Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

A growing number of young students are eschewing college in favor of vocational or certification programs—and as part of that trend, a new facility in Desert Hot Springs is offering classes that help underprivileged and at-risk men and women take steps toward vocational certification.

The slogan of Smooth Transition Inc., located at 13070 Palm Drive, is “Believe, Achieve, Receive.”

During a recent phone interview with executive director Robin Goins, she talked about the history of Smooth Transition, which has moved into a space where an alternative high school used to be located near Stater Bros.

“We’ve been in Desert Hot Springs providing services for about five years—but on a small scale,” Goins said. “We were working with the Department of Social Services. We started working with the (DHS) Family Resource Center, and we grew into a small class space that was down the road.

“Last August, the mayor said they had this space that was abandoned and suggested I go look at it. The rest is history. The next thing I knew, we had an 8,000-square-foot school. It doesn’t surprise me that nobody really knows about it, because we haven’t really been out in a big way until this past September.”

Goins started what would become Smooth Transition by teaching life-skills classes at a library in Riverside.

“We were founded in 2009 after the housing market crashed,” she said. “Everybody was losing their homes, their jobs and everything else. I’m a professor by trade, and I had about $17,000 worth of seed money. I decided I wanted to start training people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, because they financially don’t fit the model of continuing education, which I don’t really believe works for everybody. … Even community college doesn’t work for everyone; there are people who just learn differently. It started out with a small life-skills class I taught, and grew and grew and grew. I convinced the IRS that it was an emergency state, which it was at the time, and we received our nonprofit status in three weeks.

“From there, we’ve been growing. We did a lot of services in Riverside, but we’re finally putting our footprint in Desert Hot Springs in a big way.”

The age range of people who seek services from Smooth Transition is quite wide.

“The youngest we’ve ever served is 16,” Goins said. “We’ve had people in their late 70s doing computer training at the Salvation Army. I would say that the average is about 20 to 40. Some are people just starting careers, and others are people trying to start new careers and new paths.”

When I visited the Smooth Transition facility in February, I was shown the new radio-broadcasting studio that is being run by Michelle Rizzio and her local radio station, KDHS. I also peeked into some of the classrooms, where teachers were offering lessons in various programs.

“We start with a basic life-skills class, which teaches financial literacy and how to function on a day-to-day level,” Goins said. “We have GED classes, and everything else is all vocational-focused. We have computer trainings and (classes on) how to use Microsoft. We go as far as six-month certification programs and have the same accreditation as a community college. We offer certifications in radio broadcasting; we have a culinary program; we have the sewing arts; we have interior design, fashion design and merchandising. We have a new (program where) we’re bringing in people to teach how to install satellite dishes. We’re always looking out for programs people can take to get them into the workforce.”

Goins said education is currently undergoing a shift in the United States—and that shift will likely continue.

“I think the last recession showed us that corporate America cannot be something that you aspire to, and that retirement (is not something) you should aspire to or expect; we need to think of new ways to do things,” Goins said. “I see the return of small businesses and people taking control over their destinies. I also think that corporate America and other organizations realized people coming out with degrees are not always the most-suitable candidates.”

Goins said the community in Desert Hot Springs has embraced Smooth Transition.

“The community has been very supportive and excited,” she said. “You have people who don’t want to do anything with their lives, but then you have people who really do, but don’t have the resources. They don’t have transportation; they don’t have support at home; they don’t have money, or whatever. We have people coming in every day who are really interested and excited.”

Of course, the nonprofit faces obstacles as it grows.

“The biggest challenge we have right now is funding,” Goins said. “We have people who don’t have money, and we know that going in. We’re always trying to fundraise for tuition. … We will not be putting (people) in student-loan debt; I will not do that. I think that’s an atrocious thing to do. So we’re always looking for creative ways to keep our programming going.”

For more information on Smooth Transition Inc., visit

Published in Features

Shurp Town Records is both a local music label and a new-and-used record-seller, thanks to the Shurp Town Record Swaps at various events throughout the Coachella Valley. The founder of Shurp Town Records, Ryan “Red” Everling, was recently named the music director of the Desert Hot Springs radio station KDHS. For more information on Shurp Town Records, visit Ryan was kind enough to answer The Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Coheed and Cambria, Underoath and 3 at Soma San Diego. I was 14 years old.

What was the first album you owned?

