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Palm Trees & PUMPS

Shima 0 comments 10.08.2016

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 Every Wednesday, I will share a resident of the South Bay contributing to making our community a better place.

Today’s WCW title belongs to Ariana Armendariz who has worked her way up as an independent fashion stylist and pays it forward to her community by donating her time to charitable organizations.

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Armendariz, 29, was born and raised in Redondo Beach, CA. She attended West High school in Torrance and graduated in 2005. Several years later, she graduated from FIDM in 2007, but got an early start to her styling career during her final year in school when she was hired to work on Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/LoveSounds tour.

When she was just 12 years old, her mom took her brother and her to visit the set of the WB series "7th Haven". She says it was on that set where she realized she could become a wardrobe stylist/costumer. “I ended up spending the whole day watching the designer come up with prom looks. It was a warp after that!” she says.

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It was then that she decided to start her path in fashion by taking local sewing classes. She went on to study Fashion in high school; and eventually attended The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.

The first big tour she was fortunate enough to work on was Justin Timberlake's FUTURESEX/LOVESOUND, and since has worked with artist such as Chris Brown, Usher, and the latest tour she just finished, RIHANNA'S Anti World Tour. In between, she also works on TV, and commercials.

Armendariz and her mom shared a passion for fashion and says was her greatest inspiration in pursuing the field. At 6 years old, she had her first custom made jacket which her mom had made for her with fabric she brought from Italy. “It was my Mom who took me to visit my first set and the same amazing women who took me to my very first Fashion Week in London! She was always dressed to the 9's, I would have to say it was her. And maybe our obsession with Frida Kahlo,” she says.

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Her favorite part of her job is making people feel great about how they look. “I feel like I've done a good job when my clients feel confident about their look,” she says. The most challenging part is her desire to please everyone, and the grueling hours they sometimes keep.

She suggests anyone who’s interested in becoming a stylist to work hard and be nice to people. “Breaking into this industry isn't always easy,  if you are a hard worker, kind, and talented you will have a lasting place,” she says.

When she is not busy on tour, she pays it forward by donating her time to events like STAND UP TO CANCER, where every penny being made is going straight to the cause. She also donates clothes and such to local charities.

In five years, she would like to be styling some top artists, possibly in music, working on commercials and being a sought out "Style Wolf!”

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Armendariz loves living in the South Bay because of the amazing people. She mostly likes the mellow, easy going people who tend to live in the South Bay. Her job can get quite demanding, coming home to good family and friends makes the commute well worth it. She also says, “Who doesn't love the smell of salt water air when they leave for set at 5am?”

Armendariz continues to work fiercely and says she looks up to her role models including her beautiful Mom, Frida Kahlo and Anna Wintour, of course.

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Thank you, Ariana for being an inspiration for many to follow their greatest dreams and passions and still making time to pay it forward, despite your busy schedule!

To learn more about Ariana’s styling, you can refer to her social media sites here:

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Www.ArianaArmendariz.com

Instagram: @palmtrees.and.pumps

Twitter: @palmtreesNpumps

Tumblr: @Palmtrees-and-pumps

Facebook: Ariana Armendariz

You can also find her "NIKE LA INFLUENCER" story here:

http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/c/cities/losangeles

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 "I think my life motto would be, work hard and be nice to people."

-Ariana Armendariz

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Spreading the South Bay love.

Shima 1 comments 02.08.2016

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Every Wednesday, I will share a resident of the South Bay contributing to making our community a better place.
Today’s WCW title belongs to Britney Jazmin West, who is now living in Australia, and was able to raise over $5,000 for the residents of the islands of Fiji after being hit by cyclones, which caused severe damage and left many without homes and necessities for survival.

West, 29, was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. After graduating from North Torrance High School in 200, she attended El Camino College and then transferred to Cal State Long Beach where she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology.

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Interestingly, West says, “Although, I have a college education, I find most of my knowledge has been learned through others. Listening to all different types of people’s stories, advice and criticism has furthered my knowledge and opened my mind greatly.”

Last year, West went on little trip to Fiji with no expectations, other than a backpack and good vibes. She never expected the trip to forever change her outlook on life. She had heard about the cyclones that hit the islands a few weeks prior to her arrival but had no idea the caliber of damage it had done.

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“The hostel I was staying at had ties with some villages in the center of the island and they were working with other people on holiday to bring aid to these villages that were totally destroyed,” she says. One day while on vacation, she was having a beer watching the sunset and talking with the owner of the resort and she let him know that if they needed anything, she would be willing to help in any way.

He informed her that they were headed on an aid trip the following day and she was welcome to come along. “I woke up with no idea where I was going or what I was going to do, but I know that there were people in need and I wanted to help,” she says.

