2019 to be ‘one giant leap’ for Downey space center


DOWNEY — With two anniversaries upcoming, 2019 looks set to be huge for The Columbia Memorial Space Center.

2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, where astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took man’s first steps on the moon. Because of Downey’s rich and deep historical aerospace roots, CMSC Director Ben Dickow has said that the museum will feature plenty of exhibits, programs and activities, and events to pay homage to the landmark event.

“July 20 is 50 years since humanity stepped on the moon. Because this is where all that stuff was designed and built, we’ve made a really big play to be the Southern California hub of the celebration around that,” said Dickow. “Starting with a special exhibit on Nov. 30 of this year, going all the way into Dec. of 2019 and maybe a little beyond, we’ll be doing a ton of Apollo related stuff.”

Part of the celebration includes a speaker series, which will feature several individuals who worked on the Apollo program. This also includes a partnership with the Los Angeles Public Library to get a smaller version of the series out to their various branches. While details were still being confirmed at the time of writing, Dickow says that the speaker series may be recorded and picked up by NASA and the Smithsonian.

“We want to make this available to the world to come in and be able to downloaded it minutes after we do it,” said Dickow.

While many museums will likely be celebrating the historic moonwalk, Dickow says that CMSC will “stand out from the crowd.”

“We have this asset that nobody else does which is access to the people who actually built this stuff,” said Dickow. “There’s no other location out there that has the number of first-hand stories that we can tell, so we’re going to capitalize on that next year.”

Special hands-on, Apollo-related STEM programs are also being designed for the over year-long celebration.

“This is a big deal. We would be crazy not to capitalize on this huge anniversary,” said Dickow.

Plus, as a special tribute to the landing, the Space Center hopes to host a slew of more intensive, immersive activities to engage and involve the community.

“Apollo 11 launched July 16 and it came back on July 24,” said Dickow. “It just so happens that the 20th in 2019 is on a Saturday. That whole week we want to have more intensive events like reenactments of stuff.”

“Downey had a mission control…we’re going to reconfigure the mission control that’s part of the Challenger learning Center to make it look like the old Mission Support room, and do some reenactments there.”

This will include a collaboration with the Nixon Library. President Richard Nixon made the famous phone call to the moon.


CMSC also plans to live tweet the mission during the anniversary week.

For fans of the popular “Dapper Days” at Disneyland, CMSC has a real treat.

“We would love to do a city-wide ‘Walk Back into 1969’ Day, maybe on the 20th,” said Dickow. “The dream is to have everybody in town dress like 1969 and meet up at a few locations that were around 50 years ago just to watch the landing on monitors, grainy image and everything.”

“Basically, we want to do a ‘Dapper Day’ for a whole town on one day about the moon landing.”

For those who are fans of the CMSC’s annual events and activities, never fear; popular CMSC mainstays such as Rocket Fever, Space Expo and Long Beach Comic Con, and its participation in City of Stem will not be phased, now including some moon landing footprints (no pun intended).

“It’s going to pop up throughout the year and just sort of layer on to what we do already,” said Dickow.

On top of the Apollo anniversary, CMSC will also be celebrating its own anniversary on Oct. 23 next year.

“It all lines up,” said Dickow.

Dickow hopes that both anniversaries will help bring more patrons and attention to the already growing Space Center.

“We feel that this is going to be a national story and it should drive attendance, hopefully it’ll drive membership,” said Dickow. “It gets us out into the world a little bit more and with a bigger playing field.”

“A year ago, this was the future, but now we’re almost in 2019. Now I’m starting to think ‘how do we follow this up?’…We’re already are starting to become if not the, maybe the second or third place that people think about for this kind of stuff. In the next five years, we can really be the place for this kind of stuff.”

Report: Columbus among poorest performing schools in the state

DOWNEY – Columbus High School is among California’s lowest performing schools, according to a new state report.

A study drafted by the California Department of Education listed Downey’s continuation school amongst the lowest five percent academically in the state, using data pulled from the California School Dashboard, which measures school performance using factors such as suspension and graduation rates, college and career readiness, and subject performance.

