Category Archives: In your hometown with…

In your hometown with…the Vasquez Family

If you want to meet the Vasquez family, you will have to catch them first! This is a family that is always on the go, with sports, careers, volunteering, school, Girl Scouts, community activism and entrepreneurship! It would be an understatement to say that this busy family of five is quite an active bunch.

Rosalyn and Oliver Vasquez live in Westchester with their three children, Olivia and Sophia who are 9-year-old twins and Asher who is 7-years-old. A 2-year-old Labradoodle, Penelope and 15-year-old pup, Nuen, who was rescued after the tsunami in Thailand in 2004, complete the family.

Rosalyn was born in Vancouver but made the move to Southern California when she was in first grade. She grew up in Diamond Bar and considers herself a California local. After graduating from Southwestern University School of Law, she was looking for a new neighborhood when she heard about a wonderful, still affordable beach town called Playa del Rey.

She quickly fell in love with the area and moved into a condo so she could enjoy the beach life.
Oliver grew up in Northridge and is the first-generation son of a Guatemalan father and a Polish mother who met in night school while learning English. After attending California State University Northridge for his undergrad, Oliver headed to Southwestern University School of Law where he met Rosalyn on their moot court team. While traveling around the country competing in tournaments, their romance was born!

They soon got married and moved into the condo in Playa del Rey and had their twin girls. When Rosalyn became pregnant with Asher, they knew that they needed more space and moved into a home in Westchester. Their first Westchester residence proved to not be the right fit, so they rented in Playa Vista until they found their dream home in Kentwood.
“We love our neighborhood and our neighbors,” said Rosalyn. “We don’t ever want to move!”
This love of their community is a theme that runs through all that the Vasquez family does for 90045 and beyond.

Both Rosalyn and Oliver are practicing attorneys. Rosalyn specializes in employment and business law, but she is also working on a start-up called “The Attorney List.” This new website will give people access to lawyers’ services virtually and will specialize in lawyers who speak multiple languages.

“Minority communities have the legal barrier of cost as well as the ability to understand,” said Rosalyn. “We want to make legal services available at a flat rate so that people know exactly what it will cost them and then they can speak to someone who understands them face-to-face via Zoom or video chat.”

Rosalyn is very close to her Thai heritage and currently serves as the president of the Thai American Chamber of Commerce of California, a business organization that advocates for the interest of its members and the Thai business community in the state. She also is the President of the Thai New Year (Songkran) planning committee. This festival attracts 30,000 to 40,000 people annually to six blocks of Hollywood Blvd. in Thai Town to celebrate. Unfortunately, this year’s event has been postponed due to COVID, but Rosalyn is looking forward to working on the celebration once gatherings are allowed again. Another important part of honoring her heritage is speaking out to put a stop to the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) hate crimes that have increased over the last year. She recently attended a rally with the LAPD and other leaders from the AAPI community to encourage the reporting of hate crimes to the authorities.

Oliver is an insurance defense attorney and is the senior trial attorney for Hartford Insurance. He also teaches at Pacific Coast Law School and is a moot court adviser at Southwestern Law School. When he is not on the job, he loves coaching the kids in AYSO, Westchester Little League and Westchester Del Rey Little League, where he serves on the board of directors.

“Through sports in the community, we feel like we have gotten to know everyone in our neighborhood,” said Oliver. “I have built bonds of friendship and solid relationships through being involved in Little League and AYSO.”

Pre-COVID, another one of Oliver’s favorite pastimes was taking the kids to community events at local schools and places like the Elks Lodge.

The Vasquez children participate in so many activities, it is hard to keep track of them all! The independent and determined Olivia, and the shy but silly Sophia both play soccer and softball. Some of their other top activities are horseback riding, art classes, riding bikes and music lessons. The charismatic Asher plays baseball and soccer. He also likes playing guitar and making art.

When it comes to hobbies the whole family enjoys, they all light up at the mention of skiing and snowboarding. If the conditions are right, chances are they’ll be heading to June Mountain in Mammoth for a weekend of playing in the snow.

Olivia and Sophia are fourth-graders and Asher is a first-grader at Citizens of the World in Mar Vista, where Rosalyn is also a room parent. The kids are looking forward to returning to in-person school in three weeks.

“Online school has been OK, but it is just hard to focus at home,” explains Olivia.
Sophia can’t wait to be with her friends again.

Girl Scouts is another important part of the Vasquez family’s life. Rosalyn is the co-leader for Olivia and Sophia’s troop, which is specifically for twins. This troop was born out of Rosalyn’s involvement with the group West LA Parents of Multiples.

The girls are currently working on their Girl Scout cookie sales and have found it to be a challenge this year due to COVID restrictions. To help them reach their sales goals, Oliver has built a lemonade-type stand with a plexiglass barrier so they can sell Thin Mints and other cookies in front of their home to their neighbors, with whom they have great relationships.

“I love our ‘neighbor garden’ which is a garden we planted between our house and our neighbor’s house,” said Olivia. “Our neighbor built the garden boxes, and we all planted fruits and vegetables. The whole family takes care of the garden, and yesterday we picked strawberries!”

