Category Archives: Meet Your Neighbor

Comic Dat Phan to Perform at West Hills High School

Comic Dat Phan, who was the original winner of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” will bring his “Dat Phan & Friends Live Comedy and Music” show to Santee in May. Phan and friends will perform at West Hills High School on May 14, 2011, at 7:00 pm. Part of the proceeds from the show will go to the West Hills HS Foundation.

Phan was born in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1975 and immigrated to the United States with his mother and siblings. He grew up in San Diego and moved to Santee during his teen years. He attended West Hill High School and Grossmont Community College and was selected for the college’s Walk of Fame in 2005.

Since winning “Last Comic Standing” in 2003, Dat Phan has appeared in numerous television shows and specials, including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, Comedy Central Presents: Dat Phan, and an episode of Family Guy. Phan says that his goals are to show that he is “a regular American guy with a Vietnamese heritage” and to provide a “more positive portrayal of Asian-Americans to mainstream entertainment and Hollywood.” (Dat Phan website)

Dat Phan will be joined for the show by David Novin, Bijan Mostafavi, teenage comedian Marian Steers, and singer/musician Raelee Nikole. For more information about the West Hills show visit the Dat Phan website or contact Mike Nguyen at 323-578-7426.

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Sierra Billock a Contestant for Miss California-USA

Sierra Billock (L) with 2009 Miss Santee Teen Michelle Ehlke

I recently did an email interview with Sierra Billock, who is a contestant for Miss California-USA, 2011. Many might remember Ms. Billock as Miss Santee 2009, and as the force behind the Fashion Rocks the East fundraiser for the Miss La Mesa and Miss Santee Pageants. She is currently in the final stages of preparing for the Miss CA-USA Pageant, but took some time out to answer a few questions.

Scouting Santee: What prompted you to become involved in pageants such as the Miss Santee and Miss California-USA Pageants?

Sierra Billock: Originally I became involved in pageants such as the Miss Santee pageant because I wanted to serve my community in a bigger more impactful way and attend city events as a representative and role model for younger generations. After competing and becoming Miss Santee I realized I enjoyed the competition aspect of the pageant and saw it as a personal challenge. I also knew that I wanted to continue to be involved in my community and expand my involvement to reach individuals across the state of California. I decided to compete for Miss CA USA for these reasons and because I recognize that being Miss California is a job and one that I would be very good at.

Scouting Santee: How has your involvement in these pageants benefited you?

Sierra Billock: Being involved in pageants has benefited my life in many ways. As a contestant I am challenged with consistently re-evaluating myself to improve things like my public speaking and interview skills. Pageants have had a positive impact in my life and have helped me grow into a strong, confident, and hardworking young woman. My involvement has taught me the power of perseverance and the difference one person can make in the world.

Scouting Santee: What opportunities have you had as Miss Santee 2009 that you probably would not have had otherwise?

Sierra Billock: As Miss Santee one of the greatest opportunities I had was meeting a diverse group of people from around San Diego County. Included in this group of people are the directors of the Miss Santee and Miss La Mesa pageants: Alex Kuty, Troy Hartpence and Natalie Hiebing. These women dedicate such a large portion of their time to help empower young women. I admire them for that and am proud to say that I will be joining them this year as the director of the Miss Santee and Miss La Mesa Princess Programs.

Scouting Santee: What are some of your best memories from your time as Miss Santee?

Sierra Billock: All of my best memories from my year as Miss Santee are those I shared with Nicole Ehlke, Miss Santee Teen 2009. Over the year we spent together we grew to be like sisters. In donating over 200 hours of community service we were able to make a lot of good memories. I especially enjoyed meeting all of the young girls and boys in our community who looked up to us as role models. It was truly an amazing experience and to be able to share it with someone else made it even better!

Scouting Santee: Were there things about being Miss Santee that surprised you, or that you were not prepared for?

Sierra Billock: Having competed five times before obtaining the title and knowing a lot of previous titleholders I pretty much knew what to expect from the job. The only thing that surprised me was that the City of Santee had us pass out surveys at city events to get feedback from attendees. However, being a marketing major, I understood the importance of surveying and how it could affect future events.

Scouting Santee: I understand there are a lot of expenses associated with running for Miss California-USA. How do you handle these expenses?

Sierra Billock: Competing in the Miss California USA pageant is very expensive. The entry fee alone is over $1,500. Then you have to purchase your gown, swimsuit, interview outfit, and everything else you need for competition. In addition to all of that there are pictures and DVDs of the event. In order to pay for all of these costs, I saved a lot of money on my own in addition to holding fundraisers and getting sponsors for the pageant.

Scouting Santee: So, if all goes well, what will the future look like for Sierra Billock?

Sierra Billock: My hope is that I will be Miss California-USA 2011. In that case my upcoming year will be filled with opportunities that only a select group of women have the chance to experience. I would look forward to meeting new people from across our state and serving the Miss CA-USA organization as a representative at charity events and different functions. One of my biggest aspirations is to represent California at the Miss USA pageant next May, which would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Overall, if I become Miss California my year would be life changing and monumental and I can only hope I get the chance to experience that.

