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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. 

the instagram logo
Marieanne Quiroz

With a student focus, the content for this platform will be created by new VUSD Communications Interns who are students at our VUSD High Schools. 

We're thrilled to announce the launch of VUSD's brand new Instagram account, with a special focus on our amazing students!  Content for this account will be created by our talented Communications High School Intern Team, working tirelessly to bring you all the latest updates and highlights from across our district. "Our students deserve a platform where their voices can shine, where we can celebrate their achievements, and where they can find important district-wide information," says Marieanne Quiroz, our Communications Director.  In addition to a student focus, information will be shared on this platform that current and prospective families will also informational. We're proud to introduce our team of seven high school student interns, each bringing their unique perspective and energy to showcase the incredible happenings on our campuses.Be sure to follow us on Instagram @SchoolVentura to be a part of the excitement!


Our 23-24 VUSD Communications High School Student Intern Team!

kendall, a VUSD communications intern

 Kendall Nagaoka, ‘24, Buena High School
 Campus Involvement: Swim Team, Captain Girls Water Polo Team, and Athletics Council Event Coordinator
 “I think it is important for students to get involved on campus because no matter what you join, it is like having this whole other family on campus. When I was   a freshman, I did not know anyone; none of my friends were going to Buena. I met my best friend on the first day of practice. It’s not just about sports; it could   be any club or even a class. School isn’t just about academics; it's also about building connections.”




cassius, a vusd communications intern

 Cassius Rankin, ‘26, Ventura High School
 Campus Involvement: Cassius enjoys his time at Ventura High in the Digital Photography, English, and History classes offered. He also participates in film club where he can pursue his interest in film further.

 “I like photography and believe that the job is good for growth and will allow me to start my career in a positive way. I am very excited to be starting on my path to a professional career.”




eve, a vusd communications intern

 Eve Cobos, ‘24, Foothill Tech
 Campus Involvement: Photography student, Previously part of the FTHS Student Art Show
 “I wanted this job because it’s a way to get my photography and artwork out there and to obtain experience in the workforce”







naomi, a vusd communications intern

 Naomi Schwartz, ‘26, Foothill Technology High School
 Campus Involvement: ASB Sophomore Class President, Vice President of the Gardening Club, a part of the GRAFX pathway
 “One of the main reasons I applied to be on the Communications Team was to get work experience and improve my skills in graphic design and photography!”






lizzie, a vusd communications intern

 Elizabeth Okubo, ‘26, El Camino High School
 Campus Involvement: Communications Liaison, Baking Club President, School Site Council Member
 “Something about me is that I’m a firm believer in self-improvement. There are always ways to grow and better yourself as a person!”







henry, a vusd communications intern

 Henry Escobar, ‘27, Buena High School
 Campus Involvement: X Country, Track & Field
 “The most important aspect of becoming successful is to fail, to learn from your mistakes and be better."










connor, a vusd communications intern

 Connor Upham, ‘24, Ventura High School
 Campus Involvement: PTSA Member
“I really wanted this job because it emphasizes communication with others and also introduces us to a new professional field. I think that’s really important at our age.”


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
the foothill dragon press logo
Marieanne Quiroz

FTHS's Dragon Press has achieved what many say is unachievable!

Foothill Technology High School (FTHS), part of the Ventura Unified School District, has achieved a remarkable feat by winning three major national high school journalism awards. The FTHS journalism program stands out as the sole High School program in California to accomplish this achievement this year, possibly since the inception of the of all three awards in 2016. The FTHS Dragons were honored with the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) Crown Award, the SNO Distinguished Sites Award, and the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) Pacemaker Finalist Award for 2024, recognizing the excellence of The Foothill Dragon Press.

The NSPA Pacemaker Finalist Award is bestowed upon the cream of the crop in high school journalism programs across the United States, with only 24 high schools earning this prestigious recognition this year.  The CSPA Crown Award acknowledges overall excellence in either print or digital student publications.

