Archive for the ‘People’ Category

Antioch High grad, Pittsburg native and Brentwood college student in running for scholarship

Thursday, March 16th, 2023

One of seven Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s 459 semifinalists from Contra Costa County for highly competitive undergraduate transfer scholarship

Other college scholarship programs offered for middle, high school students

By Julia Florence

Lansdowne, Virginia – On March 9, 2023, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation announced 459 semifinalists for the highly competitive Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. Brentwood resident Ryan Mattson, in his last semester at Sacramento City College and was selected as the only representative of the Los Rios Community College District to be named a semifinalist.

The native who grew up in Pittsburg, CA and is a 2006 graduate of Antioch High School is one of seven semifinalists in Contra Costa County. The six other community college students named semifinalists are Eliette Bustos Barocio and Hosna Ramzi from Los Medanos College and Ivan Hernandez, Jessica Kim, Karla Morales De Leon and Mayari Lanz Amezcua from Diablo Valley College.

The Foundation awards community college students who have demonstrated exceptional academic ability, leadership, service and a determination to complete their bachelor’s degrees at top four-year institutions.

“I was accepted into Columbia University in New York City and await confirmation or denial from Stanford, Yale and UC Berkeley,” Mattson shared.

He plans to study political science and history but has not finalized his major at Columbia.

Mattson has worked in the trades, specifically automotive repair and maintenance at Winter Chevrolet in Pittsburg and has a 15-year-old son who attends Liberty High in Brentwood.

“I believe the reason for my singularity comes from students not being informed of this scholarship opportunity,” he said. “If the community knew age did not matter and scholarships were available to the determined, I believe our community would garner not only the nation’s best minds but also the most driven individuals.”

This year’s semifinalists were chosen from a pool of more than 1,700 applicants and attend 215 community colleges in 38 states. Some of the latest research from the American Talent Initiative estimates that roughly 50,000 high-achieving students from low income backgrounds could transfer to four-year colleges each year but don’t, often due to cost. The Cooke Transfer Scholarship is designed to create a clear pathway to a four-year degree by offering up to $55,000 per year along with academic advising and access to a network of peers.

“By lifting the financial burden of pursuing a four-year degree off their shoulders, our goal is to help students take full advantage of a four-year college experience without taking on student debt,” said Seppy Basili, Executive Director of the Cooke Foundation. “This year’s selected semifinalists reflect the deep bench of talent across our community colleges today, and we’re looking forward to getting to know them better in our final application review process.”

The Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship offers unparalleled support to community college students. In addition to the generous financial support, selected Cooke Transfer Scholars will receive educational advising from the Foundation’s Deans of Scholar Support to guide them through the process of transitioning to a four-year school and preparing for their future endeavors. They will also have access to opportunities for internships, study abroad, graduate school funding, and the incomparable connection to a robust network of more than 3,000 fellow Cooke Scholars and Alumni.

According to the foundation’s website, scholarship recipients earned a 3.92 average community college GPA, 70% participated in an honors program or pursued honors coursework and 67% held a leadership role in a club or activity. They will be announced in April.

A list of this year’s Cooke Transfer Scholar semifinalists, their respective community colleges and hometowns can be viewed here. To learn more about the Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, visit the website here.

Named for and Funded by Canadian-American Businessman

According to Wikipedia, “Jack Kent Cooke was a Canadian-American businessman in broadcasting and professional sports. Starting in sales, Cooke was very successful, eventually becoming a partner in a network of radio stations and newspapers in Canada. Cooke moved to the United States and built a business empire in broadcasting and professional sports franchises. Cooke was the owner of the Washington Redskins (NFL), the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA), the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), the Los Angeles Wolves (United Soccer) and Toronto Maple Leafs (IL minor league baseball team). He also developed The Forum in Inglewood, California, and FedExField (named Jack Kent Cooke Stadium when it opened, months after his death) near Landover, Maryland.”

According to the foundation’s website, Cooke was born in Canada in 1912. “As a young man, he was an athlete and musician, with a love for ice hockey, the saxophone, and the clarinet. He dreamed of pursuing a formal education, but that dream was cut short when he left high school during the Great Depression to work full time to help support his family. Nonetheless, Mr. Cooke believed education was a life-long pursuit. He was a passionate student his entire life and was knowledgeable in fields as diverse as literature, music, sports, and architecture. When he died in 1997, Mr. Cooke left the bulk of his fortune to establish the Cooke Foundation and provide remarkable students with the chance to soar.”