Scouting Santee: Is there anything else you would like to share about your run for Miss California-USA or your time as Miss Santee?

Sierra Billock: I would like to encourage people to come to my golf tournament on Sunday October 24th to help support me in my mission to become Miss California. It will be a very fun event. You may even be able to have me hit your drive for you on one of the holes.

If you are interested in helping Ms. Billock by taking part in the tournament, you can find out more in this article on Santee Examiner. The deadline for signing up is Friday, October 15. You can also contact Susan Billock at 619-820-3514 for information and registration forms.

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Introducing the “Santee Examiner”

Okay, I’m the Santee Examiner.  It’s a new writing gig I picked up recently with, a website that bills itself as the “Insider Source for Everything Local.”  If you haven’t checked out the site, take a look.  You can find short posts about all sorts of topics from many different places.  And when I say “all sorts of topics,” I mean that.  You can find Examiners (local experts) on everything from headlines and sports to budget fashion and tea.  Long-time readers of this blog may recognize some of the article I will be posting, but the focus of the Santee Examiner will really be things to do, places to go, and other assorted tidbits about Santee.  So if you have an idea for something I should write about as the Santee Examiner – or even here on Scouting Santee – just send me a message or email me at

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Meet Your Neighbor – DJ DennisJ

The other day I sat down to talk to Dennis Jones, better known in the local music community as DJ Dennis J of Creative Music DJs of San Diego.  Dennis specializes in weddings, clubs, and schools, but will spin the tunes at any event.  We first met at one of the Chamber’s After-5 Mixers and have run into each other a few times since then.

Dennis has been into the music scene since he was a boy, with a break to earn a BS in Computer Science and an MBA.  He remembers getting caught up by “Rapper’s Delight,” buying his first turntables in 1987, and practicing mixing in his garage.  He says he used to go down to Radio Shack to buy speakers, then go home and build the cases for the speakers.  Back then the idea was “bigger is better,” before he learned about such technical issues as air space and resonance.

During his hiatus from spinning tunes, he joined MENSA and became an IT manager (and still does some occasional consulting), but the music continued to call to him and he returned to the turntables.  But the time was well spent, because he is able to take his experience with computers and apply it to the special mixing he does for specific audiences.  For example, he re-mixes popular songs to remove objectionable lyrics for use at school events, and does it in such a way that many listeners don’t even notice the changes.

Dennis’ two favorite venues are weddings and clubs, for different reasons.  Weddings are particularly appealing for him because he is part of creating a special memory for people.  He not only wants the bride and groom to feel they made the right choice in hiring him, but he wants everyone who attends to remember it as one of the best events they have been at.  As for the club scene, it is the energy and excitement of the crowd that gets him charged up there.  One of his biggest recent gigs was New Year’s Eve at “Masquerade” at the North Park’s West Coast Tavern.  He also talked about one of his “craziest” gigs – he was playing an event at the Wild Animal Park, and every time he got on the microphone the animals in the area went nuts.  They must have been enjoying the music and didn’t want him to interrupt it.

We talked about his philosophy of mixing and entertaining, and he believes that the music has to be in the forefront of his shows.  This sounds like common sense, but it’s amazing how many people seem to think that they are the star of the show.  True, in the club scene personality creates a following, which equates to more bodies – but very few people are going to come just for a personality if the music is lousy.  For Dennis it’s all about creating a unique musical experience, then adding the personality on top of that to create a memorable event.

One of the main reasons I wanted to talk with Dennis is that he just recently took on the position of Vice President with the San Diego chapter of the American Disc Jockey Association (ADJA).  This group is the largest DJ association in the U.S., and is a meeting place for serious DJs who want to share ideas, improve their skills, or even mentor newer members.  The organization’s goal is to develop quality DJs who are dedicated to the high standards of the association.  With the advent of new technology, it has become too easy for anyone with a laptop – or even an iPod – to hang out a DJ sign, with little or no experience.  These wanna-be DJs can easily ruin an event and leave behind a bad “taste” for the people in attendance.  Dennis said that he strongly recommends that anyone hiring a DJ be sure to check that  the person they are looking at has insurance and backup equipment – just two of the requirements of the ADJA.

I have not heard Dennis do his thing, but talking to him I’ve found him to be polite, personable, and professional.  I think it would be worthwhile to check him out if you are looking for a DJ for your event.


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Meet Miss Santee 2009

Sierra Billock and Nicole Ehlke

On March 6 Sierra Billock was crowned Miss Santee 2009.  Over the past few months she has been one of the most active Miss Santees I have met, not just appearing at local events, but helping to develop the idea of Fashion Rocks the East – a fund raiser for the Miss Santee and Miss La Mesa Pageants.  Recently I interviewed her about being Miss Santee and about the Fashion Rocks the East fund raiser.

