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Stepping Back in time: Kings River-Hardwick has 32nd annual history day

Stepping back in time is something Kings River-Hardwick Elementary School has done for the past 32 years.

The eighth graders of Kings River-Hardwick became historical figures Friday to present to the school and community what they have learned in the past year about the person they selected as part of the school's annual History Day.

Margaret Tipton has worked at Kings River-Hardwick for 41 years. She said Sharon Koelewyn started the tradition in 1968.

Tipton said Koelewyn was so passionate about history that it was contagious for the kids. Tipton had two sons that have attended Kings River-Hardwick.

After doing research on a character, writing a paper and drafting a speech, the students dress up and present their speech to people who attend History Day at the school.

Chelsea Shannon / Chelsea Shannon, The Sentinel 

Kings River-Hardwick School eighth-grade students participate in History Day through becoming a figure in history.

At the beginning of the year, the students are given a list to select of historical characters and they pick one. Bonnie Montgomery, a math and language arts teacher, said occasionally students pick someone that is not on the list, but with permission.

One of the new characters this year was Newton Knight played by Ayden Logan.

Logan said he picked Knight, who lived in Jones County, Miss., because of a movie he watched called “Free State of Jones” which is based on Knight's life.  Knight was a southern farmer who fought the Confederacy from his farm, but was not a declared member of the Union.

Logan said that he liked that Knight fought for what he thought was right despite not formally joining a particular side.

Montgomery said that when she started teaching at Kings River-Hardwick, the eighth grade had around 30 students. This year Montgomery said there are around 79 students and next year there should be around 95 students.

This continued tradition of bringing history to life is shared with parents of students, community members, younger students and former Kings River-Hardwick students.

A former student, Dakota Vatcher, has returned for history day, and he also hopes to teach at Kings River-Hardwick someday soon.

“Going to school, there were teachers who inspired me to become a teacher,” Vatcher said.

In 2009, Vatcher was John Adams for History Day. He said that listening to this year’s John Adams' speech made him remember bits and pieces of his speech.

Vatcher is currently an instructional aide at the school while working on getting his teaching credential from Brandman University.

A big part of History Day is the effort that the students and parents put into the costumes and displays.

Many students are able to borrow costumes from former students, which save parents' time and money.

Alyssa Needham’s mother, Sierra Archuleta, said that if you take the time, it comes together. Archuleta said it took about a month to get together all the pieces for her daughter's Annie Oakley outfit.

Chelsea Shannon / Chelsea Shannon, The Sentinel 

Kings River-Hardwick's eighth-grade class took two weeks to learn the "Virginia Reel," a 17th-century folk dance, to perform for History Day.

Needham said her favorite part of History Day is the dance, the culminating act of the day. The “Virginia Reel” is a 17th-century folk dance that took the eighth-grade class around two weeks to learn.

History teacher, James Huff, explained that there are several small assignments throughout the year that are part of History Day. The students begin with research in September. Huff and Montgomery describe this as a project-based learning experience for the students.

“Some of the kids that don’t do as well academically shine during this project,” Montgomery said.

Explosions rock Syrian capital as Trump announces strikes

BEIRUT (AP) — Loud explosions rocked Syria's capital and filled the sky with heavy smoke early Saturday after U.S. President Donald Trump announced airstrikes in retaliation for the country's alleged use of chemical weapons. Syrian air defenses responded to the joint strikes by the United States, France and Britain.

Associated Press reporters saw smoke rising from east Damascus and the sky turned orange. A huge fire could be seen from a distance to the east. Syrian television reported that a scientific research center had been hit and that Syrian air defenses had hit 13 incoming rockets south of Damascus.

After the attack ceased and the early morning skies went dark once more, vehicles with loudspeakers roamed the streets of Damascus blaring nationalist songs.

"Good souls will not be humiliated," Syria's presidency tweeted after airstrikes began.

Syrian state TV called the attacks a "blatant violation of international law and shows contempt for international legitimacy."

Trump announced Friday night that the three allies had launched military strikes to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for the alleged chemical weapons use and to prevent him from doing it again.

