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student being wrapped in a blanket at indian education honoring ceremony
Marieanne Quiroz

The Ventura County Indian Education Consortium celebrated its 49th Annual Indian Education Honoring Ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 at Cal Lutheran University with many of our VUSD students participating. 

The Ventura County Indian Education Consortium celebrated its 49th Annual Indian Education Honoring Ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024, at Cal Lutheran University.

The Ventura County Indian Education Consortium (VCIEC), a federally funded Title VI Indian Education program, with additional funding provided by the consortium partner districts, includes 324 enrolled Native students from throughout Ventura County who attend school at one of 17 public Ventura County school districts and charter schools.  This year, at our end-of-the-year Honoring Ceremony, we celebrated the Indian Education Graduating Class of 2024, which included 34 graduates.  We also celebrated our 21 American Indian Students of the Year, who are being recognized for their dedication to their Native heritage and their success in academics, attendance, and attitude.

The Honoring Ceremony, held on the beautiful campus of California Lutheran University, invited students, their families, and school district representatives to participate in a very special rite of passage that serves to connect the students to their Native heritage and the Native community of Ventura County. They were celebrated with cultural presentations by Chumash elder Julie Tumamait-Stenslie, Tribal drumming by the Bearspring Singers, songs by Sacred Indigenous Preservation’s Hummingbird Singers, and a special Jingle Dance style of powwow dance.  Those present were also invited to a barbeque dinner put on by Oxnard Union High School District’s Pacifica High School Culinary Arts Department, and the highlight of the evening was the graduation blanketing ceremony, where graduates were draped by their loving family in a Native American blanket, representing their passage to this next important stage of life and welcomed back into the community as High School graduates.

Sylvia Soholt, a parent committee member for the last 11 years, attends the Honoring Ceremony each year.  Here is what she had to say about this meaningful event, “It brings our community together in a good way to celebrate the students for their achievements in a culturally significant way. Marginalized people historically have not had as much family and community support when it comes to advancing and higher education, and for that reason, when we come together as a community to honor the accomplishments of our Native students, we are part of helping them envision a future for themselves that takes into consideration a history of where they have come from.”

Evangelista Cobos, a Ventura High School senior who was honored, had this to say about the ceremony, “What made the event so special for me and my family was the fact that we haven’t been able to celebrate our culture in other ways ever since the elders in our family have passed away. It was special because one of the speakers was someone from our tribe and our specific clan, and I know my mom was very excited about that. It's overall just a really nice and special event for my family and I, and we're so happy we attended and got to celebrate with the community.”

Though Ventura County schools are all located on traditionally Chumash lands, the VCIEC student population includes students from 69 different tribes.  The graduating class of 2024 includes students with the following tribal affiliations: Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Chumash, Fort Independence Paiute, Gila River Pima, Ho Chunk, Iroquois, Juaneno Band of Mission Indians, Karuk, Mohegan, Navajo, Northern Cheyenne, Osage, Pascua Yaqui, Ponca, Shawnee, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, Spokane, Standing Rock Sioux, and Tongva Gabrielino.  Congratulations to all of our graduates!


teacher and students sitting on the skate ramp that will turn into boat sculpture for Ventura Skate Jam
Marieanne Quiroz

Skate Jam ramp will transform into community art piece once X Games have ended.

In an exciting collaboration with Visit Ventura, students from Buena High School are building a skate ramp for the Ventura Skate Jam, a free all-ages community event to celebrate X Games Ventura on Thursday, June 27, 2024.  This ramp, commissioned by Visit Ventura, designed by Buena High School’s Cabinet Millwork Technologies Capstone class and painted by Buena Art students, will later transform into a community art display after the X Games.  

Marieanne Quiroz, Director of Communications for Ventura Unified, recently sat down with Mr. Scott Manninen, Woodshop Teacher at Buena High School, and eight of his students, John Maida, Angel Pineda, Logan Torres, Jacob Ruiz, Ryan Nunes, Aiden Brandle, Mason Carter, and Zakhariah Walker to learn more about this exciting project.  Mr. Manninen expressed his enthusiasm when Visit Ventura reached out about this project. "I was thrilled when Visit Ventura asked if our students would be interested in designing a skateboard ramp for the Ventura Skate Jam," Manninen said. The ramp will be showcased downtown before being moved to the Fairgrounds for the X Games. "They wanted a ramp for both beginner and professional skateboarders, with the ability to transform it into a piece of art for the community," Manninen explained.

Manninen and his students, some experienced skaters, sat down to design and refine the ramp. One prominent feature of the original design was split to become the bow and stern of a boat, turning the ramp into a boat sculpture complete with a bench for photos. The team started with sketches, built a model, proposed a budget, and involved Ms. Nicole Rapattoni and her art class to finalize the design. By the writing of this story, the ramp was nearly complete and ready for Ms. Rapattoni's class to begin painting. 