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The following day, they headed on 4-hour journey in the back of the aid truck to the center of the island. “What used to be a beautiful lush forest looked so deserted, not a tree in site. We arrived at the first village and was welcomed with huge smiles and Kava (a local drink brewed from leaves of the Kava plant),” she says.

West could only think of all the things the people had taken from them- which was simply everything. The huts they lived in were all torn to shreds and they were sleeping under tarps or out in the open. The team delivered many different types of aid such as food, medicine, building materials, mosquito repellent, farming utensils, diapers, feminine products, and kid toys.

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On the 4-hour ride home, on bumpy dirt roads, West thought about her life and how fortunate she had been to have everything she needed to survive and live a prosperous life. “These loving and selfless people didn’t deserve this, but natural disasters happen all over the world every day,” she says.

She felt the least she could do was help bring awareness and aid to the wonderful people of Fiji. With the help of her friends, family and people of the South Bay, she was able to help raise $5,000 towards the Gofundme.com/fijineedsyourhelp Fund. With this money, the beaches hostel was able to do 3 aid trips each providing 3 tons of aid the 672 people in the villages!

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One can learn more by emailing West directly at missbrit310@aol.com or checking out their GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/fijineedsyourhelp.

As previously mentioned, West has found that she’s gained most of her knowledge through life experiences, so it’s no surprise that in February of 2015, she’d pack her bags and move across the country to Australia.

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“I was inspired to move to Australia by the vast natural beauty of the country. I love that the country is as big as the United States but only has 24 million people living here, leaving so much room for exploring and opportunity,” she says.

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She says that although it has a similar climate and culture, it is also a world apart. “Australia is a very homogenous country so it’s very different coming from Los Angeles where authentic food and different cultures are everywhere. I really took for granted living in a city where most people speak a second language and you can get authentic food from other countries within a 15 min drive from your house,” she says. West says it has been a challenge and made her appreciate the wonderful people of the South Bay and the community that she was lucky enough to be brought up in.

One of West’s greatest hobbies is traveling and she is currently trying to visit as many national parks as possible, but feels it seems to be endless. “There are about 20 different national parks just within an hour or two from where I’m living. I have been going on at least one hike a week but still have a lot more exploring to do,” she says.

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West has found that although Australia is a very wealthy country with great social benefits such as Free health care, 6 weeks paid vacation, 1 year paid maternity leave and retirement that is paid by your employer- it still has similar issues that Americans face in the states.

Her friend Claire started a Charity called, “Treats on the Streets,” which delivers treats to homeless people around Melbourne to bring a smile to their face. She pays it forward by trying to donate to the charity as much as possible.

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West misses many things about living in SoCal, including her friends and family, football Sunday’s, inexpensive beer, food, and Dodger games. She misses the music culture in Los Angeles as well. “If there is a band you want to see, they will almost 100% touring somewhere in L.A. Not that many bands make the trek over to Australia so live shows are far and few between,” she says.

When asked where she sees herself in five years, she says, “I’ve always lived my life with no plan what so ever, so in the next 5 years I will probably be making plans just to break them. I wouldn’t mind living in Queenstown, New Zealand for a bit.”

Thank you, Britney, for spreading the SoCal compassion, love and kindness in your heart to the residents of Fiji and reminding us it’s ok to live day to day.

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"I've never been a person that follows a particular motto and I would absolutely hate googling life motto's and getting generic motto's. So, I will leave you with not a motto, but advice. I advice everyone to radiate love, happiness and respect you will attract just that! If you wait until you’re ready, you’ll be waiting for the rest of your life."

- Britney Jazmin West

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A comfortable place to shed the weight.

Shima 0 comments 20.07.2016

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Every Wednesday, I will share a resident of the South Bay contributing to making our community a better place.

Today’s WCW title belongs to Stephanie Sola, who alongside her husband own  South Bay Trainer.

Sola, 26, grew up in Seal Beach and is currently residing in Lawndale. Five years ago, Sola’s husband, Josh, opened a private gym called, “South Bay Trainer.” The gym offers affordable personal training by some of the most experienced trainers in the South Bay.

“What we discovered is that it isn't necessary to charge people $75-$150 an hour for personal training.  We charge instead $15-$25 an hour and offer a friendly community atmosphere, at any given hour you will see all shapes, sizes, goals and walks of life training with us,” she says. The entire team focuses to keep the client's needs at heart, by not canceling on people or bullying them, instead, there help anyone get healthy!

