Three Ventura County Schools Named 2018 California Distinguished Schools


Three Ventura County elementary schools are being honored as 2018 California Distinguished Schools by the California Department of Education. Schools that applied were eligible based on their performance and progress on the state indicators as described on the California School Dashboard. Indicators include test scores, suspension rates and English learner progress.

The local schools being honored are:

  • Sycamore Canyon (Conejo Valley Unified School District)
  • Walnut Canyon Elementary (Moorpark Unified School District)
  • Oak Hills Elementary (Oak Park Unified School District)

Additionally, Oak Park Unified School District is one of just 22 in the state to be named an Exemplary District for making positive impacts on student outcomes. The district and the Distinguished Schools will be honored in May during a ceremony at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. The complete list of the honorees is available here.

About the Ventura County Office of Education

The Ventura County Office of Education provides a broad array of fiscal, training and technology support services to local school districts, helping to maintain and improve lifelong educational opportunities for children, educators and community members. VCOE also operates schools that serve students with severe disabilities and behavioral issues, provides career education courses, and coordinates countywide academic competitions including Mock Trial and the Ventura County Science Fair. Learn more at:

2015 Fit 4 The Cause Miracle of Movement Gala on September 19th Was a Smashing Success

Fit 4 The Cause, a local non-profit that combines social media-fueled flash mobs with fitness education and philanthropic giving, received its 501(c)(3) status a year ago just 90 days after filing with the IRS. 

Founded by PR expert and ACE certified Fitness Pro Cindy Rakowitz, Fit 4 The Cause continued pushing the limits over the last 12 months, culminating in a packed house at the its inaugural Miracle of Movement Gala at the Sheraton Agoura Hills.

Cindy Rakowitz along with "The Duo" - Honoree Sourena Vasseghi and Chris Stevenson

Cindy Rakowitz along with "The Duo" - Honoree Sourena Vasseghi and Chris Stevenson

What a great event!  Led by Fox Sport Radio talk show host Tomm Looney, this gala was entertaining and inspirational.

The theme of the night was "Smashing Obstacles." Honorees celebrated for smashing personal obstacles were Lisa Roub, who received the 2015 Advocacy Award and Sourena Vasseghi, recipient of the 2015 Inspiration Award.

Roub learned in April 2014 that she had breast cancer at the age of 40. After much research she opted to have a bilateral mastectomy. After the surgery, she was told that the cancer spread to her lymph nodes and would necessitate four rounds of chemotherapy. The thought of losing her hair was now a concern. But she discovered a new treatment, Penguin Cold Caps, that prevents hair loss by freezing the scalp to 40 degrees below zero on chemo days, protecting the follicles and minimizing hair loss. Roub has been cancer-free for nearly a year. She was honored for sharing her experiences with others in need of support and advice. 

Miracle of Movement Gala Honorees, Sourena Vasseghi and Lisa Roub

Miracle of Movement Gala Honorees, Sourena Vasseghi and Lisa Roub

Vasseghi is an award-winning author and inspirational speaker who suffers from severe cerebral palsy. Although he has limited motor skills and a significant speech impediment, he is an award-winning author and inspirational speaker. But since he can't really speak to an audience, he has partnered with "interpreter" Chris Stevenson of Stevenson Fitness in Oak Park. The duo had us both laughing and crying as they took us through some of the challenges Vasseghi faces in life and how we all can learn from them. Vasseghi is an Agoura Hills resident and is married with two kids. You have to meet this guy. Learn more at

We also enjoyed a conversation with NFL linebacker Brady Poppinga at the Gala. Poppinga shared thoughts on commitment and returning from injury over the course of his career. After playing at BYU, he was drafted in 2005 by the Green Bay Packers, where he played six years, then the St. Louis Rams and Dallas Cowboys. 

Two thumbs up to all of the great sponsors for this event that made it happen, with a shout-out to Champion Level sponsors Edison International, Humana/Brian Sullivan and the Law Offices of Friedman & Bartoumian.

The team from Champion Level sponsor, Law Offices of Friedman & Bartoumian 

The team from Champion Level sponsor, Law Offices of Friedman & Bartoumian 

CSU Channel Islands Graduate Gary Cushing to Receive Distinguished Alumnus Award

A Camarillo civic and business leader who earned his college degree at 55 will once again don a cap and gown at the CSU Channel Islands (CI) commencement ceremony.

On May 16, Camarillo Chamber of Commerce CEO and CI graduate Gary Cushing, now 60, will accept CI's Distinguished Alumnus Award for his success and generosity in a number of different arenas.

"Gary is the definition of the CI Way," said Tania Garcia, Director of Development, Alumni Relations. "He gives back to the community on a regular basis. He is on so many different boards I can't even name them all. He is the community go-to guy because everyone knows they can trust him, and no matter how busy he is, he gets the job done."