The U.S. president said Washington is prepared to "sustain" pressure on Assad until he ends what the president called a criminal pattern of killing his own people with internationally banned chemical weapons. It was not immediately clear whether Trump meant the allied military operation would extend beyond an initial nighttime round of missile strikes.

The Syrian government has repeatedly denied any use of banned weapons.

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said there were no reports of U.S. losses during the initial airstrikes.

"Right now this is a one-time shot," he said but did not rule out further attacks. He said the airstrikes were launched against several sites that helped provide Assad's ability to create chemical weapons.

Britain's defense ministry said that while the effectiveness of the strike is still being analyzed, "initial indications are that the precision of the Storm Shadow weapons and meticulous target planning have resulted in a successful attack."

British Prime Minister Theresa May describes the attack as neither "about intervening in a civil war" nor "about regime change" but a limited and targeted strike that "does not further escalate tensions in the region" and does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.

"We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none," May said.

The decision to strike, after days of deliberations, marked Trump's second order to attack Syria; he authorized a barrage of Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit a single Syrian airfield in April 2017 in retaliation for Assad's use of sarin gas against civilians.

Trump chastised Syria's two main allies, Russia and Iran, for their roles in supporting "murderous dictators," and noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had guaranteed a 2013 international agreement for Assad to get rid of all of his chemical weapons. He called on Moscow to change course and join the West in seeking a more responsible regime in Damascus.

The allied operation comes a year after the U.S. missile strike that Trump said was meant to deter Assad from further use of chemical weapons. Since that did not work, a more intense attack would aim to degrade his ability to carry out further such attacks, and would try to do this by hitting Syrian aircraft, military depots and chemical facilities, among other things.

The one-off missile strike in April 2017 targeted the airfield from which the Syrian aircraft had launched their gas attack. But the damage was limited, and a defiant Assad returned to episodic use of chlorine and perhaps other chemicals.

Friday's strikes appear to signal Trump's willingness to draw the United States more deeply into the Syrian conflict. The participation of British and French forces enables Trump to assert a wider international commitment against the use of chemical weapons, but the multi-pronged attack carries the risk of Russian retaliation.

In his nationwide address, Trump stressed that he has no interest in a longtime fight with Syria.

"America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria under no circumstances," he said. "As other nations step up their contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home."

The U.S. has about 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria as advisers to a makeshift group of anti-Islamic State fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. They are in eastern Syria, far from Damascus. A U.S.-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes in Syria since September 2014 as part of a largely successful effort to break the IS grip on both Syria and Iraq.

Activist Carranza speaks at LGBT event in Hanford

HANFORD — The subject of this month’s Source LGBT+ Center pop up meeting was transgender visibility, coinciding with this year’s Transgender Day of Visibility, which fell on March 31.

Alix Carranza, a transman from Hanford and member of the Source’s Youth Leadership Academy, was the key speaker at the meeting Thursday evening at Kings County Behavioral Health.

“I … told my story about the struggles of accepting myself. Even when I knew who I was, I was afraid to come out because our town [had] not been very LGBT-friendly to me as a young teen,” Carranza said in an email to the Sentinel.

Carranza came out as trans in 2015 at the age of 24 and began medically transitioning a year later.

The Source opened two years ago in Visalia with the goal of advocating for LGBT rights in the community, as well as providing resources to those who need them. The nonprofit organization provides the local LGBT community with education, peer support and services that would not be available otherwise.

In partnering with Kings County Behavioral Health and the Suicide Prevention Task Force, the Source is creating a presence in Kings County with their meetings every second Thursday of each month.

“When they first told me they were coming to Hanford I was so excited! I was ready to jump on board with any help they needed. In Kings County there were no resources for me,” he said. “Having the Source here has inspired me to do things like sharing my story as I did [Thursday] night. I am hopeful that more people will make it [out] and we will have answers for them.”

Carranza said that one of the ways The Source has helped him is by teaching him how to speak up for trans rights and how to do so in a professional manner, especially when talking to government officials.

The activist started a YouTube channel that covers his transition as well as other topics like what subjects are considered impolite to ask a trans person and how to deal with coming out to your parents.

“I talk about the issues of not having a supportive parent and how sometimes even though someone gave you life, it’s important to make your own life because you are the one living it. Parents always have this vision for us and what they sometimes don’t understand is that we also have a vision for ourselves,” Carranza said.