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Sola’s role at the gym is basically, “Everything but train.” Prior to joining her husband at the gym full time, she was a private bookkeeper. Today, she does a lot of different things at the gym, including everything finance and employee related. “My favorite job though is that I do almost all of our initial consultations, so in a lot of ways I become the first friendly face any new client sees, I love to learn more about different people, goals, backgrounds careers and family life,” she says. She feels that it also brings most clients comfort to see that there is someone there who isn't a 'Trainer' who they can ask questions too as well.

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Thus far, the most rewarding part of her job has been seeing her husband Josh more! She says they went from seeing each other for 4 hours a day (when working separately) to over 12 hours a day. She realizes that most couples cannot say the same, so she feels very grateful. She also appreciates that she has over 250+ clients she socializes with.

Like many family owned businesses, Sola has two jobs.  She is the one who cooks, shops and keeps the house clean, in addition to working.  She says her day is usually centered around any new client consultations she may have, if it is a light day where she only has one or two, she might take that morning or evening to leave the gym early to cook, go to Costco or the grocery store, spend some time with their dog, etc.

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If it is a day where she has 7-8 consultations, she is usually in from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. doing her regular tasks in-between. “The one constant is that during our lunch break my Husband and I go work out, and we actually workout at a different gym than our own.  It’s nice to have a break, but even we need to get our workout on,” she says.

It’s no surprise the Sola’s have invested much time and passion in their business, and it shows! They have been awarded “South Bay's Best” seven different times in different fitness and health categories over the years. IN addition, they have expanded twice as well.

Despite the praise and accomplishments, Sola says she tends to prefer the smaller things. “We work hard so our clients have a good, comfortable place to go and whenever someone meets their health goals or tells me how happy they are that they found us it makes me feel great, like all of our hard work has paid off,” she says.  She also admires all four of their employees.

One of their trainers is currently working on buying his first house for his family of four, another one who moved out on her own for the first time, and all of them have been able to open their first retirement accounts. “Being able to give people the ability to accomplish their dreams and enjoy their job is probably my favorite of all,” she says.

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South Bay Trainer just hit their five-year anniversary of business on Monday, so it’s difficult to imagine where they see themselves in the next five years. She says. “I don't think we will expand again, but maybe we will open another location sometime, I think we will do really well in south Orange County.”

Outside of the gym, Josh and Sola are looking to adopt their first child in the coming years, and when that happens, they may finally move down to just working 8 hours a day, but for now they continue with 12 so they can keep learning and improving.

When Sola is not working, her husband and her make a point to be very active in the South Bay public schools. They have sponsored a lot of teams from PV High, South High and Redondo Union. “We think that all young people should learn to be comfortable in a fitness environment whether they play sports or not,” she says. In addition, they run several free events a year so that clients have the opportunity to get their clients and friends into fitness as well.

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For anyone intimidated by a gym, Sola says, “No one wants to feel like they aren't good enough, and it’s important to remember that all of us have different strengths and weaknesses.” She has found that the most difficult step is just walking through the doors and getting through the first few workouts and incorporating nutrition.  With all the information that is floating around everywhere, she says that one thing is true, working out has never made anyone worse than they were before, only better.

Initially, Sola missed living in Orange County for a while, but now that she has been here for 6 years, she realizes that it is really nice to have so much within a 20 minute distance- the beach, amazing food, hikes, and endless activities.  “But honestly, the food is the best, I love that I can try a different restaurant every week and still have so many options,” she says.

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Thank you, Sola, for remaining so humble and welcoming to locals at South Bay Trainer and making time to give back to the members of the community despite your long hours.

To learn more about South Bay Trainer, please visit their location in South Torrance, at 3865 PCH (NE corner of Ocean and PCH)

and their website:

SouthBayTrainer.com

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Teaching Compassion.

Shima 0 comments 12.07.2016

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Every Wednesday, I will share a resident of the South Bay contributing to making our community a better place.

Today’s WCW title belongs to Dina Aloteibi, who was inspired to pursue the Special Education credential program with hopes of inspiring children to perform with more effort, challenge themselves, work hard, and set goals without being afraid of failure.

Dina, 26, was born and raised in Torrance, CA. In 2007, she graduated from North High school, then went to California State University of Fullerton where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies. Today, she is currently at California State University of Long Beach, in the Special Education credential program.

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She says when she first chose to get a degree in Liberal Studies, her intention was to get a teaching credential in Multiple Subjects to be a general education teacher. “It wasn’t until I was about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree when I decided to pursue a career in special education,” she says.

One day, while doing her observation hours for a pre-requisite course to get into the multiple subject credential program, she noticed a student in the background throwing a tantrum in a class. She says he was kicking and screaming on the floor. The child’s aide was having a difficult time calming him down, so they had to call the Principle in for help.

