Life Update

Pictured: (l-r) Taylor Cox, Katelyn Divis holding flowers after their piano recital -- Photo courtesy of Taylor Cox

Pictured: (l-r) Taylor Cox, Katelyn Divis holding flowers after their piano recital — Photo courtesy of Taylor Cox


Hi! It’s good to be writing again! So, this blog is called Life Update, so that’s what I’m planning on doing. On Sunday November 13, I had a World Championship jiu-jitsu tournament. I fought girls who weigh, like, twenty pounds heavier than me, but I’m used to it. Even so, I didn’t place and I was really disappointed. I know I surprised the girls I was fighting, but that wasn’t enough for me. 

With my music life, I have a lot going on. I’m going to try out for my future high school music program, APA (Academy of Performing Arts), in a few months. I am going to sing and play piano to “All I Ask” by Adele. I am super pumped about that, and I know I’m going to make it, I hope. I’ve also joined the worship team at church. That, too, is very exciting. I even learned a song the day before and it was pretty awesome. On top of that, I’m writing more music, but I’m kind of putting that on the backburner for now because I’m so focused on my tryouts. I did, however, write a song about leaving your legacy behind and it was a hit at my recital in June that I had. It’s called Legacy and is a good piece of me that I put onto paper, or, in my case, a file in an SD card.

Speaking of technology, I am learning google  drive right now. I’m so excited about that. I’m actually going to try to submit a proposal to speak in San Francisco at the CTEBVI conference again. I would love to talk to the Northern California crowd this year about the technology I use throughout my school day, including Google Drive.

I’ll keep writing sometime soon.  Signing off,
Taylor

An Update from Heaven

Pictured: Heaven Vallejos at the Monster Mash Dash Run dressed as Wonder Woman -- Photo courtesy of Heaven Vallejos

Pictured: Heaven Vallejos at the Monster Mash Dash Run dressed as Wonder Woman — Photo courtesy of Heaven Vallejos

Hi,

It’s Heaven. So, it’s been awhile since I updated you. I’m now in 7th grade. Middle school is crazy! Extremely crazy! I now have to go up and down stairs several times a day because this school has two stories. I’m shocked that math is pretty easy – I think the teacher makes it easy. My favorite class is drama. Of course! In drama I can be as crazy as I want to. We role play, make up characters and do voices. My favorite character I’ve done so far has been Fresh Disco.
I’m still running. I joined a running club and we run every Tuesday and Thursday after school. I ran a Halloween run called the Monster Mash. I dressed as Wonder Woman and my running partner dresses as Superman. Next month I will run the Jingle Bell run which raises money Toys for Tots.
Last summer I went to Enchanted Hills Summer Camp and Camp Bloomfield’s para-Olympic camp. At the para-Olympic camp there was a dance I went to that I liked. It was my first dance. And, speaking of dances, I learned the Hustle – my mom taught me. It’s pretty fun!

Until Next Time,
Heaven

Unexpected Trip

Pictured: Mario Chitwood and a Braille/large print menu from Denny's -- Photo courtesy of Mario Chitwood

Pictured: Mario Chitwood and a Braille/large print menu from Denny’s — Photo courtesy of Mario Chitwood

Hello readers,

I am writing this blog from outside the country. I am in Mexico! It is my first time traveling out of the country and it has been a great experience so far.

Side note, the hotel we are staying at has an amazing chocolate cake.
As you may know from my last blog the original plan was for me to stay behind while my mom traveled but at the last minute she decided that I could go too. So we expedited a passport, set up independent study and here I am.

We took two airplanes. The last time I was on an airplane was six years ago so it was awesome to be on an airplane again. I love the feeling of when the plane takes off. Landing is fun too though.

On day two of our trip, we entered a local Denny’s restaurant and for the first time ever, I was offered a menu in Braille! We could not believe it. It was a very cool experience and it’s something I will never forget. It was nice not depending on someone to read the menu to me & having the opportunity to read the menu myself. It made dining out a much better experience. It would be nice if all or at least most restaurants in the U.S provided Braille menus.

My mom and dad are not fans of being on airplanes so my mom hopes to book a nonstop flight back home. But I’m hoping she won’t find one so that we can go on multiple airplanes. My mom has been on an airplane before but this was my dad’s first time and I don’t think he liked it very much. He is not looking forward to our return flights.

The only downside to this trip has been that we did our traveling to Mexico Halloween day. That meant that unfortunately this year I did not get to dress up or even go trick or treating. I had planned on dressing up as an FBI agent but my mom didn’t think it was a good idea since we’d be going through airport security. So I guess I’ll have to wait until next year to be an FBI agent.

One thing we are doing is keeping up with the election results. It’s a very different experience watching election results in the U.S vs. watching them when you are out of the country. The media coverage is not as heavy and it’s not really a topic of conversation. I know if we were back home, it would be a completely different vibe. I won’t say who I would vote for if I could but I’m starting to get really into politics and can’t wait until I am old enough to vote.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I am still so honored to be one of the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship Recipients for 2016!

Amazing Holiday Concert

Pictured: Chris Serrano in a tuxedo -- Photo courtesy of: Chris Serrano

Pictured: Chris Serrano in a tuxedo — Photo courtesy of: Chris Serrano

This passed month has been great! I had the first show with both the Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo at the end of October. Using my bass clarinet (that the scholarship funded), I took a solo for the first time with the Combo for the song Blue Train by John Coltrane. We also performed Fly Me To The Moon, a jazz adaptation of Thriller, and a song originally composed here in Culver City called Blue Moon.