My mom bought me Blink-182’s live album The Mark, Tom and Travis Show. My dad heard it and threw it in the Dumpster.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Slipping Into Darkness, Facelift, Terror Cult, Not Normal, Nein Lives, Ritual Rastrero, Vivo Muerto, Pathos, The Kathys, Venus and the Traps, Blue Diamond’s Grand Mercury, The CMFs, Fever Dog, Killjoi, Nicolas Lara, Black Dineros, Humor Me, Cakes and Brains, DieSineGration, Indecent Exposure, Sleeze Fix, Calico Wonderstone, Drop Mob, Del Pueblo, and Brain Vat.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

I don’t understand trap music. I love hip-hop, but I don’t find lyrical creativity with these artists.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Rudimentary Peni circa ’81.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I don’t really feel guilty about it, but I’d have to say old-school country music like Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley and Woody Guthrie.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Glass House in Pomona, without question. So many good memories. I saw Black Lips there once, lost both shoes in the mosh pit and found a brand-new pair, my size, right outside.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“I’m never gonna dance again, guilty feet have got no rhythm,” George Michael, “Careless Whisper.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

I’d have to say Bright Eyes. I discovered them when I was 13, and they opened my eyes to independent music and record labels. Saddle Creek made me want to start my own record label.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I would ask Roky Erickson about the wildest time he ever had on tour.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Velvet Underground, “Pale Blue Eyes.”

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Velvet Underground, Loaded.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Facelift, “Welcome to America.” (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13

Desert Hot Springs’ community radio station is off the air—but the family that runs the station still has big plans for what is known as KDHS.

The Independent did a piece on KDHS back in March, when the low-frequency station was on the air at 98.9 FM. The story, however, raised the eyebrows of at least one reader, who noted that those call letters were licensed for a station in Alaska. Around that same time, station owner Michelle Ann Rizzio—who a while back took over management from her father, who founded the station—said she learned that something was amiss.

“Essentially, I went to check on our (FCC registration number) and validate it, since the story was published. I had my questions about the license, because it didn’t look the way I had seen licenses at stations I worked at in the past,” Rizzio said. “I had brought it up to my dad, and he had said he was sure it was OK—but one day, I went by intuition and looked up the FRN. I did, and that number was registered to another person in Texas.

“We knew of one other KDHS in Alaska, and we had been in contact with each other through the years. Then I found out there were no call letters related to our station.”

She said she discovered the license that had been sold to her father was fraudulent.

“I looked under the person who sold the license to my father, and under his name, and I found a myriad of (low-power FM) licenses, none of them registered under KDHS,” she said. “My dad paid him something like $250 to have this FCC license. You usually don’t have to pay for it; you just apply, apply for your antenna, and pay for everything yourself once the FCC approves you. So it’s not this pay-to-get-a-license thing, especially for low-power FM stations. They’re usually given for educational reasons, church reasons and community reasons.”

Rizzio said she spent a whole day on the phone talking with people at the Federal Communications Commission in an effort to clear things up.

“I was like, ‘Can you guys please help me? I can’t seem to find my license anywhere,’” she said. “They looked through everything and called many different offices. There was this one lady I called back throughout the day after she gave me her extension, and she said, ‘I don’t understand this. Why would someone charge your dad? This isn’t right, and something is wrong here.’ She asked how long we were operating for, and I said, ‘A long time.’ She said, ‘And you don’t have a license?’ I said, ‘I do, but obviously… .’ She said, ‘My recommendation would be to go off the air right now.’ They were very kind, and they did say to use precautions moving forward.”

Rizzio said she received some criticism following the publication of the article in the Independent.

“I did get some backlash from the community, and there were a couple of radio broadcasters who caught on to what was going on around the same time I had caught on to everything,” she said. “They started calling me a ‘poseur with a keyboard’ and messaging me really nasty things on our Facebook when I was in the process of rebranding.”

As for that rebranding: Rizzio is still using the KDHS name to promote events such as local music shows and a record swap meet, and to have a presence on social media.

“I decided to pull the string, go dark for a while, and focus on building the Facebook and doing a lot of footwork following up with getting a public production space in Desert Hot Springs,” she said. “I’ve gotten a lead for a space on Pierson Drive, and I’m putting in a proposal into the city. As soon as that proposal gets approved, then I get to propose my full business plan and what I want to do. The city is willing to pay for me to do it and (allow me to) use the space rent-free. I’ll be able to get the volunteers from KDHS to work in the space, and might even be able to pay two people to run the space.