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“I would say that moment in particular is what sparked an interest,” she says. Thus, during break, she asked the teacher about the student and she explained to Dina that he had autism. She wanted to learn more abut him and other students with special needs, so she spoke to the Principal and asked if she could observe the Special Day Class.

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She got the opportunity to work with the children in the classroom, speak with the aides and the teacher, and basically after that point, decided to switch from general education to special education. She currently works at an elementary school as a Para-Educator.

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Dina works with students with special needs on a one-on-one basis or in small groups.  “I get the privilege of applying everything I learn in my classes to my work force and vice-versa. I get to experience what it is like to work in the special education field, so it prepares me to be a successful and well-qualified special education teacher,” she says.

She’s found that the job in itself is very rewarding, but thinks the most rewarding part is when a student meets their goal, or even moves a step closer to meeting their goal. “It could be something as simple as “cutting a sheet of paper in one out of two trials”. There’s a sense of accomplishment because you know how difficult the process has been.  And seeing a smile on their face is always the cherry on top!” she says.

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Dina wants others to know it is important to treat every human kindly, because you never know what battles/everyday challenges they’re are faced with. “Be compassionate towards students with disabilities, as well as their families because sometimes it’s just as hard on the parents as it is on the children. Socialize with them, say hello if you pass by, smile, be friendly. You might just make their day. And always use first person language when referring to them,” she says.

She says there are a pretty large number of people who have disabilities, but it isn’t always visible. “Every one of us has had students with special needs in our classrooms growing up, but we may have not necessarily noticed it. It is a lot more common than we think,” she says.

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Five years from now, Dina wants to be a Special Education Teacher. She hopes to have a master’s degree in Education, possibly married with children.

When she is not working with the young children, she works actively with local Mosques often to hold fundraisers or set up events such as feeding the homeless. She tries to stay as active in the community so she can do her part. She also enjoys working out, biking, beach runs, movies, and spending quality time with the family.

She enjoys the South bay primarily for the diversity. “People are very welcoming and accepting of different religious backgrounds and ethnic groups,” she says.

Thank you, Dina, for helping the children of our future by giving them the patience, energy and time they need to grow.

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“My goal for the children of the future would have to be for them to be more compassionate towards their peers. To be respectful of others regardless of their ethnic group, religious background, disability, choice of attire, etc. “

– Dina Aloteibi

Skills on and off the field.

Shima 0 comments 06.07.2016

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Every Wednesday, I will share a resident of the South Bay contributing to making our community a better place.

Today’s WCW title belongs to, Whitney Proctor, who is a coach for the city of Torrance’s youth sport’s program and helps the children grow as individuals.

Whitney, 26, grew up in North Torrance and graduated from North High school in 2007. Today, she is a recreation leader for the city of Torrance. She primarily works in the youth sports program.

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The city runs four different sports throughout the year. “We have basketball in the winter time, volleyball through spring, next is dodgeball in the summer and last football in the fall.,” she says. Some of her duties are to referee, score keep or coach whatever game is in need for the particular sport and sometimes it's both.

Whitney, herself, grew up playing for the city in the basketball and softball program (when they had it). She says she loves everything her city has to offer with all the different programs. A typical day begins around 8:30am. She says that they all begin setting up for which ever sport members are working.

During that time, they also find out which court/field they are assigned to and they make sure that the games run smoothly throughout the course of the day. At the end of the day, they make sure to clean everything up.
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Her favorite time of the year is volleyball season. She says, “I didn't play it growing up, only at school when I was younger.” Whitney recently got the opportunity to coach her first teams with the city which she has been waiting anxiously to do.

She got two teams because they were short coaches. “The best thing is seeing when the kids get what I'm trying to teach them. You can see in their face when they are able to do what they are trying to do,” she says.

When she is not coaching teams for the city of Torrance, she is busy with school at the Art Institute in North Hollywood for Web design. She also works at California Pizza Kitchen in Rolling Hills as a server. She loves playing softball and taking photography.

She would like to further her coaching to softball and hopes to someday coach for North Torrance Girls Softball League, because that's where she grew up playing her whole life and says she has learned so much there. “I would like to pass on what I know and encourage girls that they can be all that they want to be,” she says.

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She says one can help the city by volunteering to coach as they are always in need. “If someone would like to volunteer for our football, basketball or volleyball program, that would be great,” she says.

In five years she hopes to have created some websites and possibly working at a graphic design company. She plans to still work for the city of Torrance.

Whitney’s aunt is her role model. She says that she has a master’s in public administration and works for the city of Long Beach. “My aunt faced all odds to get her degrees and no matter what she did what she had to do to get it. I am determined to get my bachelor’s degree no matter hard it gets to finish getting it. She also has always looked out for me no matter how busy she was.,” she says.

