A Site to See

Used to be you had to know at least the basics of coding to get a website up and running. Now even those of us who would never be called tech-savvy can just choose a template, drag and drop the features we want, input a little content, and voilà! We’re being a little flip here, but the truth is that creating a website or just a good-looking blog has become relatively easy. (Updating a site can still be challenging, however!) Here are our picks of the website builders out there.


WordPress.com

Skill needed: Beginner-Intermediate
Cost: Free and paid plans

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WordPress powers 28 percent of all the websites on the Internet, and there’s good reason why. Their simple tools allow anyone to create a gorgeous website without any design or coding skills. This hosted version of the open-source software allows you to build a blog, a full website or a combo by choosing from hundreds of customizable themes.

Squarespace.com

Skill needed: Beginner-Intermediate
Cost: Free to try; paid plans
TechTips_SSteachAlthough WordPress is the most popular website system in the world, it’s not the only option. Squarespace separates itself from other low-cost website builders with its extremely easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface. Use one of their beautifully designed templates with hundreds of customizable features, and then style it to look any way you want.

Webflow.com

Skill needed: Intermediate-Advanced
Cost: Free and paid plans
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If you’re ready to take your Web design skills a step further, but you’re not ready to write code just yet, give Webflow a try. Webflow gives you all the power of HTML, CSS and Javascript. But instead of writing code, you manipulate it visually. As you build your website and lay out your content, Webflow generates clean, semantically correct, standards-compliant code for your site.


Website Essentials

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Graphics: Canva.com

Strong visuals are essential to every website, and Canva makes creating them a breeze. Use their drag-and-drop interface to create stunning professional-looking graphics. Many elements are free or available for a nominal fee.

Domain name: Domains.google

A custom domain name makes it simple for people to find you and helps you stand out on the Web. For example, if you’re known as Zeta Education Association, you can choose ZetaEA.com (unless that name is already in use — Google Domains can tell you).

Fonts: Fonts.google.com

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Got a good typeface? Google’s free, open-source font directory is the best way to inject personality and performance into your website. Its extensive catalog features best-in-class fonts that are made for the Web and hosted on their blazing fast servers, helping your website run faster. And it’s free.

Analytics: Analytics.google.com

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What posts were most popular with your members? Knowing your audience and what they want is an important success factor for any website. The best way to learn about your audience is through your website traffic stats, and Google Analytics provides all the info you need — for free.

 

Narratives of Courage

Jerry Sloan and Jerry Falwell were best friends as classmates in the 1950s at Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. Both became clergymen.

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LGBTQ+ pioneers honored during the premiere of “The Spectrum Archives: Narratives of Courage” last November.

Flash forward to the 1980s as televangelist and conservative activist Falwell went on to become the Moral Majority leader and Sloan founded two gay churches. After hearing the hateful, vicious things Falwell said on his nationally syndicated TV show, Sloan showed up at a local Sacramento television show where Falwell was appearing. Sloan rose from the audience and confronted Falwell about the malicious statements made on TV.

“It’s an absolute lie,” Falwell shouted. “And I’ll give you $5,000 if you can produce that tape.”

Sloan did. In what has become known as “The tale of the two Jerrys,” a municipal court judge, and later an appeals court, ordered Falwell to pay up after Sloan shared a tape of the broadcast. That was in 1984. Ultimately, the payment topped $8,900, and the funds helped start the Sacramento LGBT Community Center.

Sloan’s story and those of other Sacramento-area LGBTQ+ pioneer activists have been recorded and made into short videos through a Sierra College oral history project called “The Spectrum Archives: Narratives of Courage.”

 Funding the oral history project

Sierra College, located in Rocklin, Placer County, is one of three community colleges statewide that have a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies Department. It offers an associate degree program with an interdisciplinary, multicultural major that emphasizes the history and culture of LGBTQ+ persons and covers the ways that sexual orientation and gender identity and expression intersect with ethnic, racial, socioeconomic and political identities.

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Sierra College Faculty Association president Johnnie Terry

Sierra College Faculty Association president and LGBT studies faculty member Johnnie Terry and colleagues had been contemplating a small-scale oral history project, one in which students could record their experiences at college. Terry had created an academic standing committee focused on retention of LGBTQ+ students and staff.

“We called it Spectrum because acronyms kept changing,” explains Terry, who was recently honored by the Community College Association. “There is a spectrum of orientations.”

Spectrum was working with the director of the college foundation, Sonbol Aliabadi, to raise startup funds for the project. Aliabadi arranged a meeting between Terry and her friend, former Assembly Member Dennis Mangers, dubbed by news media as the “Gay Godfather of Sacramento.” He helped the story take another direction.

Mangers, who was seeing his friends aging, pitched the idea of an oral history project featuring Sacramento-area LGBTQ+ pioneer activists.

“I went back to campus feeling like I met a truly great man,” says Terry. He contacted his colleague, instructor and videographer Angie Coughlin, who researched costs and wrote the proposal. Mangers provided funding to start the project.