This tight-knit feel that is all over Westchester makes it a special place to live, says Rosalyn.

“I can walk around and see people that I know; it has a small community feel within a big city,” said Rosalyn. “I am also involved in moms’ groups online and everyone is so supportive of each other even though we may not have met in person. It is nice to know that you have a group that has your back, and they are always pro-active in doing positive things for the community.”

Posted April 2021.

By Lydia Smith. Photos by Zsuzsi Steiner.

In your hometown with…the Bost Family

Growing up in a small suburb of Indianapolis, Alyssa Bost grew up thinking that big cities like Los Angeles and New York were scary places where “normal” families didn’t live. But after getting into her dream school, Pepperdine University in Malibu, she started to realize that her idea of “normal” may not be everyone else’s. 

“I grew up thinking that if you grew up in L.A. you would have no sense of reality. That is definitely not true and I learned that pretty quick!” she said. 

So after college, armed with a psychology degree, Alyssa looked into programs where she could earn her teaching credential and masters while also teaching. She joined the NYC Teaching Fellows, one of the largest such programs in the U.S., and taught middle school at Frank D. Whalen and the Frederick Douglass Academy.

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In your hometown with… the Lai family

For most families, the pandemic has been a time for challenges, changes and adjustments. So it’s been for the Lai family, but they’ve also received a special gift that most parents don’t get until their children are grown: validation that their parenting messages to their kids actually work! 

The Lai Family.

“We’re resilient, and we teach our children to roll with the punches and have a strong work ethic. Life isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. We spend a lot of time talking about character and grit,” said Kelly Lai. “We did this before COVID, but the pandemic has really emphasized that things are hard, but we can make it OK.” 

Husband Hyrum added, “I think the stars of all this have been the kids. They’ve just rolled with the punches and adjusted. They’ve been real rock stars!”

A typical pandemic workday finds Kelly, a teacher at five schools in the West Hollywood area, bouncing between the living room and the garage while teaching her students online; 10-year-old Griffin attending online school in his room; Hyrum working remotely in the shed; and 5-year-old Vivienne going to kindergarten at the dining room table. 

“Vivienne is doing great with school. Alexa is the third parent,” Kelly laughs. “We set alerts to tell Vivienne when to log in.”

Both of the kids are still doing fun activities during Safer at Home. Vivienne is taking rhythmic gymnastics through the Artistico School of Dance and AYSO soccer. She played T-ball “for a hot second” right before the quarantine hit. Griffin, a fifth-grader at Kentwood plays first base and outfield for his DRALL team, water polo with the South Bay United Club Team and attends socially distanced Cub Scouts with Hyrum as his den leader. Griffin was also recently elected president of the Kentwood student council.

Kelly returned to teaching this fall after taking a leave of absence after having Vivienne. She has been a teacher with LAUSD since 2001, when she was recruited at a job fair while attending Southern Utah University in Cedar City. 

“They were going through a teacher shortage and I knew nothing about L.A., but I was ready for the challenge. After I graduated, I moved here. I didn’t know anyone so I stayed at a youth hostel in Santa Monica for a week,” Kelly said. 

She discovered she loved Los Angeles and met some very good friends and future husband Hyrum, so she ditched her initial plans of moving to San Diego, where she was born, after getting her California teaching credential. 

“One year turned into 20!” she said.

Hyrum grew up in Rowland Heights and attended USC as a business major. He spent two years in the Philippines on a church mission before returning to finish his education. He now works at an ad agency, Full Hearts, which specializes in marketing and advertising for nonprofits. Two of their biggest clients are Operation Smile and Mercy Ships. 

“I enjoy working from home because I get to see my kids more often. It’s been nice to slow down a little bit. Life doesn’t feel like such a rat race right now, but I’m ready for quarantine to be over,” he said.

Kelly’s job is a little more challenging to do online because she teaches adapted physical education for students with special needs. 

“I try to make it as fun as possible. We use exercise videos and live stuff with scarves and balls, things that most people have at home. And I use a lot of music,” she said. “It’s a wonderful job and so rewarding. Getting to do P.E. with kids who have special needs is the best job in the world. I’ve been in education in a lot of different settings, but this is the best job ever!”

Kelly began her career teaching physical education at Berendo Middle School and then got her special education credential. She has been working with students with special needs for 12 years. She also was recently certified in Adapted Physical Education. She taught at Kentwood Elementary for eight years after they bought their house in Westchester because Kelly wanted a job closer to home.

“After we got married and wanted to buy a house, we looked all over West L.A. and didn’t find anything we liked in our price range. Then Hyrum suggested this wonderful, cool little pocket neighborhood he knew about near the airport called Westchester. At first I wasn’t too sure about living near the airport, but as soon as I saw it, I fell immediately in love with the neighborhood,” said Kelly.

But getting a house in Westchester wasn’t as easy as they hoped and their bids were rejected over and over again.

