The Technology of Teen Life

By Ronvel Sharper and Brianna Ferrel

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Editor’s Note: More than 90% of teens ages 13 -17 report going online daily via smart phones, with about one in four online “almost constantly”, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. Results also show more frequent use among African-American and Hispanic youth than whites. While girls dominate social media, boys are more likely to play video games. Richmond Pulse asked two local teenagers to share the roles that their phones and social media play in their lives.

Social media and technology has had a large impact on today’s society, with new ways to contact people and send or receive information. Social media — such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Kik, and other apps and websites — has attracted many teenagers, me included. It reminds me of my first experiences with technology.

I was about 3 years old and lived in an apartment in Richmond. My father bought me a Nintendo 64 for my birthday with a game called “Glover”. I had no idea what this was, but it was colorful and I loved controlling the cute little namesake character. I never beat the game, but Glover has always been in my heart, because he started my gaming “career” (yes, let’s call it that).

Then in 2006, at 7 years old in elementary school, I heard of a website called “Facebook”. I made a Facebook page on my parents’ computer, but it was boring. I thought it was a videogame!
So I stuck with my trusty gaming consoles for a long while, until 2010. I was in sixth grade, and 12 years old. People had started having these phones, like my mother — but I thought they were useless, so I never planned on having one. Finally, though, I got one for Christmas. It wasn’t a smart phone, but I didn’t mind, so I started showing it off. Everyone laughed at me. But hey, I didn’t care, it was still a phone!

Things went smoothly until eighth grade and the 2012-2013 school year. I had become popular, and I got a smart phone so I could always be with my friends, even at home. A red Samsung! I made another Facebook page, and soon added all my new friends. It became a lot more fun, commenting on people’s posts and letting them know of my achievements. It made me feel as if I knew the world! Things couldn’t get better, right?

Now it’s the 2014-2015 school year. Last year, thanks to a phone call from a friend, I met my girlfriend. We’re really happy together, we text every day, and my parents are sometimes calling me out about it!
-Ronvel Sharper, age 16

I access social media on my phone, along with my iPad and iPod. I go on social sites every day in my free time. I love being around and talking to people. I don’t think I’d be able to live without my phone — I’m always on it because I keep in contact with people I’m close to. I’m a social butterfly, and it’s a big part of my life.

Social media means a lot to me. I like to show others my accomplishments, and things I like to do or eat. It’s interesting, and when I’m having a bad day it helps me through. Sometimes it’s uplifting, because I see motivational posts that make me want to go for my dreams.

It’s also a way to show your personality. It lets me give others a little peek into my life, and I get a peek into theirs. Their personalities show in the type of things they post and the way they talk on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other social sites.

Social media also helps you meet people around the world, of different races, cultures and business backgrounds. It can help you meet people to further your career, or to find others who share your interests in the same hobbies and career fields.

I always hear from adults that teenagers need to stay off social media and our electronics. They tell us it’s not good for us, that a lot of negativity comes from it. They’d like to see us focus more on schoolwork than these social sites. They say that social media sites bring a lot of drama to the lives of young people, that it’s corrupting our lives. But there are a lot of good things about meeting people on social media.
-Brianna Ferrell, age 16

Richmond’s Native American Health Center Hosts Children’s Mental Health Day

by Malcolm Marshall

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More than 15 years after a landmark Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health brought attention to mental illness as an “urgent health concern,” many youth and adults with mental illness are still not getting the treatment they need.

To begin tackling this issue, and expand awareness of mental health issues, the Native American Health Center in Richmond hosted its third annual Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 8. This year’s free community event featured guest speakers and youth workshops aimed at developing a community definition of mental health.

“I looked up the definition of mental health, because I didn’t know it,” said Michael Dyer, program manager at the health center, as he welcomed youth and families to the event. “It said ‘a state of well-being’. It’s very vague and you don’t quite get the meaning from that. We can define mental health together.”

The lack of a working definition means youth aren’t always able to identify their problem, Dyer said, so they don’t seek treatment.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 20 percent of youth ages 13-18 live with a mental health condition nationwide. In California the children with the highest rates of serious mental illness include Latinos, African Americans and Native Americans, according to a 2013 study by the California HealthCare Foundation.