The Dashboard ranks each category on a color-coded system from red, to orange, to yellow, to green, to blue, representing poorer performance up to highest performance respectively.

On this ranking system, Columbus scored a yellow ranking in suspension rates and graduation rates, while scoring reds in college and career readiness, mathematics, and English language arts.

By comparison, Downey High School received yellows in college / career readiness, mathematics and English language arts, a green in suspension rate and blue in graduation rate.

Warren scored slightly lower than Downey, earning oranges in suspension rates and mathematics, yellows in English language arts and college / career readiness, and blue in graduation rates.

DUSD released a statement in response to the report, focusing on a broader picture of student success.

“This is the first-time alternative education schools have been included within the Dashboard results, so with this initial baseline-data we are happy to receive these results to both celebrate our areas of achievement and work on the areas that need to be improved.

“Clearly test scores are important, but the focus at Columbus High School is more than test scores, it’s the whole child. With the largest number of students that are categorized as ‘at risk’ we work every day to provide them with academic support as well as the social and emotional support needed to make them successful upon graduation.

“With a graduation rate of 81.9%, we model practices at Columbus that are constantly refining to improve student achievement and advance post-secondary opportunities for students.

“While test results are one data point, we also focus on the bigger picture that support our students’ growth and as a result, we are expecting to be named a Model Continuation High School through the California Department of Education in the next few days.”

Open enrollment starts next week in Downey Unified


DOWNEY — Downey Unified will be conducting its annual Intra-District Open Enrollment (formerly School of Choice) starting mid-February for the upcoming 2019-20 school year.

Downey parents who reside within the district boundaries and wish to have their student(s) attend a Downey Unified school outside of their attendance area may apply. This enrollment period does not apply for parents of students who reside outside of the Downey Unified district boundaries.

From Feb. 19, 2019 through March 19, 2019, applications for Intra-District Open Enrollment will be available to pick up at any of the 20 Downey Unified schools and the district office or can be filled out and submitted online at www.dusd.net. New students (including kindergartners) entering a Downey Unified school for the first time and wishing to apply, must also register at their school of residence. This will guarantee registration in the District for the new school year. This open enrollment period was delayed compared to previous years, being offered during the month of January in the past.

Hand written applications, those not submitted online, must be submitted in person to the Student Services office at the Downey Unified School District by the closing deadline of March 19, 2019, at 4 p.m.

Applications are not processed on a first-come basis. A random, unbiased lottery will be held to place students on an Intra-District Open Enrollment permit waiting list for the 2019-20 school year. Schools may accept students from the established waiting lists according to priority, only if space is available.

For additional information and questions, please contact the Student Services Office at (562) 469-6550.

Downey Rotary gets first-hand look at new Rancho building

Rancho Los Amigos administrator Gilbert Salinas. Photo by Lorine Parks

Rancho Los Amigos administrator Gilbert Salinas. Photo by Lorine Parks

A blustery rainy morning confronted visiting Rotarians, but it cleared just as everyone arrived at Downey’s world famous Rancho Los Amigos (RLA) National Rehabilitation Medical Center. We met in the sparkling new Outpatient Building, that compliments the new Jacqueline Perry Inpatient Wing of the hospital, which opened in September, and the big Don Knabe Wellness Center. All are part of project Rancho Rising 2020, right on target for completion.

Bill Kirkwood recalled Downey Rotary’s history with RLA. Bill Harriman, one of the founders in 1924 of the Rotary Club of Downey, was Superintendent of Rancho when it was still a work farm for the country poor to serve farming families who could not afford medical services.

Bill also remembered that Bill H., for whom the impressive RLA Administration Building is named, sponsored for membership into the Rotary Club of Downey a young man whom he called “The Boy Wonder.” Guess who? It was Angelo Cardono, now 91 and the club’s - and District 5280’s- longest serving member since 1948. As a sailor from Rhode Island freshly discharged from the Navy after World War II, he decided to stay here and make Downey his home.