Scouting Santee:Why did you want to become Miss Santee/Miss Santee Teen?
Sierra Billock:I really enjoy giving back to my community. The feeling you get from knowing that you made a difference is amazing. I knew that as Miss Santee I would have so many more opportunities to help those in need. Also, I really think our youth need good role models to look up to these days and I hoped that as Miss Santee I could accomplish that task. I really want to encourage everyone to always strive for the best and not get caught up in things that are detrimental to their success.
Scouting Santee:What is the most important part of being Miss Santee/Miss Santee Teen?
Sierra Billock: The most important part is the impact you can have on the people around you. People know who you are and it’s important that you set a good example for others. I also think its important that you make the most out of your year as a titleholder. I have a crazy schedule this year but I know that when I look back on my year as Miss Santee I will be glad to be able to look back on all the things I accomplished.
Scouting Santee: What has been your favorite experience so far?
Sierra Billock: So far I have probably enjoyed the Santee Summer Concerts the best. The concerts are every Thursday from 6:30-8. I really enjoy listening to the music but most of all I like dancing with all the young kids who attend the event. Seeing them so happy and excited to be with Nicole and I is really heartwarming. 
Scouting Santee:What advice would you give to any young women who might want to be Miss Santee/Miss Santee Teen?
Sierra Billock: DON’T GIVE UP! It took me a long time to win this title. I competed once for Miss Santee Teen and four times for Miss Santee before I finally won! Some people questioned why I continued to go back year after year. It’s because I am determined. I knew this was something I wanted to do and I knew I could make an impact. For me that was enough. It didn’t come easily to me but I think that has made me appreciate it that much more. So to any girls out there who are thinking about competing I say go for it! Don’t let anyone or anything stand in the way of something you want to do.
Scouting Santee: What was the idea behind the Fashion Rocks the East fund raiser?
Sierra Billock: The idea is to involve past titleholders and contestants in a fun event to raise money for our scholarship fund. Every year many girls compete for the titles of Miss Santee, Miss Santee Teen, Miss La Mesa and Miss La Mesa Teen. However, with the current state of the economy it has been hard to get sponsors for these scholarships. Because fashion is a big interest of mine we decided to hold a fashion show to raise the funds.
Scouting Santee: Why is this fund raiser so important?
Sierra Billock: The young women who take on the titles for the year are very dedicated to the roles they play. These women put their a lot of time into helping out their city and surrounding cities for the year. Not just anyone can take on this title. It takes a smart, confident and determined young woman to do this job. These are women who also put school as a priority in life. That is why it is important that we raise money for their scholarship.
Scouting Santee: Is there anything else you would like people to know about the Pageant or the fund raiser?
Sierra Billock: It is going to be a really great event! As Miss Santee I also wanted to raise some money for a local charity. So I contacted Victoria at Michael’s Jewelers in Santee and she has donated a diamond and pearl necklace that is valued over $400. I will be auctioning or raffling this necklace at the event to raise money for Santee Santas. This group works all year round to help support families in Santee with food, clothes and toys. I am excited and hope we can make a lot of money for them!

Fashion Rocks the East is a fund raiser for both the Miss Santee and Miss La Mesa Pageants.  For more information or for tickets to the event, contact Alexandra Kuty, Pageant Director, at 619-698-4163 or via email  You can also read my previous post on the event here.


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Miss Santee & Miss Santee Teen 2009

Earlier this month the Miss Santee/Miss Santee Teen Pageant was held at Sonrise Community Church.  I was not able to attend, but I did get to meet the young ladies who won at the SanTree Fest the following week.  I would like to introduce them to you (wiht thanks to the Santee Chamber of Commerce for the bio information).

Miss Santee, Sierra Billock, and Miss Santee Teen, Nicole Elhke

Miss Santee & Miss Santee Teen

Sierra Billock is 21 and a marketing major at San Marcos State University.  She also works as a Brand Manager for Bath and Body Works, and enjoys golf when she has time.  Last year Sierra was named Miss Congeniality.  This was her fourth time competing in the Miss Santee Pageant.  She receives a $300 college scholarship donated by Santee businesses.

Nicole Elhke is 16 and a junior at West Hills High School.  This was her second try for Miss Santee Teen, and she credits last year’s winner, Lizzie Lingasin, for helping her prepare for this year’s pageant.  Nicole works as a tutor at her school and is on the Principal’s Honor Roll.  She also volunteers at Alvarado Hospital and plans to become a pediatric emergency room doctor.  She receives a $125 scholarship sponsored by Viejas.

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Meet Your Neighbor – Allen Carlisle

Santee Lakes

This evening (Thursday, February 19) the Santee Library is holding its regular “Meet Your Neighbor” speaker series.  This month our neighbor is Allen Carlisle, Santee Lakes Park and Recreation Manager.  He is going to be talking about proposed developments at the Lakes and how they might impact the neighborhood.  This is a great opportunity to get more info about the Lakes and what is planned, as well as a chance to share your thoughts on the Lakes.

A side note: Santee Lakes will be the site next week (Wednesday, February 25) for a “Flip the Switch” ceremony to inaugurate a new solar energy system.  I’ll have more information on this soon.

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