Program Coordinator, Don Graves.

One Face, One Bright Future: Tomorrow night, 18 year old Erica Wagoner from Pittsburg, and 85 other teens will take the next big step into adulthood, as they graduate from Contra Costa County’s Independent Living Skills Program (ILSP). For Erica, graduation will come with at least $1,500 in scholarships. While she’s not certain about a college major, she is confident, she’ll advocate for foster youth like herself, “You want foster youth to succeed after what they’ve been through”, she says, knowing what that really means.

Erica was 16 when her home life became less than stable, and she moved in with friends. Her brother and sisters went to live in other homes. Nothing was secure in her life; until she started attending the ILSP Program in Martinez. Here she says, she found, “People to trust. Even if you don’t think you need help, they know how to help.”

In its 27th year in Contra Costa County, with funding from the Federal Government and reliant upon community donations; ILSP prepares foster youth for their future, with life and employment skills training, money management and cooking classes, and provides them with the guidance to map their futures by going to college or a job training program.

June 16th, at Centre Concord, $65,000 in scholarships will be awarded; one more way ILSP is living up to its motto, “We deal in futures.”

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Dozier-Libbey graduates unique class, first under Principal Bergerhouse

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015
DLMHS grad 2015 Bergerhouse crowd 1024x682 Dozier Libbey graduates unique class, first under Principal Bergerhouse

Dozier-Libbey Principal Scott Bergerhouse speaks to the 2015 graduating class. photo by Luke Johnson

By Luke Johnson

One hundred thirty-four graduates of the Class of 2015 walked into Deer Valley High School’s amphitheater, Friday evening, for the fourth annual commencement ceremony of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School, the first under Principal Scott Bergerhouse.

Bergerhouse has been employed by the Antioch Unified School District for 31 years and has been an administrator on various campuses over the past two decades. He replaced Dozier-Libbey’s inaugural principal, Nancy Castro, in April, 2014, following a failed attempt by teachers to convert the school into a public charter school.

Everywhere I’ve been, it has been about building positive relationships,” Bergerhouse said. “I wanted to make sure everyone understood that we’re here for the sake of kids, and we are all very passionate about kids and kids’ success.”

Dozier-Libbey is one of the most praised educational institutions in the country for its 70 percent Advance Placement Test participation with a student body minority enrollment of 77 percent. U.S. News and World Report magazine ranked Dozier-Libbey in the Top 700 schools throughout the nation.

Dozier-Libbey’s 2015 graduating class is unique, in that when the students started as freshmen in 2011, it was the first time the school had a full student body (grades 9-12). When the school was founded in 2008, it only consisted of freshmen.

decorated graduation caps 300x200 Dozier Libbey graduates unique class, first under Principal Bergerhouse

Dozier-Libbey Class of 2015 graduates with their decorated caps. photo by Luke Johnson

Graduates have a tradition of decorating their caps, and it has grown every year. On Friday, well over half of them styled their caps, many with glitter and rhinestones and with the logo of the college they plan to attend.

Being able to decorate our caps makes the ceremony more sentimental,” Riley Cleary said, who is a Certificate of Excellence recipient and an All-League baseball player. “I talked to a couple of Deer Valley students and asked them how they decorated their caps, and they replied with, ‘We couldn’t. Our graduation was formal,’ and they sounded kind of jealous because it is a good way to express oneself and can add a unique appearance.”

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Antioch High holds first graduation in new stadium

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015
Antioch High graduation 2015 1024x682 Antioch High holds first graduation in new stadium

Antioch High 2015 graduates. photo by Luke Johnson

By Luke Johnson

Antioch High School used its contemporary, $7-million football field, Eells Stadium, for the first time for graduation, during its 61st annual commencement ceremony to graduate the Class of 2015 Friday, June 5.

I felt really honored,” Student Body President Sami Surges said about breaking in the new stadium. “We kinda set the tone for the rest of the years to come.”

