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Contributed by Arianne Wing 

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Sierra Pacific teacher is center of local documentary

HANFORD — When Sierra Pacific High School teacher Robert Isquierdo started his journey of bringing a library to his hometown of London, he never thought it would lead to a documentary on his effort.

In 2014, when Isquierdo started trying to get a library for London, a small town several miles southeast of Kingsburg, he said he was contacted to do a series of interviews for a short documentary.

He said he did the interviews, but forgot about the project and assumed nothing came of it until he was contacted this summer by the documentary’s director, Johnny Soto.

Soto, an independent producer, said he learned about Isquierdo through a colleague who came up with a pitch about doing documentary films on inspiring Central Valley stories.

“I said, ‘London? Where is that?,’” Soto said, adding he thought Isquierdo had a great story and wanted to tell it.

So Soto said he attended the library’s groundbreaking in October 2016 and shot some video. After that, he said the project was put on the shelf and he wasn’t sure anything would come out of it.

Then Soto heard about the idea for the Big Tell Showcase, which was giving grants to filmmakers to do mini-documentaries.

The Big Tell Showcase celebrates the Central Valley with five-minute mini-documentaries by local filmmakers about the inspiring people and places that make this region special.

Soto said he decided to finish the project and has since shot more film and interviews. He said he is just finishing the edit on the documentary in time for the showcase on Friday.

Along with Isquierdo, poet Gary Soto and Tulare County Librarian Darla Wegener were interviewed for the documentary. Isquierdo said he had no idea they were interviewed until recently, which was a pleasant surprise for him because he said they were instrumental in making the London library happen.

Soto said what drew him to the story was the compassion behind Isquierdo’s actions and how it shows how human will can succeed with determination.

“It’s a great example of what one person can do for an entire community,” Soto said. “It has a lot of heart and soul.”

Isquierdo said he knows a lot of people have never even heard of the town of London, so he not only wants to bring attention to the community but also the needs of other towns in the Valley that are similar to London.

“I hope this propels people to care about literacy and access in every community,” Isquierdo said.

Growing up, Isquierdo said he would have to go to Reedley to use the library, where he participated in its summer reading program. He said not a lot of kids in London were as fortunate as he was to have parents who were willing to foster his education by driving him to the library in another town.

He said libraries are a great way to learn outside of the classroom and he truly believes visiting the library as a kid was a catalyst for him to further his education after high school.

As an English teacher at Sierra Pacific’s Business Academy and also a creative writing teacher at the school, Isquierdo said it’s important to him to show his students how to collaborate, communicate and create in the real world outside of the classroom.

Isquierdo said he invited students and staff to watch the documentary Friday at the showcase in Fresno and also invites anyone in Kings County to watch it as well.

Although he is excited about his film being shown and said the experience was “lovely,” Soto said he is more excited for Isquierdo, the library and the whole town of London because the film can give more exposure to their story.

“They put a lot into the library,” Soto said. “Hopefully this can get them more support.”

Right now, the library is open two days a week and Isquierdo said it’s his goal to generate enough money to keep it open for at least five days a week. He said he’s also working to potentially get a medical clinic in the town as well.

John Muir Middle School is in the space program

CORCORAN — Over 700 John Muir Middle School students packed their school’s gymnasium Friday morning to live chat with an astronaut and ask him about space and the missions he has been on.

The live chat was made possible because the school was accepted into the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP) through the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, which is located in Maryland.

Groups of four or five students from sixth to eighth grade have been working on a science and space experiment for the past few months in hopes their project would be chosen for the SpaceX rocket launch next year.

Student teams are able to design experiments across diverse fields, including seed germination, crystal growth, physiology and life cycles of microorganisms, cell biology and growth, food studies and studies of micro-aquatic life.

Only one project in the school will be chosen to go up into space with 30 other projects from different schools across the U.S. and Canada.

Sixth-grader Joshua Anguina said he and his group were working on a science experiment that would allow them to grow cotton seeds in space.

“If we get chosen, we get to send it out into space,” Joshua said. “It’s pretty exciting that they get to choose anybody and not just people that are good at doing that kind of stuff.”

As director of the national center, Jeff Goldstein works with many different communities and schools all over the country to help students engage in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education — otherwise known as STEM.

Goldstein helped launch SSEP, which focuses on helping hundreds of schools and communities across the country design and propose real space experiments.

Goldstein, with the help of Principal Dave Whitmore, was able to set up a live web cam so that he could chat with the whole school and encourage them to work on their science experiment projects and follow their dreams just like he did.

“I like science and math, but not everybody likes science and math,” Goldstein told the students. “We all have to figure out what our gifts and likes are.”

At the age of 11, Goldstein said he was sure that all he wanted to be in life was an astronaut and worked hard to make sure that he accomplished his goal.

“I watched Neil Armstrong put his foot on the moon,” Goldstein said. “I knew in that moment when I was 11 that I wanted to be a space explorer.”

Xavier Ochoa, 11, doesn’t know if he wants to be an astronaut, but is excited to create something that could go into space.

“There are five students in my group and we’re going to be making a medicine for astronauts, when they go up to space,” Xavier said. “Because we know that they don’t get new air, they get recycled air, which means germs and bacteria are still going to be in there.”

Whitmore acknowledge that it was a lot of hard work to make sure that students got the opportunity to be a part of something special.

“We went through a strenuous application process,” Whitmore said. “We had to design a program that was approved by [the center] and we had to come up with an exact plan.”

Apart from planning and working directly with Goldstein, SSEP asks the schools to get the community involved as well.

One way that John Muir made sure to get more community involvement was to make sure other local schools were able to participate in the project too. Students from John Muir and nearby elementary schools created designs for patches that could ride along with the science experiment that wins.

For now, the school will have to choose three final projects that will be taken before a panel of scientists, who will then decide which science experiment gets launched into space with the Space X rocket next year.

“We would like to take students to the launch of the rocket and we will try to get funding for that,” Whitmore said.

Police: Stabbing, car theft suspect arrested

HANFORD — Investigators said they have located Gabriel Flores, who was the suspect in a stabbing and car theft incident in Hanford that left the victim severely injured.

The Fresno County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol and Department of Forestry assisted in Flores’ arrest after Hanford police said they were tipped-off about his whereabouts in Auberry.

On Oct. 7, Hanford police officials said a 21-year-old man was driving his silver 2007 Infiniti in the area of the 1000 block of East Terrace Drive when another man got into the passenger side of the vehicle and stabbed the driver multiple times.

Police said the victim ran from his vehicle to a nearby residence to get help and was later transported to Community Regional Medical Center with life threatening injuries. Police said he is now in stable condition.

After some investigation, Hanford police said they were looking for Flores as a suspect and were still trying to locate the victim’s car.

Police said the stolen car and other items stolen from the victim were found where Flores was arrested.

Officials said Flores has been booked into Kings County Jail on suspicion of attempted murder, carjacking and robbery.

Contributed by the Hanford Police Department 

Gabriel Flores