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Students learn to prepare tax returns

HANFORD — While many adults don’t even know how to do their taxes, 13 high school students will volunteer preparing tax returns this tax season.

The Business Finance Academy at Sierra Pacific High School has partnered with Kings Community Action Organization and its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to provide free tax services.

The VITA program, whose parent organization is the IRS, trains volunteers to prepare the free tax returns for people who make $54,000 or less a year.

Last year in Kings County, the program’s volunteers helped prepare 750 tax returns, and with the help of the students this year, they are hoping to prepare at least 1,000 tax returns.

Kim Dodd, business teacher and work-based learning coordinator, said the students, who were mostly juniors, completed a three-day day training during winter break for eight hours each day.

Not only did the students pass the basic training and exam, they also passed the advanced training and exam.

“They just picked it up,” Dodd said.

Megan Ulibarri, 17, said the work wasn’t easy, but the class pulled together and helped each other out and got to know each other in the process.

Other students who went through the training said it was difficult, but worth it because they know this is a skill they will use for the rest of their lives.

“It was really awesome to be able to learn skills that not a lot of people know at our age,” 17-year-old Journey Claycamp said.

Claycamp, who is interested in agricultural business, said even her mom was excited about her participating in the training because now she can help with the family’s taxes.

Thomas Bell, 17, who wants to be an entrepreneur, said the training is another tool he can use on the path to his career that will come in handy down the road.

Irene Botello, 16, decided to participate because she knows it will be a good opportunity to give back to community, while obtaining skills for the future.

Even though she is interested in criminology as a career, Botello said she recommends the training for everyone, not just those interested in business or finance.

Dodd said everything the students are learning in the Business Finance Academy — including taxes, saving money and investing money — will help them throughout their lives.

“They’re going to be ahead of the game,” Dodd said.

The students will volunteer preparing tax returns on Saturdays starting Feb. 2, and go throughout tax season. They will volunteer at KCAO, 1130 N. 11th Ave.

KCAO will also have free tax service locations in Corcoran, 800 N. Dairy Ave., and Avenal, 108 Kings Way. The services will be by appointment only.

Dodd went through all three days of training with the students, and even she admits it was difficult.

“They’re doing something extremely valuable for both them and the community,” Dodd said.

The students said they feel very confident about the skills they learned.

“I’m ready to help people out,” Bell said.

Job Shadow

Along with the VITA program, the Business Finance Academy tries to expose students to the real world of business and apply what they learn outside of the classroom in the form of internships and job shadowing.

On Monday, Feb. 4, students will once again participate in Job Shadow Day and the academy is still looking for local business in any industry to host students.

Students will spend at least four hours job shadowing and there is no cost to the businesses. Dodd said the goal of the program is to just expose students to a professional setting and prepare them for the future.

She said providing these types of opportunities will greatly benefit students in the long run.

“It makes it more valuable of a lesson for them,” Dodd said.

Hanford West student vies for Miss California Teen USA title

HANFORD — Miss Kings County Teen Mikayla Contreras seeks to reach the next plateau this weekend as she vies for the title of Miss California Teen USA.

The Hanford West senior will be in Arcadia through Sunday for the four-day event. The new Miss California Teen USA will be crowned Sunday, a prize that comes not only with a tiara and sash but also a cash prizes, scholarships and other prizes.

“To win, or to even come close, would be a huge blessing for me. For only being my second pageant, it will show girls that you can try something new and be successful in it. It’s always a good idea to step out of your comfort zone,” Mikayla said.

In addition to the myriad the competition’s preliminary interviews, photo shoots and other activities, those competing for the crown, nearly 100 total, are also invited to a pair of special dinners. 

Tonight, Contreras will attend the “Think Pink” dinner hosted by the Chrisley family of USA reality TV show, “Chrisley Knows Best.” The dinner is a fundraiser which will benefit research of breast cancer, a disease the matriarch of the Chrisley family, Julie, has battled.

The Chrisleys serve as executive directors of the Miss California USA pageant.

“I feel really nervous because it’s a step bigger than the last pageant I did. It’s the biggest pageant in the United States for the USA organization,” she said.