A new format came with the new facility. The biggest one being the graduates had to exit the field before meeting with families and friends. This was to maintain the new surface and prevent holes from poking into the artificial turf. Also, chairs had to be modified and graduates’ footwear had to be monitored.

This school year marked the beginning of reconstruction under Measure B, approved in 2012, which granted AHS a $56.5-million bond to renovate and modernize the campus. Throughout the year, students had to avoid construction zones and forego a cafeteria.

Our football team played with no stadium. They were a road warrior team, literally. They didn’t one game at home,” Principal Louie Rocha said. “Yet, they were successful and went to the North Coast Section Playoffs. That’s just a tribute to our students. They overcame many numerous obstacles. The campus was closed in some areas due to construction all year. We had to use the auditorium as our entrance. But the students just adjusted, continued on and really excelled.”

When asked what their favorite memory from this year was, both Rocha and Surges immediately responded with the Powder Puff football game, where the Panthers defeated crosstown rival Deer Valley High School in overtime. It was the first event hosted in the new Eells Stadium.

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Deer Valley High graduates over 600, speakers say school is misrepresented

Sunday, June 7th, 2015
DVHS Principal Ken Gardner 1024x682 Deer Valley High graduates over 600, speakers say school is misrepresented

Deer Valley High Principal Ken Gardner speaks to the graduates as School Board Trustees Debra Vinson and Walter Ruehlig listen. photo by Luke Johnson

By Luke Johnson

Over 600 graduates filed in for Deer Valley High School’s commencement ceremony for the Class of 2015, on Thursday, June 5, in what was the most attended event in school history, according to Principal Ken Gardner.

This is the fullest we’ve ever seen the stadium,” Gardner said during his graduation speech. ”The culture of the school is changing and evolving into become accepted by the community to be a college- and career-going culture, and that’s what we’ve been striving for.”

DVHS graduates flie in photo by Lori Cardera 300x225 Deer Valley High graduates over 600, speakers say school is misrepresented

Deer Valley graduates file in. photo courtesy of Lori Cardera

Despite constant negative news about student behavior, valedictorian Hannah Howard feels the school is misrepresented and that viewers outside looking in only the trouble makers.

There are a lot of misconceptions about this school,” Howard said. “Whenever my family or anybody says, ‘Hey, there’s a lot of stuff happening at your school,’ I always say, ‘Well, you aren’t looking at the 99 percent of the other people who all get along.’ They are just paying attention to the one-percenters who are the bad apples.”

Gardner added that the negative news happened off campus, and that suspension and disciplinary rates have dropped while attendance has improved (well over 95 percent) in the past four years.

The school, for some reason, has always had a bad reputation and we’ve been struggling for years to overcome that, and I think this class proved in,” Gardner said. “Community members were taking small things and making them much bigger than they needed to be.”

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Kids’ Club supporters hold march, rally before Antioch School Board meeting

Sunday, June 7th, 2015

By John Crowder

Parents, children, teachers, and administrators connected with Kids’ Club Preschool marched to the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) School Services Building and held a rally in support of their program prior to the May 27, 2015, AUSD School Board meeting.

Following their rally, those who participated headed inside and filled the small board room, prompting Board Vice President Diane Gibson-Gray, chairing the meeting due to the absence of Board President Claire Smith, to ask people to move to the lobby, where she said they would be able to hear the proceedings over the speaker system. According to Gibson-Gray, it was necessary to clear part of the boardroom in order to maintain the safety of everyone present. Many of those attending quickly moved, and the board meeting was then able to proceed.

With a large number of people asking to address the board during public comments, the order of business was slightly modified, with public comments beginning earlier than had been scheduled.

Those who addressed the board on behalf of the preschool had two requests. The first was for an extension of time on their lease, set to expire in July, 2015. The second request was for the school district to provide the operators of Kids’ Club with vacant land, on which they said they could place modular, or portable, buildings, in order to keep the program in Antioch.

