By Luciana Chavez l October 26, 2023
The 11th annual Merced Sunrise Rotary Field of Honor—a display of American flags honoring the selfless work of veterans, active military and first responders—will be installed on the Merced College front lawn from Nov. 4-11.
This Field of Honor, replicated in cities across America, is a partnership between Merced Sunrise Rotary, Merced College, and the 1st Lt. Peter J. Gallo Veterans Resource Center (VRC) on campus. After erecting 2,022 flags in 2022, organizers hope to display at least 2,023 flags next month.
“I think Merced has become more defined by its Field of Honor,” said Sunrise Rotary President Regina Cherf, herself a 38-year veteran of the Air Force. “People come here just to see it. It’s a destination now.”
Anyone can purchase a flag to honor a veteran, military member or first responder, living or deceased, active or retired, regardless of where they served or where they now live. The flag-and-pole sets cost $35 each and can be reused and displayed each subsequent year for $10.
The 3-by-5-foot flags sit atop 8-foot poles with a card identifying each honoree. People can walk through the display every day from 1-6 p.m., and information booth volunteers can guide visitors to specific flags.
The week kicks off in earnest with the Run for the Fallen, a 5K Run/Walk or 10K starting at 8:45 a.m. Nov. 5. The official opening ceremonies start at 2 p.m. with music from the Merced Children’s Holiday Choir led by UC Merced music lecturer Jenni Samuelson.
Sunrise Rotary members and local boy scouts will also stage a Flag Retirement ceremony, for tattered or torn flags, on Nov. 9 at 6:30 p.m.
The closing ceremonies, anchored by a performance from the Merced Community Choir led by Jenni Samuelseon, will be held at the Field of Honor on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, at 11 a.m. Participants may pick up their flags as the field is taken down on Nov. 12.
“The partnership with Sunrise Rotary shows that Merced College is committed to our veterans, active duty and first responders,” said Dustin Thompson, Student Services Coordinator at the Veterans Resource Center. “We are, in fact, a community college—emphasis on ‘community.’”
If the event has ever moved you, you can volunteer to help set up or take down the display.
The annual event was designed as a service project, never to turn a profit. It accidentally began making money after Sunrise Rotary started soliciting sponsors to cover costs.
Now the profits do even more good. They cover grants to local groups to pay for things like uniforms for local Explorers or scholarships, and for community initiatives like the effort to rename M Street as Veterans Boulevard. This year, Sunrise Rotary will also sell a $25 commemorative T-shirt.
The college will also host roughly 1,000 Merced City Schools 8th-graders from Cruickshank, Hoover, Rivera and Tenaya middle schools to see the display. After making the short trip in buses sponsored by the Merced School Employees Federal Credit Union, Thompson takes them on tours of the campus—a first for many students—and then visit the Field of Honor.
Cherf encourages everyone to see the field and contemplate the lives each flag represents.
“My first time at the Field of Honor, I saw the sunset behind the field, with the flags waving, and felt so much love,” she said. “Each flag represents a life and a family. It’s magical.”
For information, visit: www.mercedfieldofhonor.org/.
New Merced College Plaza, Sculpture to Be Unveiled at ‘State of the College
By James Leonard l May 11, 2023
The ninth annual State of the College event at Merced College returns Tuesday, May 30, with a celebration of the Isakow Family and the unveiling of the new Hermione Isakow Plaza.
The event will feature President Chris Vitelli’s State of the College address, along with the presentation of the President’s Medallion Award—which recognizes the college’s greatest supporters—to the Isakow family. Tickets and sponsorships are still available and can be purchased online at mercedcollegefoundation.org.
The plaza, where the event will be held, is envisioned as a welcoming space for the community and campus visitors, a gathering place for students and the campus community, a unique learning space for the college’s arts program, and an intimate outdoor location for events.
“The State of the College event is our opportunity to let the community know about all the innovative initiatives happening at Merced College, and to honor a family who has made such a generous contribution to our district,” Vitelli said. “The Hermione Isakow Plaza is a beautiful addition to our Merced campus, providing an engaging new space that will be enjoyed by students and community members alike for decades to come.”
After living most of her life in South Africa, Hermione Isakow and her husband Leiz moved to Merced in 2010 to be closer to their eldest son Isaac and his family. Hermione’s final years were clouded by a long bout with amyloidosis, and she died in 2020. In 2021, her sons chose to honor her memory and her contributions to their lives through a $1 million gift to fund the design and construction of the Hermione Isakow Plaza near the front of the campus.
The centerpiece of the plaza is a large sculpture of a Baobab tree, which carries great symbolic significance in Africa and is known as the “tree of life,” because it produces fruit and nectar year-round and stores large amounts of water in its trunk, even in very dry climates.
Scott and Madelyn McGrath of McGrath Arts in Mariposa designed and built the 4,100-pound, galvanized steel sculpture, which stands at 15 feet tall and includes branches that span 20 feet. The tree is decorated with 3,000 hand-forged metal leaves, orb-shaped fruits, whydah birds, parrots, an owl in a lighted knothole, and 30 lighted flowers. The 6-foot-wide trunk is textured to represent holes made by elephants to pull water from the giant succulent.
Information about tickets and sponsorships can be found at mercedcollegefoundation.org. Contact Grace Mendoza at 209-381-6471 for assistance.
‘America’s Got Talent’ Winner Brandon Leake to Host Poetry Showcase at Merced College on May 2
CVV News l April 25, 2023
Brandon Leake, the first spoken-word poet to be named champion of America’s Got Talent, will host a special evening of performances by local poets, rappers and writers at 4:30 p.m. May 2 at the Merced College Admin Amphitheater. (in front of the Administration Building on the Merced campus).
Leake will perform and emcee the Poetry Showcase, a free event open to all members of the public. Blankets and chairs are recommended, and a limited number of chairs will be available.
Those interested in performing at the Poetry Showcase are encouraged to contact Karrie Bullock at 209-386-6703 or email@example.com mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> no later than Friday, April 28. No level of expertise is required to perform, and a $250 grand prize and other prizes will be awarded.
“Spoken-word poetry brings together incredible talent and artistry, and bravery,” said Merced College reference librarian Karrie Bullock, who is organizing the event. “There is acceptance, support, and positivity in a slam atmosphere that allows folks to get vulnerable, be heard and seen, and participate in the experience. Brandon elevates that experience.”
The event marks the second appearance by Leake at Merced College. In April 2022, he held a performance for college staff and faculty, followed by an Open Mic Night featuring Merced College students. Leake has also held a masterclass series of poetry workshops for students via Zoom throughout the Spring 2023 semester.
Leake is an award-winning spoken word poet, artistic educator and motivational speaker from Stockton. His creative mixture of art, charisma and passion tailored to his own unique personal narrative has taken him across the world as a speaker and performer. He has performed in locations such as New Zealand, Mexico, Canada, and 36 states around the country on “Dark Side” tour, promoting his first published poetry chapbook “Unraveling” and his album “Deficiencies: A Tale From My Dark Side.”
He is also the founder and CEO of Called to Move (CTM) https://calledtomovectm.org/, an artistry organization that aims to aid youth in self-actualization and personal development through the art of poetry.