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Whitney loves the South Bay mostly for everything is available at her fingertips. “Growing up in the South Bay, I was able to experience many different places and not have to travel to far from home. The beach is practically our backyard- it's sunny and I know where everything is,” she says.

She believes it's important to give back to the city because it helped raise her. “Whenever I go to work at California pizza kitchen or the city,I always see familiar faces. I get to see people I grew up with and keep in touch with them. Torrance offers so much to its citizens and makes it so we don't have to go elsewhere to find what we are looking for. Giving back to me shows pride in my city and where I grew up,” she says.

Thank you, Whitney, for working so hard at helping our youth reach milestones in the sports they love and for allowing them to feel a sense of accomplishment in doing things they love.

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 “It's an awesome feeling to be a coach or help children gain skills that not only help them on the court/field, but off.”

-Whitney Proctor

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A healing heART.

Shima 0 comments 15.06.2016

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Every Wednesday, I will share a resident of the South Bay contributing to making our community a better place.

Today’s WCW title belongs to Nina Rebecca Nichols, who creates inspiring and creative art pieces through collages and hopes to inspire others to think outside the box through them.

Nina is an Angelino born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. One of Nina’s favorite things to do is collage/decoupage.  She says, “I love tearing images out of magazines that catch my eye. Inspiration just hits me when I'm not expecting it. When it feels right, I start gluing torn images on a board without thinking about it and I love watching what transpires.”

 The collages usually tell a story of her subconscious. She has also dabbled with pastels and abstract art. “I also decoupage bottles as gifts for people, with the theme being things that relate to the specific person. I then discovered that I could pretty much decoupage just about anything, such as skateboards and doll heads,” she says.

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She enjoys creating art with music or silence. She likes to create most of her art at home on the floor by herself with the television on or music playing.  Creating is very therapeutic for her. She says it takes her out of her thoughts and stresses of life.

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“I love being in the zone when the creative juices are flowing, and I love that euphoric feeling when I'm really happy with the outcome of the finished product,” she says.  Nina shares her art pieces on her Facebook page called "Collagica." She would love to sell her artwork, but feels she needs a little help in the Marketing area.

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When she is not creating art, she is a mom to two amazing boys; 11 and 21 and works as a Copy Editor for a design studio that produces car brochures. She also enjoys writing poetry, takin g pictures of odd things, and collects elephants and troll dolls.

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Nina likes the South Bay mostly because, “It is a very safe community and I love being so close to the beach where I sometimes like to go to watch the waves and journal.”

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Thank you, Nina, for sharing with others how art has transformed your way of living and I look forward to seeing it help others in the future, too.

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“I hope I inspire people to think outside the box.”

– Nina Rebecca Nichols

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Influencing Behavior

Shima 0 comments 01.06.2016

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Every Wednesday, I will share a resident of the South Bay contributing to making our community a better place.

Today’s WCW title belongs to South Bay native, Jamie Kelly, who joined the army reserve in 2007 as Psychological Operations Specialist.

Kelly, 27, was born and raised in Torrance, CA. In 2007, upon graduating from North High school, she joined the army reserve and deployed the following year in 2008.

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As a Psychological Operations Specialist, Kelly’s duties are to influence behavior of foreign populations via media and face to face communication.

When asked what she would tell someone who may be interested in enlisting, she says, “The military can help you grow up and give you valuable life skills that you won't be able to obtain elsewhere.”
She values the friends she has made and “being a part of something bigger than yourself.” However, she says the challenging aspects are reintegrating back into civilian life after deployment.

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When she is not working, she enjoys taking her kids to the park, retail therapy, and traveling.  Kelly plans to continue paying it forward by going back to school to someday become a nutritionist or personal trainer.

She wants to focus on health and help people surpass their goals.

Today, Kelly is living in Utah with her husband and children. She says she misses the South Bay mostly for, “The weather, lots of sunny days, legit Mexican and Asian food.”

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Thank you, Kelly, for devoting your time and efforts to our military and making our country a greater place

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Voice for children.

Shima 0 comments 24.05.2016

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Every Wednesday, I will share a resident of the South Bay contributing to making our community a better place.

Today’s WCW title belongs to longtime South Bay native, Jessica LaBray, who is working as an Applied Behavior Analysis therapist, helping children with autism reduce behaviors like aggression and self-injury.

LaBray, 27, was born and raised in Torrance, CA. In 2007, she graduated from North High school and says it is where she first became interested in psychology.

Upon graduating, she attended Cal State University of Dominguez Hills and received her bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in sociology, in 2012. After taking a year off of school to work and pursue a career in behavioral therapy, she was accepted into Hawaii Pacific University’s school of social work graduate program.