This was the largest group yet to have spoken out at a public meeting over the last few months about the impending end of the lease the preschool has held with AUSD at Bidwell Elementary School, 800 Gary Avenue, in Antioch, since 2012.

Speakers supporting Kids’ Club have been addressing both the city council and school board with various requests since early February:

  • February 11, AUSD School Board – Mark Mokski, Executive Director of Kids’ Club

    and Cheryl Miller, Kids’ Club Site Supervisor, ask board members to visit the facility and view their program.

  • April 14, Antioch City Council – Mokski states, “I’m asking for political help, to raise

    the money.” “I ask for your support. I do not ask for money, I do not ask for property, I do not ask for buildings. I ask for political support. Stand besides Kids’ Club. Help us raise some money.”

  • April 15, AUSD School Board – Mokski states he is not asking for a renewal of the

    lease, but help in raising, “$100,000 to $200,000” to renovate one of a number of buildings he has access to. Other speakers ask that the Kids’ Club lease be renewed.

  • May 26, Antioch City Council – Mokski states, “We ask for empty land.”

As previously reported, the original lease was set to expire on July 31, 2014, but contained a one-year option to renew. In exercising that option, Mokski also wrote in a letter dated May 22, 2014, that, “Kids’ Club Preschool acknowledges, based upon a verbal conversation on May 20, 2014 that the leased space will no longer be available after next year.”

AUSD has addressed the issue with a statement on the District website. According to that statement, the District needs the space currently occupied by the preschool in order to, “expand its current special education programs at Bidwell.”

At the end of the board meeting, Board Member Debra Vinson brought up the Kids’ Club issue. Expressing concern with the lease termination, she advocated reviewing that decision. “I’m definitely concerned,” she said. “There must be other options.”

State-funded preschool program to open

Following the board meeting, Herald staff learned that at least some of the children attending Kids’ Club may have another option available.

Kathy Coletto, Director of The Child Day Schools, located at 112 E. Tregallas Road in Antioch, said that she has been informed that their program is being awarded a contract from the state of California to operate a state-funded preschool program.

Some of the families from Kids’ Club will qualify for our program starting July 1st, 2015,” Coletto stated.

She went on to say that they have enough space for 87 preschoolers, and will be hiring additional staff, as well. Parents interested in The Child Day Schools program should call Coletto at (925) 754-0144 for more information.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 10, at 7:00 p.m. Meetings take place in the School Services Building, located at 510 G Street.

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African-American 8th grade promotion ceremony in Antioch raises concerns, organizer explains

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015
Flyer African American 8th grade promotion ceremony in Antioch raises concerns, organizer explains

The flier created by Dr. Lamont Francies and distributed by Dallas Ranch Middle School Principal and staff.

By John Crowder

A ceremony celebrating the promotion from middle school to high school of African-American students residing within the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) has generated intense scrutiny on social media, with some claiming that a flier sent through the AUSD email system was a misuse of public resources, and that both the flier and the event may have violated laws against segregation and/or separation of Church and State.

The flier was received by parents of students attending Dallas Ranch Middle School (DRMS) on Friday.

According to Dr. Donald Gill, AUSD Superintendent of Schools, though, the flier should not have gone out.

Unfortunately a flier that had been prepared by one person at one school was forwarded to others, but it was not authorized by the District,” Gill said.

Gill also commented about the event. “It was a community celebration,” he said. “We support community events like this. But, we wouldn’t support the use of the AUSD logo for this.”

We support any organization that wants to honor and celebrate the milestones of our students,” he added.

Stephanie Anello, Associate Superintendent, Educational Services, while expressing her support for the event, said that the District was taking steps to ensure that the public is not misled as to the sponsorship of such events in the future.

I very much support celebrating the achievements and milestones of all students,” she said. “The District acknowledges and respects the right of community organizations to sponsor celebrations for students that attend District schools. Those celebrations are separate from District “promotion” ceremonies which recognize the achievements of all students.”

However, she added “We are going to be meeting with key staff members to determine where District procedures and protocols may have broken down in order to address future instances wherein it may appear that an event is a District event when, in fact, it is a community sponsored event.”

