New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter - Edition 35 - Section 1

April 2, 2006

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Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos - More photos are in Section 2

Dr. Uvaldo

with Dr. Palomares


Paul Albert

Jeanne and Paul


Overfelt Park - An East
San Jose Jewel


Digging a big
hole at Calvary

Our Lady
of La Vang

This is where
she will be


“Are there any scholar-
ships for girls?”


Dr. Emiro Burbano


Snorkeling in
Alum Rock Park

 Dennis Nahat


Presentation High School's
Scholarship Fashion Show


Al Gonzales


East Valley




Lily Tenes
wins award

Newsletter Headlines

bulletARUESD’s New Spirit of Openness Solicits Community’s Input for Superintendent Search
bulletNotable Neighbor: San Jose High-Tech Pioneer Paul Albert by Peter Albert
bulletOverfelt Gardens and Chinese Cultural Garden - McKee Road Marvel by Sylvia Lowe
bulletStability in Alum Rock Continues - Teachers Ratify New Contract Settlement from ARUESD
bulletPresident of Teachers’ Union Responds by Leti Gutierrez
bulletNew Construction at Calvary Cemetery – A home for Our Lady of La Vang
bulletIt takes a Village to Educate a Teenager - “Scholarships for girls?” by Enrique Flores
bulletSupervisor McHugh Completes 30 Years of Public Service
bulletProfile: Emiro Burbano, MD, Elected RMC Chief of Staff by Victoria Emmons
bulletNNV Briefs
bulletFrom Birding to Snorkeling - Snorkeling in Alum Rock Park? by Richard Brown
bulletCounty Is Drafting Ordinance for “Historic Preservation” - Could your house qualify?
bulletDennis Nahat Awarded Artist Fellowship Grant
bullet"Ready, Set, Play" - Children's Faire Celebrates "Month of the Young Child"
bulletPresentation High School’s 40th Annual Scholarship Benefit Fashion Show 2006
bulletChildren's Book Sale at Cruz/Alum Rock Library by Joyce Baker
bulletTalented Stanford Grad Now “Communicating” for ARUESD
bulletSome Ideas for Secure Mailboxes from Hillcrest Neighborhood Watch Members
bulletNeighbor Kate Gates Runs for Toddler Liver Transplant Recipient
bulletLike to Paint? Sculpt? Want to Hobnob With Eastside Artists? by Sally Holt
bulletSanta Clara County FireSafe Council Revs Up Wildfire Prevention Program
bulletStarry Safari in Alum Rock Park - Telescope viewing for the whole family
bulletPoetry Event - Haiku in the Teahouse by Alum Rock Park Ranger Roger Abe
bulletNeighborhood Newsmaker: Mama Maniac receives Freedom Fighter Award by Darlene Tenes
bulletAfter Rafiki's - Help us get Peet's Coffee here! by Kirsten Nelson
bulletMad March Weather Brings Out NNV Photographers - Snow, sleet, hail, rain
bulletConference on Nonviolence - Hear Arun Gandhi speak – be a builder of peace
bulletEast Side Music Students to Perform in City Hall Rotunda!
bulletRead Across America Redux – Mathson Honored - Renaissance Tech Show Wows!
bulletWelcome to Alum Rock’s Newest Spiritual Resource - Logos Christian Fellowship Church
bulletYou Dig It?
bulletApril Hot Topics by UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Bracey Tiede
bulletIn Praise of Ribes - Currants and gooseberries add color by Arvind Kumar
bulletSpring Native Plant Sale - Don’t miss it this time! by Arvind Kumar
bulletRomeo and Juliet – A performance worthy of every superlative! by Nella Henninger
bulletFAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
bulletAre the rumors true that Thai White Rock Café is going to become a Mexican restaurant?
bulletIs it true that menu prices at TWRC all went up in March?
bulletHow can we be sure that the Village doesn’t lose its very best restaurant (TWRC)?
bulletDid NNV hear from readers commenting on the February Mt Hamilton Road pedestrian death?
bulletWhat is the final story for Rafiki’s Coffee Hut?
bulletWas the new Café.com at the library a factor in Rafiki’s closing?
bulletWhat will go into the empty Rafiki’s shop?
bulletDoes the Redevelopment Agency help keep rents reasonable and appropriate to a neighborhood?

