Kathe Tanner: On your mark ... Go!

September 20, 2012 

It’s called collaboration when two or more people work together to accomplish more, sometimes far more, than each could do individually. The San Luis Obispo YMCA and Coast Unified School District not only demonstrate cooperative planning in their various joint programs here, the two organizations also teach those collaborative arts to the kids.

The latest proof came earlier this month when the YMCA Long Beach Youth Institute Film Festival’s first-place award for middle school productions went to a film done by a team of six local kids and one from Shandon.

They were among 27 middle-or high-school students (25 from Cambria, two from Shandon) who voluntarily, enthusiastically, spent many hours in nearly two months of free youth institute classes.

During the summer break.

The clever, prize-winning short film, “The Do-It-All Remote,” was the work of Leo Martinez, Daniel Pena, Edwardo Hernandez, Maria Ramirez, Sheridyn Murray and Dante Garcia of Cambria and Logan Kepins of Shandon.

Other local institute participants were: Zac and William Azevedo, Nic Barth, Ashly Colin, Giovanni Espinoza, Ivan Favila, Lalo Garcia, Adrian and Arturo Gonzalez, Cesar and Edwardo Hernandez, Madelyn Marriott, Andres and Ashley Martinez, Karina Mendoza, Gerardo Milan, Jose and Vanessa Ramirez, Alexis and Andrew Solar and Zachary Taylor.

How all that happened is a poster child for collaborating to benefit Cambria kids, teaching them technology and guiding them through the sometimes angst-filled process of learning how to negotiate with their peers.

In February 2011, John Calandro (Santa Lucia Middle School principal) and Dan Hartzell (program director of the Y’s after-school academy there) met with Bob Cabeza, the Long Beach Y’s vice president of community development, to check out his youth institute program there.

When Cabeza vacationed here over Memorial Day 2012, Calandro and Hartzell introduced him to Jenifer Rhynes, CEO of this county’s Y programs. All shared

“the same great vision for our site,” Caldendro said, a chance to show that a small, rural school could pull off innovative programs.

“We were shooting for the summer of 2013,” Calandro said of their plans for a local program. “We thought it would take that long to get the pieces in place and the kids lined up.”

Then, in a “best-laid-plans” twist just a week later, Cabeza called with summer-changing news about funding for the Cambria institute for THIS summer — if they could pull the program together in one month.

The institute was to begin July 9 with a week-long wilderness campout in Kings Canyon, a team-building exercise.

School was out. Calandro and Hartzell had to get a various approvals, find more funding and identify 25 kids willing to sacrifice summer plans and — go to school.

“I called every student on the Santa Lucia roll,” Calandro said.

A week before the campout, they had tentative commitment for seven youngsters, not enough. But by that Friday, after a parent-information meeting, there were so many applicants, organizers had to turn away six families.

The 27 youngsters learned to work together. They created a slick computerized magazine, having been given specific assignments. They produced their high-tech films in assigned genres, writing, storyboarding, rehearsing, going on location, shooting and editing the footage.

(Finished products are online at http://bit. ly /PqvvOe).

Calandro said the primary focus “was on communication skills they need when working together. Technology was the vehicle. The real message was ‘how do you talk to each other, how do you handle conflict?’”

There were “tears, crying, stomping off on a regular basis, which was exactly what the instructors wanted to see,” because it meant the kids really cared about what they were doing.

In fact, when Josue Monenegro and Melinda Amado, the young institute- grad instructors, asked students if they wanted to start the 9-to-3 classes an hour earlier, all enthusiastically agreed, Calandro said. “And it was rare for the kids to leave before 4:30 or 5 p.m. each day.”

Hartzel estimates the institute program — including software, cameras and even van rentals for the film-production teams — cost about $20,000, which that came from technology and other grants.

A generous donation meant each child received a $100 educational stipend when the program concluded.

Some parents have told Calandro that their children are dealing with each other differently now, negotiating more often and fighting less in typical sibling spats.

Collaboration comes home.

He’s already planning for 2013.

Jenifer Rhynes, the Y’s CEO, extolled the program to Coast Unified’s trustees and staff on Sept. 13.

Being in the institute “was transformational for those kids,” she said. “They had struggled with technology, struggled with teamwork. Now, they’re engaged in their own learning … Fabulous!”

Rhynes presented Calandro and district Superintendent Chris Adams with award plaques to which bas-relief genie’s lamps had been attached.

The awards’ messages said simply, “Thank you for making dreams and wishes come true.”

Email Kathe Tanner at ktanner@thetribune news.com. Read more “Slices” at thecambrian . com.

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