Miramar After the Storm
By Stella Haffner   |   January 31, 2023

Dear Montecito, I took a walk on Miramar Beach on January 6, about 20 hours after the first of the storm system had left our local area. Now in general I find writing about the beach to be a tricky thing. Perhaps because it is well-worn territory or simply too easy to become sentimental. Perhaps […]

You Should Be Reading More Queer Stories
By Stella Haffner   |   January 10, 2023

It is always a pleasure to host artists in the Dear Montecito column. I feel that their stories and reflections help ground us, particularly when the current event landscape feels so urgent and so claustrophobic. As the opening to our 2023 column, I wanted to invite a young writer to use this space to reflect […]

The ‘Makena Tate Project’
By Stella Haffner   |   December 27, 2022

Early career singer-songwriter Makena Tate attributes her confidence on stage to her Santa Barbara upbringing. The Crane School alumna says: “Being at Crane really gave me this great foundation for what I love now. It felt like there was no judgment, that everyone there wanted you to succeed. But having supportive teachers like Shana Arthurs […]

New Montecito Neighborhood Trail Network Already Benefitting Casa Dorinda Residents
By Stella Haffner   |   December 27, 2022

‘Twas the trail blazing campaign, called Walk Montecito! Seeking funds from donors, to make the project complet-o, With leadership from Geoff and our good friend Abe, We are grateful to the team at Bucket Brigade! In April of 2022, the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade launched a campaign to address one of the ongoing health and […]

‘Whiskey Throttle’: A New Short Film by MUS Alum Matthew Rollins
By Stella Haffner   |   December 13, 2022

When a motocross racer crashes in the middle of nowhere, a mysterious man responds in haste. But who is he – A lonely doctor? A good Samaritan? A satanic mechanic? Watch Matthew Rollins’ new short film Whiskey Throttle to find out!  Q. How did this project get started? A. I took a year off from […]

Anusikha Halder Trans & Queer Commission at UCSB
By Stella Haffner   |   November 29, 2022

Increasingly, the idea of intersectionality is finding its way into our everyday conversations. This is a topic we explored in this column when talking to the Westmont Feminist Society, who hold up a mission to promote diversity and education. This week we’re talking to Anusikha Halder, the head of the Trans & Queer Commission at […]

Future Leaders of America: Jose Martin
By Stella Haffner   |   November 15, 2022

Established in 1982, Future Leaders of America was a joint initiative by Santa Barbara and Oxnard County to address pressures facing Latinx youth. By providing programming to encourage education and leadership, the founders created an environment where students learn what it means to effect change in their community. Today, we’re speaking to up-and-coming community leader […]

In Conversation with ASL Advocate Leah Martin
By Stella Haffner   |   November 1, 2022

As a kid, Leah Martin was a strong student and good friend. She enjoyed theater and all things media. But her landscape began to shift when she was diagnosed with Reverse-Slope Hearing Loss. Reverse-Slope Hearing Loss is a degenerative disorder that causes a person to progressively lose their hearing, starting with lower tones. By 15 […]

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay
By Stella Haffner   |   October 18, 2022

Over in the sunny cove of Santa Barbara City College, a small health revolution is brewing. At the helm is Student Program Advisor Becky Bean, ASW.  With a background in the nonprofit sector and social work, Bean was excited to collaborate with the Student Health Services team at SBCC and spearhead their new wellness program: […]

The Do’s and Don’ts of College According to Santa Barbara Alumni
By Stella Haffner   |   October 4, 2022

Happy new school year! From interviewing people for this column, I have learned a lot about what it means to be a young person, and I have learned a lot of what it means to be a student. In honor of the new academic year, this edition of Dear Montecito is for the new college […]

Cal-SOAP: Providing Education about Financial Aid to Boost Local College-Going Rate
By Stella Haffner   |   September 20, 2022

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, questions concerning “education accessibility” become central to our discussion about school. But as the team at Cal-SOAP Santa Barbara knows, barriers to education did not simply appear with the pandemic lockdowns. At California Student Opportunity and Access Program (Cal-SOAP), they ask: What is keeping students out of higher […]

The Psychology of eSports
By Stella Haffner   |   September 6, 2022

Part of the joy of producing this column is learning about spheres that are foreign to me. I have written before on how I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions; instead, I use the journal here to try new things, to give me the kick in the backside that I need, to go out and […]

Writing from the Wound: Resh Grewal
By Stella Haffner   |   August 23, 2022

For young writers, the advice is often “write what you know.” And so, the question becomes: What do I know? In many ways, this may be a question that young people seek to avoid. In painful periods of self-growth and in mundane life trials – your chemistry pop quizzes and the like – what you […]

