Middle School Begins


Hi CTEBVI blog readers! If you read my last blog you know that I had a really fun and super busy summer. But unfortunately summer break is over and it was time to start MIDDLE SCHOOL.

I started on August 15 and my first day went well. It was an adjustment learning the lay out of my new school campus but I have it down now. Another huge adjustment was getting use to traveling to six different classrooms each with different teachers. My favorite class this semester is science. I am currently memorizing the ENTIRE periodic table of elements. So far I have memorized the first 20 out of 118.

During the second week of school we had our first field trip. We went to the Four Winds ropes course. This field trip was for the purpose of having fun but also to do team building exercises with our new classmates. I went on two different high course challenges that were so amazing. The first one was zip lining and I had to climb a tree to get to the platform. The climb hurt because I had to hold onto metal rings. Slowly and painfully I got to the top and when I was standing on the platform I realized my hands were stuck in the position of a claw. After loosening up my fingers I jump off the platform and I dropped for a few feet before shooting forward. There are no words to describe how fun and exhilarating it is. I felt free. I also felt like the world was perfect in that moment.

After the zip line came a ropes course called the xylophone. The xylophone is about twenty feet off the ground. When I was a few feet from the top I accidentally dropped about ten feet before I reached the platform. Thankfully I was in a harness which caught my fall so all that happened was that I swung a couple times back and forth towards the tree. After swinging for a bit I managed to grab a ring with my right hand. It felt like I might dislocate my shoulder. My friend who was waiting for me at the top, wanted to get down. I told him he could go down, but I said I would try to do the course by myself even though the course was meant for two people. After I said that my friend changed his mind and said he would continue. My friend and I manage to finish the course and everyone cheered. Unfortunately the two people that were going after my team weren’t able to go because we ran out of time. They said they didn’t care because it was good enough watching my team. In my opinion that was kind and I think this was a great way to get to know people at my new school.

Another change that has occurred since starting middle school, is that every Wednesday we are required to run a mile. My first run was pretty slow but then my second time I had improved my time by 15 seconds. One of my new goals I have set for myself is to keeping improving my time every single week. I don’t really enjoy running the mile but since I have to than I will keep trying to break my own records.

I don’t have many activities going on outside of school right now. September is my most laid back month. I do plan on joining the Lego robotics team at my school. That should be starting in the next few weeks. I have also thought of starting a chess club during lunch break at school but that’s not for sure yet. I will give you an update on whether or not I decide to start the chess club in my next blog. Until then take care and as always thanks for taking the time to read through my blogs. Peace out!

Amazing Musical Summer

Pictured: Chris Serrano with his bass clarinet -- Photo courtesy of: Chris Serrano

Pictured: Chris Serrano with his bass clarinet — Photo courtesy of: Chris Serrano

I had a very memorable summer and part of the reason it was so special was because I was able to purchase my bass clarinet with the help of the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship! Buying the instrument was such a positive step forward in my music career. Just two weeks ago I performed for the very first time with my bass clarinet on stage during a show that I did at the Academy of Music for the Blind. All of my other friends and teachers, apart from me, simply adore my newest instrument; it is a truly wonderful addition to the list of instruments I currently play. I am especially happy with this purchase because I got it for an incredible deal on E-Bay.

Just today, I auditioned to rejoin the Jazz Ensemble at school. I am happy to say that I made it and will now be officially a part of the tenor saxophone section. I also made into the second Jazz Combo band where I will improve on my abilities to improvise a solo. I will also have the chance to switch between instruments (drums and bass clarinet). The Combo is regularly scheduled to play gigs and, in some cases, members of the band are paid! Finally, I also joined the Sound Recording class here at school. In this class, I learn how to compose my own pieces as well as familiarize myself with the latest recording technology available.
Apart from purchasing my bass clarinet this summer, I also got my very first job. I worked at a kid’s camp at the park near my house as a sort of activity director during the last half of June. It was an amazing experience! I really enjoyed it because I was basically being paid to play games and eat lunch all day. I made some really awesome new friends with my co-workers. Also, one of my co-workers was a friend of mine that I met in Jazz Ensemble; being able to work together was another major factor that contributed to the once in a lifetime first experience.
During the last week of break, I went to camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times. We went on an overnight backpacking trip to sleep outside beneath the stars and have a good time. We also did several activities such as fishing, playing sports/games, and swimming. It was great to be able to make new friends and see friends from previous sessions.
Overall, my summer was a huge success for me. Now that I have my bass clarinet, I am looking forward to a bright musical future. Thank you so much for choosing me to be the winner of this scholarship. You have no idea how happy I am having been able to finally purchase my instrument.