Anello also acknowledged that District resources were used in support of the event.

Upon investigating the matter, it appears that District resources, including District email, and perhaps some office supplies, were used in support of this event,” she stated.

She went on to say, though, that Dr. Lamont Francies, who is a counselor at Black Diamond Middle School and the pastor at Delta Bay Church of Christ, where the event was held, used his own time and resources in order to have the function.

Ed Dacus, Principal of DRMS, and Pamela Price, a counselor at the school, related the sequence of events surrounding the flier. They said that, some weeks ago, they had received an email with the flier attached, from Francies, who created it.

Mrs. Prices office window 06 02 15 225x300 African American 8th grade promotion ceremony in Antioch raises concerns, organizer explains

Dallas Ranch Middle School counselor Pamela Price’s office window on Tuesday morning, June 2, 2015. by Allen Payton

Dacus related that he believed his role was to disseminate the information it contained to his school community. He had the flier posted throughout the school; in common areas, in the office, and on windows.

Later, on the day of the event, he said he had a conversation with Price, in which she asked if anything further should be done to inform the school community about the function. He then advised Price to inform school parents through School Loop, which she did. “I had no information that the flier was not to be resent,” he said. Price also acknowledged her role in sending out the flier. “I sent it,” she said.

When asked about the event on Tuesday, June 2, Price responded “Is there a problem?”

After being told by Herald staff that it was a private event promoted using school district resources, she pointed to a copy of the flier on the window to her office, unaware that it was not a district sponsored event.

That was confirmed in an email from Gill, received by the Herald Tuesday afternoon, in response to a question of whether district staff were informed that the event was not sponsored by AUSD.

Yes, a memo was sent this morning,” he stated.

When reached for comment, Francies said that he had sent an email with the flier attached on April 24, and again on May 20, informing District personnel about the event. He said that he had not directed or asked anyone to send the email, or the flier, to anyone else.

He confirmed that there was a conversation between him and Anello, on or about April 27, in which they discussed that the program was not a District sponsored event, but it was in the context of funding for the event, and no discussion of the use of the letters ‘AUSD’ took place at that time.

Francies was unaware that any distribution to the public had taken place at DRMS until the evening of the event. Francies did provide fliers to middle school staff members to be used as they thought was appropriate, and handed the fliers to parents and students at Black Diamond Middle School who expressed an interest in the event.

However, a revised flier without the AUSD information included, was not created or distributed.

Francies described the event as a way to build trust between members of the African-American community and AUSD administration, and as a way to encourage families to focus on the value of a good education.

A number of our kids are struggling academically,” he said. “These types of events are common in African-American communities, and are a part of our tradition.”

Francies also talked about the church connection.

The black church is at the heart of our community,” he said. “This was a celebration of black culture.”

We can’t separate that from our faith tradition,” he added.

The celebration of one culture is not a denigration of another culture. People have asked about having other cultural celebrations. I support it. I’ll attend,” Francies added.

In fact, this reporter, who is white, was in attendance at this event, having been invited by the African-American parent of a student being honored. While most people attending the event were African-American, many other races and ethnic groups were represented, both in the audience, and as part of the program. As my son and I walked up to the entrance, we were greeted very warmly by a church member, who said, “Welcome to Delta Bay Church.” Throughout the evening, everyone we spoke with was welcoming, and several in attendance made it a point to introduce themselves to, and interact with, my young son.

The message, delivered by Pastor Kirkland Smith of Grace Bible Fellowship, prior to the handing out of achievement certificates to all students in attendance, focused on the importance of obtaining a good education, and on parenting skills.

Francies said that he hopes to expand the event next year.

School Board Member Debra Vinson, who was in attendance at the event along with fellow Board Member Barbara Cowan and several district administrators, provided a statement in which she spoke positively about the function.