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 In 2014, she moved to Oahu, Hawaii to attend Hawaii Pacific University and fulfill her dream of living on the islands. Her grandfather worked for Delta airlines for over 40 years so her family was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Hawaii every year for vacation and I was blessed with the opportunity to tag along, visiting so many beautiful places. I fell in love with the islands of Maui and Kauai at a young age and have wanted to live here for as far back as I can remember.

She is currently about half-way through the program in hopes of receiving a master’s degree in social work. She does not recall a specific time where she realized she had an interest in psychology or social work, however, always knew she wanted to be a social worker and work for CPS (Child Protective Services).

Today, LaBray is working in ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy. She says, “I had some knowledge about it but had only taken one behavior modification course during my undergrad program.” It wasn’t until she saw openings on craigslist that she decided to apply, and once she was given the privilege of working with children that have special needs and learning the field of ABA, she fell in love.

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Her current position as an ABA therapist teaches replacement behaviors to children with autism to reduce harmful behaviors like aggression and self-injury. In short, they also teach vocal language, sign language, self-care and independent living skills, and social skills.

She says this  is important because these skills can improve their quality of life and open up a wider range of opportunities available to them, as well as lower their risk for incarceration or homelessness as adults. “These kids are my world!” she says.

In five years, she hopes to have her MSW and work with CPS, adoptions, or as a court-appointed child advocate. She says her current job as a behavior therapist is absolutely amazing and the company she currently works for, Easter Seals, has given her the best position she has ever had.

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Unfortunately, advancement in her field requires that she becomes a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and since she is already invested in the social work program, she has decided not to pursue that certification quite yet.

Despite loving her major, she says challenges in her study include not having enough time to not only complete assignments, but read and actually learn the material. “Most of the time it feels like I’m just rushing to turn something in or quickly cram for an exam. I work full time from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, so I don’t feel like I’m getting my money’s worth of the program, as I can barely make it to class on time.”

Some of the challenges she faces at work include not having enough energy to keep the kids motivated and happy. “It’s hard to keep a big smile or goofy character voice when you’re exhausted from lack of sleep or anxious about a paper that’s due after work. Personally, those are my biggest challenges,” she says.

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LaBray feels grateful to have grown up in the South Bay for its diversity. She says, “In all of the cities I have lived in, I have never had to grow up in a place where everyone looked the same. I love that I was exposed to so many different cultures (and food!) at such a young age. I also love the unity and close-knit ties that friends and families maintained over generations.”

She says that almost everyone has each other’s back. “From being students at NHS and losing our dear friend Hyatt, to national tragedies like the shooting at Sandy Hook, the community came together to support one another,” she says.

She misses many of friends, including those from North High. She says she didn’t realize how valuable friendships were until everyone grew up, moved away and had children.

LaBray hopes that one day the academic system will teach unbiased and historically accurate material and to be accessible (not just free) for everyone. She also hopes that teachers will be paid more in the future.

Thank you, Jessica, for continuing to be a wonderful member of the South Bay, even while away pursuing your academic goals to help others.

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“I want to be an advocate, or a voice, for children in dangerous situations. I’ve been in a lot of complicated situations involving my own family throughout my life so I think I can bring the understanding and awareness needed in that field.”

-Jessica LaBray

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Doing more than just treating.

Shima 0 comments 17.05.2016

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Every Wednesday, I will share a resident of the South Bay contributing to making our community a better place.

In honor of Nurse's Week last week, this week's WCW title belongs to South Bay resident, Jessica Darling, who has been working actively in the South Bay across several medical departments to improve the lives of many as a Nurse Practitioner.

Darling, 31, grew up in Lomita, CA. Early on, she knew exactly what she wanted to do as her mother and grandmother are both Registered Nurses. In result, she immediately began her educational studies at Harbor College in Wilmington which took a total of four years.

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Upon completion, she began working at Torrance Memorial Hospital and while there, decided to go back to school to get her BSN from Cal State University Dominguez Hills. She spent 2 ½ years at CSUDH before transferring to CSULB for another three years, where she received her MSN.

In total, Darling completed nearly 10 years of academics. She says she is often asked why she didn’t just become a doctor. She says she simply wanted to contribute to a field close to her heart, and believes in the nursing model and the science of medicine. As a Nurse Practitioner, she is able to blend both.

Darling worked at Torrance Memorial for eight years in several departments including: Telemetry (1 1/2 yrs), ICU (1 yr), Cardiac ICU (4 years), Case management (1 yr), and OR recovery (1 yr). She moved around as much as she could, and once she felt she learned enough, she’d request to move to another department. Despite exploring many departments, she knew her real passion was critical care, specifically the cardiac ICU.