More Scholarship Programs for Middle, High School Students

The foundation also offers three other scholarship opportunities. The Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program is the largest undergraduate scholarship program available to high-achieving high school seniors with financial need who seek to attend the nation’s best four-year colleges and universities. The high school seniors will receive up to $55,000 per year for up to four years to complete a bachelor’s degree. They will also be eligible to apply for the Cooke Graduate Scholarship after graduating with their bachelor’s degree, which is worth up to $150,000.

The Cooke College Scholarship Program is available to high-achieving high school seniors with financial need who seek to attend and graduate from the nation’s best four-year colleges and universities.

This year’s 45 recipients entered the Cooke Young Scholars Program as 8th graders in 2019. As a cohort, they have attended two residential summer programs together. During the summer before 8th grade, Young Scholars spent three weeks at the University of Pennsylvania exploring social and political issues through project-based service-learning and academic study. This past summer, Scholars took part in an inquiry‐based enrichment experience at the University of Connecticut, participating in experiential research projects.

The Cooke Young Scholars Program is a selective five-year, pre-college scholarship for high-performing 7th grade students with financial need. It provides comprehensive academic and college advising, as well as financial support for school, Cooke-sponsored summer programs, internships, and other learning enrichment opportunities.

Allen D. Payton contributed to this report. 

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Antioch resident to sing National Anthem for Santa Cruz Warriors game at Chase Center Saturday

Friday, March 3rd, 2023

During School Day S.T.E.A.M. Fest 2023!

Velma Wilson of Antioch will sing the National Anthem before the Santa Cruz Warriors game at Chase Center Saturday night, March 4. Wilson was the Contra Costa County 2021 Humanitarian of the Year.

Gather your family and friends and join us for School Day STEAM Fest 2023 as your Santa Cruz Warriors (NBA G-League Affiliate) take on the Cleveland Charge! Join us on West Concourse Terrace for our STEAM Fest where a variety of vendors will be showcasing educational and interactive activations for you and more!

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Pamela Swicegood selected Antioch’s 2023-24 Teacher of the Year

Friday, March 3rd, 2023

Pamela Swicegood is the Antioch Teacher of the Year for 2023-24. Photo: AUSD

By Trine Gallegos/AUSD

A big congratulations to Antioch High’s Pamela Swicegood, who’s been named Teacher of the Year for the Antioch Unified School District.

Pamela first visited Antioch High in 1986 to judge cheerleading tryouts.

She said she was struck by the energy, the school spirit and the interactions with the kids. “Everyone was so welcoming and friendly I knew this was the place I wanted to be. And that is where the ‘official’ journey began.”

She said she was born to teach and was one of those kids “who read all the time and did school workbooks for fun. I loved school and had wonderful teachers, and I wanted to grow up to be like them.”

Fast forward 34 years and she proudly claims to be a Panther through and through.

During that time, she’s taught English, Jazz Dance, ELD, Creative Writing, and Poetry, and coached cheerleading, track, lacrosse and a competition dance team. She also produced two dance shows a year for 20 years, sponsored the AHS Poetry and Short Story contests and has been the advisor for the Pantheon Literary Magazine since 1991.

Most recently, she started the Shakespeare & Scones Society, an after-school club designed to make the Bard fun and accessible for kids. Students watch Shakespeare movies while sipping English tea from fine china and nibbling scones with lemon curd and clotted cream. In August, they took a road trip to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and another to see “King Lear” at the California Shakespeare Festival. She currently teaches English 11CP, Creative Writing, and Poetry.

“After working with so many outstanding administrators and fellow teachers over the years, it is truly humbling to be singled out for this recognition. It is an honor and a privilege and I am so very grateful.”


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Bayon Moore says bye bye to Antioch for new position as Piedmont City Administrator

Thursday, February 23rd, 2023

Rosanna Bayon Moore will be the new Piedmont City Administrator as of April 6, 2023.

Assistant City Manager leaves community with experienced leadership vacuum

“This is a huge loss for the city,” District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica

By Allen D. Payton

On Tuesday, Feb. 21, the Piedmont City Council (see 10 minute mark of video) voted unanimously to hire Antioch Assistant City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore as their new city administrator. Item 3 of the regular meeting agenda it reads, “Consideration and Adoption of a Resolution Appointing Rosanna Bayon Moore as City Administrator and Approving the Employment Agreement Between the City of Piedmont and Rosanna Bayon Moore.” Please see Item 3 of the attached or here – City of piedmont (

She will be paid an annual salary of $275,000 plus any cost-of-living adjustments to lead the 11,270-person city.

After serving as city manager in Brawley, CA for nine years, Bayon Moore was hired by former Antioch City Manager Ron Bernal in September 2020 in what appeared to be part of his succession plan 15 months before his retirement. But instead of promoting her to the position of interim and then permanent city manager, the Antioch council voted 3-2 to hire retired San Francisco Police Lieutenant Con Johnson as interim city manager. They then made his position permanent last fall in a three-year contract.

