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 […]

Dear Montecito: Shelagh Morphy
By Stella Haffner   |   February 18, 2021

The letters in this column often remind me how young we are when we’re asked to make big decisions. We’ve heard from so many people who had chosen their path before they even reached legal autonomy. Evidently, a third of students change their major at least once and as many as one in ten change […]

Dear Montecito: Hope Saxon
By Stella Haffner   |   February 11, 2021

It’s natural for students who move away from home to feel nostalgic about the place they left. I am reminded of this every week, reading letters about people’s experiences growing up in Montecito. Some speak to my own memories more than others. The letters about surfing and hiking… well, let’s just say I look like […]

Dear Montecito: Maxx Christal
By Stella Haffner   |   February 4, 2021

Today’s letter is a guided tour of Santa Barbara from Maxx Christal. Maxx is a Crane and Laguna Blanca alum who was known as something of an adrenaline junkie back in our high school days – almost certainly a reputation he earned after volunteering to go first on every climb and zip line during class […]

Dear Montecito: Isabelle Davenport
By Stella Haffner   |   January 28, 2021

My mom, Carrie Haffner, has two stickers on her car. One is a harbor pass that expired six years ago, the other is a Bucket Brigade magnet. She likes both and says she keeps them because they “show other people that we’re locals.” This week we’re hearing from an old classmate of mine, Laguna Blanca […]

Montecito Alumni Write Letters from Life’s Front
By Stella Haffner   |   January 21, 2021

Dear Montecito, Exams are finished. School is out. What’s a girl to do? I could start a political campaign. How hard could that be? All in favor of banishing the word “unprecedented,” say aye.  I cleaned my room – that’s a good start. Did some work-related housekeeping too; you may notice I have a new […]

Dear Montecito: Dr. Mizuho Morrison
By Stella Haffner   |   December 31, 2020

I have this story I tell people to explain how I became interested in biology. It goes like this: When I was young, I watched Star Trek with my father. I liked to imagine myself zooming around, going to new planets, wearing my space-tech-fabric blue uniform (blue was, of course, my favorite color). There was […]

Dear Montecito: Shaye Grant
By Stella Haffner   |   December 24, 2020

We’ve heard from a variety of different perspectives in this column, giving us a sense of how each person’s relationship with their hometown changed after heading off into the bigger world. We’ve heard from Clay Rodgers, whose relationship with Montecito and his music career was complicated by natural disasters. We’ve heard from Julia Kupiec, who […]

Dear Montecito: Tobias Cole
By Stella Haffner   |   December 17, 2020

This week you are being treated to yet another saga from bonnie Scotland –only this time, the story is not from me. Meet Tobias Cole, Montecito native and second year student at the University of St Andrews.  I met Tobias for the first time in a coffee shop on North Street, St Andrews. And I […]

Dear Montecito: Heather Hawthorn
By Stella Haffner   |   December 10, 2020

If I had to think back, I would say the first time I learned about sustainable agriculture was during one of the Montecito Union School Earth Day events. There were always a number of stations for us students to visit. I remember the bicycle-powered blender, the birdhouse making station, and what I think was probably […]

Dear Montecito: Alec Sherwin
By Stella Haffner   |   December 3, 2020

It was not my intention to feature quite so many letters in this column that draw attention to my personal kryptonite (math), and yet, here we are. This week you are being treated to a letter from someone who is not only a talented visual artist but also an aspiring mathematician. Meet Alec Sherwin! Son […]

Dear Montecito: KiSea Katikka
By Stella Haffner   |   November 19, 2020

I’ve written and rewritten this introduction so many times. I keep revising because I want to get it right. Most importantly, I want to get it right without any of the self-congratulatory nonsense that often accompanies social justice grandstanding. I first met KiSea Katikka on my visit day to Crane Country Day School. A shared […]

Dear Montecito: Sierra Willard
By Stella Haffner   |   November 12, 2020

Much to my disgust, this week’s letter is from yet another wonderfully gifted visual artist. Meet Sierra Willard, current student at University of the Arts London and Laguna Blanca alum.  High ranking on the list of things I’m not good at is drawing. Any type of drawing. My freshman year of college, I was in […]

Ghost Stories of St Andrews’ Halls of Residence
By Stella Haffner   |   November 5, 2020

Dear Montecito, It is around this time every year that a very particular group of people begins to make themselves known to the world. A strange class of individuals who, in response to the first chills of mid-autumn, adopt an insultingly festive attitude, sprout twinkle lights from their ears, and pull out all their best […]

Dear Montecito: Walker Kemp
By Stella Haffner   |   October 29, 2020

Confession of the week: I didn’t know what a drag race was. I thought it was the highly demanding sport where large groups of men spend months work-shopping their bodies and paint jobs, preparing for their minute on the fashion runway. It was only recently I found out that not all drag racing is hosted […]

Dear Montecito: Mia Wilkinson
By Stella Haffner   |   October 21, 2020

I’m going to tell you something, and I’ll bet you haven’t heard it before. Back in school, my most stressful subject was art class. Every single year. Even when I liked it, art class was always a source of anxiety for me. I cannot isolate shapes or reproduce still images, and as someone who felt […]

Dear Montecito: Allison Lewis-Towbes
By Stella Haffner   |   October 13, 2020

I do a fair bit of writing when I can work up the courage to face my laptop keyboard. Do you know the feeling you get when you’ve stared at one word for too long and it no longer looks right? In psychology, we call this “semantic saturation.” It’s the idea that prolonged exposure or […]

Dear Montecito: Stella Vie Peters
By Stella Haffner   |   October 1, 2020

I don’t often meet other people with the name Stella. So not only was it surprising for me when I was put in touch with the author of today’s letter, but it was doubly interesting to learn that this Stella had also dipped her toe into the waters of journalism. Two Stellas, same industry? Stanley […]

Dear Montecito: Matthew Rollins
By Stella Haffner   |   September 24, 2020

As a biology student, I spend much of my time learning about the effect an environment has on its organisms. As a psychology student, I focus on the interaction between an individual and their surroundings. To appreciate growth and change, these are the principles you must understand. But these ideas are not exclusive to the […]