La Jolla News Nuggets: Light wins 11 Press Club awards; sweeper naming contest; math and reading scores; more

La Jolla Light reporters Ashley Mackin-Solomon and Elisabeth Frausto at the San Diego Press Club awards ceremony Oct. 25
La Jolla Light reporters Ashley Mackin-Solomon and Elisabeth Frausto show their journalism awards at the San Diego Press Club ceremony Oct. 25.
(Provided by Elisabeth Frausto)

La Jolla Light wins 11 San Diego Press Club journalism awards

La Jolla Light staff received 11 awards from the San Diego Press Club, including four for first place, in the 49th annual Excellence in Journalism Awards on Oct. 25.

Reporter Elisabeth Frausto took first for “‘Art and audience’: A first look at Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s La Jolla makeover” in the Visual/Fine Art Reporting category; second place for “UC San Diego memorial site honors those who donated their bodies to science” in the General News category; and third place for “Is Pannikin packing it in? Decades-old La Jolla cafe faces April exit after lease talks falter” in the Business & Financial category.

Together, she and reporter Ashley Mackin-Solomon won first place for the “Roadblocks to Repair series.

Mackin-Solomon also won first place for “Family values: La Jolla High’s Gary and Howard Frank model a love of baseball, history and tradition” in the Sports category; second place for the “La Jolla Then and Now” series and for “La Jolla’s St. James church begins installation of ‘the organ it was always designed to have’” in the Feature Light Subject category; and third place for “A PATH to housing: Specialists reach out to those in La Jolla who are homeless for the holidays” in the Feature Serious Subject category and for “Kumeyaay artifact in La Jolla park is blessed in tribal ceremony” in the Multicultural category.

Page designer Daniel Lew won first place for his layout of “Delicious, not discarded: Get more out of your fresh produce” and second place for his layout of “Sip, sip, hooray! Raise your glasses to La Jolla’s seasonal cocktails.”

In total, U-T Community Press publications won 61 awards, including 18 for first place, 17 seconds, 17 thirds and nine honorable mentions.

Naming contest launched for San Diego’s new mini street sweeper

The City of San Diego today kicked off a naming contest for its new 100% electric mini street sweeper.
The city of San Diego kicked off a naming contest for its new electric mini street sweeper and is asking residents to make suggestions.
(City of San Diego)

Sweepy? Sweep-ito? What would you name the city of San Diego’s new mini street sweeper?

City officials have launched a contest to find a moniker for its new equipment. Because the electric sweeper is narrower than the city’s other sweepers, it’s more effective at picking out trash and debris from narrow spaces like bike lanes, officials said.

People can help pick the sweeper’s name on social media, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or submit suggestions via email at

On Thursday, Nov. 10, three possible names will be selected from the suggestions, and the public will be able to vote on them through Wednesday, Nov. 23, with a winner announced by the end of the month.

Students’ math test scores fell across the board after COVID-19

Public school students’ math performance in the San Diego Unified School District, which operates five schools in La Jolla, suffered their steepest declines in more than two decades, as they did in California and across the country, after two turbulent years of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to 2022 national standardized test scores released Oct. 23.

But students’ reading scores in San Diego Unified and statewide managed to hold steady with 2019 levels.

Federal education officials released long-awaited results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often referred to as the Nation’s Report Card, that show for the first time how fourth- and eighth-graders’ reading and math performance has changed since 2019.

The Nation’s Report Card is the only set of standardized tests that can be used to compare student performance across states because it is administered consistently and to representative samples of students in all states. District-specific scores are collected from a select 26 large urban districts nationwide, including San Diego Unified.

A quarter of fourth-graders and 38 percent of eighth-graders nationwide failed to meet the basic level in math, while 37 percent of fourth-graders and 30 percent of eighth-graders scored below basic in reading.

The numbers are worse in California, where a third of fourth-graders and 44 percent of eighth-graders scored below basic in math. About 42 percent of California fourth-graders and a third of eighth-graders scored below basic in reading.

About 37 percent of San Diego Unified’s fourth-graders scored proficient or advanced in reading this year, unchanged from 2019. And 34 percent of eighth-graders scored proficient or advanced in reading, down slightly from 36 percent in 2019.

The drops were steeper for math: Thirty-four percent of fourth-graders and 28 percent of eighth-graders scored proficient or advanced in math this year, down from 42 percent of fourth-graders and 35 percent of eighth-graders in 2019.

More San Diego Unified students also are failing to meet the basic achievement level for math: Thirty-one percent of San Diego fourth-graders and 40 percent of eighth-graders failed to do so, up from 21 percent and 33 percent, respectively, in 2019. — The San Diego Union-Tribune

La Jolla student publishes book in Spanish to help others code

Athena Hernandez, a senior at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, has published a book in Spanish to teach children to code.
(Provided by Athena Hernandez)

Athena Hernandez, a senior at The Bishop’s School in La Jolla, is following up her program to teach coding classes to underserved students with her first book on the subject.

The 180-page book, called “Cómo Codificar para Niñ@s: Una Introducción a Python” (“How to Code for Kids: An Introduction to Python”), is written in Spanish and is available via Amazon.

“I created this resource because there wasn’t much geared toward kids who only spoke Spanish and wanted to learn how to code,” Hernandez said.

All proceeds from the book will go to Hernandez’s coding program. To buy the book, visit

UC San Diego will receive $25 million donation to support research in bioengineering

UC San Diego’s bioengineering program, which was praised during the COVID-19 pandemic for creating better sensors to monitor patients’ vital signs and its efforts to improve ventilators, will receive a $25 million donation to support teaching, education and research.

Gene Lay, who founded the San Diego biotech company BioLegend, is making the gift in the form of an endowment that will help a program that’s ranked among the 10 best of its kind in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Lay is donating the money in honor of his friend and mentor Shu Chien, who was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2011 for discoveries about blood flow that led to better ways to treat everything from sickle cell anemia to atherosclerosis.

Chien — who is still doing research at age 91 — also helped to expand and improve bioengineering at UCSD, turning it into one of the school’s hottest programs.

In announcing the new donation, UCSD said the bioengineering department will now be known as the Shu Chien-Gene Lay Department of Bioengineering. — The San Diego Union-Tribune

UCSD buys $42 million apartment building in downtown San Diego

UC San Diego has purchased a $42 million apartment complex near a Blue Line trolley station in downtown San Diego that’s meant to be used by faculty and staff who will commute to the main campus in La Jolla and UCSD Medical Center in Hillcrest.

Construction was completed recently on the eight-story Framework building at the corner of 13th and F streets, two blocks from where UCSD opened its Park & Market education and entertainment center in May.

UCSD said the building’s 87 fully furnished studio apartments range from 317 to 502 square feet, with starting monthly rents ranging from $1,975 to $2,675.

The purchase represents a southern expansion by the university, which is experiencing crowding in La Jolla, where the fall quarter began with nearly 43,000 students, a record.

UCSD also recently confirmed that it is exploring the purchase of a 6.57-acre parcel in the Mission Bay area that is also near a Blue Line station. The land has the potential to become a university housing site. — The San Diego Union-Tribune

— Compiled by La Jolla Light staff