Growing Up in Neverland
By Stella Haffner   |   August 2, 2022

When I started this column, I knew essentially what I wanted to do.  For new endeavors, what you want to do is largely defined by what you can do. And for me, that meant speaking to, about, and for Montecito’s young alumni.  Along the way, I learned that good newspapers strike a balance between the […]

Promoting Sustainability and Doing It in Style
By Stella Haffner   |   July 19, 2022

Among many notable features of the SoCal dogma is our cultural stake in sustainability.  We see this move to more eco-friendly choices manifest in everything from earthy aesthetics in new-age coffee houses to school-based programs. At MUS alone, I remember the birth of the Green Team, who provided every kid at school with a reusable […]

Feminism and Faith
By Stella Haffner   |   July 5, 2022

Supreme Court leak in the USA, Spain’s new initiatives to improve reproductive rights and compensation, Northern Ireland’s abortion clinics – feminist issues are on the mind of the Western world. This week, we journey over to the campus of Westmont College to hear from their Feminist Society. Co-led by students Anna, Britta, Mika, and Riley, […]

Youth Makers Market
By Stella Haffner   |   June 7, 2022

If one thing is true about Santa Barbara, it’s that our young people have a world-class entrepreneurial spirit. Sisters Aaliyah and Bella Rubio are no exception.  Starting as a way to escape pandemic boredom, Aaliyah (14) and Bella (12) dreamt up the Youth Makers Market as a space for the young people of Santa Barbara […]

Zander Meyer
By Stella Haffner   |   May 24, 2022

It was easy to get swept up in the liminal space of lockdown. Who can appreciate this more than the high school students who were asked to pivot from hour-to-hour classes to the vacuum of a stay-at-home education? With this country’s competitive college admissions space, our high school students are masters of the micro-scheduled and […]

Identity
By Stella Haffner   |   April 19, 2022

You’ve probably noticed that the column looks a little bit different in 2022, huh? Well, I’d like you to know that the team behind the Dear Montecito column – that is, me and my caffeine persona – appreciate your continued readership as we find our voice. The truth is that shifts in identity have a […]

Lean on Me
By Stella Haffner   |   April 5, 2022

A 2007 study from the Community College Journal of Research and Practice noted that 87% of students surveyed were experiencing moderate to high levels of stress. To cope, students reported enjoying exercise and talking to friends, but cited that they would often use alcohol, cigarettes, and hard drugs to self-medicate. Given our understanding of the […]

Casa Dorinda Broadens Its Luxe Offerings With the New Bliss Expansion
By Stella Haffner   |   April 5, 2022

Tourists, newcomers, and longtime residents – we all love Montecito. Over the years, we have enjoyed watching our small town develop and grow while staying true to its Spanish revival sensibilities and dedication to community. Today, the latest in local renovation comes in the form of the Bliss Expansion at Casa Dorinda. Established in 1918, […]

Admissions Abroad
By Stella Haffner   |   March 22, 2022

The air smells like printer ink and young people around the country are biting their nails. It’s that time of the year again: Admissions Season. If there’s one thing I have learned from studying abroad, it’s that Americans truly have some cultural quirks. One of those cute little oddities is the way we handle college […]

The Isla Vista Compost Collective
By Stella Haffner   |   March 8, 2022

When I first heard the term “Dirtrider,” I imagined something á la Mel Gibson in Mad Max. But far from being chrome and oil junkies as we might associate with the apocalyptic franchise, Dirtriders are the lean, green worker bees of the Isla Vista Compost Collective. Founded in 2017, the Isla Vista Compost Collective (IVCC) […]

Learning Life Skills from The Key Class
By Stella Haffner   |   February 22, 2022

“My parents don’t work in an office, and they never went through interviews. So they wouldn’t be able to teach me this type of stuff,” says Fatima Lopez. A first generation American and the first in her family to attend college, Fatima reminds me that details such as how to conduct yourself at an interview […]

The Key Class: A First-Hand Experience
By Stella Haffner   |   February 8, 2022

Since I was about elbow height, I’ve been making grocery shopping difficult for my mother. If I’m honest, I’ve probably been making it difficult since before then. But it was around four or five years old that I developed the especially vexing habit of zoning out, stepping on her heel, and having us both ram […]

Cate School
By Stella Haffner   |   January 25, 2022

In October of 2021, universities around the United Kingdom started making headlines after the rise of a threatening new epidemic: injectable date-rape drugs. I remember the buzz at my own university as students called for stricter safety measures in bars and clubs. The fear of this new weapon for sexual assault and the lack of […]

Forget Resolutions and Try the 30-Day Challenge Instead
By Stella Haffner   |   January 11, 2022