Throughout the years, she has found the most enjoyable part of her career to be her patients. “I see mostly geriatric patients; they are to me the most fascinating people. I really get excited when I get to hear their stories,” she says. Just a few days before, she had a patient yesterday who was in the battle of the bulge and she says that they have all seen so much & most love to share.

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Today, she is not directly saving lives anymore like she helped to do in the ICU but she is improving the quality of life for people in her community working as a Nurse Practitioner. Most of her patients who come to see her are in a lot of pain, so she tries to get a strong history on all her patients.

Darling does not just list their illness & medication history like some do, instead, she asks them about their family, hobbies and goals. “Together, we come up with a plan to palliate their discomfort & get them back to living,” she says.

Transitioning from an RN to a NP was a huge change for Darling since she no longer works in the hospital. Instead, she works alone and no longer has a team of nurses that she sees weekly. She also no longer has MD orders to follow, but if she needs labs, an x-ray, medication orders- it is all on her. That difference alone was a huge adjustmentfor her.

The most difficult part for her has been balancing work with her personal life and remembering to take time out for herself. She says that because medicine is always evolving, it can be a lot to keep up with-- especially for her because she has moved through lots of different specialties through the years (Icu, primary care, rheumatology etc) while most MDs pick one in school & stick with it for life.

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In five years, Darling sees herself continuing working as a NP, mastering salsa dancing, running a half marathon as she hates running, vacationing more, and possibly purchasing another home. She also recently began volunteering with a Medical Mission Clinic that meets at various churches in the South Bay. She says they meet together once every six weeks and will be meeting next on June 18 at Calvary church in Lomita.

She says that they begin at 8 a.m. and it is on a first come, first serve. Basis. “I encourage anyone who needs dental or medical services and who does not have insurance to come,” she says.
Darling also teach geriatrics as an adjunct clinical instructor at Harbor College for a few weeks out of the year.

Darling loves living in the South Bay for its proximity to the ocean.  “Like most of us who grew up here, it is a special place for me. It's a place I go to run off the day, mediate, & sometimes just bask in the sun while wearing my spf 80 of course,” she says.

She also loves the small town feel of the South Bay and says there is nowhere she’s gone without running into someone she knows and loves being able to see old friends.

Darling would like others who are struggling to find a career path to know that nursing is an amazing profession to be a part of with limitless opportunities all over the world. “There is still a huge need for nurses-- at the same time I believe it is not a job, it really is a calling. Many people get into it for the money or the 3 days a week schedule. You can tell very quickly & so can patients,” she says.

She says that if you feel your calling is to care for others & you live in the South Bay, she recommends checking out Harbor College or El Camino- since both are affordable, local, and tough, but excellent programs. She says that you can work with your associates degree, but would also make sure that getting your bachelors afterwards is part of your career plan since more and more hospitals are now requiring it.

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Thank you, Jessica Darling, for being a wonderful member of the South Bay community by doing more than just treating patients, but truly listening, caring and guiding each person as uniquely as possible to the best of their circumstances.

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Flying high with Gallo + Hen

Shima 0 comments 11.05.2016

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Every Wednesday, I will share a resident of the South Bay contributing to making our community a better place. Today’s WCW title belongs to South Bay native, Vanessa Scouton who on top of being a flight attendant for Virgin America, is the owner and creator behind Etsy’s GALLO+HEN products.

Scouton, 30, grew up in Redondo Beach and is currently residing in Oakland. She moved to RB in the 2nd grade and went to Beryl Heights and went to high school at Redondo Union High School.  During her time at RUHS, she was in the Health and Fitness Academy and was on the Surf Team.

She says that she practically lived at the beach as a kid and could always be found surfing at Topaz or hanging with her friends at Ave A. Upon graduating high school, she went to El Camino for two years and studied Fashion Design before transferring to San Francisco State.

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During her last year at state, she was enrolled in just a few classes and was seeking a new part-time job. She says, “I never panned on becoming a flight attendant, it sort of just happened.” Her friend was working at SFO (San Francisco Airport) as a gate agent for an international carrier and helped her get a job there to.

Her training consisted of 6 weeks and says that service was the shortest lesson and probably what most people think they go to training for.  They learned to evacuate an aircraft in 90 seconds, how to fight a fire at 35,000 feet, what to do with a bomb, how to handle crazy people, how to help a pregnant women give birth, and more!

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She even says that there's a day that they just show you plane crashes, one after the next. After watching, they talk about each one, why did it happen, what new procedures were put into place because of it, what would one have done, etc. “In a way, it teaches you to separate your emotions from your actions,” she says.

Her favorite day of training was when she got to jump down the emergency exit slide.  She says that a lot of people don't make it through the training and that the instructors are very strict. She says that being on time is considered late, they must receive 90% on all tests, 1 redo for evacuation drills and emergency equipment preflight and procedure verbatim.