I saw this as a community-sponsored event from community members that wanted to celebrate the accomplishments of students that attended their church, lived in their neighborhood or had received some form of social emotional support from various places in the community,” Vinson shared. “This was not a graduation; it was not a promotion; it was a community celebration and was no sponsored by AUSD.”

This event was open to all students and there were students and families from non-African-American backgrounds that participated,” she stated. “The flyer should not have been released in its current format by anyone without final approval from District Administrative Staff.”

Vinson continued, “I would hope that the educational achievements of all students would be appreciated because celebrating our students in this community helps to reduce crime, builds self esteem, builds pride in Antioch and sends the message to students that they are not alone in the ‘educational process’ and that the community of Antioch stands behind them. Yes, I want all of our school age students in school daily.”

Explaining the motivation behind the event, Vinson said, “Many students struggle daily to remain focused on learning because there are so many non-educational choices available to them and they have many personal hurdles to overcome. If there are people in the community that want to help students maintain success by celebrating their learning milestones, then we should all stand behind that!”

Vinson concluded, “I hope that the community of Antioch will continue to celebrate our students because it will promote positive ‘citizenship’ and teach them to respect this community called ‘home.’”

When asked about the flier in an email sent to all board members, Walter Ruehlig responded, “I never saw this – I saw it on an AUSD weekly calendar memo given to [the] Board, but thought of that as a throw off favor, much like they might mention State of City (as example). Though I did not attend, I assumed it was like the baccalaureate, privately organized sponsored, funded and promoted. We are meticulous to disassociate baccalaureate from AUSD and I assumed that protocol was in keeping with this.”

To go the extra mile we rotate churches and invite the entire public,” he added.

Board Vice President Diane Gibson-Gray also responded to the email about the flier, on Sunday night.

The promotion ceremony on May 29th was described as ‘…a joint African American 8th grade Baccalaureate Ceremony,’ which was not on school property and faith based, as is the high school Baccalaureate Ceremony this evening at Most Holy Rosary Church, which is not an AUSD event. I did not see the promotional flyer until it was published on EastCountyToday.net post event. I now understand it has AUSD’s logo on it and was promoted using district resources.

I did not attend the African American 8th Grade Promotion Ceremony. That evening I was attending the E.N.C.O.R.E. Promotion Ceremony, an AUSD event. I will be attending three of the five middle school AUSD Promotion Ceremonies this Wednesday, in which all 8th grade students promoting on to high school will be celebrated.

My knowledge of the history of the African American 8th Grade Promotion Ceremony is:

·I received a last minute invitation for the 2014 ceremony. I voiced my concerns about it being an AUSD event and did not attend.

·Based on the 2015 ceremony description, I did not view it as an AUSD event and did not attend.

I’m asking Dr. Gill for additional background and information. I have asked that it be placed on our agenda for school board discussion.”

Cowan responded by email with links to a 2011 article entitled “Are black graduations at traditional colleges ‘reverse racism’?” and a report from the Journal of Pan African Studies entitled “Using Cultural Competence to Close the

Achievement Gap.” She did not answer the questions in the email from Herald staff.

Board President Claire Smith did not respond to the email.

Comments on the Herald Facebook page, in response to a commentary by Barbara Zivica, included one by Antioch resident Darcie Hill Cooper.

This is just crazy,” she said. “This is a step in the WRONG direction.”

Another Antioch resident, Ron Zaragoza wrote, “This doesn’t seem helpful to the people of our community. Seems like it supports divison (sic)…”

Francies responded to the criticism levied by some that the event was exclusionary.

I understand the backlash. I’m not shocked by it,” he said. “I did this to celebrate one culture and not to exclude anyone else. Everyone was welcome. It was targeted to a group who feels disenfranchised. I make no qualms about that. Of course my intention was never to offend anyone else. We’ve never turned away any kid of any color who wanted to participate.”

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Antioch School Board hears complaints about English learners program

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

By John Crowder

The May 13 meeting of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board of Education lasted well into the night, with members of the public lining up to speak about three main issues, English Language Development (ELD), the hiring of a head football coach at Deer Valley High School (DVHS), and the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP).