Dear Montecito, New Year, new me. Is that what you’re telling yourself? The holiday season induces an annual jet lag. By the time January first rolls around, we’re trying either to make up for our less virtuous actions from the past month or attempting to practically manifest the most enlightened version of ourselves — we […]

Finding a Way to Keep His Spirits High
By Stella Haffner   |   December 21, 2021

Whether Miramar Beach and Montecito or the University of Montana in Missoula, 22-year-old Will Borghesani is here to tell us that each new destination has its own special qualities and charm. The MUS, Marymount, and Cate alum is now a final-year college student with sights on law school. But before he takes the plunge into […]

Life’s a Ride
By Stella Haffner   |   December 7, 2021

A good teacher can be the difference between a great year and a not-so-great one. This is the tried-and-true knowledge that every student understands. In this week’s letter, 23-year-old Nathan Alvarez reflects on the path, people, and programs that encouraged his career in science. Since finding his true north, a fascination with the world of engineering, […]

A Project in Need of a Timeout
By Stella Haffner   |   November 30, 2021

Dear Montecito, It is rarely a good sign to hear the latest about your hometown through the national news before discovering the information on local sources. Such was my experience opening my browser to CNN and seeing the now infamous contribution of Charlie Munger to our local university. Of course, the news did not stay […]

Experiencing Tough to Appreciate the Amazing
By Stella Haffner   |   November 23, 2021

As the world of computers and scientific technology leaps forward, the phrase “machine learning” becomes more buzz-y than ever. In layspeak, machine learning describes the collaboration between human and machine — we set parameters while letting the machine find patterns in the data. But as any good data scientist knows, we can set all the […]

Montecito Provided the Platform for Her Ambition
By Stella Haffner   |   November 16, 2021

When I talk to little kids about psychology, I tell them that psychologists are interested in how people think, feel, and act. I like to remind them that there are many amazing things that change about us as we grow up. For example, if exposed to sign language from an early age, deaf children will […]

A Love Letter to Montecito…
By Stella Haffner   |   November 9, 2021

Tourists flock from all over to appreciate our beaches, exciting selection of food, and terracotta horizon. Some tourists may even ask themselves where a Santa Barbara local would want to go on vacation when they live in such a visual and cultural paradise. We may take a jaunty trip to Solvang, a quaint stay in […]

The Divide Between Art and Science
By Stella Haffner   |   October 19, 2021

Dear Montecito, Last week we spoke about the importance of scientific curiosity and developing a sense of adventure. This week, I think we’d do well to examine the divide between science and arts disciplines. When discussing the separation of arts and sciences, it is hard not to address the elephant in the room. This elephant […]

Learning to Love the Process
By Stella Haffner   |   October 12, 2021

I’m tired of this right brain, left brain nonsense. First, we have to address that this “creative self” and “logical self” segregation is a complete fiction. But it’s doubly misguided when used as propaganda in the wildly artificial arts-science divide; humanities scholars must be analytical, and science people must be creative. Here to serve as […]

A Love/Hate Relationship with Montecito
By Stella Haffner   |   October 5, 2021

It is a truth universally acknowledged that those in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a Montecito property with an ocean view – to paraphrase ever so slightly. What our friend Ms. Austen said with irony, Mack Ellis does not. Having gained perspective since leaving for college, Mack’s letter contrasts the […]

Finding a New Artistic Outlet
By Stella Haffner   |   September 21, 2021

This week, we’re hearing from a recent graduate of the Berklee College of Music, 23-year-old Jules Bartling. I’ll admit, it’s quite difficult for me to picture Jules as an adult. The last time we saw each other, we were probably nine and 12 years old, in the MUS auditorium, rehearsing for that season’s play — […]

Searching for Ladders to Climb
By Stella Haffner   |   September 7, 2021

Bringing my laptop downstairs to work in the few minutes I spend waiting for the kettle to boil is what my flat mates call the “American work ethic,” and they find it more than a little disgusting. For many Montecito kids, you would have to take a crowbar to separate the person from their ambitions, […]

Feeling Alive in the City that Never Sleeps
By Stella Haffner   |   August 31, 2021

Though it is sometimes difficult to stand out in Montecito’s competitive landscape, Cayley Boyd rises to the challenge, fully embodying what it means to be a high achiever. Cayley is an accomplished athlete, musician, and businessperson who has spent her more recent years navigating the nail-biting corporate jungle of New York City. But Cayley’s resumé […]

Just Like Home: Scotland Obsessed with its Coast
By Stella Haffner   |   August 24, 2021

Dear Montecito, People will tell you that Scotland is divided into the highlands and the lowlands. Her capital city, Edinburgh, as well as the town I live in, are part of the lowlands, but when we think of Scotland, we’re apt to think of the highlands. We might conjure a swoosh of plaid or a […]