 “We finally found our house, but there were 11 offers on it. So the owners asked all of us to write a letter as to why we wanted it,” Hyrum said. He felt the picture he included of Kelly, pregnant with Griffin, really won the sellers over.

“We were very excited to get the house and have loved every minute since. I grew up in a very small town so I would often get homesick for that small hometown feeling. But honestly, Westchester has that same feeling I experienced growing up. Everyone is so friendly and the fun little local traditions make it more special. We love being close to the beach and close to LMU. It’s such a fun university to have within walking distance. It’s just a real special place. Westchester pride runs deep,” Kelly said.

 Hyrum added, “We are so blessed to be in this neighborhood.”

As a way to show gratitude, the family likes to give back. The Scout troop and Vivienne make cards for seniors to lift their spirits and assemble hygiene kits for the homeless. They also enjoy volunteering with their church. 

“The pandemic has reminded us not to take relationships for granted. Whenever I see friends outside these days, it’s great. Even though you’re wearing masks and can’t get close, it’s great to be reminded that we’re not alone,” Hyrum said.

“Sometimes it gets hard and we want to be with our friends and go back to baseball and everything else. Then we remember how lucky we are that we have such a beautiful community. We can go on walks and bike rides and see our friends and neighbors from afar. We always see people we know and that peps you up and gives you energy to keep you going,” Kelly said. “We’re surrounded by so many good friends and neighbors in this community that we never feel alone.”

By Consuelo Israelson. Photos by Zsuzsi Steiner.

Posted December 2020.

In your hometown with… the Chouinard family

For Wendy, Daniel and Nathan Chouinard, the world is a feast for the senses. They experience it through the heavenly smells of the international cuisines being cooked by their neighbors, by listening to uplifting music in several languages, creating art and nurturing plants with their hands, savoring the flavor of their favorite foods and appreciating the beauty of the world around them.

 “We’re a very hands-on family!” said Wendy.

 A lot of this is because the trio is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), despite none of them being deaf.

Wendy works at the Helen Keller National Center as a placement specialist for the area from Bakersfield to the Mexico border. Her duties include finding jobs for deaf and blind clients, as well as providing vocational assessments and job prep. 

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In your hometown with…the Westerfield Family

It’s hard not to notice the Westerfield family in Westchester. First off, they have four children, which is a bit unusual these days. Then there’s the fact that all four of the children are within 37 months of each other in age. Oh, and they have twin girls adopted from Ethiopia.

“We’re obviously a family that stands out,” Carey Westerfield laughed.

The family has lived in Westchester since 2015, but in some ways, Carey said it’s like they’ve lived here forever.

“It feels like a cohesive community. Yes, there are different neighborhoods within the community, but we’re all so connected. It’s true what they say that we’re a small town in a big city,” she said.

The family relocated to Westchester after living in the Rancho Park area for 13 years.

“We knew we didn’t want to live there forever. It definitely felt like we lived in a big city, and we didn’t know our neighbors. Since we moved here, we’ve been very lucky to have met some wonderful people,” Carey said.

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In your hometown with…the Mininsky Family

Traditions are very important to the Mininskys, and the family has a way of making them refreshing and infectious; before you know it, everyone is joining in on the fun! Allison and Mike, who got married in 2005, have two boys, Sean, 11, and Colin, 7, and live in the Loyola Village part of Westchester. Allison works as a children and family therapist at Providence Saint John’s Child & Family Development Center in Santa Monica. She also supervises graduate students who are getting their masters in social work. Mike is the General Manager for El Cholo restaurant in Santa Monica. 

While Mike was growing up in a small town in Long Island, his father owned two eateries in New York, so he became quite comfortable around restaurants and decided to continue in the family tradition. 

“I grew up in a very sociable, welcoming family, always hosting parties, so it was a natural move for me to be in charge of an operation like El Cholo and get paid for it,” he said. 

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In your hometown with…the Farmer Family

The Farmers knew they wanted to live in Westchester since they were students at Loyola Marymount University.

“I knew this was a neighborhood that was turning over. There were a lot of long-time residents that were selling, and I knew it was going to be the place for young families,” Tim said. “This was before we even started thinking about having kids, in 2003.”

So the Farmers started looking for a fixer-upper that they could make their own.

“I actually found my sister her house first. She lives near us in Westport Heights,” Tim said. “When I saw that house, I told my family that if I don’t buy it, someone in the family should. It was perfect for her.”

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In your hometown with… the De La Rosas

Photo by Zsuzsi Steiner.

By Consuelo Israelson

On the surface, Mary and Stephen De La Rosa don’t appear to be that similar. They have different backgrounds and were raised in different Christian faiths. But where it matters most, the high school sweethearts agree completely. They are working together to make the world a better place through education, starting with their family and jobs.

They both grew up locally and their families are still in the area; hers in Westchester and his in Marina del Rey. They met at Venice High School in Spanish class. 

“He was a junior and I was a sophomore and the teacher sat him next to me,” Mary said. “I thank his mom for not teaching him Spanish at home, because if she did, then we never would have met!” 

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