Friday’s Chinese New Year-themed Good Luck Dinner will be filmed and aired on an upcoming episode of the “Chrisley Knows Best.”

It’s not all glamorous dinners and high-fashion gowns for the Miss Kings County Teen, though. Contreras has logged 120 volunteer hours since being crowned in August, which includes work with Big Brothers Big Sisters, the SPCA, Soroptimist International and other charitable groups.

She said she doesn’t see herself discontinuing that work, no matter the outcome of the pageant.

“I’m going to continue to volunteer with my platform, the Big Brothers Big Sisters,” she said. “Even after the pageant, I plan to help out in my community. Just because the pageant is over, doesn’t mean my title is over. I feel like there’s nothing better you can do for your community than to volunteer your time somewhere it’s needed.”

Contreras recently met a like-minded future hopeful for the crown, Micaela Renteria, a 9-year-old Pioneer Elementary School student, whom she is now mentoring through the Little Miss program.

“I never really thought that I could be considered somebody’s role model so hearing that from Micaela and her mother really meant a lot to me and showed me that if you do something good, other people will want to follow along,” she said. “I just met Micaela two weeks ago and I feel like we’re already sisters.”

Contreras recently visited her “Little Sister’s” class to read to her fellow students.

Volunteering, school, soccer, softball and practicing for the pageants keeps Contreras busy, but she said she’s able to do it with help from her coach Gina Martin-Young, a teacher at Monroe Elementary School and her mother. To help with costs of the traveling, wardrobe, make-up and other pageant expenses, Contreras has become sponsored by the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino who donated the funds to cover her registration fees, with enough left over for her evening wear, she said.

Follow Contreras’ journey on Instagram: @mikayla.contreras.

Reminder: Hanford Parks and Rec activities

The Hanford Parks & Recreation Department has some great activities lined up for the whole family. Register for these programs at 321 N. Douty, Suite B, Hanford, CA. 93230 559-585-2525 We accept cash, check or credit card for payment of programs.

Senior Activities at the Longfield Community Center

Located at 560 S. Douty Street

Open: 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Monday thru Friday

Ages: 50 years and above

The Hanford Parks and Recreation Department has dedicated mornings for seniors. The Center has a free weight room, Billiards room, cable T.V. and free wifi available to use. You are also welcome to walk laps around the gym when there are no classes happening. The weather is great inside the gym! Not too hot or too cold.

Wednesday mornings there are free blood pressure checks and free coffee.

There are two exercise classes available. Senior Aerobics $11 per month and Zumba $15 per month. Come check these classes out for free.

The first Wednesday of the month at 9 a.m. is the Free Community Food Bank. No proof of income required to pick up the free fruits and vegetables.

Please, stop by for a visit and check us out. The Longfield Community Center is located at 560 S. Douty Street. (559-585-2525) For details contact Recreation Supervisor Susie Chavez at 559-362-3212


Saturday Mornings starting at 9:30 a.m. March 30 thru May 11 at HARRIS STREET BALL FIELD (501 S. Harris Street) Boys and Girls ages 2 to 6 years of age $45 per player.

The Hanford Parks and Recreation Department is currently taking registration for the 2019 Spring Season of Toddler T-Ball. This season consists of 3 Saturday morning practices and 3 Saturday morning games. The starting date is Saturday, March 30th. There are two practice session times available: 9:30 a.m. and 10:45 a.m.

Players will be assigned to a team at the first practice. During practice the players will work on running bases, throwing, catching, fielding, hitting off of the tee and have fun learning America’s national sport.

Players should come with a glove, a bottle of water and wear shoes for running. Hats and baseball pants are optional. A three game schedule will be given to parents at the first practice. All players will receive a team t-shirt. Team pictures will be taken on Thursday, April 25 at the Hanford Civic Auditorium starting at 5:00 p.m.

If the weather is bad due to rain all practices will be moved to the Longfield Center gymnasium (across the park) located at 560 S. Douty Street.

For more information contact Recreation Supervisor, Susie Chavez at 559-362-3212.