Mason Carter, an essential student in the project who designed the quarter pipe curve, shared his excitement. "I grew up skating; it's super cool to be a part of something where beginners and insane skaters will use our ramp. It gives me chills to think that a pro may skate something I helped build."  

The project provided valuable lessons beyond skating. Logan Torres, who aspires to be an engineer, found it a great introduction to his future field. John Maida highlighted the teamwork and problem-solving involved, stating, "We learned that some tasks are very difficult, and you had to be precise. We needed to find creative ways to solve issues as they came up and fix them together as a team."

"It's cool that, as kids, we can bring something to the community. Later in life, when we look back and see we were involved in something like this at school, making our dreams come true, building something that professional skaters may skate on. It shows that you may be young but can still do big things. It is never too early to start working on your future goals," stated Zach Walker. 

When speaking with the students and seeing their eyes light up around the topic of their woodshop class, there is one thing the entire group agreed on: woodshop has made their educational experience better.  They all expressed that the woodshop was a relaxing, safe space for them. A place to escape the realities of life and school and zone out while being creative, building items with their own hands and feeling rewarded when the final piece was done.  "Woodshop for me is really stress relieving because I come in and I get to help people work on their projects and create my own things, and it's cool to bring home things I made myself and show my dad," stated Ryan Nunes.  

All of the team members on the project are juniors and seniors, and they never dreamed they would work on a final project like this.  "I will be able to look back at this at any time in my life and be really proud," stated John.  Jacob agreed, "Life is creeping up on us as we will graduate soon. This project and class have been very helpful; they have taught me to be more productive and treat this like a real job.  It taught me persistence to stay with something."

This project was like a dream come true for the avid skaters on the team.  Mason said, "It's pretty sick to know that I rode that ramp before the pros get a chance to." Zach agreed, "People that I grew up watching, like Thrasher, Wheels on Fire and Streets on Fire, all of these skater movies, and Jason Jesse. It is really cool to contribute something to this event." Angel summed up his experience with this, "It's really cool to work on something that's going to be displayed at the X Games. When I was little, I watched them, which got me into skating. So, I'm really happy I'm able to participate in this. We have been making small projects over the years in school, and now, in my senior year, to be able to make something that everyone's going to be able to see is pretty incredible."

The group agreed that this was only possible with their teacher, Mr. Manninen.  "Mr. Manninen definitely made this project a lot easier, and he's a great teacher. He is really good at explaining, helping us see the big picture, and getting us through the project's difficulties.  He was the brains and the brawn of the whole thing," stated Mason.  Zach agreed, "None of this would have been possible without Mr. Manninen.  He brought this project to us, and it is cool that in his job, he even gets to do something as big as building this project, and he is teaching us and allowing us to be a part of it."

“Working with local student talent to help celebrate the X Games coming to Ventura stemmed from the overwhelming success and electric energy of last year’s Skate Jam,” according to Marlyss Auster, President & CEO of Visit Ventura. “Involving local students in the project where they can have a lasting legacy in X Games Ventura 2024 is what the games are all about.” 

“It’s been awesome to see the students build something of this caliber that professional skateboarders could potentially skate on,” said Visit Ventura Director of Marketing and Buena High School alumni Mike Laan, who led the project with Communications & PR Manager Julie Madsen. “The ramp is gnarly — we can’t wait to see all their hard work showcased at the Skate Jam.”

Look for the ramp on Main Street or visit it at the Fairgrounds during the events. Great job, Bulldogs! Keep up the good work; we are so very proud of you!

two girls looking at a drawing by a vusd student of a blue monster type being
Marieanne Quiroz

The VUSD Districtwide Student Art Show, a unique celebration of artistic talent, marked its 5th anniversary last Thursday, May 16, 2024. The event, held at the prestigious VITA Art Center, was a testament to the partnership between the Ventura Education Partnership, VITA Art Center, and the Ventura Arts Collaborative.

The VUSD Districtwide Student Art Show, a unique celebration of artistic talent, marked its 5th anniversary last Thursday, May 16, 2024. The event, held at the prestigious VITA Art Center, was a testament to the partnership between the Ventura Education Partnership, VITA Art Center, and the Ventura Arts Collaborative. The juried show, a platform for our high school, middle school, and elementary school student artists, showcased over 100 works by high school students. These pieces, selected from a pool of hundreds, spanned a wide range of media, including watercolors, photography, acrylic paintings, and pencil drawings, and were available for purchase throughout the exhibit. 

The artists were very excited to have their art shown in a public exhibit, for many this was a first.  Jason Lamb, a 5th grader from Juanamaria Elementary, was especially humbled by being in the art show. Jason wants to become an animation and special effects designer when he grows up and knows that opportunities like this will help him achieve that goal. "It's really exciting to be here and to have something I created to be noticed for what it is," Jason said.

