Rumors Fly on Plans for Tait Ranch

  • Youth from the Soledad Enrichment Action (S.E.A., pronounced &quotsay-ahh") go on nature outings as part of leadership training and team building programs.

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    Youth from the Soledad Enrichment Action (S.E.A., pronounced "say-ahh") go on nature outings as part of leadership training and team building programs.

  • Nathan Arias,42 is the recently selected CEO of S.E.A., who has been with the nonprofit organization for 19 years, first as a computer instructor and then as chief financial officer, before taking his current job.

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    Nathan Arias,42 is the recently selected CEO of S.E.A., who has been with the nonprofit organization for 19 years, first as a computer instructor and then as chief financial officer, before taking his current job.

  • S.E.A runs 170 small charter schools in neighborhoods in L.A. The youth wear an informal uniform (dark T-shirts and pants with a white shirt) and and have a student teacher ratio of about 1 to 5. The organization helps students who need to make up credits or who are at risk of dropping out to get back on track, and then return to public school, Arias said. They had 3,500 students in their program this year, he added.

    Image 3 of 3
    S.E.A runs 170 small charter schools in neighborhoods in L.A. The youth wear an informal uniform (dark T-shirts and pants with a white shirt) and and have a student teacher ratio of about 1 to 5. The organization helps students who need to make up credits or who are at risk of dropping out to get back on track, and then return to public school, Arias said. They had 3,500 students in their program this year, he added.

Owner laughs at ‘900-bed facility’ rumor: ‘It’s to be a nature camp,’ he says

By Patric Hedlund

Nathan Arias, CEO for Soledad Enrichment Action (S.E.A.) is a soft-spoken man with a thoughtful voice. He was first surprised and then began to laugh gently in disbelief when he was asked about the frightening rumors flying around town through text messages and emails on Monday, Nov. 14. Speculation had grown wild about how his nonprofit organization, which has purchased Tait Ranch, plans to use that beautiful land near the heart of Frazier Park. One message told people there could be a 900-bed institution for murderers and felons. Others told people to pray and “good-bye peaceful small town and property values.”

Debbie Simon, the owner of Lions Day Care & Preschool, was concerned. “I bought my land from Mr. Tait for a preschool, I’m concerned that it [S.E.A.] may not be a good neighbor for my business,” she said in an interview.

Simon thought S.E.A. was preparing to build, but asked: “I had to go through the building department and have letters sent out 24 years ago to build my business. How was this able to go through when I was not notified?”

Arias wants to put these rumors to rest.

The Mountain Enterprise, the Mountain Communities Chamber of Commerce and S.E.A. invite the community to a forum on Thursday, Dec. 8.

The gathering will be at La Sierra Restaurant on Mt. Pinos Way in Frazier Park at 6:15 p.m.

Arias will introduce his organization, tell about its programs, its 40 years of accomplishments and answer the community’s questions.

Business owners, educators, families—all who are interested— are welcome to attend.

Thursday is taco night at La Sierra, so you can plan to order yourself something to eat while you are there.

Arias, 42 has only recently been named to the position of chief executive officer for S.E.A. (pronounced ‘Say-Ahh’), but he has been with the organization for 19 years.

In an interview on Monday, he said as a child he spent 14 summers at a Christian camp in Cuddy Valley. Arias said his parents were missionaries who worked in South America for six years: “They always instilled a sense of higher purpose about doing good for others, so I ended up in S.E.A.”

Before that though, Arias attended theological school and a business college, adding that he served as a minister in the San Fernando Valley for 10 years. He was a computer instructor for the Soledad Enrichment Action program, then became its chief financial officer.

“We’d bought a Boy Scout Camp on leased land in the Angeles National Forest,” he reports. During the Station fire, much of Camp Eaton was burned down. When they got an insurance settlement, “the board decided we wanted to own our own land, and so we found Tait Ranch. We would like to have a camping program there. It is a beautiful piece of land, and we want to maintain as much as possible the rural feel and to give people throughout Kern County the experience of going to be in those beautiful mountains.”

S.E.A. was born in the basement of a church in Los Angeles, Arias said, when a group of parents gathered together at the beginning of the 1970s to seek a way to bring peace and opportunity to their inner city neighborhoods.

This week, before Thanksgiving, they are working with University of Southern California to put on “The Beat of One Hundred Drums,” the Second Annual Youth Peace Movement Conference and Gratitude Dinner.

The event will bring together Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jody Williams, who worked to ban land mines in war-torn countries, to work directly with 250 youths from Los Angeles to develop strategies to bring peace to their neighborhoods.

After Thanksgiving, S.E.A. turns its attention to the December 8 meeting in Frazier Park:

“We’d like to have a forum with the Mountain Communities. We can bring a few of our students. What we are doing is developing student leaders who are empowered to go back and make a difference in their communities,” Arias said. “We are there to be a resource. We’ll be happy to answer questions.”

This is part of the November 18, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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