The YouTube channel can be found at

Another topic at the meeting was how people who do not identify as trans can be trans allies. Carranza points out that while society has moved forward concerning same-sex couples in recent years, that there is still plenty of room to talk and educate about the transgender experience.

“We are regular people, your neighbors, we walk down the street next to you and serve you food at restaurants — and you would have no idea,” he said.

The next transgender resource group meeting at the Source’s permanent facility in downtown Visalia is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 17.

The next Source meeting in Hanford is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, May 10, at Kings County Behavioral Health, 450 Kings County Drive, Suite 104. 

For more information about upcoming Source meetings and events, visit or call 559-852-2444.

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Hanford City Council set to discuss zoning rules

HANFORD — After receiving some criticism from businesses trying to locate in the city, the Hanford City Council is set Tuesday to discuss the city’s general plan and zoning regulations.

Over the last few months, Council has heard public comments from several potential business owners and others trying to help business owners that the city’s current zoning regulations have hampered or even halted businesses from locating in the city.

After hearing these grievances, Council asked the community development department to look into the matter and come up with some possible solutions. Community Development Director Darlene Mata will present her findings to Council on Tuesday during a study session before the regular meeting.

After the presentation, Council is set to discuss how they can help to possibly eliminate some of the red tape that seems to be getting in the way of these businesses from coming to Hanford.

During the regular meeting, Council will hold a public hearing about forming a new landscape assessment district at Centennial Drive and Devon Street, which is the Bella Vista subdivision. Residents in that proposed district would contribute funding to maintain the landscaping, irrigation system, a public park and street lighting in the area.

Under general business, Council is also set to discuss:

  • Potential additional cannabis ballot measures for the November ballot.
  • Grand Jury report regarding city parks.
  • Accepting and filing the 2017 fiscal year audit reports and financial statements for the city.

Trump vows to back law to protect marijuana industry

DENVER (AP) — President Donald Trump has promised to support legislation protecting the marijuana industry in states that have legalized the drug, a move that could lift a threat to the industry made by the U.S. attorney general just three months ago.

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado said Friday that Trump made the pledge to him in a Wednesday night conversation.

Gardner has been pushing to reverse a decision made by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in January that removed prohibitions that kept federal prosecutors from pursuing cases against people who were following pot laws in states such as Colorado that have legalized the drug.

Marijuana has been fully legalized in eight states, and 24 states allow some form of marijuana use.

"President Trump has assured me that he will support a federalism-based legislative solution to fix this states' rights issue once and for all," Gardner said in a statement.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Gardner's account was accurate and the president supported states' rights in the matter.

Gardner hopes to introduce bipartisan legislation keeping the federal government from interfering in state marijuana markets.

Marijuana legalization advocates were ebullient.

"We may now be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel," said Mason Tvert, who spearheaded a 2012 ballot measure legalizing recreational marijuana in Colorado. "This is one more step toward ending the irrational policy of marijuana prohibition, not only in Colorado but throughout the country."

During the campaign, Trump said states should be able to chart their own course on marijuana. But Trump has also railed at the dangers of drug-related crime and suggested recreational marijuana should not be permitted.

When he selected Sessions, a former federal prosecutor and U.S. senator from Alabama, as his attorney general, marijuana supporters girded themselves for a crackdown. But Gardner said Sessions had promised him he'd do nothing to interfere with Colorado's robust marijuana market.

Gardner said he was blindsided when Sessions made his announcement in January regarding pot prosecutions.

In retaliation, Gardner used his power as a senator to prevent consideration of any nominees for the Department of Justice — an extraordinary step for a senator to use against an administration run by another member of his party.

Some of Gardner's fellow GOP senators groused at the impact of the hold, and Gardner allowed some nominees to proceed in a "good-faith" gesture last month. On Friday, he said he was fully releasing his holds on Department of Justice nominations.

The action came amid widespread speculation that Trump will remove Justice officials overseeing the Russia investigation. Replacements of any of those officials would require new nominations.

Gardner and the Department of Justice have been in discussions for months to get the holds lifted. Gardner has met with Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the official overseeing the Russia probe who has been the target of Trump's ire.