This week I covered a lot of road again, visiting Banning, San Jacinto, Hemet and Murrieta.
I saw the Dorothy Ramon Learning Center in Banning for the first time. The center is dedicated to maintaining and sharing the cultures, languages, history and traditional arts of the American Indian nations of Southern California.
I met founder and president Ernest Siva (Cahuilla/Serrano), who is busy, busy planning for an expansion of the center into the old downtown Post Office building next door that was recently purchased. He also plans to expand into two adjacent lots on the other side of the building, with an ethnobotanical garden.
I also saw the Western Science Center in Hemet for the first time, where I learned a brand new charter middle school, Western Center Academy, is halfway through it's first year at the center.
Western Science Center houses a museum with a focus on paleontology, archeology, culture and earth science history, as well as research labs and a curation facility. Nearly 1 million specimens, artifacts and documentation are housed at the center.
Principal Paul Bailey was going through a shipment of 100 new iPads when I arrived Wednesday. He said by next semester they hoped to have enough for the entire student body.
Another stop this week was the Golden Era Golf Course in San Jacinto where I met volunteer Keith Lundy. For the last several years he has organized a free golf clinic for disabled veterans. After running into some budget problems with the VA hospital, he expanded the program to mentally and physically challenged adults with the Exceed program. This year's clinic began last month and Lundy has 12 students training for a tournament in June.
Lundy is a retired non-combat Army veteran who simply saw a TV blurb on a similar program in the Long Beach area and decided he could do something similar in San Jacinto. So he did.
My last stop of the week was at Oak Grove Center in Murrieta, a non-public school that works with students who are at-risk and have emotional and learning disabilities. About a year and a half ago, the school began a new autism program and now the Perris campus is adding a new class because the response has been so great.
The Murrieta campus has two low-functioning autism classes that house students aged 8 to 15, as well as a high-functioning class that does vocational training. The Perris campus class will have a combination.
On Thursday I met with the Teacher Cheryl Monahan, and Counselor Pam Shey for a tour of one of the classrooms. It was amazing. The kids learn sensory lessons, manners, sing songs, do writing activities, computer lab, etc. Each student has a picture schedule customized to their ability. The schedule may have cartoon pictures, photos or written words.
This week sounded a little tough since the students just returned from winter break, but everyone was in good spirits.