Bayon Moore speaks during the Piedmont City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023 before the vote. Video screenshot.

During the Piedmont Council meeting and before the vote Bayon Moore said, “Very excited about this opportunity to work with you…to work with amazing and engaged residents and city staff on this next chapter on this journey. Look forward to learning so much more about this amazing place and very, very hopeful and optimistic that I have something to offer you that is going to help us all grow and be stronger together. The best is in the days ahead.”

That was followed by a 5-0 vote of the council.

The Piedmont City staff report on that council’s agenda item reads, “Following a formal recruitment process, Rosanna Bayon Moore was identified by the Council as the candidate most qualified to perform the duties of City Administrator. Ms. Bayon Moore has extensive experience in city government, and currently serves as the Assistant City Manager to the City of Antioch, a role she has held since September of 2020. In this role, she has worked alongside the City Manager to provide fiscal and management oversight to an agency with over 350 full time employees (“FTE”), and a General Fund budget of $85 million. Ms. Bayon Moore directly oversees the Finance, Economic Development, Parks & Recreation and Information Services Departments, as well as provides special support to the recently established Department of Public Safety & Community Resources. Prior to her work in Antioch, Ms. Bayon Moore served as the City Manager to the City of Brawley, California from September 2011 to August of 2020. In that role, she supervised and oversaw all city departments, comprised of 140 FTEs with a General Fund budget of $15 million and overall budget of $48 million. Ms. Bayon Moore received a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Columbia University, and a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, Berkeley.”

Bayon Moore’s employment will begin on April 6, 2023.

She was contacted via email Friday evening, Feb. 17 asking if she had any comments regarding her new position and about her two-plus years with the City of Antioch. Bayon Moore did not respond as of Thursday, Feb. 23.

Questions for Antioch City Manager Go Unanswered

The following questions were sent Friday evening Feb. 17 to Antioch City Manager Con Johnson and all five council members: Do any of you have a comment on the departure by Assistant City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore to become the new Piedmont City Administrator as of their council vote Tuesday, Feb. 21? How long were you aware of her pursuits of the new position and possibility of losing her experience and expertise from the city staff? Is there a plan to hire her replacement? Will that include using an executive search firm for a possible nationwide search? Or do you have someone in mind from the current city staff? Has there been any thought to combining the positions of Assistant City Manager and Economic Development Director as the City previously had?”

Barbanica Calls it a Huge Loss for the City, Wants Nationwide Search for Replacement

“This is a huge loss for the city,” District 2 Councilman Mike Barbanica said when reached for comment. He was the only council member to comment on Bayon Moore’s departure. “It’s Piedmont’s gain but our loss. I’m very sad to see her go. I’ve worked with a lot of city managers and assistant city managers in Pittsburg and here, as well and I can tell you she was a fantastic assistant city manager.”

“One thing I respected about working with her, she’s not intimidated by positions on the council, or the mayor and she’s not afraid to tell any of us ‘no’. She’s willing to stand up for what she believes in and knows to be the best thing for the city.”

Asked how long he knew about this he responded, “About 10 minutes” having first been informed by the media.

Asked if he supported having a nationwide search using a professional recruiting firm for a new assistant city manager Barbanica said, “I absolutely do. I just want the best person for the job.”

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Josh Hill joins BAC Community Bank as Sr. VP

Thursday, December 29th, 2022

Josh Hill

December 29, 2022 – Stockton, Calif – Josh Hill has joined locally-owned BAC Community Bank as Senior Vice President and Retail Banking Officer. Hill is a results-driven financial services professional with more than 28 years of extensive leadership experience.  He has most recently led and grown retail banking teams within the BAC Community Bank footprint and Northern California.

“We are excited to be working with Josh,” said Jackie Verkuyl, Chief Administrative Officer, “the skills and insight he brings complement BAC’s future-focused strategic path.”

Working with other seasoned members of management, Hill is responsible for the overall success of the relationship banker and deposit service specialist teams, as well as leading BAC’s branch operations and ensuring consistent delivery of high-quality customer banking experiences.  He also assists in developing and overseeing retail policies and strategies while working with team members to improve and implement new retail products and services.

Hill holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration – Financial Management and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics.

About BAC Community Bank

BAC Community Bank is California’s 10th oldest state-chartered bank. Established in 1965, BAC operates branch offices throughout San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Contra Costa counties, including a branch in Antioch at 3448 Deer Valley Road, and is identified as “one of the strongest financial institutions in the nation” by BauerFinancial, Inc.