CI gives the award to an alumnus who has had success in his or her career field, is active in the community and contributes time, talent and other resources back to CI.

Cushing says receiving this award is "very special" to him, adding that he does all he can to promote CI because he believes it provides an opportunity for a higher education for a population that wouldn't otherwise be able to pursue a degree.

Cushing offers himself as a perfect example.

His life was going well at age 52. He had worked his way up through the restaurant ranks—starting as a teen busboy in Burbank—to become the owner of three Marie Callender's restaurants in Ventura County and one in Santa Barbara. He still owns the restaurant in Camarillo, which opened in 1989.

He had a wonderful wife, eight children and 13 grandchil

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UCAAN Founder Rachel Shur Receives National Gold Presidential Service Award

Local resident Rachel Shur was recently presented with the National Gold Presidential Volunteer Service Award from the Corporation for National and Community Service by Senior Chaplain Dan Regan, United States Chaplain Service. He also presented her with a signed letter from President Obama and a Gold Presidential Volunteer Service Award Pin.

Shur is a two time cancer warrior who beat terminal leukemia in 2006 and again in 2007. She is the founder of the United Cancer Advocacy Action Network (UCAAN), a 501(c)3 all volunteer run organization in Thousand Oaks.

Over the past five years, Shur has dedicated her time and energy into UCAAN and the people it serves: 2,575 cancer warriors, patients, survivors and their families have been helped by UCAAN and its team of dedicated volunteers.

Before Shur founded UCAAN, she volunteered her time to help other organizations and shared her cancer story at health fairs, local high schools and colleges. Eventually, it wasn’t enough for Shur and she saw what really needed to be her focus, the start of an organization unlike any other, a one-stop resource organization that would help cancer patients locally and nationwide.

UCAAN continues to grow as Rachel tirelessly does all that she can to help those struggling in our communities and beyond to find the help they need when they need it. UCAAN’s focus is “Finding Solutions for Cancer Patients in Need Locally & Nationwide.”  UCAAN has an extensive database of over 1,800 organizations nationwide that offer an array of support for those affected by cancer. UCAAN also has a personal fundraising program, in addition to two local financial assistance programs: Gas Cards to local patients to help them get to their treatment appointments, and fluoride trays to prevent dental deterioration caused by most cancer treatments. Additional services are planned for the future.

UCAAN helps anyone, any age with any form of cancer, nationwide. To find out more information about UCAAN or to make a donation visit or contact the UCAAN office at 805-796-6090. To speak with Rachel Shur directly, call 805-479-1032 or email her at

The President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation (the Council) was established in 2003 to recognize the valuable contributions volunteers are making in our communities and encourage more people to serve. The Council created the President’s Volunteer Service Award program as a way to thank and honor Americans who, by their demonstrated commitment and example, inspire others to engage in volunteer service. The program continues as an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Ventura County Sheriff's 2014 "Dispatcher of the Year" Award Recipients Announced

Ventura County Sheriff’s Technical Communications Specialists Gloria Nieves and Jeff Mercer have been selected as the 2014 “Dispatcher of the Year” award co-recipients. They will be honored at the annual Dispatcher Awards Banquet in Ventura on April 10, 2014. Gloria and Jeff were selected by their peers and supervisors to receive this award, which is presented to the outstanding dispatcher for their exemplary work and contributions to public safety and the residents of Ventura County.

Gloria Nieves has been an employee with the Sheriff’s Office for over 35 years and Jeff Mercer has been with the department for over 29 years. During their time with the Sheriff’s Office, both Gloria and Jeff have become accomplished dispatchers and have established themselves as consummate team players. In addition to challenging and rapidly evolving situations in their primary assignments, they are also trainers for newly hired dispatchers.

Sheriff dispatchers answer, assess, and refer 9-1-1 calls, as well as business calls that come into the Sheriff’s Office. They are responsible for dispatching and coordinating patrol responses to calls for service and, at times, responsible for up to 70 patrol deputies in the field in Sheriff’s jurisdictions throughout Ventura County.

Dispatchers are among the first responders to emergency incidents and are often described as calm, professional, and proficient. Peers have noted that Gloria and Jeff are highly skilled due to their established experience and their outstanding critical communication skills. They are both exceptional in their everyday duties and play a big role in bringing substantial patrol incidents to safe and positive outcomes.

Congratulations to Gloria Nieves and Jeff Mercer as co-recipients of the 2014 Sheriff’s “Dispatcher of the Year” award.

Source: Ventura County Sheriff's Office via Nixle at

Conejo Recreation and Park District is Finalist in National Gold Medal Program

Conejo Recreation and Park District chosen as a finalist for prestigious National Gold Medal Award


The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) has selected the Conejo Recreation and Park District as a finalist in its 2012 Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management.  The District is one of four finalists in the population category of 100,000 – 250,000 people. Other finalists in this category include: The City of Round Rock (TX) Parks and Recreation Department; Rockford (IL) Park District; and South Suburban Park and Recreation District, Centennial, CO.  