 

The event itself was amazing! My band teacher hired a food truck to sell pupusas (a delicious Salvadorian dish) and ten percent of the proceeds went into funding the music program. It was also nice to watch all of the other bands perform their pieces. Most of the songs played that night were either Fall or Halloween related. We even set up a small carnival for elementary school kids to win prizes and candy before the show. Overall, it was an awesome way to start the year.

This coming Saturday, I have another gig with some friends of mine from the Academy of Music for the Blind. We’ll be playing a variety of jazz tunes such as Song For My Father and Blue Bossa. My friends and I recently got together and created an all winds group consisting of two flutes, a saxophone, a melodica, and my bass clarinet. We will be accompanied by our teachers who will play drums, piano, bass, and guitar in the background. Then each of us will take a short solo to show off our abilities as wind players before returning to the main melody.

Other than music, everything is going fine. School is going well but I can’t wait for the weekends to finally get here. I hung out with some friends on Halloween night and it was a blast.
Thanks again and I hope that Mario is doing well.
Chris

Happy Fall!

Pictured: Mario Chitwood and his brother Max -- Photo Courtesy: Mario ChitwoodPictured: Mario Chitwood and his brother Max -- Photo Courtesy: Mario Chitwood

Pictured: Mario Chitwood and his brother Max — Photo Courtesy: Mario Chitwood

Hello my blog followers,

I am so glad it’s the fall season. I love when it gets close to all my favorite Holidays. I am not sure what my plans are for Halloween yet but I do plan on dressing up. I am thinking of dressing up as an FBI agent. I like to go trick-or-treating with my family until it gets pretty late. My favorite candy to receive is snickers. I really like going to the house that have life-size scary characters and with spooky music or sound effects. I can’t wait until Halloween!

Recently my homeroom class held elections for class representative. I wasn’t going to try out but then I changed my mind at the last second. The next day after all the votes were counted, I was told that I had won. That means that for an entire trimester I will be the 7th grade class rep. I will be going to meetings once a week to discuss school events, school spirit and a lot of other topics. I signed up for the service committee I will be promoting fund raisers and other things like that.

My mom will be traveling out of the country in a few weeks and I’m sad about her leaving. She will only be gone for a week or two but I will miss her. As you can tell I am not looking forward to her leaving. When she gets back I will help her plan my baby brother’s 2nd birthday party that will be on November 20th. I think his birthday theme is going to be all about Elmo so I will help my mom make some decorations. A few days ago I made a triple chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and it was extremely delicious. I think I will ask my mom if I can make this for Max’s birthday. It will be my birthday gift to him.

With Thanksgiving coming up I will also be busy helping my mom out by choosing the menu and helping her out in the kitchen. I usually am in charge of being the taste tester but this year I want to help make a dish. I think a dessert will be fun to make. I take pride in my baking.

Also this Friday my school will be hosting a Fall Festival. My mom and I will be in charge of running the cake walk booth. There will also be a silent auction, lots of inflatable activities like bungee basketball, splash seat, and zorb balls. I want to play the game splash seat where we will have a chance to dunk one of our teachers if we hit a target. I also will be buying cotton candy and popcorn to snack on. It should be a really fun night. I can’t wait!

Another thing I did these past few days was that I made a video for a HIMS contest. The video was about my Braille Sense and how I use it. It took almost a full one hour to make a two minute video. Some of my mistakes were hilarious. I hope I can have more news in the upcoming months but for now my life is pretty calm. Peace! out!

Musical Journey Continues

Pictured: Chris Serrano, 2016 Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship co-recipient -- Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

Pictured: Chris Serrano, 2016 Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship co-recipient — Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

This school year has been great so far! I cannot make it any more clear how much I am in love with my bass clarinet. Now that I am a part of both the Jazz Ensemble and Combo, my abilities as a musician have greatly increased. I am learning how to improvise with ease, I am learning new songs that I have never heard before, and best of all, I am improving upon my skills as a performer.

Being in those two bands also allows for more time to hang out with friends after school. Between practices, a bunch of my friends and I grab lunch at either the pizza place or Taco Bell only a few blocks away from school. And since we have about two whole hours to kill, we still have plenty of time to chill afterward.
The first concert has already been announced! I am super excited. The band teacher mentioned the possibility of a food truck to help raise funds for the program. There also may be a haunted house attraction and trick-or-treat stations throughout the building for kids. One of the songs we will be performing for this show is an awesome adaptation of Michael Jackson’s Thriller! We will also be doing a lot of Halloween-related blues numbers like Blue Moon and possibly Autumn Leaves.
Other than band, I have also been thoroughly enjoying the Sound Recording class I have been taking on Thursdays. We have recently received our first project for the year. I really like this class because you learn a variety of skills necessary to work in a professional studio, such as how to properly handle equipment, some music theory essential for making your compositions be the best possible, and more. It is a pretty straight forward class.
As far as music outside of school, I am also doing great. Just this passed weekend I was part of a small production at the Academy of Music for the Blind, which I attend regularly, in order to raise funds. We played a bunch of songs we haven’t done in a while which made it twice as enjoyable. The following day, I went to a party with some friends where I got the opportunity to play with the band that was hired. They were a Mexican group whose main focus was on a style of music called Norteña which is from the North region of Mexico. The leader of this band was constantly switching between instruments while I remained on the drums. There was also a lot of good food being served as well as an all-around good time being with friends.
I am looking forward to a future with increasing bright hopes. Once again, thank you for choosing me as the winner of this scholarship.
Chris

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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!