Alaka'i Robles, an 8th grader from Cabrillo Middle School, appreciates that art is made so available to VUSD students. "I was really surprised when I had Ms. Bandringa at Cabrillo Middle School. I was shocked that we were able to do all this art for free. The world of art opened up to me, and I started being able to express myself through my art."

Jade Banuelos, an 11th grader at Buena High School, appreciates that her art classes allow her to express herself when words and body language don't always convey her feelings.  She appreciates her art teacher, Ms. Rapattoni, "She tries to push people out of their comfort zone. When I am stuck, she gives me a lot of momentum to help me go where she thinks I want to go. I appreciate that," stated Jade. 

All of our students agreed that art is essential to their educational experience, and they all love their art teachers. Many of the students credited soon-to-be retired elementary art teacher, Ms. Kellogg as having a lot to do with their love of learning. Hazel Waltrip, 5th grader at Juanamaria Elementary, had this to say about Ms. Kellogg, “She’s really nice and the art that she does is really fun to do and it uses lots of different mediums. Doing art with Ms. Kellogg relaxes me.” Ms. Bandringa’s Cabrillo Art students created and gifted two custom pieces for Ms. Kellogg as a reminder of the impact she has had on them and their love of art.

Our Ventura public schools offer an incredible array of art education, beginning in elementary school with curriculum-aligned art instruction for all students. This continues in our middle and high schools, where students explore a variety of artistic mediums. Students at Buena, Ventura, and Foothill High Schools study diverse artistic styles, art history, contemporary and classical artists, ceramics, and digital photography. The caliber of these student artists is a testament to our community's investment in preserving and expanding Arts Education. Many of the students in the art show accredited the caring, nurturing, safe spaces that their art teachers have created for positivity impacting their lives, especially around their mental health. The Ventura Unified School District would like to thank our art teachers for their years of service, hard work, and creativity. They are

Elementary Art Teachers: Nancy Kellogg, VUSD Elementary Art Teacher Specialist and Neva Felino, Lincoln Elementary School

Middle School Art Teachers: Michelle Solorio, Anacapa Middle School, Lena Layman, Balboa Middle School, Christa Bandringa, Cabrillo Middle School, and Rachel Desantis, DATA Middle School

High School Teachers: Emmett Cullen, Teresa Hayes, Amanda Graves, and Nicole Rapattoni from Buena High School, Cameron Crouch, and Justin Frazier from Foothill Technology High School, Kathy Elliott and Pete Ipple from Pacific High School, and Megan McKee, Lauren Minadeo, and Hilary Morefield from Ventura High School

Our Ventura public schools offer an incredible array of art education, beginning in elementary school with curriculum-aligned art instruction for all students. This continues in our middle and high schools, where students explore a variety of artistic mediums. Students at Buena, Ventura, and Foothill High Schools study diverse artistic styles, art history, contemporary and classical artists, ceramics, and digital photography. The caliber of these student artists is a testament to our community's investment in preserving and expanding Arts Education.

This partnership between the school district and VITA Art Center is a direct result of our community's commitment to the Arts. Ventura is a city where art and artists are celebrated and welcome.

"The citizens of Ventura have consistently shown that they believe art education is a critical need in our public schools. The vast majority of voters have supported three consecutive parcel tax measures - Measures Q, R, and H – and Proposition 28, all of which were designed to ensure every child in our district has access to high-quality arts instruction. Preserving and supporting diverse educational opportunities has been very important to us as a school district for more than 20 years. This is nowhere more evident than in our continued support of arts education for all students," stated Sabrena Rodriguez, VUSD board trustee, and longtime Arts Collaborative member.

VITA Art Center Founding Director Mary Perez stated, "As a community art center, we are proud to showcase the creativity and imagination of our young artists from the Ventura Unified School District. Their works are not just expressions of their individual talents but also a testament to the power of art education in shaping and enriching our communities. We believe that this exhibit is a celebration of the next generation of artists, and we are honored to provide a platform for their voices to be heard and their visions to be seen."

Thank you to everyone involved in ensuring the creative side our VUSD students’ intellect is developed, expanded, and recognized. 

alumni Candice Dominguez kissing the Lombardi Trohpy
Marieanne Quiroz

And kissed it for a third time when the Kansas City Chiefs won this past Super Bowl! Alumni Spotlight- Candice Dominguez


Candice Dominguez, a 2014 graduate of Ventura High School who participated in track and field and was a cheerleader, has achieved remarkable success in her professional career. Now in her sixth season with the Kansas City Chiefs as the Player Engagement Coordinator, Candice has had the opportunity to celebrate three Super Bowl victories with the team, including kissing the Lombardi Trophy, a moment she cherishes.

