College scholarship applicants show the glass is “half full” with our millennials

Sather Gate at UC Berkeley (Photo: Cal Alumni Association)

Along with others, I just finished reading and scoring 12 undergraduate scholarship applications for incoming UC Berkeley students. It’s known as the Leadership Award merit scholarship of the Cal Alumni Association, a prestigious award that has been offered since the 1930s.

This year was another impressive group of applicants: academic “high achievers,” but also students who demonstrated leadership and compassion. Some had launched interesting new programs in their schools, showing ingenuity (and in some cases real courage), while others had led established groups.

This was not a self-centered group. Topics I read centered on tolerance (political, social, gender and religious); academic passions in science and technology, and the arts; imaginative community service projects; and challenges that were overcome (from breaking through language barriers — sometimes even in their own families — to “helping others.”) The examples the students cited were real and the progress was measurable.

These students — incoming freshman and some transfer students — also showed a top-of-mind awareness for the “news,” including our nation’s political divisiveness, economic problems, school shootings, scientific breakthroughs and environmental challenges. The nuances of these issues were captured in their writings too.

The “iGeneration” gets some bad press; sometimes it is self-inflicted, as it is for all of our generations. But digging deeper, I’ve found this group is determined to “make the world a better place.” We need that attitude.

Here’s the background for this merit-based scholarship: “Established in 1934, The Leadership Award is a one-year, scholarship that recognizes undergraduate students at UC Berkeley who demonstrate innovative, initiative-driven leadership impacting their academic, work, or community environments. Students compete for the scholarship every year, ensuring a diverse and dynamic annual cohort of leaders whose work is relevant and newly inspiring.”

The meaning of friendship

“Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.”

Shannon and I had a wonderful visit this afternoon with our friend Tom Larsen. I met Tom a decade ago when I joined the local chapter of the UC Berkeley alumni club to help judge scholarships for high school students who were going to Cal. Tom and his late wife Debbie hosted a regular Christmas gathering at their home that we enjoyed.

Now a Petaluma resident, Tom has long inspired us: as we ramped up our business (he and Debbie ran their own, and it encouraged us), but also for his incredible courage as Debbie battled leukemia. As I wrote at the time “You have been a ‘Rock of Gibraltar’ to Debbie and, frankly, to all of us, as we’ve followed her difficult journey.”

I made a big salad of grilled steak, blue cheese, avocado and arugula, Tom brought a great bottle of wine, and we visited well into the afternoon (no rush to get back to the “office.”) Mitchell came home from school and reintroduced himself. Good times.

Restoration Rangers on agenda tonight at Nevada City Council meeting

Editor’s note: I received this email from Nevada City vice mayor Reinette Senum:

Dear Nevada City & County Residents,

For approximately 6 months now a variety of community stakeholders and I have been working on a concept called the Restoration Rangers. TONIGHT, Wednesday, May 22nd, 6:30pm, at the Nevada City City Council meeting I will be giving a Powerpoint presentation about this very program for the first time.

If you are concerned about….

Housing our homeless population
Work force development
High recidivism rate in our jails
Catastrophic wild fire
Defensible Space
Evacuation Routes
Restoration of our forests, watershed, & clean water

…… you will want to come and see this presentation OR watch it livestream at

I will be presenting at the top of the meeting just after 6:30pm.

The Restoration Rangers Program will provide housing for up to 12 individuals in renovated Tuff Sheds (modeled after the successful Marysville program, 14Forward) and placed next to a main house. It is a 2-year program, includes 24/7 supervision, wrap-around services, three-tiered stipends, and skills training in a variety of different fields related to forest and watershed restoration (emphasis on fire mitigation); ultimately leading Participants to employment and housing security following program completion.