ELD

Public comments related to ELD at the meeting coincided with a report given to the Board by the District English Learner Advisory Committee (DELAC). Following the report, both parents and students complained that some students were being, “wrongly classified,” as English learners. As a consequence, they said, these students were being removed from core classes during the school day in order to work on their language skills, and were, thus, being prevented from taking electives or Advanced Placement (AP) classes.

The discussion which ensued focused on the process mandated by the state of California for classifying students as English learners. According to Stephanie Anello, Associate Superintendent, Educational Services, the California Department of Education requires schools to determine the languages spoken at home by each student.

When a parent lists a language other than English on a state-mandated form they are given, the schools are then required to provide their students with, “meaningful instruction” in English. Such instruction continues until they are able to pass the California English Language Development Test (CELDT), a test that gets progressively harder each academic year.

If a parent states that a language other than English is spoken in the home, the District is required to administer the CELDT test. Some students who take the test score ‘initially fluent proficient’ (IFP) and are not classified as English learners,” Anello explained. “Those who do not are classified as English learners and receive services until such time as they are reclassified.”

Those objecting to the process indicated that the programs implemented for English learning, in some instances, were actually harming those they were intended to help. One student said that some of her friends were prevented from taking AP or Honors classes because they were, “stuck in ELD.” She called the process, “unfair.”

Willie Mims, Education Chair for the East County NAACP, said, “The English Language Survey is problematic,” because the parents who fill out the form are not aware of the consequences. He also said that he knows of a student who spoke only English, yet was stuck in ELD classes.

Mims went on to say, referring to the CELDT, that many native English speakers cannot pass the test, and that, “It’s discriminatory in nature,” because, “This one specific subgroup is paying the price for some…[bad] legislation.”

Board Member Barbara Cowan concurred with those speaking out.

It’s inequitable if kids have to take ELD classes and are thus unable to take A-G electives,” she said.

She agreed with Mims that, “the test is difficult to pass, and there are students who are English only who cannot pass the test.” But, she said, it is an issue that must be resolved with the state.

Also in agreement with those speaking out were board President Claire Smith and Vice President Diane Gibson-Gray, each suggesting that the school district work with parents by engaging their legislators to make needed changes.

DVHS Football Coach

Several parents and others spoke in favor of hiring Saleem Muhammad, currently the Strength and Conditioning/Running Backs Coach at Los Medanos College (LMC) as head coach for DVHS. All of the speakers at the meeting praised Muhammad for the work he does and has done with student athletes. “He’s all about the kids,” said one of those speaking on his behalf.

Following public comments regarding Muhammad and the coaching position, the Board entered a closed session meeting, part of which was to include a discussion of the coaching job. After the closed session, the board had nothing to report about the issue at that time.

LCAP

Also during public comments, a handful of speakers discussed the LCAP process. This followed an update regarding the LCAP given to the board at a work study session which took place prior to the regular meeting.

One speaker, Reggie Johnigan, representing the Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO), spoke of the LCAP process.

The district is not truly engaging parents,” he said. “Last year…we were not taken seriously.”

Complaining that, “students are not getting the support they need to succeed academically,” Johnigan also referenced the recent threat of a lawsuit, temporarily settled with the NAACP. Saying that, “parents are ignored until a lawsuit is brought forward,” he asked for, “better engagement.”

Other speakers echoed the remarks made by Johnigan, calling for “real, authentic engagement,” and asking the board to, “stop reacting to lawsuits.”

One part of the LCAP presentation that drew a positive response from members of the public and board members alike was the emphasis on bringing back Visual and Performing Arts. Several slides shown during the LCAP presentation focused on this topic. One parent, Julie Young, thanked Anello for, “saving the Deer Valley music program.”

Board President Smith and Board Member Walter Ruehlig both emphasized the importance of music in education.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 27, at 7:00 p.m. Meetings take place in the School Services Building, located at 510 G Street.