Other Sections:  Letters to the Editor  Deer Resistant Plants  Community Bulletin Board  NNV Archives

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ARUESD’s New Spirit of Openness Solicits Community’s Input

Criteria for superintendent search developed

The Alum Rock School Board knuckled under and buckled down after a good dose of input (and a certain amount of scolding) convinced them they have a responsibility to allow “community stakeholders” a voice in the Superintendent of Schools search process.

Originally a board majority of three had decided they could handle the selection of the new superintendent “in house.” An oft-repeated rumor throughout Alum Rock was that the board had actually already chosen a longtime district employee for the position without any community dialogue.

At a specially called board meeting, on Monday, March 6th, a vocal contingent of community leaders and school district employees changed the minds (and hearts?) of that majority. The result was a series of five meetings during which members of the community could meet with a district consultant, Dr. Uvaldo Palomares, to cite the characteristics they thought the district should be looking for in its next leader.

NNV attended the first of these meetings which was held at Joseph George Middle School on Monday evening, March 13th. Only about a dozen people arrived to take seats in a small corner of the room leaving perhaps a hundred folding chairs yawning emptily. Dr. Palomares, who has conducted superintendent searches and workshops for the district in the past, had no trouble scaling down what had apparently been expected to be a big event on Mahoney Drive.

Perhaps because this meeting was the first one Dr. Palomares led, the discussion wasn’t as focused on superintendent characteristics as much as what the Alum Rock community (or at least this little handful) would like to see in the schools. For instance, they said they would like to see more electives offered, “small schools” and charter schools encouraged, more “choices,” more discipline and respect, and the long-gone annual district- wide music festival restored. These noble thoughts were morphed into statements such as: [A good superintendent] “should support more electives,” “… should support small schools,” “… should support discipline,” etc. Not exactly parameters for the attributes a district needs to consider when selecting the person for such a paramount position.

In truth, some specifics did emerge. This small group decided that the new superintendent should not be “tainted” by the district, that he/she should be “someone fresh” and yet that he/she should be familiar with the district and able to “continue the momentum.” One attendee said that any candidate must be someone who would be willing to give commitment and support for every child regardless of socio-economic status. The new superintendent should have good communication skills and be able to work well with board and staff “without alienating either.” The person needs to be “qualified,” “committed” and have “depth of experience.” One attendee thought the new superintendent needs to be someone who is “good with different cultures.” One thought that a good question to ask would be “What is your vision and how will you arrive at it?”

Dr. Palomares’ right-hand man, ARUESD’s Ricardo Medina, synopsized the suggestions and wrote them on a large easel tablet. Forty-five minutes into the meeting, he had two sheets full of ideas. And, also, forty-five minutes into the meeting, your editor’s glass tailbone could stand no more of the metal chair and she left as unobtrusively as anyone in a front row seat can do, stopping only to snap a photo on the way out.

None of the rest of the “input meetings” drew SRO crowds, but a significant number of interested folks made their opinions known. The collected suggestions were tallied and listed in order from most-often-mentioned down to least-often-mentioned traits the community deems essential in the next leader of our large, needy district.

On Friday, March 24th, a special board meeting featuring a session open for public comment was held in the district board room. Perhaps twenty folks from the community and ARUESD attended. None of them cared to address the board before its five members sat down to hear Dr. Palomares’ summation of the 350 responses he had gathered. The board listened politely and respectfully as the consultant explained how he winnowed the responses down to fifty-nine items each capturing as many sub-items as possible.