Deborah Arroyo, Director of the Rancho Foundation, served as hostess and was joined by Walter Afable, Assistant Hospital Administrator. By now nearly 40 members had found their way to the appointed spot, the Auditorium with its pictures windows that showed the lowering sky.

Deborah introduced Administrator Eric Zapata, who explained that the Rancho Foundation is the non-profit fund raising arm at RLA, whose purpose is to improve the life of the patients, and enable them to be productive citizens again.

“If you were a skier,” said Deborah, “You might think your skiing days were over after your accident. But we organize trips to the slopes in Colorado, and put them out there again. If not on skis, then on a sleigh or toboggan. Kayak trips, surfing. biking, these activities can be made available to patients during and after rehab. So there is life after your accident, and life can be good.

Deborah Arroyo, Rancho Los Amigos Foundation director, and Jesse Vargas, Rancho Los Amigos board member and Rotary program chair. Photo by Lorine Parks

Deborah Arroyo, Rancho Los Amigos Foundation director, and Jesse Vargas, Rancho Los Amigos board member and Rotary program chair. Photo by Lorine Parks

Paul Mathis of the Rotary Club of Downey is Treasurer of the Foundation, and Jesse Vargas, Program Chair, is a member of the Board. Deborah invited everyone to come to the Foundation’s Gala Ball on March 23, and Rotarians were handed an elegant envelope. Held at the Westin in Long Beach, the Amistad (Friendship) event is a fun, glamorous evening, and the theme this year is A Black and White Ball. Downeyites Sam and Beverly Matthis will be there, as always: they’re deeply involved with the Foundation.. She’s a Soroptimist, he’s an Optimist, though the service clubs are not related.

Late Rotary member Pat Gomez Pratt, who died in 2014, was for many years President of the Rancho Foundation Board. She also served as President of the Downey Chamber of Commerce and Grand Marshall of the Christmas Parade. As a young hairdresser, Pat gave her Sundays, her only day off, for cutting and styling the patients’ hair, both men and women, a great moral booster. Later as proprietor of Johnny & Company, Pat even got married at the Amistad Ball, to Cliff Pratt, a Rotarian from the South Gate Club, making cherished memories for many at the Amistad.

Members were divided up into three groups for a tour of the newly opened building, and I joined the one led by Administrator Gilberto Salinas, himself a polio survivor who moved through corridor traffic expertly in his hand-propelled wheelchair.

Gilbert Salinas, chief clinical officer at Rancho Los Amigos. Photo by Lorine Parks

Gilbert Salinas, chief clinical officer at Rancho Los Amigos. Photo by Lorine Parks

We stopped by a glass mural wall at the entrance, showing the history of Rancho. Prominent there were Downey Doctors Vern Nickell and Jacqulin Perry. In 1955 they invented the “halo” head brace for patients with spinal or head injuries. And then came Dr. Perry’s ground-breaking Gait Analysis studies in 1968, so useful for rehabbing stroke victims. The Downey Symphony will present a Gershwin! Concert in April, dedicated to Dr. Jackie. Today’s discoveries at Rancho are almost magical: brain-to-computer interfacing.

We whizzed through marble corridors, up in brushed steel elevators, past the new Rehab Facility, custom designed to meet the special needs of patients. The $190 Million building is a “one-stop shop” where patients can get all their therapy, medical and nursing needs all in one place. “They can even get their prescriptions filled speedily here,” Gilbert told us.

We walked through the wide enclosed connectors between Out-Patient Building and Hospital. Everywhere we saw smiling wheelchair patients and workers. When one employee in dark blue scrubs unexpectedly joined the twelve of us on our elevator ride, she was asked to tell what she does, and she willingly explained her role.

A friendly, casual and up-to-date and upbeat place. RLA’s new Out-Patient Building is expected to serve an amazing 70,000 patients in 2019. That’s a lot of well-spent tax-payers dollars in L A County Supervisor Janice Hahn’s Fourth District, doing good work for the community.