The bank is centrally headquartered in Stockton, California, and is continuously recognized for banking excellence through local awards and banking industry accolades.

BAC Community Bank is an Equal Housing Lender and Equal Opportunity Employer. Member FDIC. More information is available online at

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14 students honor their Antioch voice teacher battling cancer this Christmas with music video

Monday, December 26th, 2022

Source: YouTube video screenshot.

Nuhad Levasseur from her LinkedIn profile.

By Justin Llamas

Our amazing voice teacher, Nuhad Levasseur, is fighting cancer. And we believe she’ll win. This video is dedicated to Nuhad, a woman who has changed us all for the better. Merry Christmas!

In the Light Voice Studio students, in singing order:

Christina Jardine

Lauren Mariscal

David Morgan

Stevie Rae Stephens

Mikayla Thompson

Christian Abrojena

Jessica Montez

Hailey Schneider

Stephen Morgan

Justin Llamas (me)

Marcus Delgado

Ashley Morgan

Ali Travis

Brian Joksch (no solo, seen in second chorus)

Levasseur has owned In The Light Voice Studio since 1992, first in Antioch and now, in Marietta, Georgia where her family moved last year. She previously sang in the choir and performed solos at Golden Hills Community Church in Brentwood.

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Antioch’s Frank Ballesteros performs as Scrooge in Humbug! for over 40 years – begins tonight

Friday, December 16th, 2022

Frank Ballesteros in his Ebenezer Scrooge costume for the Humbug play at the Dec. 13, 2022, Antioch City Council meeting where he was honored. Photo by Allen D. Payton

City council proclaims this week in his honor

By Allen D. Payton

Since 1978, Antioch resident Frank Ballesteros has been performing as the character of Ebenezer Scrooge in and directing “Humbug!”, an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella entitled, “A Christmas Carol”. This year, the performances will be held at 300 G Street in Antioch’s historic, downtown Rivertown beginning tonight, Friday, Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m. and run through Christmas Eve, Saturday, Dec. 24 at 1:00 p.m. Tickets are available at the door for Adults: $10.00, Seniors: $7.00 and Children 7-12: $5.00. (See complete performance schedule, below)

Now called Madd Hatter Players, formerly Antioch Storyland Theater, then Frank Ballesteros Productions and Antioch Children’s Theater, he has been teaching acting skills to children and adults and holding performances of various plays since 1968.

“I’ve always loved the classic movie ‘A Christmas Carol’, the 1954 version,” he said.” We used to watch it every year. Then George C. Scott played the part of Scrooge in the 1980’s adaptation.”

“Then I put in the Christian message. Instead of Scrooge accepting Christmas, in my show, Scrooge accepts Christ, which is the same as the message of Christmas,” Ballesteros shared. “No one has ever been offended in the 40 years, that it’s not the original story. Charles Dickens did that when he had Scrooge say, ‘I want to follow that star to Bethelehem’.”

Throughout the year he and his theater group perform other plays, like a murder mystery earlier this year, and fairy tales. He will be working on Snow White immediately after the holidays.

“I decided to do the children’s theater classics such as Snow White with women in the main role,” Ballesteros explained. “Some of these women are gorgeous. This gives a handsome young man in his 30’s or 40’s to play a prince or a young woman in her 30’s or 40’s to play a princess. They’re not too old.”

“We let the public know that Madd Hatter players presents the plays as age 30+,” he continued. But Humbug! is for all ages with both children and adults.

“The majority of the children in the cast are from Elite Dance Academy in Antioch who play the part of Cratchit’s children,” Ballesteros stated.

On Tuesday night, Dec. 13, the Antioch City Council honored Ballesteros naming this week as “Frank E. Ballesteros ‘Humbug’ Week” in the city. Antioch City Council Frank E Ballesteros Humbug Week Proclamation 12-13-22

In Honor of



December 12-19, 2022

WHEREAS, Frank E. Ballesteros has been providing the opportunity to learn acting skills for hundreds of aspiring children and adults in Antioch for over 40 years;

WHEREAS, Frank has directed and mentored citizens of Antioch and has provided lifelong memories that they continue to remember and share with their families and friends;

WHEREAS, since 1978, he has directed and performed as “Scrooge” in his production of “Humbug” here in the City of Antioch;

WHEREAS, during the Christmas season, Frank E. Ballesteros has brought his production of “Humbug” to Antioch, which illustrates the meaning of Christmas and leaves those in attendance, cheerful and warm-hearted for the entire Season; and

WHEREAS, the 2022 production of “Humbug” will start on December 16th and run through December 24th, performing at 300 G Street in Antioch.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, LAMAR A. THORPE, Mayor of the City of Antioch, do hereby proclaim the week of December 12th to 19th, 2022, as “Frank E. Ballesteros ‘Humbug’ Week”, and encourages its citizens to come out and see the production during this Holiday season.