These items were compared to the board’s own list of suggested superintendent traits – and some new concepts coming from the community were added. The newly emerging ideas included “commitment,” “vision,” “rainmaker” and “equity.” Dr. Palomares blithely lumped “integrity” with “interpersonal skills” which NNV deemed quite a stretch, but the board members seemed not to object. Apparently “untainted” and “someone fresh” were rarely heard concepts which didn’t make Dr. Palomares’ cut.

The meeting was posted for a 5:00 PM start, but the members of the board did not take their seats in the board room until 6:00. Unfortunately, this disrespect for the people who attend board meetings happens routinely. By 7:30, when the meeting should have been winding down, the board and Dr. Palomares were just hammering out the wording of the superintendent job description. NNV left them happily discussing the format and must suppose that the rest of the meeting went swimmingly and amicably. The community got their chance to voice their opinions, the board seemed to listen. It is hoped that this exercise in democracy will mean that the board will choose the best possible candidate – one who closely resembles the community’s ideal – or will start the search process anew.

Click here for photos from the Special Board Meetings.

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Notable Neighbor: San Jose High-Tech Pioneer and Community Pillar Paul Albert

80th birthday tribute from an admiring son

By Peter Albert

My father brought his family to San Jose in 1971 when IBM transferred him from Vermont. Dad is a sort of mad scientist, and he holds many patents from his days at Westinghouse and later at IBM, where he earned international respect for his research work. He retired from IBM in 1981 and since then he has been the owner and director of ACI Alloys, a small, privately-owned firm that specializes in manufacturing high-conductivity storage disks from special blends of metal alloys. My mother does the books and shipping, my brother Larry does the marketing and my brother Charles shares the title with Dad as "Brains Behind the Operation." ACI Alloys is a true family-owned business, high-tech style - an only-in-Silicon-Valley success story. (Check out the website ... not bad for an 80-yr-old, eh?)

What makes this story more impressive is Dad's own story. He was born on April 14, 1926, in Van Buren, Maine (on the Canadian border, where French is the mother tongue), to Dr. Armand Albert and Marie Lussier-Albert, both of Quebec. After learning English, graduating from high school and serving in the US Army, Dad went on to earn his PhD in metallurgy at NYU, where he met my mother Jeanne Kachmar, who was a researcher for Time Magazine. They married in 1955, and left Manhattan for Pittsburgh, where Dad took a job at Westinghouse.

Dad and Mom have raised eight children in San Jose - all of us attended James Lick High School. By the time we came to San Jose, we had already lived in Pittsburgh, Westchester, New York, and Underhill, Vermont - lending credence to the joke that IBM stands for "I've Been Moved!" Inspired by this exposure to different cities, states and schools, and by the example of our parents, we children now include a tenured math professor, a VP broker/investor, two company managers of marketing, a City Planner, an ESL teacher, a police officer, and a PhD physicist.

Dad loves San Jose and he successfully refused further attempts by IBM to transfer him to facilities needing his research in places like Minnesota and Colorado. He had been an avid golfer at the San Jose Country Club until only recently (as some readers may know!), and a fresh-water and deep-sea fisherman. His luck catching salmon and flounder on any fishing trip is exceeded in repute only by his generosity in sharing his catches with the less-able fisherman on the boat once Dad has reached the individual limit.

In San Jose, Dad made his imprint not only with his work at ACI Alloys and IBM, but also with the values he instilled in his children. All of us were raised with the notion that education is paramount, and that being book-smart isn't enough. He and Mom nurtured in us a love for math, science, music, art, sports, literature, the French language and the environment - plus a mild tolerance for Dad's puns. His adoration of babies and grandchildren is unparalleled. All six of his own sons and both daughters were expected to know their way around diapers, feedings and children's games. He supported my mother when she was on the Alum Rock Elementary School District Board, and in her work with the East Side Union High School District. He himself has served on the Board of the Youth Science Institute in Alum Rock Park.

Dad has always stood for preserving the natural environment for the enjoyment of future generations while advancing the rarefied field of high technology.

Click here for a few photos.