How patience plays a role in local news coverage

Let me start off by saying this: I love my job at the Downey Patriot; I am not complaining.

One of the benefits of having a community paper is that you can rest assured that the individuals involved are dedicated to the distribution of information to a city that oftentimes they have very strong ties to (I myself am a “Downey Kid,” having been born, raised, and still residing here).

The downside, however, is community papers are often tiny in comparison to the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and even Orange County Register’s that people often associate with a newsroom.

There’s no extreme hustle and bustle at The Downey Patriot. You won’t find rows of loud whizzing, red-hot printing presses here. Most of our visitors are merely popping in to ask where the mammogram office is (it’s out the door and to the left, by the way).

The Downey Patriot is a small staff; walk into the office on any given day and you will find a handful of people in advertising / legals, our graphic designer, our publisher, and our two-man editorial team.

Let me repeat. Two. Man. Editorial team.

Now before you ask “what about the contributors,” yes, we do have a handful of great and talented individuals who do contribute to our weekly publication. Mark Fetter covers sports. Lorine Parks covers poetry and community events.

We do have the occasional intern, but they usually end up falling through. My Editor Eric Pierce is always telling me that “nine out of ten don’t work out,” although he now jokes that I was “number ten.”

But when it gets right down to the “regular ol’ news,” breaking news, crime, and human interest, much of that falls on the shoulders of Eric and I. Again, this isn’t a complaint; I can tell you for an absolute fact that we are both passionate about what we do.

But it admittedly gets a little frustrating when we get bombarded with comments and tweets about why we covered one thing over another. Why this crime wasn’t mentioned. Why we haven’t reached out to this sport team, but highlighted that one. Why your story hasn’t been published yet.

The Patriot is not a biased paper. It is not a lazy paper. We are not aloof.

The Patriot is however limited in its resources. Often times, what is published or not is determined by space and what is (or is not) available. Sometimes, we’re just forced to “pick our battles.”

This is where the “community” in “community newspaper” could really do wonders.

Want a team’s accomplishments to be featured? Send us a photo and a caption. A student doing great things? Shoot us an email. Fifteen police units with guns drawn and pointed at your neighbor’s house? Tweet us.

Often times our stories and tips come from you guys: the residents of Downey. We could not do our job without you; just cut us a little bit of slack sometimes.

We’re not intentionally ignoring you. We’re not shoving anything under the rug. Most times, we’re already backlogged with interviews, assignments, and content waiting to be published.

And lastly, in case I haven’t said it already…

Two. Man. Editorial team.

Part of being a journalist is having a thick skin. Maybe I still need to work on that.

In the meantime, the Downey Patriot will always be committed to providing the City of Downey with the news, public information, and stories that our community deserves. We’re not perfect, and we are most definitely small, but with the right support we are mighty. We are always open to hearing about what you, our readers, feel should fill your paper because in the end it is your paper.

Just remember, an email, tweet, or phone can go a long way with just a little bit of patience.

Support for Assembly member Garcia

Dear Editor:

If Saturday’s high attendance at Assemblymember Cristina Garcia’s inauguration is any indication of how well respected and admired she is, we can expect more responsive and courageous leadership from her for the 58th assembly district.

Heavy rainfall (a symbol of good luck according to Asian cultures) on her inauguration day could not dampen the enthusiasm of her constituents as they cheered her on for her bold activism. Hence, it was befitting that long-time union activist Dolores Huerta did the honor of swearing in Cristina alongside notable, long-time union activist Maria Elena Durazo, now a current California State Senator.

The display of enthusiasm among diverse constituents from across the 58th assembly district was evident as they showed up in full force to support her. And I’m certain she felt their overwhelming support behind her. The impact she has had on the 58th assembly district is why voters overwhelmingly voted her in for a consecutive term.

To our state Assembly member I say, “Cristina, you have had our back, and your constituents have yours, too. Continue to lead with confidence as many of us welcome your bold, tenacious leadership.”

Sandra Nevarez