The Native American Health Center serves Native American youth and adults, offering crisis prevention and early intervention services like support groups and counseling. It’s also a cultural hub for Native Americans, where people can learn about their culture through traditional art and music classes.

“When we were asking the youth [what mental health meant], during the planning stages for this event, no one knew what it meant,” said Dyer. “The one person that did raise their hand to answer said, ‘mental health is when you go crazy.'”

As part of the day’s activities, the center’s media team set up a video booth to interview people about their own personal definition of mental health. In another room, the center asked people to write on a wall what mental health meant to them.

Some of the phrases written were, “loving yourself and others,” “friends and family,” “listening to your body and heart,” “being positive,” and “keeping your mind fit.”

The center’s event was part of a national movement to increase awareness of mental health issues. This year marked the 10th anniversary of a national awareness day, meant to raise awareness of mental health in children and advocate for comprehensive care.

Newly appointed Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek Murthy, told the Washington Post that he believes in improving public health by creating a prevention-based society. And, he said he has included emotional and mental well being in his top four rules for health.

In Richmond, Dyer said he hoped to also highlight the things that go into having a strong mental state.

“We want to show the community that it’s ok to reach out,” he said. “Being able to check in with yourself, and acknowledge that you’re sad or depressed and that you need a support system.”

 

 

Cinco de Mayo Festival, Better than Imagined

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Photo Essay, Josue Hernandez

Each year thousands of people come out for one of Richmond’s biggest events, the annual Cinco de Mayo Festival organized by the 23rd Street Merchants Association. This year it was held on May 2, and for the first time I decided to see what all the hype was about.

The free, all day celebration of Mexican culture included exhibits, live music, dancing, food and fun for the kids with jumpers and slides.

After years of not attending, I went this year to work with my mom, Gloria Hernandez, selling food at the event. My Mom has always been a good cook and last year she started her own business, Gloria’s Tacos, catering weddings and parties.

My sister, Karina Hernandez, and I took orders as Mom made traditional Mexican fare —tortas, tacos, aguas frescas and more.

Once there, I was surprised by how many people families attended and I wondered why I didn’t come every year. I thought it was going to be people drinking, being obnoxious and not celebrating in a respectable way, but it was not like that and it blew me away.

The vibe was energetic with something happening at every spot along two miles of 23rd Street between Clinton Avenue and Rheem Avenue. Seeing the traditional native dancers perform the dances that my ancestors did while chanting in old native languages made me feel connected to my Mexican roots. Vaqueros atop horses also danced around, performing and low riders showed off their classic cars.

Mexican flags waved in the wind around the festival and people sold handmade, traditional goods from Mexico. My grandmother also had her own booth, selling Mexican ponchos and folklórico dresses.

After such a good time this year, I’m ready for the next one.

What Are Students Eating? A Teen Research Team Looks To Find Out

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By Chanelle Ignant

A team of high school students from across the West Contra Costa Unified School District is asking: “What are we eating?”

Teens from the nonprofit group YES Nature To Neighborhoods have conducted a research project into the nutrition of meals served in the district’s 11 high schools.

Gustavo Chavez, a sophomore at De Anza High School and member of the organization’s “youth engagement team”, said many of his peers don’t prefer the school meals, a view that inspired the eight-student team to get involved.

“A lot of people really dislike them, so we tried to figure out what’s inside of them and how can we change them to make them better,” said Chavez.

According to Chavez, this push to improve lunches reflects the connection between nutrition and academic performance.

“We want better quality school lunches, so that kids aren’t going through their day without nutrition, so that they can perform better,” he said.

According to Director of Food Services, Barbara Jellison, over 3.3 million lunches were served to students throughout WCCUSD during the 2013-2014 school year. With an impact this great, the Richmond Food Policy Council — which works to ensure that the local food system reflects the needs of the community — described the district’s cafeteria system as “the biggest restaurant in the county”.

Students, however, say the restaurant doesn’t please its patrons.

Most kids don’t eat school lunches,” said Gillian Linsy, a senior at Pinole Valley High School and fellow member of the Youth Participatory Action Research project, an annual program at YES that focuses on wellness in the Richmond community. “They would rather bring something from home or not eat at all.”