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Overfelt Gardens and Chinese Cultural Garden

McKee Road’s Marvel of Grand Monuments, sylvan paths

Stroll in breathtaking beauty and serenity

By Sylvia Lowe

NNV Note: We don’t know why we had never discovered the wonders of Overfelt Gardens during the seventeen years we’ve lived in San Jose. Somehow we would drive past the green park on our way to the airport and think, “We really ought to go in there someday – just to see what’s there.” We surely would have made a point to visit sooner if we had any inkling of the scope of the park, not to mention its superb Chinese elements. We had the good fortune to visit China twenty years ago, and can tell readers that stepping into Overfelt Gardens is rather like a trip across the Pacific to a magic China where one can pluck just the stunning, must-see edifices out of the landscape and savor them leisurely. Without having to procure a passport, pack a bag, or take a grueling flight. To put it mildly, the experience left us awe-struck and we recommend highly that everyone visit this McKee Road jewel. The following article is the first in what will become, of necessity, a series of stories about the park. There’s more there to explore and share than we could ever fit into one edition of NNV!

In 1959, Mildred Overfelt bequeathed 33 acres to the City of San Jose for a unique kind of park - an oasis of solitude and beauty in the middle of a very busy world. If you visit the park, you will experience that peace and quiet I’m talking about. The park has sprawling lawns and a great tree canopy with paths that meander through the park for stunning views. Come to Overfelt Gardens and you leave city life outside the gates.

The nature elements are lakes that double as percolation ponds that recharge underground water aquifers, and a wild area (1.6 acres) that serves as home to native wildlife and plant life, particularly wetlands for migratory birds and water fowl including Great Blue Herons, Egrets, Cormorants, Canada Geese, Mallards, some domestic geese, a couple of teenage Red Tail Hawks and in the past, a Golden Eagle. Overfelt Gardens differs from conventional parks in the lack of organized field games or playgrounds.

Millie Overfelt was serious in her bequest that this park was to be a public space for quiet thinking with its themes of nature, culture and educational experiences that work toward the betterment of our natural and man-made world. It is no surprise, then, that the old Overfelt Farm became home to Independence High School, the Planetarium, Eastside Union Adult Education Facilities, a San José Library branch and Overfelt Gardens including the 6-acre Chinese Cultural Garden.

In 1969, Frank and Pauline Lowe picked September 28 for Santa Clara County’s first Teachers’ Day. That was Confucius’ birthday and old China’s traditional day for recognizing teachers. Because of this, in 1973, the Lowes received a call requesting an address where a statue of Confucius could be sent, and thus began an odyssey that would bring structures and artifacts to San Jose over a period of 15 years. In 1987 the Chinese Cultural Garden, as we know it today, was complete.

The elements of the garden were installed in the following years:

  1. 1974 - Confucius
  2. 1977 - The Friendship Gate
  3. 1980 - The Massive 15 ton rough hewn stone
  4. 1984 - The Sun Yat Sen Hall
  5. 1984 - Chiang Kai Shek Pavilion
  6. 1986 - The Plum Pavilion

Frank passed away in 1989, but Pauline, now 80, continues to give tours of the Chinese Cultural Garden every Saturday and Sunday plus special tours for school children during the week. Pauline participates in nearly all Overfelt Gardens community programs and is THE major supporter of its youth leadership programs that produce the following programs:

  1. Ongoing - Overfelt Gardens tours and educational programming and outreach
  2. April - Eggstravaganza (EK Library)
  3. April 30 - Opera in the Park
  4. May 7 - an afternoon of 2000 years of Chinese Poetry
  5. May 30 - a Poetry Contest for K-5
  6. September 17 - Chinese Moon Festival
  7. October - Halloween Campfire (EK Library)

These events are presented in partnership with the City of San José’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, the Independence Planetarium, EK Branch of San Jose Library and the following service organizations: CSF, National Honor Society, Interact, Chinese Club, Key Club and Asian Society from Independence, Piedmont Hills, Evergreen Valley and Bellarmine High Schools, and funded in part by a grant from Arts Council Silicon Valley.

