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 […]

Filling in the Gap: Laguna Blanca Product Takes a Year Away
By Stella Haffner   |   August 12, 2021

I was a straight-A student through middle school and high school. That is, a straight-A student except for one class: physical education. How dastardly that my pristine GPA should be sullied by such a subject! Or so I thought then. What I had yet to learn was that academics are a balancing act between both […]

Trash Treated Like Treasure by Local Brothers
By Stella Haffner   |   August 5, 2021

Today, local superheroes pick up 600 pounds of trash — and how! Sixteen-year-old brothers Ramon and Noah Wang are quickly becoming known in local circles for their tremendous cleanup efforts. The pair have dedicated their summer to keeping Santa Barbara green, and we couldn’t ask for better representatives as they prepare to step out into […]

A Return to Her Dream School, with Montecito in Tow
By Stella Haffner   |   July 29, 2021

As a former student of Montecito Union School, Santa Barbara Junior High, and Santa Barbara High School, Ava Burford was well acquainted with her hometown before leaving for UCLA. However, her return home in March 2020 gave her a chance to see Montecito from a new perspective. Within the liminal space of the pandemic, many […]

Inspired by Santa Barbara’s Beaches, Cassidy Drury-Pullen’s Bikini Business Thriving
By Stella Haffner   |   July 8, 2021

For many of us, the summer months means dusting off the good old Santa Barbara uniform: flip flops, sunblock, and a trusty swimsuit. Whether you’re sporting Ray-Bans or Billabongs, the mark of a local is their constant beach readiness.  Talking to us today about her time in Santa Barbara and her love of the beach […]

Concrete Changes Exciting for MUS alumna
By Stella Haffner   |   July 1, 2021

Summer is here and so is Dear Montecito’s one-year anniversary. To celebrate the column’s one-year run, I wanted to invite back some of my favorite people featured in Dear Montecito from the past year. Meredith Urschel was a natural first choice.  Since speaking to us last, the Montecito Union School alumna and concrete enthusiast has […]

Josh Chapman: From Dolphin Whisperer to Vegan Animal Rights Activist
By Stella Haffner   |   June 10, 2021

Having grown up in a house on Miramar Beach, Josh Chapman has more than a few tales from his time in Santa Barbara. Between building forts from driftwood and playing dolphin whisperer with his friends, it would’ve been difficult not to develop an appreciation for the surrounding wildlife. Today, Josh is a freshman at Griffith […]

Dear Montecito
By Stella Haffner   |   June 3, 2021

I entered my 20s in the pandemic. Ten years prior, you would’ve found me in Mr. D’Alfonso’s fourth-grade classroom at Montecito Union School. It was a good year. It was a big year. We started algebra and my friends taught me how to change the background image on a computer, so we could all have […]

Dear Montecito: Maiya Roddick
By Stella Haffner   |   May 20, 2021

Since starting this column, I’ve hoped to either feature a fellow student from my own university or another student of psychology. Today, we’ve got two for the price of one. I am happy to introduce Maiya Roddick: an alumna of the University of St. Andrews, a student of psychology, and a wonderfully thoughtful and accomplished […]

Dear Montecito: Dana Raymond Glass
By Stella Haffner   |   May 6, 2021

When I was little, Pierre Lafond sold these long, perfumey marshmallows. And I think, if you were to ask my parents, they’d tell you what a truculent little human I’d become if there were no blue ones left in stock. I remember running around on the water-worn bricks of the fountain, gumming at my lavender-flavored […]

Dear Montecito: Kristen Trent
By Stella Haffner   |   April 29, 2021

It strikes me that our country has many euphemisms for bigotry. We can’t pull our eyes away from the screen – our media and its love affair with the transgressions of people my own age. I see others who are ready to excuse their “acting out,” reassuring the rest of us that they will “grow […]

Dear Montecito: Rowan Dowdall
By Stella Haffner   |   April 22, 2021

For the second week in a row, this column is hosting a letter from another talented young musician. Rowan Dowdall is a Connecticut-to-Santa Barbara transplant attending the Visual Arts & Design Academy at Santa Barbara High School. Between teaching himself to play the guitar and taking supplemental classes at City College, Rowan spends his downtime […]

Dear Montecito: Dawson Fuss
By Stella Haffner   |   April 15, 2021

For many, quarantine has meant an opportunity to indulge their creative side. I’ve been treated to pieces of art and writing from friends and family, but it’s always nice to be reminded of the ways in which our community has grown artistically. Although, while I must admit that most of us are just dabbling in […]

Dear Montecito: Corinne Yungling
By Stella Haffner   |   April 1, 2021

Welcome to the second half of our Olders-Youngers, Dear Montecito double-feature! Last week we heard from volleyball star and my former Older, Anika Wilson, and this week we’re hearing from my former Younger and current student at Lake Travis High School, Corinne Yungling. I am especially happy to share Corinne’s letter with you not only […]

Dear Montecito: Anika Wilson
By Stella Haffner   |   March 25, 2021

I was in Ms. Balch’s first grade class when Anika Wilson was my Older. Anyone who attended MUS remembers the Olders-Youngers system. This program paired up students from different years, introducing younger students to a new upperclassman friend every year and eventually becoming a mentor to the next generation. I loved this program and remember […]

Dear Montecito: Bella Venable
By Stella Haffner   |   March 18, 2021

If I know one fact about the Visual Arts and Design Academy at Santa Barbara High School, it’s that VADA is home to many talented students. If I know one fact about Santa Barbara in general, it’s that State Street has experienced a serious decline in quality since all the cool, independent shops have been […]

The Twilight Zone
By Stella Haffner   |   March 11, 2021

Dear Montecito, Did you know you’re not supposed to start a piece of writing with a rhetorical question? Yea, something about it being a cliché. How many English teachers are rolling their eyes right now? It’s okay. Trust me. I know what I’m doing. Or else, I’m a dedicated faker.  Let’s start again. How many […]

Dear Montecito: Jack Moller
By Stella Haffner   |   March 4, 2021

I’m excited to share today’s story with you for a couple of reasons. First, the author of this letter is Jack Moller, a kid with whom I’ve not only shared the same high school but also at the same preschool, elementary school, and middle school. Second, I can appreciate the fact that most of us […]

Dear Montecito: Frankie Fairweather
By Stella Haffner   |   February 25, 2021

Among the reasons I enjoy managing this column must be those moments when I read someone’s letter and think, “yes! I know exactly what you’re talking about.” From Walker Kemp and his desire for a change of scenery to Hope Saxon and her farm cake, I often get the feeling that our Montecito bubble affords […]