NRPA’s Gold Medal program honors agencies throughout the United States which demonstrate excellence in parks and recreation through long-range planning, resource management, environmental stewardship, professional development, program development, and agency recognition.   Chosen for their considerable knowledge and experience in parks and recreation on both local and national levels, a panel of five park and recreation professionals from throughout the country review and judge the comprehensive applications. 

Jim Friedl, General Manager of the Conejo Recreation and Park District said, “To be selected as a Gold Medal finalist is recognition on a national level that we share a place with the best recreation and park agencies in the nation.  We are fortunate to have a solid board, great staff, supportive and active residents, and outstanding community partnerships.” 

The next step in the National Gold Medal process is submission of a brief video highlighting the District’s achievements and commitment to community service in the region.  Grand Plaque Award-winning agencies will be announced at the 2012 NRPA conference, held in October in Anaheim.

For further information about CRPD’s selection as a National Gold Medal finalist, please contact the District at (805) 495-6471.

Every Now and Then Theater Wins 2011 International Communicator Gold Award


Every Now and Then Theatre's 20th year anniversary radio drama, Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story, has won a 2011 International Communicator Gold Award for audio excellence. 

To highlight their 20th year, the troupe brought back the talents of previous celebrity hosts Tim Conway, Jamie Farr, Cheryl Ladd and Charlene Tilton to co-host.  The show aired several times in 2009 on both KVTA and KKZZ.  In 2010, the production won an International Davey Silver Award and an International OMNI Silver Award, both for radio entertainment.

According to Communicator Awards spokesperson Linda Day, the Communicator Awards is the largest and most competitive awards program honoring creative excellence for communications professionals.  Entries are judged and overseen by a Who's Who of acclaimed media, advertising, and marketing firms.

"In the years we've produced the Dickens' classic, we've chosen to present it as the ghost story he intended it to be," said Producer and co-Director James Wortman from Ventura.  "Thi

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California Health & Longevity Institute Shares Ten Easy Ways to Improve Your Diet

Nutrition Director of California Health & Longevity Institute at Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village Offers 10 Ways to Improve Your Diet (March is National Nutrition Month)

In honor of National Nutrition Month in March, Paulette Lambert, RD, CDE and director of nutrition at California Health & Longevity Institute located within Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, offers 10 easy ways individuals can improve their diet for optimum health.    “These simple strategies can promote weight control, optimum nutrition intake, longevity and even reduce our impact on the environment,” said Ms. Lambert, a registered dietitian and certified diabetic educator.  

Her recommendations include:

1. Eat 7-10 servings of fruit and vegetables daily.  Two cups of cooked vegetables, two cups salad (excluding iceberg lettuce) and two to three pieces of fruit ensure adequate antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber to lower risk for chronic disease.

2. Consume less animal protein.  Too much causes increased risk for CHD and cancer.  Limit to 9-10 oz. per day for men, 6-8 oz. per day for women and children.

3. Limit sugary “treats” to one to two per week.  

4. Avoid all sugar drinks including juices.  Limit calories in drinks to no more than 10 calories/8 oz.

5. Eat evenly throughout the day to avoid a high glycemic overload.  Three meals and one or two snacks are adequate for most of us.

6. Decrease condiments to one or two tablespoons to lower sodium intake, thereby reducing the risk for hypertension.   Even those with low blood pressure now should keep this in mind as it increases with age.  Studies show a high the sodium intake in younger years increases risk for hypertension at earlier ages.

7. Focus on real, whole food -- the less processed the better.  Look for foods with few ingredients.  For example, choose a cereal that has two to five ingredients, not 25!

8. Eat vegetarian protein three to five times per week to lower risk for chronic disease as well as reducing the impact of a high protein diet on the environment.

9. Spend food dollars on quality meats and poultry, not quantity. Cleaner, sustainable meats cost more, but are healthier for both you and the environment sure and the environment

10. Buy organic dairy when possible to avoid antibiotics and hormones that are added to factory livestock production.

To help guests and local residents learn out to these strategies into action, California Health & Longevity Institute offers the Wellness Kitchen hands-on cooking class and dining experience taught by registered dietitian-chefs.    In March, Wellness Kitchen class themes include “Family Meals in Minutes” and “Simple Healthy Cooking” where guests learn to make recipes such as Southwest turkey chilli and curried butternut squash and lentil.  Wellness Kitchen special events include “Meals that Heal,” where participants learn how to lower cholesterol and treat and prevent heart disease by preparing foods that maximize vitality and health. Young chefs ages 10 to 16 bake up fun in a “Junior Bread Bakers” class focusing on recipes for whole grain muffins, breads, biscuits and rolls.