Overfelt Gardens' Opera in the Park – Opera Sings Broadway
Coming up later this month is the 3rd Annual Opera in the Park – Opera Sings Broadway and other tunes on Sunday, April 30. There will be a youth program at 2:30 p.m. and the concert from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. The admission is free and so is the parking in the main parking lot located on Educational Park Drive at Schulte Drive.

Join us for an exciting afternoon of Broadway songs and popular tunes reminiscent of the good old days featuring San Francisco Opera’s mezzo-soprano, Zheng Cao and special guests.

Bring a hat and sunblock. Have a picnic. Bring a lawn chair or sit under the trees. Then relax and get ready to experience the music.

VIP seating and an up-close musical experience is available for a $25 tax-deductible donation. Contact or call (408) 258-3231 for information.

Poetry Reading by Tony Barnstone
On Sunday, May 7, there will be a poetry reading at the Gardens beginning at 3:00 PM. Join Tony Barnstone at the Chinese Cultural Garden for an enjoyable and very interesting afternoon of classical and contemporary Chinese poetry and current works.

Tony Barnstone, a widely recognized poet and translator, is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing and English at Whittier College. He has published numerous books of poetry, fiction, essays and translations.

Music will be provided by Youth Cellist Orchestra, directed by Zhenlun Li.

Admission and parking are free. Overfelt Gardens’ main parking lot is located off McKee Road on Educational Park Drive at Schulte Drive.

These events are presented by the Institute of Sino-American Studies, Chinese Moon Festival Committee, the City of San Jose’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services, and are made possible by the support of Mrs. Pauline Lowe and funded in part by a grant from Arts Council Silicon Valley.

Click here for photos from the park.

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1 (888) RMC-8881 (English or Spanish) or 1 (888) RMC-8811 (Vietnamese).


Stability in Alum Rock Continues

Teachers Ratify New Contract Settlement


The teachers of Alum Rock Union Elementary School District ratified a new three year contract through the 2007-2008 school year. Classified district employees represented by the California School Employees Association (CSEA) and the Teamsters Union have already ratified their contract through 2007-2008. The tremendous effort of union and district leadership leaves Alum Rock in position to continue its progress and improvement with student achievement. The concerted efforts of the Alum Rock Educators’ Association (AREA), CSEA, Teamsters Union, and school district officials brought all unit negotiations to a close faster than in previous years. The new settlement recognizes the value of the teachers and their certificated and classified colleagues.

The settlement includes significant upgrades in the employee benefits package. All bargaining units receive a 2% salary increase which is retroactive to July 1, 2005. In addition, the package includes cutting employee benefits contribution amounts to approximately one half of the premiums they were paying under the previous contract.

The new contract was ratified by the teachers on February 8 and approved by the board of trustees on February 9, 2006. The spirit and cooperation of all bargaining units and the clear focus on workplace stability is another sign of district progress. At a time when other Bay Area school districts are in contract negotiations, Alum Rock continues to move forward toward improving academic achievement with high standards and highly qualified personnel.

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President of Teachers’ Union Responds

Here’s how ARUESD benefits compare with others in our area

High percentage of benefit costs paid by teachers puts AR at “bottom of the barrel”

By Leti Gutierrez, President, Alum Rock Educators Association

Here is some data on how Alum Rock compares with other districts (especially since the district claims that the settlement includes significant upgrades).

Our surrounding districts (ESUHSD, San Jose Unified and Evergreen) get fully paid medical benefits. Berryessa has a district cap of $12,144 and Franklin McKinley's members pay the Kaiser rate for their benefits. That puts Alum Rock at the bottom of the barrel as far as having to pay high rates for our benefits even with this new contract. If you are a new teacher shopping for a district, paying such a high rate for benefits might discourage you from applying.