 Vanessa personally loves red eyes and does 7-8 two day redeyes.  A typical day for her is report to SFO at 10:05pm and a flies sfo-bos at 11:05pm.  She lands at bos around 7:30 a.m., goes to a hotel and sleeps. A van picks up the flight attendants at 5:30pm and the flight from sfo-bos is 7pm.  She arrives at sfo around 10:30pm and goes home.

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Although technically only gone 24 hrs, they are still called a 2-day trip.  She prefers this schedule because it allows her to have enough time with her husband, Carlos, and stepson, Vigo , and also allows for her to work on her Etsy shop.

Overall Scouton feels blessed to have had safe, easy flights with an occasional demanding client on board.

When asked what she’d tell someone who is afraid of flying, she said: “I think the fear of flying really comes from the fear of being in a new space that you don't feel comfortable with and feel out of control.  I have massive control issues!  Before I became a flight attendant, I was super afraid of flying.  My dad and step mom thought I was crazy when I applied.  But, I know I'm in control if something were to happen, I'd be the first to know, and I'm trained to deal with it.  I also go into the flight deck and see the pilots at work and know how professional and serious they are about safety.  Obviously, all flyers won't go through my training.  So, I think the next best thing is to introduce yourself to the gate agent working your flight.  Ask them if they would introduce you to the captain.  My pilots will let you go in the flight deck and show you around a little, help you feel comfortable and give you a little knowledge.  The flight attendants should be your best friend.  Let us know if you'd love an update on weather or turbulence. Getting to know everyone working the flight you are on helps make you feel part of the team and in turn a little bit more in control.”

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She says the best part of her job would have to be all the days she gets off and when she does go to work, she feels like she is just hanging out with her friends ...on a plane.  “It’s so nice to not take work home with me.  I might have a bad day, dealt with a crazy person, or bad turbulence... but when I get home, it’s all over!” she says. Scouton also enjoys the time away from home as it helps her not feel caged up.

On top of comforting flyers and being an all-star flight attendant, Scouton is very passionate about her Etsy business.  About four years ago, Vanessa and her then boyfriend moved into their Oakland apartment and had very minimal furniture that did not match.  She says, “We were dead broke and can't afford new stuff.  So, I started refinishing and painting all our things to match.”

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Carlos, her husband, loves what she is doing and wants to join.  So, together, they began finding dumped furniture and as a team make them new.  Soon after, people would come over and ask to buy the furniture they were making.  In result, they began creating chests, coffee tables, bars, and a bench.

Scouton says she would paint them bright with fun patterns and would sell them at flea markets or custom orders.  During this time, she also started making pillows and upcycling vintage goods that needed TLC.

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What made the beginning of the business so special was that it developed at a time when she was feeling lost and unhappy. “I was starting to be a real bitch to people at work and a total jack ass all around.  Once we started our creative business, my whole attitude changed and a felt a weight lifted off me.  I needed so badly to have something creative for me to enjoy. As much as I enjoy my "day job,” flying wears you out and can feel endless,” she says.

Scouton and her husband named the business GALLO+HEN because she says he walks around like a “giant Mexican Rooster.” (Gallo is Spanish for rooster.  And she is nicknamed Hen, since many years ago she DJed at a few bars as Mama Hen.) You can purchase her products from her website here.

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Currently due to their landlord’s request, they put furniture building on hold, however, they have continued selling serape pillow covers.  The pillow colors come in all the different colors and she says they brighten up n living space and add an adventurous vibe.

 Scouton genuinely enjoys waking up on days off and sewing for a few hours.  She also enjoys the process of taking trips to SD to get more blankets and even getting orders packaged and sending emails back and forth with customers.

When Scouton is not flying or sewing pillow covers, she pays it forward by donating clothes her family no longer wears or her step-son Vigo grows out of, all his toys or movies that he becomes to "old" for are donated and never resold.  In addition, her friend Jenette and her are trying to lessen the amount of street cats in their neighborhoods and in the meantime, care and nurture them.

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In 5 years, she hopes to continue doing things that make her happy. She sees herself flying, in a home, and doing what she loves.  When Scouton visits the South Bay, she enjoys spending time with many of her life-long friends, going to the beach and enjoying a drink at Old Tony’s.

Thank you, Vanessa, for reminding us that it’s important to chase our passions and make time for those and what matters most.

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“The fun, annoying, stressful thing about life is you can plan all day long but it doesn't mean shit.  Maybe that's not the mindset of a powerful super successful businessperson, but I'd never envision being that type in a 1,000,000 years.”

-Vanessa Scouton

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