The project intends to address this disconnect.

“The ultimate goal is to raise awareness and put pressure on the administration to continue to work towards healthy lunch for all the students,” said Adam Smith, assistant youth coordinator for the team.

For their research, students used pictures of lunches to create a photo-voice presentation. They also interviewed Jellison, as well as cafeteria staff throughout the district about the process of making lunches.

The students, however, said the staff couldn’t answer some of their questions.

“Sometimes they wouldn’t even know,” said Chavez. “Not even the cafeteria members know how the food is made.”

The students also researched the nutrition of the food served each week — and discovered that they couldn’t find the information online.

Likewise, the district’s limited financial resources surprised researchers the most. According to their findings, schools have $3 per student for a lunch — but half of that goes to labor.

“Only about $1.50 for students, just to eat a full lunch,” Chavez said. “That’s their main meal [for the day].”

Team members continue to compile their findings, and plan to share them with the local food council as part of its campaign for healthy school food.

This year’s research project joins a similar student project last year by the Urban Nutrition Initiative, the youth leadership arm of the Bay Area Resource Center. Those students, mostly from Gompers Continuation High School, also investigated the district’s school lunch quality, interviewing their peers about cafeteria food.

Claire Zurlo, youth coordinator at the resource center, said last year’s project gave students the opportunity to reach out beyond their small campus.

“It was helpful for them to do something that impacted the rest of the district,” she said.

Linsy confirmed that students are happy to make a difference.

“I think that just getting our voices heard is big, and hopefully [we’re] making a change,” she said.

Documentary About Young Richmond Poets Premieres at El Cerrito High

Story and Video • Ann Bassette

Hundreds of people filled the El Cerrito High School theater on April 29 to watch the world premiere of the film “Romeo is Bleeding,” a candid and revealing documentary following the lives of a group of young, spoken word artists — known as Richmond Artists with Talent, or just RAW Talent.

Led by first time director Jason Zeldes, this deeply researched and eloquently edited film, includes multiple views and stories to give outsiders an accurate illustration of life in Richmond, California.

The film focuses on Donté Clark, 25, during 2012 and 2013 as he and the RAW Talent team wrote, rehearsed and performed his first play, “Te’s Harmony.” The play is a modern day remix of Shakespeare’s classic “Romeo and Juliet.” It’s loosely based on Clark’s own life growing up in North Richmond, and focuses on the feuds between the neighborhoods in Richmond and how they affect the lives of the people who live there.

But more than capturing the artistic process, the documentary examines the intersection of life and art in a city plagued with street turmoil.

“‘Romeo Is Bleeding’ explores the roots of violence in Richmond,” said Molly Raynor, RAW Talent’s co-founder and Arts Program Coordinator, “and documents the efforts of young artists to heal themselves and their community through spoken word poetry and theater.”

The documentary shows what it’s like to live in Clark’s world as he makes his first attempt at playwriting. We see Clark as humble, analytical, honest and funny. Interviews with Clark’s older brothers give insight into what the streets of North Richmond looked like during the height of feuding. It also shows the pain and turmoil Clark went through as he grieved the loss of a friend and a RAW Talent co-founding member, 19-year-old Dimarea Young, who was shot and killed in front of his father and brother in the spring of 2013.

“I feel like in Richmond, California we have two sides who are at odds,” Clark said, describing the parallels between the city he knows and “Romeo and Juliet.” “But the thing is, it’s not two separate families. We’re all family, and we are intermixing, and we’re having young children who have to straddle the fence on my daddy is from this side and my mom’s from that side — but both of my cousins are killing each other. So, what we try to do is just take that story and show you that this is a family. It’s not a gang. It’s not individuals just out here doing wild things. It’s people who are hurt.”

“What surprised me was exactly what Donté says in the film, art imitates life,” Raynor said. “During the year we were creating a film aimed at eradicating violence in Richmond, four young men Donté knew were shot and killed.”

“While the film initially was going to focus in more on the actual nuts and bolts of putting on ‘Te’s Harmony,’ the violence itself shifted the course of the film,” she added. “Life influenced art.”