As far as salary goes, we rate 19th among the thirty districts in the county. We are not the highest nor are we the lowest, but we are certainly one of the districts which consistently has a huge number of internal problems and which enforces the most rigid curriculum in our elementary schools. Here is how we compare with other districts in our area:

Berryessa's highest salary is $80,335 - starting is $42,320
East Side’s highest is $91,476 - starting is $45,025
Evergreen’s highest is $84,910 - starting is $45,506
Franklin McKinley’s is $75,963 - starting is $41,498

Alum Rock’s top salary is $80,104 and starting salary is $42,813 making us competitive but not at the top.

This is how we compare in our salary increase for 05-06:

East Side got a Cola minus 2% salary raise
Berryessa got 2.1%
Evergreen got 3%
(Franklin McKinley is still negotiating)

It is interesting that the district says we settled this contract in no time at all when, in reality, it took us over a year to come to an agreement. I believe that the district would have dragged out negotiations even longer if we had not agreed with the mediator to come to a compromise. This is evidenced by the fact that the district took over two years to settle the CSEA contract.

In addition, the district says that they recognize the value of the teachers but yet they maintain a high percentage of their reserve, the highest number of administrators, and pay the highest percentage on administrative salaries in the whole county. We all get the message the district is sending. Investing in teachers is not a high priority. The district recognizes the importance of recruiting highly qualified teachers, but has lost direction on how to keep them.

The one thing that does ring loud and clear in their press release is the fact that academic achievement has improved and that teachers continue to move forward with high standards. It is teachers who are the heart of this district. They keep the blood flowing and ensure a healthy approach towards maintaining stability. The Alum Rock Educators Association looks forward to negotiating again next spring to bring the district back to being comparable and competitive with our neighboring districts.

"We don't need perfect political systems, we need perfect participation" ~ Cesar Chavez

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New Construction at Calvary Cemetery – What IS that, anyway?

Digging a hole to China?

Nope! How about a home for Our Lady of La Vang?

Readers have been asking just what in heaven’s name is going on at Calvary Cemetery. Scores of truckloads of soil have been hauled away from the southwest corner. Even so, there are still huge mounds of earth piled up around enormous excavations. There are bulldozers shaping the mud just so. Many readers supposed that a foundation for a large edifice was being created. But, no … it’s something much more interesting!

Besides the machinery and the piles of earth, there are 250 new concrete vaults piled up among the old graves nearby. Pardon the pun, but these vaults are a dead giveaway!

Two hundred and fifty fresh gravesites are being prepared – the first phase of an eventual eight hundred possible burial spaces in a newly created burial section. Cemetery general manager, Carlos Rascon, says that many folks have phoned to make sure that the Garden of Angels children’s section has not been disturbed. From Alum Rock Avenue, it’s hard to tell just exactly where the newly excavated section begins and the existing cemetery ends. A close look will reassure concerned neighbors that all the new digging is going on in an area which has never had graves before. As a matter of fact, it’s in an area that used to be home to … a home.

The above-mentioned vaults are being lowered into the excavated areas and set two deep to match the style of the rest of the cemetery. If one looks carefully, the depth of the dug-up area looks much deeper than necessary for two vaults to be placed one on top of the other. That’s where the mountains of soil come in. The law requires that there be 18” to 20” of soil on top of the vaults. Just as soon as they’re all in place – and ready to receive caskets – the soil will be spread out over them and sod will be installed.

The new section will be watched over by a lovely white figure of “Our Lady of La Vang,” the patron saint of the Vietnamese community. The area is being created to meet the needs of local Vietnamese Catholics. Many of Calvary’s various sections don’t have a singular character, but there are some definite trends. Portuguese families tend to be buried close to one another and there’s an area where one sees many Irish family names together. This Vietnamese-themed section will be the first to reflect an Asian culture. Does one need to be Vietnamese to be buried in this area? Nope; one simply needs to be Catholic (and deceased).

The preferences of Vietnamese San Joseans were taken into account when the section was designed. All of the headstones will be of the upright style - as opposed to the low “flush” markers which can be seen in other sections of the old cemetery. They will all be the same height, set back-to-back on concrete foundation strips.

