Like many Olympians after the Tokyo Olympics, Izzy Connor wanted the ink to mark the moment.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
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Morning Lookout: UCSC Olympian’s mental health journey; singing for Ukraine’s children

Top o’ the morning to you, Santa Cruz County! It’s Thursday, March 17, and we’ve got another mostly sunny day ahead, with highs in the mid- to upper 60s. No rain this St. Patrick’s Day to keep our slice of paradise green, but fingers crossed for a drop or two this weekend.

Teachers in the Soquel Union Elementary School District turned out in force at last night’s meeting of district trustees to demand better pay, with union leaders negotiating for an 8% increase while the district is offering 3%, union president Gordon Barratt told Lookout’s Hillary Ojeda. Check out her Twitter thread from Wednesday’s proceedings here, and stay tuned to Lookout for an update ahead of another round of bargaining set for next week.

I’ve got plenty more for you this morning, including:

Those headlines and more coming right up.

Knowing when you’re not OK

Izzy Connor is glad to be embarking on the next portion of her journey, helping others as best she can along the way.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

COVID-19 has upended the sense of well-being for many, with more people experiencing anxiety and depression. UC Santa Cruz astrophysics major Isabelle Connor, who last summer in Tokyo completed her yearslong mission to make the U.S. rhythmic gymnastics team and compete in the Olympic Games, is among those speaking out about their experience. Lookout’s Mark Conley talked to Connor about her journey.

FROM JULY: UCSC Olympian’s golden dream: Help destigmatize the mental health conversation in sports, society (Lookout)

Singing for the children of Ukraine, Santa Cruz Chorale matches the moment

The Santa Cruz Chorale will perform in a benefit concert for Ukraine's war refugees.
(Via Allen Papouban)

Christian Grube knows war and its costs. Now, the Santa Cruz Chorale director leads a special performance for relief aid. “We spent many hours in the basement, which is not a place people should be,” he says of his World War II experience. Wallace Baine goes inside the upcoming performance.

MORE FROM WALLACE: Santa Cruz’s Ukrainian sister city is long way from war, but deeply entwined in its cultural conflict

➤ LOCAL FINANCE WORK: See all the most recent listings here.

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How Santa Cruz fell in love with the friendly and humble ukulele

Cam Sobalvarro has been playing with the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz for more than 10 years.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

With the Ukulele Club of Santa Cruz celebrating its 20th anniversary with a shindig tonight at the Rio, Wallace digs into how the instrument became a Santa Cruz icon. Tracing a local love affair.

ICONS OF SANTA CRUZ: Find our series here

Irish or Irish for the day? We’ve got you covered

Whether you’ve got a hankering for corned beef and cabbage, need your green beer fix or just want some good craic, Lily Belli has recommendations for St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Find ‘em here.

MORE FROM LILY: Get all of Lookout’s food and drink coverage in one place

All California taxpayers would get $400 rebates to defray gas costs under new proposal

A man pumps gas
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The proposal comes as pressure mounts to help Californians struggling with prices at the pump, as well as increases in the costs of food, rent and other daily essentials. Our partners at the Los Angeles Times have the details.

MORE: Why California gas prices are so high and vary so widely: ‘Mystery surcharge’ and more (Los Angeles Times)

In California’s oil patch, Ukraine war stirs one last hope of keeping wells flowing

An oil field along State Route 33 in Lost Hills.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

President Joe Biden’s ban on the importation of Russian crude has ignited both hope and frustration in California’s dusty oil country. The Times takes the pulse here.

RELATED: California’s high gas prices have a little-known ingredient: Russian oil (Los Angeles Times)

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Around the county ...

Santa Cruz native Jones earns All-America honors (KSBW-TV)
$1M for Watsonville’s Lee Road Trail project included in omnibus bill (The Pajaronian)
‘Significant’ early spring heat wave coming to California next week (SFGate)

How’s that for a packed Thursday morning? And we’re not even close to done for the day — among the goodies still in the Lookout pipeline are this week’s Best Bets, our recommendations for things to do all over Santa Cruz County this weekend and beyond. You can get that delivered directly to your inbox by visiting our Lookout Newsletter & Text Center, and keep tabs throughout the day by bookmarking our website and following us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

All of this local journalism isn’t possible without community support, so if you’re not already, please consider becoming a Lookout member.

A happy St. Paddy’s to you all! Enjoy all this day has to offer, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow.

Will McCahill
Lookout Santa Cruz

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