Inside the theater, the diverse crowd reacted with laughter and finger snaps throughout the premier, and applauded as the end credits rolled. A question and answer segment featuring the director and cast followed, explaining how the film is meant to serve as a healing tools for the cast and the community.

RAW Talent began as a school-based spoken word group but has gone on to create stage productions and a documentary film. “Romeo is Bleeding” is part of this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival. It will be showing next at 2:00 p.m. on May 3 at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley.

Art Center Event Turns Trash Into Treasure

Story and Photos • Sonya Mann

Richmond Art Center Upcycle 4-24-2015 best shots (4)Is one person’s garbage another person’s art?

You could find the answer at the Richmond Art Center’s Upcycle event April 25, in which local artists — rather than recycling trash — focused on upgrading throwaway materials into new and beautiful creations.

Volunteers at the event, now in its third year, staffed arts-and-crafts stations where they encouraged more than 300 attendees to fold-form copper pendants, make wild paper hats or crowns, paint old vinyl records, decorate a sidewalk trash can with pottery shards, weave rugs out of rags, turn T-shirts into quilts, and more.
“The idea behind Upcycle is using recycled material to create original works of art,” said Richard Ambrose, executive director of the art center. Free and kid-friendly, Upcycle hosted activities appropriate for various ages. Parents and children milled around, moving back and forth from outdoor tables to indoor workshops at the event.

“It’s an opportunity for parents to do interactive activities with their kids,” Ambrose said.

Local artist Bre Gipson staffed one of the outdoor stations that specialized in assemblage — a three-dimensional form of collage. She displayed her fantastical, ocean-evoking sculptures, fashioned from industrial foam, plastic, and miscellaneous doodads, as examples of the Upcycle ethos: using trash headed for a landfill to create something new and exciting, whether practical or simply visually pleasing.

Gipson’s sculptures demonstrated the joy of the form; bright, shimmery colors and knobby bumps that appealed to curious fingers. She encouraged participants to touch her creations, and children working at her table were quick to take advantage of the opportunity — a significant departure from the museum rules that they might have encountered at a less interactive event.

Inside the building, artist Ed Lay instructed the copper jewelry workshop. Lee Micheaux and her fourth-grade daughter Mariella used popsicle sticks to work the thin metal into leaf-shaped pendants.

“The volunteers are so wonderful — they work so hard,” said Micheaux, who had attended every annual Upcycle event since the first in 2013. She praised the consistent creativity of the art center’s activities — echoing the sentiment of many other parents, who said they were excited to have their kids taught how a little effort and enthusiasm can give easily discarded material a second life.

Richmond Art Center Upcycle 4-24-2015 best shots (5)According to its website, the Richmond Art Center aims to “deliver exciting arts experiences to young and old alike who reflect the diverse richness of our community.”

 

 

 

 

 

Students Weigh In On School Spending Priorities

Compiled By David Meza

At a recent town hall meeting, West Contra Costa Unified School District students had the chance to give their direct input into how educational money should be spent for the upcoming 2015-2016 school year.

The April 16 meeting at Helms Middle School in San Pablo, also gave students information about the Local Control Funding Formula, the new state law put into effect in 2013 that dramatically reformed the way California funds its schools — focusing on high-need students, such as those from low incomes, English learners and foster youth.

As part of the new law, school districts must develop a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), which requires school districts to engage parents and students before finalizing plans for spending priorities.

Richmond Pulse asked students at the town hall about the needs of their schools and how they would like to see money spent. Students said they want more engagement with their schools and more effective ways of learning.

 

DSC_0004“I think the money should go towards training for teachers. Teachers have their credentials, but professional development can teach them how to teach their students better.”

Darell Waters, 17, Gompers High School

 

DSC_0005“I’m a community person, so I think that we need to mix the community and school together. I want to see programs and clubs that get funding so students can go out and volunteer and represent our school and our district.”

Francisco Ortiz, 17, Kennedy High School

 

DSC_0024“I definitely think the money should go towards the academies. They help students prepare for careers they want to seek in the future. They are trying to close the ROTC academy, so I’m working with some students to make sure it stays open.”

