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Author: Igor Nastaskin

Riviera Girl Scout Troop 9095 makes a difference by taking action!

By Riviera Elementary Principal Christie Forshey Riviera teaches Character Counts Pillars and plans monthly service projects that align with the following traits.  CC utilizes six “Pillars of Character”: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. Each pillar has a description, color, animal mascot, and mascot character name. With the addition of Riviera’s first Transitional Kindergarten Class this year…. Troop 9095 saw the need for a schoolwide TK value word, TK Character Counts color and TK Character!  The troop created an action plan to solve this problem and quickly got to work. The troop first identified 3-5 character trait options:  Friendship, Independent, Teamwork. Then the troop proposed animal mascots that aligned with the CC Program to represent the pillar trait. The troop spoke at flag assemblies to educate the student body on the topic and asked each class to vote on a new TK Pillar of Character! Ballots were cast, a selection was made by the student body and Troop 9095 has made a lasting impact on the Riviera Character Counts Program!  Now the troop plans to paint TK character murals on the TK/Kindergarten playground. Meet Finley the Fox, that represents the TK Pillar of FRIENDSHIP!  Light blue is the color of the pillar that TK students wear every Monday. All Riviera students learned that friendship means:          Now Riviera’s TK-5th Grade Character Counts Program is complete with the help of students that had a vision, created a plan and took action!  Thank you Troop 9095 for your leadership! 5th Grade- Trustworthiness: Camel “Charlotte” 4th Grade- Responsibility: Elephant “Eddy” 3rd Grade- Citizenship:Bear “Brooke” 2nd Grade- Respect:Lion “Logan” 1st Grade Caring:Kangaroo “Karina” Kindergarten- Fairness:Giraffe “Gus” TK- Friendship:Fox “Finley”

I Fight Back for Bella

Relay For Life Returns to South High School May 6 Like many of us, cancer has had a profound effect on my life.  When I was 19 years old, just four years after immigrating to the U.S. from Kiev with my mother, Bella, she developed abdominal pains.  What initially appeared to be gallstones was eventually revealed to be pancreatic cancer, and six months after her diagnosis she passed at the age of 57.   Up until that point, I didn’t know anyone with cancer.  I dropped out of college to be my mother’s full-time caregiver, administering morphine injections as her pain grew.  We were extremely close, having fled the hardships of the Soviet Union together, and this was a devastating experience for me. Had there been a cure for cancer maybe my mother would have seen me graduate from college and start a career.  Maybe she would have met my wife and seen her grandchildren. There are a lot of maybes and what-ifs when we lose someone we love.  And too many of us have lost someone to this horrible disease, or have been diagnosed ourselves. My personal heartache motivated me to get involved with Relay for Life 17 years ago when I became the captain of the Hollywood Riviera Sportsman’s Club team.  It’s been a very fulfilling experience, and to date, we have raised approximately $172,000 to support the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. The signature fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, Relay for Life is the world’s largest peer-to-peer fundraising event dedicated to saving lives from cancer. During Relay For Life, teams have at least one member walking on a track at all times, because cancer never sleeps.  Funds raised through Relay For Life directly support breakthrough research, 24/7 support for cancer patients, access to lifesaving screenings, and much more. Supporting Relay for Life is easy.  You can walk the track, or simply make a donation. The South High event will take place May 6 from 9am–10pm and will include a survivor /caregiver walk, hand-made Luminarias to remember those affected by cancer and performances by community groups. To sign up for the Hollywood Riviera Sportsman’s Club team (men and women are welcome), or donate funds to the American Cancer Society, please contact me at 310-892-6016 or inastaskin02@gmail.com. Your gift is tax-deductible as a charitable contribution to the fullest extent allowed by law. Let’s all fight back against cancer to give those we love more tomorrows.  For more information about the American Cancer Society’s support for survivors and patients, please call them 24/7 at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

Riviera Native Joyce Neu Used Negotiating Skills to Bring Peace to Countries in Conflict