Country Rock $5 “ Barn” Dances Featuring the “Rollin West” Band 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. – Wednesday, March 21, 2018 Sponsored by the Hanford Parks and Recreation Department Third Wednesday of the Month at the Hanford Civic Auditorium Located at 400 N. Douty Street Tickets: Cost $5

Join us for some rocking good music played by the talented “Rollin West” Band. The music is so great that you won’t be able to stay in your seat for long. Bring a friend, a dancing partner or both.

Upcoming dance dates: February 20, March 20, April 17, May 15, June 19, No dance in July, August 21, September 18, October 16, November 20 and December 18, 2019.

Sponsored by the Hanford Parks and Recreation ( office located at 321 N. Douty Street, Suite B.) For more information contact Susie Chavez 559-362-3212

Daddy/Daughter Date Night 2019 30th Annual Event at the Hanford Civic Auditorium Saturday, April 13, 2019 400 N. Douty Street 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. – Doors open at 6:00 p.m. for early photos Cost: $50 per couple / $23 per each additional child Ages 4 years and up.

Purchase tickets at the Hanford Parks and Recreation office located at 321 N. Douty Street –Suite B in Hanford. 559-585- 2525.

The 30th annual Daddy Daughter Date night event will take place at the Hanford civic Auditorium located at 400 N. Douty Street, on Saturday, April 13, 2019. This years’ theme is Alice in Wonderland. Space available for the first 350 tickets sold.

Tickets are $50 per couple – A buffet style dinner, dessert, entertainment and DJ are included in the fee. Keepsake photo packages are also available for an additional fee by the Garcia/Newman Photography studio.

For more information contact Susie Chavez at 559-362-3212.

Mother/Son Date Night Friday, April 12, 2019 at the Hanford Civic Auditorium 400 N. Douty Street 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. – with doors opened at 6:00 p.m. for early photos.

Cost: $50 per couple / $23 per additional child Ages 4 years and above Purchase your tickets at the Hanford Parks and Recreation office located at 321 N. Douty Street – Suite B- in Hanford 559-585-2525

This years’ Mother and Son Date night is scheduled for Friday, April 12, 2019. The theme will be the Mad Hatters Tea Party from Alice in Wonderland. The dress for this event is your choice.

Tickets are available for purchase at the Hanford Parks and Recreation department located at 321 N. Douty Street – Suite B, 559-585-2525 Space is available for the first 350 tickets sold. Ticket fee includes a buffet style dinner, entertainment and DJ music. Keepsake photo packages are available for an additional fee by Newman Garcia Photograpy Studio. For more information contact Recreation Supervisor Susie Chavez at 559-585-2525

Throwback Spring Camp

April 15 – 19, 2019

Hanford Teen Center located at 400 N. Douty Street

Students grades K thru 6th

Time: Regular Day: 7:45 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Cost: $75.00 per child /$35 2nd child same family

Time: Extended Day: 7:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Cost: $90.00 per child /$55 2nd child same family

Campers will need to pack a lunch each day for camp, the camp will provide a breakfast of cereal, juice, milk breakfast bars etc.

Parents are you looking for a safe, fun space for your children during spring break while you are at work? Well, look no further than the Hanford Parks and Recreation Departments Throwback Spring camp. All of the fun and excitement they can handle at a very special low price. Campers will hang out at the Teen Center, play games, have fun with some arts and crafts, bake, dance, and end the week with an egg hunt, bounce houses and fire truck rides. Register now. Space limited to the first 40 campers. For more information contact Recreation Supervisor Susie Chavez at 559-362-3212.

Easter Eggstravaganza Hanford Civic Auditorium Grounds 400 N. Douty Street Friday, April 19, 2019 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon $5 Pre-registered/$10 Day of the event ( Parents are free)

This event is recommended for ages 10 years and under.

Activities include bounce houses, trackless train, The Easter Bunny, carousel and Fire truck rides, games and an egg hunt at 12:00 noon

Bring your own Easter Basket please. Cost is $5 per child pre-registered (parents are free) and $10 day of the event. For additional information contact Recreation Supervisor Susie Chavez at 559-362-3212

Senior Water Aerobics & Adult Lap Swim Tuesdays & Thursdays May 7 thru September 26, 2019 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Hanford Plunge – 415 Ford Street Cost: $11 per monthly session

Instructor Cindy Rodriguez

Seniors 50 years and older will enjoy this class with instructor

Cindy Rodriguez leading the way. This fun, stress-free water resistance work-out is just what the doctor ordered. Get a good work out without putting strain on your joints. The water lifts you up and lets you focus on your work-out. Water aerobics is great for strengthening your muscles and improving your circulation.