Fun Filled Summer

I am having the most eventful summer break I’ve ever had in my life. It kicked off in mid-June when I went to the California School for the Blind (CSB) to attend a Technology and Sports Camp. While at CSB I did many things such as: played goal ball, indoor rock climbing, swimming, roller skating, learned about taking videos then editing them, and last but not least took two off campus trips. The first was to a local movie theater where we got to watch/listen to a movie with audio description. The movie was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and it was awesome and action packed. The second off campus trip was to Santa Cruz Beach Board Walk. I went on several different roller coasters and bought myself some fluffy, delicious, mouthwatering cotton candy. Upon my return from Tech & Sports camp I was home for only five days when it was time to pack up and leave but this time for Carlsbad, California.

My family and I were headed to Legoland to celebrate my 13th birthday. When we arrived at Legoland, I immediately wanted to start riding the roller coasters. My favorite ride there was called Technic. I made my mom go on it with me over and over again. Besides going on the rides, I also did a lot of shopping. I bought a lego man cake mold that I plan on using very soon. I also went to the Brick Hut Shop where they sold Lego pieces by the pound. I filled up a bag of different lego pieces so that I could build houses, cars and maybe a space shuttle. It was really cool to pick my own lego pieces. After two days visiting Legoland we went to Los Angeles to finally visit the California ScienCenter! My tour guide, Albert was really knowledgeable and provided hands on experiences. I learned a lot about different ecosystems. The most memorable part was when I got to touch a starfish, sea urchin, and sea cucumber. I enjoyed visiting the California ScienCenter because it was nice to have a personal tour guide taking time to explain all that the science center has to offer not to mention it’s hands on! I hope to visit it again when I’m back in the LA area.

My fun summer didn’t stop there! We came home for a few days then headed off on a road trip to Idaho to visit family. We celebrated Fourth of July there and it was epic. My parents bought a lot of fireworks so I was really excited. My favorites were the Roman Candles. Unlike other fireworks you light the Roman Candle and hold on to the stick and point it high up into the air. The thing that makes them so cool is that they shoot off little balls of fire into the air. Next year, I plan on buying lots more Roman Candles.

After getting back from Idaho, I was home for a week before it was time to leave for Enchanted Hills Camp (EHC). EHC is a camp for the visually impaired where there are so many activities to try like swimming, archery, hiking, boating, and different craft projects. They do way more, but I just listed the basics. I like going to camp there because there is a day called Theme Day and this year the theme was Olympics. They put people in teams and this year I was placed in team South Korea. The first contest was an arts and craft contest. We had to make the largest tower made out of sticks and my friend and I stumbled upon a nine foot branch. That branch is the reason my team won that contest. Contest after contest flashed by until it was the last event. It was a scavenger hunt. After what seemed like hours they announced the winners of the scavenger hunt and my team lost. We thought they were talking about the whole contest but in the end it turned out my team won the whole Olympic games. My team was screaming like crazy and sharing hugs and high fives. I was sad when it was time to go home but was already looking forward to next year.

After EHC camp I came home for one day then headed off to my last camp of the summer. It was at Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB). This was my first time attending this camp and it was really awesome. I learned so much about what it will be like once I get a guide dog. Besides working and learning about guide dogs we did other activities like taking a walk to Muir woods and visiting the GDB gift shop. My favorite time was the over night experience with our own guide dog. I was assigned a golden retriever that got to spend the night in my room. I didn’t want to have to give her back the next day but I did. I can’t wait until the day I get my very own guide dog.

So as you have read, I am having a busy summer. Staying supper busy makes summer vacation go by way too fast but I have done a lot of awesome things and have met some really cool kids at the camps I’ve gone to so that’s the plus side. I can’t believe summer vacation is almost over and that I will be starting middle school soon. I think for the rest of the summer I will take it easy and sleep in. I deserve it.

School’s Out For the Summer!

Pictured: Mario Chitwood at his 6th grade promotion -- Picture courtesy of Mario Chitwood

Pictured: Mario Chitwood at his 6th grade promotion — Picture courtesy of Mario Chitwood

On Friday June 3, I had the pleasure of being chosen as one of two student speakers at my 6th grade promotion. It was nice to be able to thank all the teachers and staff at my school and to wish all my 6th grade peers well in the next chapter of their lives. I was sad to be leaving a school that I had attended since Kindergarten but I’m looking forward to starting middle school, where I hope to start a chess club. To celebrate my promotion to middle school, my family took me to one of my favorite sushi restaurants, where I filled up on California rolls and shrimp tempura rolls.