 Neglected history comes to light

That was over two years ago. Today, students can take a one-unit LGBTQ+ narrative class and a videography class. Then they have the opportunity to participate in Interviewing LGBTQ+ pioneers in the Sacramento region. Coughlin works with advanced videography students who scan photos and articles for “b-roll” in the videos, and oversees the conversion of over 60 hours of raw footage into 15-minute short documentaries, or shorts.

Student intern Kate McCarthy became deeply involved in the project. McCarthy, who had been a K-12 teacher, retired six years ago and decided to take one college class per semester. Her first class was Queer Theory, and that’s how she met Johnnie Terry — and the rest is, well, history.

“From a teacher perspective, this is history that is neglected by the mainstream media,” she says.

The response has been awe-inspiring and sparks dialogue, akin to projects like Japanese internment camps and veteran projects. – Kate McCarthy

McCarthy took photos of the process, which can be seen on the group’s Facebook page. She enjoyed watching the younger students interview the pioneers.

“They get so engaged with older people — it’s a marvelous thing to watch,” she says, adding that it’s important to capture this history for the LGBTQ+ community and as a part of local history.

The project premiered in November, just days after the 2016 election. As people watched the video documentary, “you could feel the energy building, and the excitement,” Terry says. “There was crying, laugher, applause. It was overwhelming.”

“The response thus far has been awe-inspiring and sparks dialogue, something akin to projects like the Japanese internment camps and veteran projects. Just the process of capturing history for posterity enriches the people involved, and this product that can be accessed by generations to come,” McCarthy says. “I’ve been lucky to do it.”

The video will be presented at the CCA Fall Conference in San Jose, Oct. 13-15, and is viewable online.

Meanwhile, the student-produced short videos are being submitted to events such as the Sacramento International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. “It’s great for students who make the shorts to win awards. Imagine how that’d help their careers,” Terry says.

 

A Win-Win

Each May for the past five years, Fontana Teachers Association (FTA) member and Kaiser High School special educator Michael Giardina has coordinated “Splash and Dash,” a districtwide event that embraces disabilities and values student diversity.

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Similar to the Special Olympics, Splash and Dash brings together all of Kaiser High’s students and educators, in addition to athletes from other schools, in an uplifting celebration. Its impact goes far beyond a single day to longer-term student relationships and achievement.

“Splash and Dash started at Kaiser as an event that adds the fun of water alongside educational components of living a healthy lifestyle,” says Giardina, known as Mr. G. “The event embraced the entire school community.”

This year, more than 250 participants with special needs — 20 classes from Fontana Unified School District’s seven high schools and transition programs (age 18-22) — competed in running and field events as well as water challenges, supported by more than 150 student volunteers and leadership groups from Kaiser High.

“The best of who we are was on display at Splash and Dash,” says Dinny (Diana) Rasmussen, an FTA member and Kaiser High counselor. “A regular education student struggling with depression ran joyfully alongside her friend with critical needs who could not contain her own happiness. A transgender youth helped his partners cross the finish line. A star athlete laughed uproariously as he struggled to keep up. Kindness won the day!”

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“Administration support and teacher buy-in is key. Ideas such as Splash and Dash that become realities showcase educators’ investment in education.” —Michael Giardina, Fontana Teachers Association

Because of its size and scope, Splash and Dash has become one of the largest district special education events in California. And now Giardina and FTA are looking to expand it to other districts and chapters.

That makes sense to Leslye Mendoza-Lopez, a senior who volunteered for the day. “It was the best experience of my life,” she says. “Seeing how happy the teachers, peer tutors and staff made the students made me want to pursue a career as a special needs teacher. Splash and Dash is really something all schools should have because it motivates students and makes them feel proud of their accomplishments.”

Splash and Dash starts with the athletes’ welcome at Kaiser High. They are cheered as they step off their buses by the Kaiser student “Link Crew” — trained ambassadors who help direct and assist during the day’s events. The crew escorts them to the auditorium, where they eat breakfast and hear presentations on health and nutrition.

Athletes next participate in a parade, each group preceded by their school banner. The Kaiser High School marching band provides musical accompaniment as they cross the campus. Teachers open classroom doors and students cheer as athletes make their way to the stadium. At the opening ceremony, the school’s JROTC, drumline and cheerleaders perform before competition begins.

“I had so much fun,” says Autumn Gilmore, an 11th-grader in Giardina’s class. “Helping with the preschoolers, the water activities, and watching Mr. G get soaked were my favorite parts. I also enjoyed all the student volunteers that helped and made it such a special day.”

As regular education student volunteers have become more involved, Giardina has observed two substantial student benefits he did not foresee. First, removing barriers to interaction with special ed students has led student volunteers like Mendoza-Lopez to consider special education teaching as a career path.

Second, as regular education class mentors built friendships and increased interaction with special ed students, the latter’s verbal and auditory skills showed faster improvement.

Splash and Dash, in effect, has fostered a safe environment where stigma gives way to intellectual and emotional growth on both sides.

“It was a powerful realization to its original creators that a program built for students with special needs would create more lasting change to those who did not compete,” Rasmussen says. “By pulling down barriers that limit inclusion, all students in the district have benefited.”

For more information about Splash and Dash, contact Michael Giardina at GiarME@fusd.net.