DECEMBER 13, 2022


For those who would like to be part of one or more of Ballesteros’ plays including the upcoming Snow White play contact him at (925) 966-2724 or by email at

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Antioch heroine Bianca Palomera presented with Key to the City for defending special needs boy

Wednesday, December 14th, 2022

Bianca Palomera is presented with a Key to the City by Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe and councilmembers (L-R) Monica Wilson, Tamisha Torres-Walker, Lori Ogorchock and then-Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica, as well as Antioch School Board Vice President Antonio Hernandez (rear left). Photos by Allen D. Payton

Attacked by patron of fast food restaurant where she worked resulting in blinding her right eye

By Allen D. Payton

Bianca Palomera is presented with a bouquet of flowers by then-Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica.

During a special ceremony Tuesday night, December 13, 2022, Antioch Mayor Lamar Thorpe and councilmembers presented resident Bianca Palomera with a Key to the City, “In recognition of a courageous, selfless and extraordinary act of heroism”. The 19-year-old employee of The Habit Burger in Antioch was punched in the face multiple times after protecting an individual with an intellectual disability from being bullied by another patron. Palomera lost her right eye because of the incident and the suspect was arrested last week on charges of mayhem and aggravated assault. (See related article)

During the ceremony MC’d by Assistant City Manager Rosanna Bayon Moore, Robyn “RBYN” Jackson sang the National Anthem followed by a poem by Jose Cordon who was chosen by Thorpe to be the city’s Poet Laureate. That was followed by welcome remarks by Antioch School Board Vice President Antonio Hernandez.

Palomera was then thanked and presented with certificates of recognition by Be Exceptional, State Senator Steve Glazer and Assemblyman Tim Grayson, Supervisor Federal Glover and We Get it Foundation, which serves neurodivergent individuals and their families. Elizabeth Soleyman LaVasse, CEO and Chair was joined by others from the organization and said, “My team and I stand before you today to commend Bianca in her heroic and selfless efforts to defend a vulnerable, neurodivergent youth. Those efforts impacted the community and I speak for us all when I say that there should be more Biancas in this world.”

Palomera is presented with the Hero of the Year Award for 2022 by representatives of We Get It Foundation.

They then presented Palomera with their Hero of the Year Award for 2022.

Antioch Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Daniel Sohn and Chair Ana Walker presented Palomera with flowers and a certificate of recognition. Sohn announced the Chamber Board approved giving $500 to help with her medical bills and the Chamber Foundation agreed to match that as a donation to the charity of Palomera’s choice.

Antioch Chamber of Commerce Chair Ana Walker and Executive Director Daniel Sohn presented Palomera with flowers and a certificate of recognition.

Several Antioch business owners then presented Palomera with a bouquet and a gift card to Macy’s.

Antioch business owners presented, Bianca with a bouquet and gift card.

During his remarks Thorpe explained the issuing of keys to a city is from the days of medieval walled cities and that this was only the second Key to the City he’s presented as mayor. About the young heroine Thorpe said, “Miss Palomera is the light that shined valiantly.”

He was then joined by his fellow council members to present Palomera with the Key to the City mounted on a plaque which reads, “In Recognition of a Courageous, Selfless and Extraordinary Act of Heroism”. Then-Mayor Pro Tem Mike Barbanica presented her with a bouquet of flowers.

Robyn “RBYN” Jackson sings the National Anthem as the Antioch Police Color Guard look on. Antioch Poet Laureate Jose Cordon speaks his poem as Assistant City Manager Rosana Bayon Moore, the event’s MC, listens. Palomera is presented with a certificate by Assemblyman Grayson’s Field Rep. Theresa Anderson.

An at times emotional Palomera was then given the opportunity to speak to those in attendance thanking them and all those “who have reached out” supported her since the incident. She was given two long rounds of applause. Thorpe then recognized her parents and family who were in attendance for the ceremony.

Antioch Police Sgt. Matt Koch (left) and Detective John Cox with Palomera and Mayor Thorpe.

The mayor also thanked and presented certificates of recognition to Antioch Police Sgt. Matt Koch, Detective John Cox and Lt. John Fortner, who was out of town, for their efforts identifying the suspect and solving the crime.

“Antioch has a very high clearance rate for homicides and other violent crimes,” Thorpe pointed out.

A crowd, including city staff leaders, gathered in the City Hall breezeway to witness the Key to the City ceremony.

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