Want to get a work out swimming laps? The Plunge will be open for lap swim during the water aerobics class in the deep end of the pool. For more information, contact Recreation Supervisor, Susie Chavez 559-362-3212.

Register at the Hanford Parks & Recreation Department -585-2525 located at 321 N. Douty Suite B, accepting cash, check and credit card payments.

Pelosi says no State of Union before Congress during shutdown

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday night he is postponing his State of the Union address until the partial government shutdown ends, yielding after a weeklong showdown with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Following a high-stakes game of dare and double-dare, Trump conceded that "no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber" and that he was not looking for an alternate option after Pelosi served notice earlier Wednesday that he won't be allowed to deliver the address to a joint session of Congress next week.

Pelosi took the step after Trump said he planned to show up in spite of Democratic objections to the speech taking place with large swaths of the government shut down.

Denied that grand venue, Trump promised to come up with some sort of alternative event. The White House scrambled to find a site matching the gravitas of the traditional address from the rostrum of the House to lawmakers from both parties, Supreme Court justices, invited guests and a television audience of millions.

"As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed," Trump tweeted. "She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative — I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over."

Fireworks over the State of the Union speech shot back and forth between the Capitol and the White House as the month-long partial government shutdown showed no signs of ending and with about 800,000 federal workers facing the prospect of going without their second paycheck in a row come Friday.

Pelosi told Trump the House won't approve a resolution allowing him to address Congress until the shutdown ends. Trump shot back that Pelosi was afraid of hearing the truth.

The drama surrounding the State of the Union address began last week when Pelosi asked Trump to make other plans but stopped short of denying him the chamber for his address. Trump called her bluff Wednesday in a letter, saying he intended to come anyway.

"It would be so very sad for our Country if the State of the Union were not delivered on time, on schedule, and very importantly, on location," he wrote.

Pelosi quickly squelched the speech, writing back that the House "will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President's State of the Union address in the House Chamber until government has opened."

The president cannot speak in front of a joint session of Congress without both chambers' explicit permission. A resolution needs to be approved by both chambers specifying the date and time for receiving an address from the president.

The gamesmanship unfolded as the Senate prepared to vote today on dueling proposals on the shutdown. A Republican one would give Trump money for the wall while one from Democrats would re-open government through Feb. 8, with no wall money, giving bargainers time to talk about it.

Both proposals were likely to fail to reach the 60-vote threshold needed in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 53-47 majority. 

House Democrats, feeling pressure to display their vision for border security, are preparing a package that would ignore Trump's demand for $5.7 billion for a wall with Mexico and would instead pay for other ideas aimed at protecting the border. The cost remained a work in progress, though some said it might match Trump's figure.

Democrats' movement toward producing a plan, which they said they expected to unveil this week, was significant because it underscored a growing uneasiness with letting Trump cast them as soft on border security.

The Constitution states only that the president "shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union," meaning the president can speak anywhere he chooses or give his update in writing. The address has been delayed before.

Ronald Reagan's 1986 State of the Union address was postponed after the Challenger space shuttle exploded in flight on Jan. 28 of that year.  

Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter issued their final messages in print. As Eisenhower recovered from a heart attack in 1956, he prepared a seven-minute, filmed summary of the message from his retreat in Key West, Florida, that was broadcast nationwide. Richard Nixon sent a printed message in 1973; his staff said an oral message would have come too soon after his second inaugural address.

White House officials have been working on a backup plan to have Trump give the speech somewhere else if Democrats blocked access to the House chamber. Nevertheless, they were rattled by Pelosi's move Wednesday and expressed concern it would further sour shutdown negotiations.

Pelosi said that when she extended her Jan. 3 invitation to Trump to deliver the State of the Union address on Jan. 29, there was no thought that the government would still be shut down.

She wrote Wednesday: "I look forward to welcoming you to the House on a mutually agreeable date for this address when government has been opened."