A Peaceful Legacy: The Life and Work of Joyce Neu For those of us who remember the Bosnian war of the 1990s, the atrocities we saw on the news are seared in our brains.  Caused by the break up of Yugoslavia, the war between the Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs resulted in bitter fighting, ethnic cleansing, indiscriminate shelling and the rape of as many as 50,000 girls and women.   For Hollywood Riviera native Joyce Neu, the Bosnian war was more than just horrific images from a faraway country. As Associate Director of the Conflict Resolution Program at The Carter Center, the non-profit organization that advances democracy and human rights in more than 80 countries, Joyce was on the frontlines helping to negotiate an end to the fighting. Wearing a flack jacket as she flew into Sarajevo, Joyce recalls the pilot navigating the plane in circles as they descended to lessen the chances of being shot down. As part of her mediation efforts, Joyce met with Slobodan Milosevic, leader of the Republic of Serbia, and his henchman Radovan Karadzic – both of whom were ultimately charged by the International Criminal Tribunal with war crimes.  During the December 1994 trip to Bosnia, Joyce was present for the signing of several peace agreements.  The following year, as part of the Dayton Peace Accords, the presidents of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia, agreed to end the war. Five years later, Joyce traveled to the bushland of Central Africa to meet with Joseph Kony, leader of the terrorist group the Lord’s Resistance Army. One of central Africa’s cruelest and most enduring armed groups, the Lord’s Resistance Army abducted more than 67,000 youth, including 30,000 children for use as child soldiers and sex slaves.  Though Kony and his rebels refused to communicate with the government, they agreed to talk to Joyce about their preconditions for negotiations. Kony was indicted in 2005 for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. With a Ph.D. in linguistics, Joyce was the only linguist of the time doing conflict resolution at the international level. She served in Senegal as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the early 1970s, spent eight years as Executive Director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego, and was the team leader for the United Nations Standby Team of Mediation Experts. She helped mediate conflicts in more than two dozen countries, including Congo, Mali, Sudan and Uganda. Joyce was also a senior Fulbright scholar in Poland, a college professor, and has published numerous articles on conflict resolution, negotiations, and international war crimes tribunals.  “I’ve been fortunate to have a long and exciting career that I loved,” said Joyce, who retired in 2016. “Today, I enjoy simpler things, like walking my dog on the Esplanade, doing pottery, and being a citizen scientist for the grey whale migration census at the Point Vicente Interpretive Center.” Joyce’s father bought their family home on Camino de las Colinas in 1953 when it was newly built.   She was a student at Parkway School (now the site of the Riviera Beach Colony), and graduated from South High. Joyce never imagined growing up that one day she would play such an important role in bringing peace to foreign lands. We’re grateful this hometown hero put her skills to good use making this world a better place for us all.

Check it Out – El Retiro Library Re-Opens

Great news for our community El Retiro library is open and welcoming back patrons! The plumbing issues that caused the library’s year-long closure have been resolved and additional upgrades were made. The 64-year-old library has new carpeting and paint, new electrical outlets at every computer station, and modern, modular furniture that replaces the previous tables and chairs from the last remodel in the 1970s.  The mobile furniture provides an easy way to adapt the library space for guest speakers, children’s performers and study groups.  Starting in December, El Retiro will be the first library in the Torrance system to take part in a pilot study called Open+.  Funded by a State of California grant, the program allows patrons to enter the library even when it’s closed using a self-service system. Patrons will be pre-approved to use the service and will be able to access self-checkouts, computer usage, printing, WIFI and use of the space. El Retiro Library is located at 126 Vista Del Parque and is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 am to 2 pm, Tuesday and Thursday from 2 pm to 6 pm and Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm (310-375-0922). A message from Riviera Elementary Principal Christie Forshey Riviera’s 70th birthday party on September 9  happened to fall on a day of wild weather, but not even extreme heat, wind, rain and a power outage could stop the fun. Thousands of students, staff and neighbors past and present came together to celebrate seven decades of memories at Riviera Elementary. Food trucks offered tasty treats and historical photos and mementos were on display in the cafeteria. With the power out, a Jeep battery powered the band’s electric guitar and sound system and a real piano was rolled outside.  Guests danced in the rain until dark.