“I shifted from the community-radio concept to creating a local music stream, which will be on 24/7, and it will be all music from the Coachella Valley. I’m waiting until we get 24 hours  of music, given I only have five hours right now, and I don’t want it to be the same annoying five-hour stream.”

Rizzio said she also wants to help people in the community learn valuable skills.

“I’m also transitioning that into a company called Knowledge Desert Hot Springs,” she explained. “It will be a knowledge hub where you’ll walk in and be greeted by one of our people, and they’ll help people make a business plan, reach out to venture capitalists, and get them started. We’ll be teaching résumé building, business-model and business-plan building, and the entire Adobe Creative Suite and Illustrator. I want to offer these to anyone who comes in … because I have all the education and resources to teach them how to use it.”

Published in Local Issues

Editor's Note: For a clarification and follow-up to this piece, go here.

The city of Desert Hot Springs has a reputation problem.

KDHS FM 98.9 hopes to be part of the solution.

The low-frequency, all-volunteer radio station is starting to garner attention thanks to community-outreach efforts being made by Michelle Ann Rizzio, who is currently running the station. She said her father started the station as a hobby back in 2006.

“I went off to college in 2009 at the University of San Francisco and immediately got involved with KUSF,” she said. “When I came back most recently, in September 2014, my dad was still operating his radio station, and still had it as a closed thing and a lot more hobby-oriented. He was getting open to ideas for having local shows and volunteers to get a little bit more of a formal radio station. I thought, ‘This is what I did in college, and I would love to get involved down here.’ He said, ‘Ok, take it over!’

“In December 2014, I started working toward revamping it and getting it branded for being an outlet for the community. Since then, I’ve been building our brand, throwing events and getting volunteers.”

Rizzio described the current format of KDHS as “free form.”

“It has in the past been a lot more alternative, reggae and metal,” she said. “In the past few months, it’s been transitioning more toward the community, and we’ve been having music meetings every week in Desert Hot Springs. There will be a handful of volunteers each time, and we’ll vote on vinyl records as well as MP3s and local bands. It’s definitely free-form.”

KDHS currently has no paid staff members. Rizzio said she is currently in the process of getting KDHS registered as a nonprofit, and she has hopes for the station to get a public space. It’s currently operated out of a studio at her family’s home in Desert Hot Springs.

“We’ve opened up our studio to volunteers and are really working to build,” Rizzio said. “I really want to get a public production space in Desert Hot Springs. I’ve been talking about it for the past seven months, and we recently just had some construction done on our private studio. It’s able to get the job done at this time, and we’re able to produce high-quality productions and put them on the air, and do trainings and one-on-ones with the DJs and volunteers, but it does have limitations. There are time limitations, and (we) can only seat one person at the computer. I want to have more spaces for the DJs to work at and have a larger facility so this can all take place.”

Running a local all-volunteer radio station is not without challenges, of course.

“As far as interacting with the community goes, I haven’t had any issue with that,” Rizzio said. “I have a lot of people who support us and a lot of people who want to get involved. I think the biggest thing has been getting our production tight and making sure everybody knows their expectations and what a volunteer radio station entails. For a lot of our volunteers, community radio, radio, production work and all that stuff is brand-new to them. It’s also about focusing and keeping my eye on the prize, which is getting a public production space.

“There are so many opportunities that come my way, and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, that’s amazing!’ But then I have to remind myself to focus and build the word, continue to fundraise and train volunteers. It’s just me, and I’m training everybody and trying to build a team that can train other volunteers.”

Another issue is the station’s signal.

“We’re currently working on raising our antenna so we can be heard clearly all throughout Desert Hot Springs,” Rizzio said. “Right now, you can’t hear us in certain areas like Mission Lakes. Once we get that a little higher, we should be able to be heard toward Ramon (Road) and Vista Chino, and hopefully to Morongo. I know that some people have complained about some static on the radio station, but there’s a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to raising the antenna, especially with the wind out here.”

To get the word out, KDHS has started producing various events, including a recent benefit show for the station at Playoffs Sports Bar that featured Monreaux, The Hive Minds, The CMFs and Higher Heights—bringing some of the valley’s top local bands to DHS. In other words, being part of the solution.

“With how much marginalization that goes on in Desert Hot Springs and all the communities built around the void in this city, radio can create radical social change, and help with social justice issues as well,” Rizzio said. “I grew up in Desert Hot Springs, so I’m very well aware of our reputation throughout the years and how we currently are. In my opinion, there’s a lot of opportunity, and I think a radio station could serve the community quite well.”

For more information, visit

Published in Features