However, before solidifying partnerships, signing MOUs, and creating a business plan there is an important lynchpin to this project that must be addressed: The approval of “a resolution of the City of Nevada City Council Declaring a Shelter Crisis Pursuant to SB 850, based upon Government Code § 8698.2. By “declaring a shelter crisis, the City may use existing public facilities or create new facilities to house the homeless, and these public facilities do not need to meet state and local building, health, and safety laws. Instead, the state law authorizes City to adopt alternative building, health, and safety regulations that would apply to emergency shelters for a specified amount of time.”

Approving a shelter crisis within Nevada City will allow for converted Tuff Sheds as temporary shelter on a private piece of property located in the Nevada City’s Light Industrial zone. If and when this is approved by the City Council it is our hope that we can begin the final stages of launching the Restoration Rangers live/work exchange program.

To give you a clearer idea of how the program will operate, please read the Program Overview, below.

If you can come to speak in support or come to ask questions, I welcome you. This is an exciting opportunity for us to find a multitude of solutions to some of the biggest challenges we face today!


“Restoring Individual Lives and Protecting Community
One Watershed at a Time.”

The purpose of the Restoration Rangers Live/Work Recovery Program is to develop a trained labor force that will be the “boots on the ground” in reducing our extreme fire risk while restoring our surrounding environs throughout Western Nevada County.

The RR Program will offer a program of support for men and women wanting to improve their life circumstance, achieve short and long-term goals, improve mental health, stay sober, participate in community, and potentially transition to permanent housing and jobs.
RR Program staff will engage with a network of nonprofit organizations, for-profit companies, local governments, state and county fire agencies, the Nevada County Fire Safe Council, FireWise Neighborhoods, ad-hoc neighborhood associations, state and federal land management agencies, and local Nisenan tribe, to advance forest & watershed health and water quality while simultaneously reducing our fire danger.

While fire risk reduction is a high priority of this plan it is within the context of improving the diversity and resiliency of the biological communities throughout our respective watersheds. A coordinated land use planning at the “grassroots level” with an emphasis on fire prevention could serve as a model for forest management in other portions of the Sierra bio-region.

In addition to fuel loads reduction, the objective will be to ensure that native plant species, species diversity, and a healthy forest floor are not lost as a result of fire reduction activities. The goal is to keep the level of fuel loads low enough to prevent catastrophic fires while restoring the forest and watersheds to their ecological balance. It is the goal of the RR Program to educate Participants in basic hydrology (watershed science), botany, and forest ecology to ensure a healthy ecosystem.

Restoration Ranger Services to Include:

• Pruning
• Mastication
• Chipping
• Goat grazing
• Firebreak construction and maintenance
• Hazard tree removal
• Pile burning
• Property and right-of-way clearing
• Re-contouring soils to prevent erosion
• Spreading mulch, brush and logs to stabilize slopes
• Cover bare soils
• Build habitat brush piles
• Replant native plants and trees
• Preparing terrain for prescriptive burning

Probation Options

The RR Program would provide our local district attorney, courts, and police departments additional probation options for their clients.

Motivational Interview

Once referred to the RR Program by the proper authority or agency, a candidate will be interviewed to assess their motivation for participating in the RR Program:

• Is the inmate willing to commit to a two-year program in exchange for having their record expunged and fines eliminated?
• Do they have a long-term goal of transitioning to more permanent housing, taking job training courses, or college courses, to upgrade their skills?
• Will they be able to stick with a schedule and show up for their shift?
• Will they be able to work sober?
• Will they be willing to learn new job skills, such as cooking, cleaning, or gardening?

Assessing Health

The following will need to be assessed regarding possible candidates:

• Will Participants be able to physically perform their work exchange?
• Do they have special health or physical problems that need to be addressed?
• Can they pass a physical exam?
• Are they mentally stable enough to work?
• Are they on prescription meds?
• Will they be able to accept the policy of no alcohol or drugs?

Moving Towards Sobriety

Those having addiction issues would go through a recovery program such as Community Recovery Resources (CoRR); helping Participants receive detoxification services, mental health counseling, and other support programs. Working sober is mandatory, especially when operating machinery and power tools.