Another exciting event I recently participated in was a cooking/game day with my T.V.I, my new mobility instructor and a few other students who are blind. Our menu consisted of hamburgers, mashed potatoes, fruit salad, and strawberry shortcake with homemade whipped cream! I was in charge of cutting the potatoes, strawberries, kiwis, and I got to make the homemade whipped cream. Making the whipped cream was my favorite because it was delicious and easy to make. All I had to do was add heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, a little bit of vanilla extract into a magic bullet and blend it until it was the right consistency. My other favorite part of this day besides making the whipped cream was playing an adapted version of Jeopardy. I watch this game show with my family every night and hope to one day make it as a contestant on the real Jeopardy. But for now, it was fun playing and just pretending it was an official game. We played in pairs and my partner was my mom. We started out doing great but then we started trailing behind. Although we didn’t win we had lots of fun because our game show host would trigger a booing sound effect when we got incorrect answers and he would trigger a clapping sound effect when our answers were right. This was a fun day and a great way to kick off my summer vacation.

I have many things to look forward to during my summer vacation. I will be attending three different camps, traveling to Los Angeles to visit the California Science Center, having lots of swim playdates with friends, and possibly going to Idaho to visit family for Fourth of July. I also have my 13th birthday coming up on June 24th. I am still undecided about what I want to do to celebrate officially being a teenager but I am thinking 6 Flags would be fun. I love amusement park rides especially rollercoasters! I hope you have enjoyed this blog. Stayed tuned to find out all the updates on everything I have going on this summer.

Thanks for reading.

End of School Year

Pictured: Chris Serrano with guitar -- Photo courtesy of: Chris Serrano

Pictured: Chris Serrano with guitar — Photo courtesy of: Chris Serrano

I can’t believe that the year is almost over! It’s been a great tenth grade. I’ve made some awesome new friends, learned a lot about playing music with others, and did great in my classes.

Last friday, I played in the last Jazz concert of the year with the big band and other ensembles. We performed four exciting pieces from a variety of different composers. At the end, all the seniors in band were recognized by our music teacher and director. Delicious snacks and drinks were provided for the musicians after the show was over and we all just hung out and had a good time.

I’ve decided to join my school’s Jazz Combo next year as well. This band, though smaller than the big band, is constantly booked for gigs at various locations, and on occasion is paid for playing. Many of my friends are part of the combo and strongly recommend that I join, especially since we’ll be losing a large portion of players this year. I am also super enthusiastic about beginning sound recording classes after school in my junior year. I am currently in the process of acquiring the software I’ll need to succeed in this class.

Not too long ago, some friends and I played music at our school assembly. We played a simple 12 bar blues piece during which we traded solos. Everyone loved it and said we did really good! I told my counselor that I’d certainly love to play in future assemblies. I’m planning to get my own band started over the summer break. Maybe we could play together at school functions.

Thanks again to everyone involved in the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship and congratulations to the other winner Mario! Hope he enjoys his trip to the LA Science Center!


Such Cool News!

Pictured: Mario Chitwood, Mario smiles as he holds came to him in the mail -- Photo courtesy of Mario Chitwood

Pictured: Mario Chitwood, Mario smiles as he holds his check and certificate — Photo courtesy of Mario Chitwood

My name is Mario and I recently found out that I am one of two recipients of the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship. I am really elated about this cool news. After receiving the news that I won, I called many family members to share the news. They were all very proud of me and that made me feel so happy.

Since I am still not on summer vacation yet, we still haven’t planned our trip to Los Angeles yet but I can’t wait to go to the California ScienCenter. I think that I will learn a lot and have so much to blog about and share with you all. Thank you CTEBVI for this awesome opportunity. And congratulations to Christopher for winning also.

May 2016 Blog


Pictured: Chris Serrano, 2016 Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship Recipient — Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

I am still really excited that I won the scholarship. Since receiving the funds, I have started shopping for a bass clarinet to use in my Jazz Ensemble at Culver City High School. Currently I’m playing the standard clarinet, but I’m looking forward to learning this new instrument. Hopefully by next month I will have found something that I can use the funds for.

In addition, I’ve started researching some studio software for blind music producers. I’m really interested in learning to use a program called Sonar. I am learning the accessibility of another program called CakeTalking by Dancing Dots. Once I get this set up on my laptop with JAWS, I will be able to independently make beats, write, and record some original music. I’m also planning on taking a class next year called Sound Recording in which this software will greatly help.

In conclusion, I am thrilled to have the opportunity through the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship to further my music education.

Thanks again,