Dayjah Burton, 16, DeAnza High School

 

DSC_0007“A lot of the money should go to more clubs and after-school activities that would get us interested [in] getting work done but having fun at the same time. Something like combining sports and a science project. I know my generation is lazy, so I feel if we use social media, or technology, and tie it into our schoolwork, that would help us concentrate more.”

Isaiah Noel Johnson, 16, Gompers High School

 

DSC_0012“For my school, I think books and after-school activities like clubs. For example [in] my chemistry class, we never have enough books for everyone. After school, I think we have an extra credit program, but I think more things to do after school would be good for us.”

– Ashley Raylene Samano, 17, Gompers High School

 

Helping Foster Care Youth Succeed

By Malcolm Marshall and Dameion King | Photo, Dameion King

In California tens of thousands of children are part of the foster care system, and according to experts those who “age out” face an uphill struggle into adulthood. Without financial support or assistance from family many of these young adults fail quickly.

According to a study on youth who age out of foster care, more than one in five will become homeless, less than 60 percent will graduate high school by age 19 and within two years of leaving foster care 25 percent will be involved in the justice system.

Amongst these stark numbers, officials from Contra Costa County, Alameda County and Solano County came together in March at Richmond’s Lovonya DeJean Middle School for a roundtable discussion with former foster youth from around the Bay Area to discuss how experiences in foster care shape individuals and to talk about how policy makers can help young people in foster care.

As part of the “2015 Road to Your Future Foster Youth Conference,” held on March 21, Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus moderated the roundtable. Many of the former foster youth attributed part of their success to the California Fostering Connections to Success Act, Assembly Bill 12, which they said helped them transition into adulthood.

AB 12 was implemented in January 2012 and among other changes, it extended support to foster youth up until age 21 to help them transition into adulthood.

Sherion Arnold, a panelist, said that many of the programs and opportunities presented by AB12, including the extended age limit, taught her how to “live independently,” and inspired her to become a advocate for other foster youth.

Along with Magnus, the roundtable included Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, Solano County Supervisor Erin Hannigan and members of Richmond Mayor Tom Butt’s office.

This year, the conference was expanded to include Alameda and Solano counties because youth from Richmond often end up in these surrounding areas.

“A lot of our youth are placed in other families,” said Michelle Denise Milan, a crime prevention manager for the Richmond Police Department and member the conference planning committee. “They may have started out in Richmond but they ended up in Solano or Alameda County. It’s a very close-knit, connected community so we felt it was important to reach out to the other counties in partnership.”

According to the most recent numbers available from kidsdata.org, in 2013 there were 1,164 children in foster care in Contra Costa County, 1,614 in Alameda and 446 in Solano County. These numbers have decreased over the last decade but it’s still a lot of kids to serve.

“One of the things that the youth said when they told their stories was how hard it is to find someone that’s going to be with them through the long haul, who can walk them through the whole process,” Milan said. “You go from system, to another system, to another system trying to look for that stability in your life.”

The conference also featured workshops focused on the challenges that foster and transitioning youth face such as homelessness, employment skills, planning for college, money management and health.

There were also workshops that focused on life skills, relationship and dating, music and fitness courses and haircuts and personal styling.

“This is a day about finding resources and letting them know they can have a road map to their future,” Milan said.

Malcolm Penton, 32, a former foster youth who now works as an advocate with California Youth Connection, took part in the panels and said that in addition to housing, having people to depend on for guidance and advice is a big challenge facing foster youth.

“We really talked a lot about those pivotal moments and how we sort of made changes in our lives,” he said. “The difference for me, and I think for some of the others that didn’t have the same outcome that I had, was that there were certain people there in my life in those moments.”

Over 130 youth attended the third annual conference, which was hosted by the Richmond Police Department Youth Services Division in partnership with Contra Costa County Health and Human Services Department, Foster a Dream, a organization that provides resources to Bay Area foster youth, Contra Costa County Independent Living Skills Program, an organization that helps foster youth prepare for adulthood and the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

Six Months Later, Family of ‘Pedie’ Calling for Officer to Be Charged

News Report, Edgardo Cervano-Soto

The family of 24-year-old Richard Perez III marked the six-month anniversary of his death with a protest March 17 at a Richmond City Council meeting, demanding that prosecutors charge the police officer who shot him, despite a conclusion by the District Attorney’s office that the officer had acted in self-defense.