After graduating from Ventura High School, Candice pursued higher education, earning her Bachelor of Science degree from California State University, Sacramento, and her Master of Arts from the University of Nebraska, where she also competed on the Track and Field teams, earning two conference championships in the High Jump.  She was a Graduate Assistant in Equipment in Olympic Sports at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before joining the Chiefs.  In her current role, she focuses on player’s personal and professional development, financial education, and continuing education.

Reflecting on her time with the Kansas City Chiefs, Candice shared a memorable experience from her early days as an intern. Hosting Coach Reid’s guests during Training Camp, she had the honor of meeting Bill Snyder, legendary Kansas State Football coach, who came in with his son and grandson to practice one day.  A few weeks later, she received a piece of mail.  “It was a handwritten thank you note from Coach Snyder in iconic K-State purple marker.  This Hall of Fame Coach, one of the greatest to do it, took time out of his day to send a brand-new intern a proper thank you.  It is almost five years later and I still cherish that note and the impact it made on me,” stated Candice.

Candice is also appreciative of all of her Ventura Unified teachers, who helped ensure she was prepared for future success. “It’s hard to pick a favorite teacher. I was fortunate to have such wonderful educators, but a few were very influential throughout the years, including Ms. Garmon and Ms. Tygell (Saticoy Elementary), Ms. Taylor (Anacapa Middle School), and Mr. Anderson and Ms. Bergfeld (Ventura High School).” 

Offering advice to students facing challenges with attendance, finding purpose in school, and overcoming mental health issues, Candice encourages them to find their space at school and pursue their passions, emphasizing that they have the opportunity to shape their future selves. “It can be a club, a sport, a teacher, the right group of friends, yearbook, metal shop, or something else entirely. Just having something to look forward to and be passionate about helps. The best part about it all, though, is that you have still have the opportunity to be whoever you want to be in ‘the real world.’ Take advantage of that and make educated decisions now to help your future self,” suggested Candice.

Addressing all students, Candice had this advice, “Take advantage of your ‘student card’ for as long as you have it. People often share their stories, successes, and lessons with students to help guide them. Set up informational interviews with people in positions you want or who work at organizations you want to work for. Learn from their stories and use that to help carve your unique path.”

As for Candice’s future, she loves her current role. “It is a unique space these young men are in managing both high-performance sports and life outside. I plan to further my career in the athlete development space, whether that be for professional or collegiate athletes. That can always change, though, as there are often new and unique roles in sports, and the space is ever-changing.”

We look forward to seeing what lies ahead for Candice and all of our other VUSD alumni as they continue to seek out new opportunities for success.


  • Ventura High
Fresh food at VUSD school cafeteria
Areej Khan

We're closing out National Nutrition Month with some significant updates! 

The Ventura Unified School District Food & Nutrition Services Department has been hard at work implementing exciting changes we'll start to see in some schools in the 2023-2024 school year. Most VUSD middle and high schools will implement a sandwich bar, allowing students to have customized sandwiches made on-site daily. They'll also have new tilt skillets that the Food & Nutrition Services Department has invested in. Tilt skillets enable kitchen staff to cook large batches of food quickly and safely at an even temperature. Once all required staff training to use this new equipment is complete, these tilt skillets will significantly increase every participating school's capacity to serve hot meals from scratch.

We visited the Foothill High School Cafeteria earlier today with local media for a sneak peek of the new equipment and to meet VUSD Food & Nutrition Services staff and cafeteria staff, including employee worker Ethan Oritz who enjoys learning food service and serving meals to his schoolmates. "It's a fun place to be," said Ethan...

Foothill High School Cafeteria Student Employee Ethan Oritz 2023
It's a good setting to kind of get used to the professionalism of learning what you have to do…using that and my past experience allowed me to get a job over the summer. I'm going to be a state lifeguard, and I feel like this really helped me. Ethan Oritz, Student Employee, VUSD Foothill High School Cafeteria

The part we're most excited about: VUSD Food and Nutrition Services is establishing a student advisory committee to assist in meal and menu planning. Student inclusion will help ensure that VUSD schools serve meals and snacks students want and will eat. Connecting with our students and learning with and through them is vital to the health and longevity of our schools, and we can't wait to see how much brighter our cafeterias will get with their input. VUSD Food and Nutrition has been building a better food system for years, implementing fresh salad bars and pivoting to safely pre-packaged foods and Universal Meals to address public health and food security for our community during the pandemic. They're eager to roll out these new and exciting changes with more student-approved fresh foods as we shift towards healing.  

Full 2023-2024 school year menus will be published on the VUSD and school websites at the start of the Fall semester. 

VUSD Cafeteria Staff Hard At Work
VUSD Foothill High School cafeteria staff hard at work
  • Anacapa
  • Balboa
  • Buena High
  • DATA
  • El Camino High
  • Pacific High
  • Ventura High