Sleek and slender, Our Lady will grace a pedestal within a small wooden structure which will also house a 4’ high wall of niches for cremated remains. Vietnamese Catholics deeply revere Our Lady of La Vang, which is the major national shrine of Vietnam. La Vang refers to a type of fern which grew lushly in the jungles of the central part of the country. During a period of great persecution around 1800, many Christians were in hiding, sick and starving, when, surrounded by lights, an apparition of a lady appeared to them presenting herself as the Mother of God. She told the people to use the fern leaves to treat their illnesses. She promised to receive their prayers and reappeared at the same site several times more. Carlos says that he would have La Vang planted nearby, but unfortunately this jungle plant won’t survive here.

Some of the plots in the Our Lady of La Vang section have already been sold. The installation could be finished next month and the area should all look finished (and beautiful) by mid-August.

At Calvary’s northwest corner another large building project is underway. This boxy edifice will be a large above-ground mausoleum dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima, the Portuguese patron saint. It will look very similar to the existing six-crypt tall mausoleum in front of it, but it will be seven crypts high so that the roof lines will be at the same height even though the buildings are on different grade levels - a strange requirement imposed by the city. There will be room for more than eight hundred caskets within it. More such large mausoleums are on the drawing board for Calvary. It’s a very in place to be.

Click here for photos.

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“It takes a Village to Educate a Teenager”

“Are there any scholarships for girls?” asked Ana

Yes, if the community helps!

By Enrique Flores

If you asked an 8th grade teenager, “What do you wish to have the next four years while in high school?” most teenagers might answer; “Money!” Yes. But for what? Some may say, “for my dream car!” or “to shop at the mall for the latest designer clothes!” or “to buy the latest iPod or camera phone!”

Ana Plascencia and Alma Acosta are two 8th grade teenagers who would love to have the same things mentioned above as well. But, to the surprise of many, Ana and Alma have answered the question very differently. When I asked Ana and Alma the question: “What do you wish for, as you look at the next four years of high school?” their answer is so simple, yet so profound. Ana and Alma both have a wish above all other wishes. And they are asking me and you to please make this wish come true. What do these two 8th grade girls dare to ask of you and me? Their answer: “Please Prepare Me for College.”

I asked Alma Acosta about the first time she learned about the East Side Heroes Scholarship. Alma said her 8th grade teacher brought in information about college scholarships to teach them that college is attainable even though they come from a low income background. Alma said when she read about the annual East Side Heroes Scholarship, she exclaimed to her friends: “Look! Look! – a scholarship for 8th graders like me!”

Last summer I met Ana Plascencia hanging out with a group of her friends during a Summer School enrichment program which I coordinate each summer. I soon learned that this group of teenagers were actually a young Mariachi Band! Ana approached me and asked, “Are there any scholarships for girls?”

I asked her, “What type of grades do you have?” Ana responded confidently, “All A’s and B’s.” I proceeded to explain to Ana that every year my friends and I try to raise scholarship money for an 8th grade student to be able to afford the private high school of their choice, but that it’s very difficult to do that. Ana became so excited at that slight possibility that she turned in six amazing essays, each essay two full pages in length. The following are excerpts from Ana’s essays: “…one of the most difficult experiences I have faced since I was little has been the situation with my dad. It has been difficult to know that I have someone missing in my life and in my heart … I do not know the love of a dad or the hug of one … Even though it hurts that my dad is missing from my life, this has allowed me to appreciate my mom so much more. My mom would work two jobs. My mom has been a mom and dad to me and has done so much for me, I love her.”

Ana is currently an 8th grade student at LeyVa Middle School in East San Jose, consistently earning between a 3.6 and 4.0 GPA. Ana is a talented Mariachi violinist and singer. She enjoys volunteering her time tutoring and coaching children to sing and play musical instruments. Ana aspires to attend Archbishop Mitty High School and be the first in her family to graduate from college and become an attorney at law.