Perez, better known as “Pedie,” died Sept. 14, 2014 in an altercation with Richmond police officer Wallace Jensen, who shot him three times during a fight at Uncle Sam’s Liquors on Cutting Boulevard after what the officer described as Perez’s attempt to take the gun from his belt. Perez had been intoxicated, and according to investigators had told family members he expected to be killed by police by the age of 25.

But Perez’s family said that focusing on such statements amounted to an attempt to discredit their loved one and to divert attention from what they say were the officer’s lack of training and mistakes made during the fatal events.

“We don’t approve of their police brutality, we don’t appreciate their lies, we don’t appreciate their lack of training, their lack of accountability, and their lack of transparency,” said Perez’s father Rick, at an hour-long rally after the council meeting. “They sit there at the table and yet they hide so much, [and] they misrepresent the rest of it… it’s not right for them to do that, but they get away with what they want.”

A canine patrol officer with seven years on the force, Jensen said he had patrolled the liquor store even though it wasn’t on his beat because it had repeated issues with loitering. He said he entered the store when called out by a store clerk. Jensen testified he attempted to detain Perez for public intoxication — and that when Perez resisted, his calls for backup never went through. According to Richmond Confidential’s report of the inquest, Jensen’s calls for support never went through because he had mistakenly set his police radio to a private channel.

IMG_7184Perez’s grandmother Patricia, who picketed the plaza outside the council chambers with other family members and supporters, wore a black T-shirt with her grandson’s picture on it. “He deserves to be in jail,” she said. “He murdered Pedie, plain and simple. There is no way to explain it.”

A coroner’s Dec. 10 inquest to determine the manner and mode of Perez’s death took testimony from homicide detective Hector Esparza, president of the local police union, along with Contra Costa County District Attorney investigator Jeff Soler, who had interviewed Jensen after the shooting, and from Jensen himself. The prosecutor’s office in January declined to file charges against Jensen, who had re-entered the police force in early October after a two-week paid administrative leave.

“It is not possible to prove Officer Jensen did not act in self-defense,” Deputy District Attorney Barry Groves wrote in a letter to Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus. “The facts and circumstances indicate that the officer acted in lawful self-defense.”

At the protest rally, however, Perez’s family criticized the inquest for excluding eye-witness accounts. Furthermore, according to the Huffington Post, the inquest didn’t feature any video footage from a witness’s cell phone camera.

Rhonda Reeder-Perez, Perez’s aunt, also criticized Jensen’s lack of preparation and crisis training. “As a canine handler, wouldn’t it be your first nature to push that button on your lapel to let your dog out if you are in fear of your life?”

“But he didn’t do that,” Reeder-Perez said. “He just stepped back and blew my nephew away.”

Kris Kelly, sister of Mario Romero, a 23 year old Vallejo resident killed by Vallejo Police in September 2012, spoke at the rally in solidarity with the Perez family.

Kris Kelly, sister of Mario Romero, a 23 year old Vallejo resident killed by Vallejo Police in September 2012, spoke at the rally in solidarity with the Perez family.

Roberta Shriver, a family friend, spoke during the public-comment portion of the council meeting, and urged council members to take action.

“Something could get a white, conservative, FOX [News]-watching woman off her couch, and that’s when a friend of her son is killed,” Shriver said. “Pedie and his family are precious to us. I was also married 19 years to a police officer, have a degree in criminal justice and worked for the LAPD, so I know about the brotherhood of the badge. I sat in that coroner’s inquest and I listened to every detail.

“At several points that officer could have used non-lethal force, and chose not to,” she said. “It’s up to you to do the right thing.”

The Perez family has hired civil rights attorney John Burris and has filed suit against Jensen and the city, arguing excessive force and violation of civil rights. Police Chief Chris Magnus, in an emailed statement to Richmond Pulse, reiterated the District Attorney’s conclusion that Jensen had acted in self-defense.