Additional RR Programs Offered:

Addiction Recovery Life Skills
Addressing Trauma Anger management
Re-entering the Workforce High School Equivalency Classes Harm Reduction
Stress management Nutrition classes


While some individuals may be participating because they have been referred by the courts, it is imperative that this program also be incentivized in a way that fosters healthy independence and self-confidence. RR Participants will make a minimum of $15.00/day when going out on a job. Those who meet certain criteria will be able to move through a ranking system and see an increase in their stipend, including additional responsibilities and freedoms.

There is a two-year commitment to the RR Program, however, each Participant will undergo 3-month reviews allowing some Participants to transition faster through the program if not under the jurisdiction of the court. Once the program is completed the Participant could possibly have his or her record expunged and fines erased.
At the end of the program the Participant will have sufficient training to be employable, self-supporting, and ready for permanent housing in a community he or she now feels a part of.

Reinette Senum
Vice Mayor
Nevada City, California

Dahle forgets the Nevada County Fair as he runs for a Senate seat

“The Western Fairs Association held its day in the Capitol yesterday,” Assemblyman Brian Dahle said on his Facebook page, as he runs for a State Senate seat. “It was hard to get a handle on all the fairs I love around the 1st Assembly District. Each one plays a huge role in its community’s life. Which is your favorite fair?”

One problem: The Nevada County Fair sign was missing from Brian’s able hands. Wake up Brian!

(Photo: Dahle’s Facebook page)

#StopTheBan rally in Grass Valley and all across America

Thousands of abortion-rights activists rallied nationwide in opposition to a recently approved ban on the procedure in Alabama, along with other legislative efforts seen as challenges to Roe vs. Wade, including our towns.

“By 5:00 pm over 100 participants joined the #StopTheBan rally in the Brunswick Basin,” according to YubaNet.

A photo gallery from YubaNet is here.

Ghidotti High and Sierra Academy hold their first annual sports banquet

Firewolf cupcakes

Ghidotti High School and the Sierra Academy of Expeditionary Learning held their first annual sports banquet on Monday night in Nevada City.

On the plus side, it was an upbeat affair with about about 80 people in attendance, including student-athletes, coaches, teachers and parents. It opened with heartwarming remarks from the administrators and coaches.

Awards were announced for student athletes, outstanding seniors, varsity letters, and “unsung heroes.”

Coaches awards were announced for girls cross country, boys cross country, co-ed soccer, girls basketball, boys basketball, and co-ed volleyball. A new mascot, the “Firewolf,” showed up. The athletic director is an outstanding individual.

The celebration also included dinner for the kiddos. It was  a “full-court” effort; my wife Shannon baked a pile of brownies for dessert, for example. They were all gobbled up.

This gathering was redolent of the Sunday night football dinners that my in-laws hosted for our nephews and their teammates of the Nevada Union football team at their home when we first came here. It always was a full house.

Our family was a major contributor to those gatherings — not just with our  weekly attendance but with our own contributions to the dinner menu.

On the downside, it is unfortunate that in such a small town the high-school sports programs have become segregated. For example, Ghidotti students weren’t able to participate in Nevada Union sports starting with this year’s freshman class.  The background on this is here.

Self-made “rivalries” or segregating like this can be counterproductive in a small town — just like the longstanding Grass Valley versus Nevada City rivalry (something I never understood, either).

It is a small-town mindset and undermines our ability to compete with the rest of California, where many of our students will go to college and — if recent trends are an indication — find jobs.

Our magazine hosts an annual college scholarship for graduating seniors who are interested in journalism. We have awarded the scholarship to students at all three high schools: Nevada Union, Bear River and Ghidotti.

We’re remaining upbeat about this transition — seeing the glass as “half full” — but it is another reminder that we need to work together, not against each other, when it comes to education and economic development.