Riviera Couple Help Bring Dignity to the Destitute on Skid Row

A pair of shoes. A shirt. A warm blanket. Most of us take these everyday items for granted. But to the thousands of homeless living on Skid Row, a simple pair of shoes can mean the difference between dignity and despair. Marianne and Steve Rushton know this all too well. Every Sunday, the Hollywood Riviera couple packs up their car with approximately 450-500 pounds of clothing, blankets and toiletries and treks up the Harbor Freeway to downtown LA’s Skid Row.  Once there, they hand out the donations in the heart of Skid Row to those in need. They also deliver clothes to the Los Angeles Mission (mostly women’s work clothes and children’s items) twice a month. The couple has delivered more than 12 tons of donated items to Skid Row and the Mission over the past year. “We’re grateful to be able to help make a difference in the lives of people in need,” says Steve. “When I hand a barefoot man a pair of shoes and we chat, it seems like such a small act but it means so much to them. But we can’t make deliveries without donations, so we really appreciate all the people in our community who give what they no longer can use, those who put together toiletry bags, and those who spread the word to family and friends who then donate. We are all a part of a team with a greater purpose.” According to the Los Angeles Mission, nearly 64,000 people in Los Angeles county are homeless and 3 out of 4 of those are unsheltered. Steve and Marianne typically have as many as 200 Skid Row residents show up on Sundays to gather shoes, clothes and other necessities. The Rushtons were inspired to volunteer on Skid Row by their daughter, Michelle, who was working with a charity there to donate food. Both retired (Marianne was an educator and Steve was in sales), they also volunteer with Meals on Wheels. Originally from Canada, Steve and Marianne also have a son, a former Marine who served in Afghanistan. They moved to the Hollywood Riviera in 2003 for the schools. Steve and Marianne spend several days each week gathering donated items. On Tuesdays, they go to a local thrift store that donates bags of clothing that didn’t sell. On Saturdays, they visit garage sales in the area to ask if the seller is willing to donate clothes that don’t get sold. On both days, they drive to residents’ homes to pick up donations they’ve been alerted to. They also allow people to drop off donations at their home. In addition, the couple has purchased sleeping bags, tents, hats and other items to hand out. Marianne noted that most Skid Row residents are men, and warm items are specially needed. Every night, thousands of homeless people curl up to sleep on sidewalks, under bridges, in parks, cars and back alleys. Hypothermia has led to more deaths here than in colder regions because so many homeless people in Los Angeles live outdoors, more than anywhere else in the country. Although Los Angeles has a moderate climate, hypothermia can set in at temperatures as high as 50 degrees, experts say.  To schedule a pick-up or to drop off your donation for delivery to Skid Row and the Los Angeles Mission, text Steve and Marianne at 424-731-1449. What is Needed: Clothing, shoes, hats Blankets, sleeping bags, tents, backpacks, towels, purses, gym bags, suitcases Toiletries, adult diapers, bed pads, feminine hygiene products, canes, walkers Stuffed animals, children’s books Thank you Steve and Marianne for giving your time, money and love in service to others. And thank you to everyone who donates to those in need.

A Message from Riviera Elementary Principal, Christie Forshey

Riviera Elementary School is turning 70 years old! Did you or your child/ren attend Riviera Elementary School? Alumni, current and past staff members, and neighbors are invited to attend this special birthday celebration!  Riviera Elementary School will celebrate its 70th Birthday on Friday, September 9th, 2022 from 3:30-7:00 p.m. Stop by to listen to live music, dine at food trucks and tour the 10-acre campus to see upgrades view murals, take a walking tree tour & more!  The Jammin Jellies (some band members are Riviera alum) and Mrs. Laura Savitz will provide free entertainment. Happy birthday, Riviera! Speaking of alumni, South High School graduating seniors visited Riviera Elementary School on June 14th. Graduates addressed the student body and shared Riviera memories and their plans for the future.  SHS graduates visited with past teachers, watched their K-5 movie memory slideshow in the cafeteria and danced the Chicken Dance. It was a very special day. For more information, visit the Riviera Elementary School website at riviera.tusd.org Riviera Elementary School Originally bought in 1950 for $25,000, Riviera Elementary School sits on a 10-acre lot and serves the area of Torrance bordered to the north by PCH, to the west by the beach, to the south by Calle de Arboles, and to the east by Hawthorne Blvd. The school opened its classrooms to students 70 years ago, on  September 4, 1952. What was life like in the U.S. the year Riviera Elementary opened? Harry S Truman was president Nearly 58,000 cases of polio were reported in the U.S, Dr. Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine The U.S. tested the first hydrogen bomb Mr. Potato Head was introduced and was the first toy advertised on TV, More than one million were sold in the first year Average prices: A gallon of gas: 20 cents A car: $1,700 A house: $9,050 A movie ticket: 14 cents A loaf of bread: 16 cents Minimum wage: 75 cents/hour