“We realize the Perez family has experienced a huge loss and appreciate that Pedie’s death was incredibly tragic to those close to him,” wrote Magnus. “In fairness, however, I need to remind our community that following a lengthy and thorough investigation into this incident, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office determined that the officer acted in self-defense and that the shooting was justified.

“It is understandable that Pedie’s family and friends are unable to accept this finding,” he continued. “We support the family’s right to pursue their case through the civil court process and believe a courtroom is the appropriate venue to reach a just resolution to this matter.”

Farewell, Ferrari: A Star Falls At Richmond High

By Joanna Pulido

It was a chilly night in February at the North Coast Section Division II boys soccer championship, and there was Richmond High School computer graphics and animation teacher Mario Ferrari, cheering the home team loudly, clenching the rails of the stands and pacing back and forth with nerves and adrenaline.

His enthusiasm was magnetic. As he jumped up and down, his eyes glowed with excitement. “I was there at the last NCS game they won in 1994,” he said. “I still remember!”

News of his sudden death in his sleep earlier on March 9 has left many at the school contemplating their own memories of him. This was the same man introduced to me five years ago, when I attended Richmond High. I first met him during a reading period, but it was when he attended a couple of my track meets and practiced with me a few times that we became friends. His high energy, optimism and creativity were things that made me happy to be around.

“He had an aura and energy that always impacted people,” said his sister Elena Evans, alternately laughing and crying as she remembered him. “I think he got that from our mother, because I sure don’t have it.”

IMG_6276While attending his memorial ceremony on March 15, it became clear how much Ferrari affected me and many others. He was a colorful character — spontaneous, youthful, noble, artistic and perhaps sometimes goofy. This reminded people to live life with great excitement, full-on force, strong emotion, curiosity and passion.

Of Italian descent but raised in England, he moved to the United States in 1972 as a teenager, Evans said. While here, he attended Contra Costa College before transferring to the University of California at Berkeley, where he obtained his undergraduate degree and two masters degrees in art and printmaking. He began teaching at Richmond in 1993 and never left.

“He spent half his life here,” said John Ohlmann, a fellow teacher in the Multimedia Department at Richmond. “He evolved and grew with the school through the rough times and the better times. He really loved his kids and always advocated for them to have the most current equipment, and he always wanted them to learn the skills that would help them in employment… I can’t see how anyone can replace him.”

IMG_6280When news of his death first reached the school, students gathered to create a large memorial outside his classroom, making drawings, writing letters and bringing flowers and pictures. Some constructed a huge poster that described him as majestic, friendly, energetic, remarkable and intelligent. Among the tributes: a drawing of the boys soccer team with a trophy and the words, “we won NCS for you”.

Both students and teachers continue to deal with their shock and sadness as his absence becomes more real.

“He was part of the Richmond High culture,” said school Principal Jose DeLeon. “It’s really sad.”

Jamey Jenna, another teacher at Richmond, described him as a person who never really had anything bad to say about anyone.

“He was a fun person that never stopped enjoying his job, he never got angry and continued his art life his whole life,” she said.

Ohlmann elaborated on Ferrari’s creativity, which didn’t stop with the visual arts.

“He was a painter, a drummer and a DJ for parties,” Olhmann said. “He would exhibit his art and was once a part of a punk band. We would have long conversations about music… he was always of high interest and new ideas, of how to make things better.”

My own favorite memory of Ferrari comes from 2010, when the school held a fundraising event in which teachers would get hit in the face with cream pies for money. My best friend and fellow Richmond alumni Liliana Ontiveros paid $25 to pie him, but Ferrari was the last teacher to get pied and looked a bit nervous. Ontiveros smashed the first one onto his face, and after three more he became unrecognizable, his face covered in whip cream. But, through that, you could still see a huge smile as he gave a thumbs-up.

“That’s what I remember most about him,” said Ontiveros. “That he had a great sense of humor, and even though he sometimes got upset he would quickly be happy again.”

In my high school yearbook, Ferrari described me as a star in the school universe. But, as I talked to the students and staff at Richmond High, I realized more how he was the star of the school’s universe, and whom many of us will forever remember, miss, appreciate and admire.


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