When Alma Acosta first emailed me last summer, I soon learned that she was determined to attend Notre Dame (a private, all-girl College Prep High School). Alma is an 8th grade student at Morrill Middle School in East San Jose and has consistently earned a 4.0 GPA. She is a member of City Year, Project CornerStone, and the MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement) program.

Alma enjoys video production and serving as a peer mediator and peer tutor. She aspires to become the first person in her family to graduate from college and is determined to become a U.S. Senator.

In her essays, Alma writes: “I still remember the day my grandpa picked up my sisters and me from school … We soon discovered our mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. We were all crying and thinking the worst. I remember asking myself each night how I would ever live without my mom … Fortunately, my mom survived cancer after long hours of chemotherapy and operations.”

Alma later writes about her goals: “I hope to become an excellent role model for women everywhere…I also hope to help raise money for students like me looking for a chance to attend a private school. Having an adopted little brother (who lost both parents) made me realize how much happiness I can bring to other children. I plan to adopt a child and help the next generation of Heroes!”

To help create these two East Side Heroes Scholarships, please mail your donation to:
East Side Heroes
PO Box 1164
Santa Clara, CA 95052

“To the world, you may be only one person. But, to one person – you may be the world”

To learn more about East Side Heroes Non-Profit (Tax ID #76-0774783) or to RSVP for the 3rd Annual East Side Heroes Scholarship Fundraiser Dinner date, please contact Enrique S. Flores at: or call: (408) 515-6544.

East Side Heroes Board of Directors:
1.) Father Greg Boyle, S.J., (Founder of “Jobs Not Jails” in East Los Angeles)
2.) Enrique S. Flores (Bellarmine and SCU grad, Founder of East Side Heroes)
3.) James Barbic (Founder of Lincoln Law Center and Accountant)
4.) Dr. Harold Hoyle (SCU Psychology Professor)
5.) Alfonso Rodriguez (San Jose Police Department 15 years)
6.) Brian Hennessy (Attorney at Law, Bellarmine and SCU grad)

Click here for photos of Ana and Alma.

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Supervisor McHugh Completes 30 Years of Public Service

NNV Note: Our community has been very fortunate to have Pete McHugh as our District 3 Supervisor. He has proved himself to be truly responsive and diligent in meeting the needs of his East Foothills constituents. Congratulations, Pete!

This spring marks Supervisor Pete McHugh’s thirtieth anniversary in public office and in service to the residents of Santa Clara County. His civic career began in 1976 as a Council Member for the City of Milpitas, where he later became the first elected Mayor in 1978. He served Milpitas until his election to the Board of Supervisors in 1996. His long-time commitment to the public and many accomplishments over the past three decades deserve both commendation and appreciation. Click here for a list of his policy initiatives and priorities, as well as major achievements since becoming an elected public official.

“I am honored to have served the residents of Santa Clara County for three decades and would gratefully and enthusiastically welcome the opportunity to serve for many more,” said Supervisor McHugh. “My hope is that my public efforts have contributed to improving the quality of life for all residents in this diverse community.”

Throughout Pete McHugh’s thirty years of service, he has remained deeply committed to the following goals: encouraging ethnically diverse involvement and representation in all aspects of government, protecting animals, and supporting veterans and seniors. He has also demonstrated strong fiscal responsibility through his leadership as Chair of the Board of Supervisors’ Finance and Government Operations Committee.

Pete McHugh is now serving in his third and last term as the Supervisor for District Three, which includes the cities of Milpitas, Sunnyvale, and the areas of Alviso, Berryessa, East Foothills and Evergreen in San Jose. His term is scheduled to end in 2008.

Click on these links for a few photos of Supervisor McHugh published in NNV: State of the County Address, Miguelita Creek Bridge Opening Ceremony, Province of Florence Dinner.

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Click here for Section 2 of the April 2006 Newsletter

(This newsletter is in two sections to reduce the download time for this page)

--------------------------- Contact and Subscription Information ---------------------------------
Copyright© 2006 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127 
Phone: (408) 272-7008, E-mail: Fax: (408) 272-4040 
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Copyright© 2006 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 4/1/06.

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