Riviera Couple Celebrates their 70s on Everest

The Mountains Are Calling Not many people celebrate their 70th birthday climbing Mount Everest. But not a lot of people are like Riviera residents Laurie Jonqueres and her husband, Michel.  Just over two years ago, Laurie and Michel headed off on a Himalayan adventure that would prove to be the most challenging of their lives.  Avid hikers, the Jonqueres have trekked hundreds of miles including from the Eiger to the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps, the Dolomites in Italy, and treks in Peru, Patagonia, Egypt and more.   But the lure of Nepal called, and the Jonqueres knew they needed intense conditioning to prepare their muscles and lungs for strenuous hiking in high altitudes. Toward that end, they spent the summer of 2019 hiking and backpacking above 9,000 ft. in the Eastern Sierras. That fall, Laurie and Michel headed to the Himalayas for two back-to-back treks with REI. First on the itinerary was Annapurna Base Camp at 13,550 ft., followed by Everest Base Camp at 17,600 ft. The Jonqueres flew to Kathmandu where they joined three other hikers for the 14-day trek to Annapurna Base Camp. It proved to be two challenging weeks that tested their balance and knees as they traversed up and down thousands of rocky uneven stone “steps,” through subtropical forests, remote villages and along high glacial valleys where no roads exist. Led by Sherpas, the group experienced unexpected late monsoon weather that waterlogged their tents forcing them to stay in rustic tea houses. “Indoor shelter was actually a relief, as the rain brought out tiny leeches in the fields where we camped that could only be seen once they expanded with our blood,” said Laurie. Arriving at Annapurna Base Camp, the group was rewarded with clear weather and encircling views of 24,000 ft.-plus high peaks and glaciers, and as the day turned to evening, a brilliantly star-studded night sky not seen at sea level. The Annapurna trek served as excellent conditioning for the rigors of climbing to Everest Base Camp, the hardest thing the couple has ever done.  Their group consisted of seven strong hikers, of whom Michel (at 75) was the oldest by 18 years.  Yet Laurie and Michel remained strong, not even requiring the high-altitude medication commonly needed by climbers. Not all Himalaya hikers are that fortunate—they saw two middle-aged climbers airlifted from halfway up on their quest to Everest Base Camp. The 19-day Everest trek involved many days of hard mileage and cold like they’ve never experienced. The strenuous climbs sometimes ascended 2,000 feet per mile, followed by an equal descent to cross a river on a swaying swing bridge. Every member of the group made it to Everest Base Camp on the Khumbu Glacier.  Their exploration at Base Camp however lasted less than an hour due to the onset of hard-blowing snow that hastened their return to camp three miles away. At 4 am the next morning, the dawn of Laurie’s 70th birthday, the group set off in the dark with headlamps to climb to Kalapatar at 18,865 ft. Reaching the top after a toe-numbing climb up steep snow and icy rocks, the group endured the breath-stealing cold to take in the extraordinary view of Mt. Everest at 29,029 ft. with its famous summit plume above and the Khumbu Glacier below. The group spent the rest of the day hiking 14 miles—a 5,000-foot descent—to that night’s stop in the tiny village of Pheriche, where the Sherpas surprised Laurie with a birthday cake baked over hot rocks. “It was so emotional as the Sherpa leader wrapped me in a yellow prayer shawl, the Nepalese good luck color, and our group shared a special bond in our common accomplishment,” said Laurie. “We are so grateful we had this experience at this time in our lives,” added Michel. “It was the adventure of a lifetime and we did us ‘old folks’ proud.” When they’re not conquering mountains, Laurie and Michel enjoy gardening (the roses in front of their Paseo de las Tortugas home are stunning) and tennis. Married for 46 years, they moved to the Riviera in 1977. What’s next on their agenda?  Nothing short of hiking around Europe’s tallest peak, 15,000 ft. Mont Blanc, crossing through Switzerland, Italy, and France. We can‘t wait to see those photos!

Riviera Roundup: a Message From Riviera Elementary Principal, Christie Forshey

Riviera Elementary School Recognized Two Students From Each Class for the Character Counts All Pillar Awards at a Ceremony on May 23rd Here is a picture of our 5th-grade recipients!  The students selected for the All Pillar Award exemplify the pillars of citizenship, respect, caring, fairness, trustworthiness, and responsibility. Parents, student body and Riviera staff were all present at the awards ceremony.  To date, Igor Nastaskin has donated $41,000 to support the Riviera Character Counts Program over the last 17 years. Each year, the school is able to provide a school-wide Character Counts assembly and student incentives for the school’s Character Counts Program. Each month, individual pillar awards and teacher choice awards are given.  Riviera’s 583 students earn Super Stars and incentives in a tiered system of reinforcement for being responsible, respectful, safe, present and for being a friend to others.  A student store certificate, shout-outs over the loudspeaker, lunch with the Principal at Rocketship Park, extra recess, Character Counts T-shirts, and trips to the office prize box are a few of the coveted Super Star incentives that students work towards receiving! Riviera Village Summer Festival It’s back!  Grab your sunglasses and head out to the Riviera Village Summer Festival, June 24 from 4pm – 9pm, June 25 from 10am – 8pm and June 26 from 10am – 7pm.  Shop the more than 200 arts & crafts booths, fill up at the international food court, treat the kids to carnival rides and enjoy the beer garden and live bands. The fair takes place at the corner of Catalina and Avenue I and free shuttles are offered from South High. I’ll see you there!