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Antioch students win Toyota and Discovery Education’s TeenDrive365 Video Challenge

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

TeenDrive365 3rd Place Antioch students win Toyota and Discovery Educations TeenDrive365 Video Challenge

Safe-Driving Video Wins Two Awards in National Competition, Students Will Receive $12,500 and Behind-the-Scenes Trip to Velocity Network Show Taping

Silver Spring, Md. (May 11, 2015) – Toyota and Discovery Education announced today that  Jordan Bjorklund, Daniel Harte, Joseph Salazar and Karina Vazquez – students at Antioch Unified School District’s Deer Valley High School- triumphed over 1,000 entrants from across the country to be named winners in the annual Toyota TeenDrive365 Video Challenge. The four teens from Antioch created a video on the importance of driving safety which has won both third place and the People’s Choice Award in this national competition.

Now in its fourth year, the Toyota TeenDrive365 Video Challenge, a key component of an ongoing partnership between Toyota and Discovery Education, invited teens across the country to create short videos to inspire their friends to drive more safely and avoid risky behavior behind the wheel.

The team from Antioch was chosen as third place winners by a panel of judges at Toyota and Discovery Education, netting them a prize of $7,500. In addition, the students’ video was named the ‘People’s Choice Winner’ through an online public vote, garnering them an additional $5,000 cash prize and a behind-the-scenes trip to a taping of a Velocity network show. You can view their winning video here.

We loved how this PSA addressed driving safety with creativity and a clear-eyed view of the distractions that face drivers of all ages,” said Michael Rouse, president of the Toyota USA Foundation. “We offer the team our heartfelt congratulations and are proud to help share their vision for encouraging other teens to drive more safely.”

The TeenDrive365 initiative addresses the need to keep students safe on the road by providing engaging digital resources and experiences that encourage smart choices behind the wheel,” said Bill Goodwyn, President and CEO, Discovery Education. “We are honored to stand alongside Toyota in congratulating Jordan, Daniel, Joseph and Karina and the rest of this year’s winners for their creativity, innovative thinking, and dedication to positively influencing the behavior of their peers.”

The Toyota TeenDrive365 Video Challenge, which was recently named a winner in the annual Communitas Awards, is one component of Toyota and Discovery Education’s TeenDrive365: In School initiative, a comprehensive program offering a range of tools designed specifically for school educators and teens.

The program is part of TeenDrive365 (www.teendrive365.com), Toyota’s comprehensive initiative to help parents model safer driving behaviors for their children. Building on the programs and resources Toyota has offered for more than a decade, the program offers a collection of online tools, events, expert advice and tips as well as social media elements.

About Toyota

Toyota, the world’s top automaker and creator of the Prius, is committed to building vehicles for the way people live through its Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands.  Over the past 50 years, Toyota has built more than 25 million cars and trucks in North America, where it operates 14 manufacturing plants and directly employs more than 40,000 people.  The company’s 1,800 North American dealerships sold more than 2.67 million cars and trucks in 2014 – and about 80 percent of all Toyota vehicles sold over the past 20 years are still on the road today.  Toyota partners with philanthropic organizations across the country, with a focus on education, safety and the environment. To date, Toyota has contributed more than $700 million to American nonprofit groups. For more information about Toyota, visit Toyota.com/USA.

About Discovery Education

Discovery Education is the global leader in standards-based digital content and professional development for K-12, transforming teaching and learning with award-winning digital textbooks, multimedia content that supports the implementation of Common Core, professional development, assessment tools, and the largest professional learning community of its kind.  Available in over half of all U.S. schools and primary schools in England, community colleges and in 50 countries around the world, Discovery Education partners with districts, states and like-minded organizations to captivate students, empower teachers, and transform classrooms with customized solutions that accelerate academic achievement. Discovery Education is powered by Discovery Communications (NASDAQ: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK), the number one nonfiction media company in the world. Explore the future of education at www.discoveryeducation.com.

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