“I am constantly amazed at my student journalists and how they operate in a professional manner, but also their togetherness and family vibes in the classroom is what sets them apart from other programs. Journalism here is student-run, and their success is student-earned; my hope is that they have learned that we are better as a society when we work together, when we learn together, and when we strive to understand each other,” stated Journalism Adviser Yiu Hung Li.

Established in 2009, Foothill Dragon Press is an online-only publication committed to providing the Foothill community with accurate, responsible, thought-provoking, and timely journalism.

“Clear communication and collaboration played a major role in our publication’s success this year. Everyone in the publication puts in an equal amount of work: the staffers always come up with stories to portray, the editors oversee and send those stories to the editors-in-chief, and the editors-in-chief publish the stories for everyone to see. If our journalism program did not function in this process, our journalism program would not have achieved such recognition,” stated Isheeta Pal, Student Writing Section Assignment Editor.  

“To all aspiring journalism students, let your voice be heard! Whether through art, photography, writing, or even videography, journalism is a platform to express yourself and make an impact on thousands of people around the world,” stated Co-Editor-In Chief, Olivia Mowad.

three girls setting up mac & cheese boxes like dominos
Marieanne Quiroz

More than 6000 boxes of Mac N Cheese were set up for a domino like fall with boxes being donated to Food Share of Ventura County.

On Friday, February 9, 2024, Mound's fifth-grade class led an outreach project in which they learned something about themselves while giving back to the community. The students are responsible for planning and following through with various tasks, including cost analysis, publicity, and coordination with larger organizations. Last year, students and staff saw a video of an elementary school that created a "domino run" with cereal boxes. They thought, "We can do that." That would allow students to have a STEM project, practice their leadership skills, and, most importantly, do something meaningful for their community–a perfect fit for their Science and Global Citizenship magnet. Students had to brainstorm ways to determine the number of boxes they wanted to use and then decide what to do with all the boxes when they were done.  To see what their Principal and students thought of this event view this year's MAC 6000 video

Last year's students immediately thought of donating the boxes to Food Share of Ventura County. They wanted to give the boxes to them but realized that cereal, although it has vitamins, does not always make kids feel full. Last year's class reached out to a dietician and talked to her about nutritional value. They then decided their "dominos" should be more satiating and nutrient-dense. They also thought a whole family could eat Mac 'N' Cheese. That is how the Mac 'N' Cheese domino run began.

This year's students loved what last year's students did and wanted to build on it, hoping they could reach even more families in need. Last year's class raised 4250 boxes, so the students set a goal of 5000 this year. They reached that goal and surpassed it, with the current count at 6000 boxes.

They reached that goal by having groups of students present their ideas to the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and asked for matching donations to help them reach their box goal. They then presented to other classes throughout the school, explaining what they were doing and why. They asked students in those other classes if they could bring in boxes that could be used for their project and then donated to Food Share. Students also created fliers and posters. The focus this year was learning how to publicize. The fifth grade classed then held their second annual "Stuff the Trailer with Mac 'N' Cheese" drive. Students collected 3521 boxes. PTO matched many of those boxes, helping students get to over 5,000. With even more boxes arriving daily, they have reached over 6,000 boxes.  

"Throughout this STEM and outreach project, 93 students will have worked together on math concepts such as volume, area, estimation, multiplication strategies, and grouping. Leadership, teamwork, and communication skills have all been used and refined. They've learned perseverance and grit, how to keep Mac 'N' Cheese from falling over, and how to regroup and revise strategies when it does. Most importantly, the kids are excited to take care of others in our community by providing satiating meals that kids enjoy eating," stated Ms. Tracie Fickenscher, Mound 5th grade teacher. 

Lessons include:

  • Presentation skills
  • Time management
  • Communicating to a large audience (and knowing their audience)
  • Leadership and teamwork

STEM skills include:

  • Figuring out the perfect distance (and reliable distance) between boxes
  • Understanding the effects of outside forces and how to control for those forces
  • Calculating the volume of a box, wagon, and trailer
  • Estimating how many boxes fit in a wagon and a trailer and how to pack the boxes to maximize space
  • Determining how many boxes it will take to get to the front of the school from our classrooms
  • Developing a model and revising it based on data from trials