On Saturday morning, June 10, several hundred graduates of Benicia High School will attend their graduation ceremony in the stadium at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill. They will celebrate the end of a some 12 years of schooling, often in the Benicia Unified School District. There will be celebration aplenty, bottles popped and toasty toasts, enough fotos taken to fill about 300 thumb drives – academic research is currently underway – and a nuanced sense of accomplishment, sadness, relief, pride and transition; and the wonderful “Grad Night” celebration looms later in the day. Enjoy throughly – my graduating twins and I had a ball in 2014.
All transitions bring change, and when the confetti is swept up and the bottles bottle out, graduates have much to look forward to and consider. One of the spin-off benefits of being at a popular and accomplished institution like DVC, is that you’ll start to feel the imminent differences between two distinct phases of education:
You will likely leave behind familiar peers you knew when they first tried out for sports, band, a clique or a club. You took driving lessons. You eyeballed your first car, compared braces in junior high, lusted after an AP set of courses or career tech offerings together. Things were more predictable, more-regimented: You heard buzzers go off calibrated to remind you to get to classes — if the person in the golf cart hadn’t. Two terms. All start together, all finish together. Not everyone wants to be there. The school is encircled in metal-grey fencing “for your own protection,” cynics aside. And most of your classmates probably came from a similar socio-economic, age, ethnic and English language background.
Next phase? Welcome to a place of diversity, self-direction and rigor: college.
DVC is a good example: see if you can arrive a bit early on Saturday, and stroll around the 100-acre campus. Visit the new Commons area, adjacent to the Culinary Arts Building and Student Services Complex, where I work, with the sky-bridge connecting them. The campus enrolls some 21,000 students, the average age is 28 (averaging both evening and daytime students) and has dozens of majors and career technology programs available, all accredited. You’ll start paying for your education, now, though it’s the most-affordable package in the state. It has the top transfer rates in Northern California to all of the 23 CSU campuses and all 9 of the UC undergraduate campuses, with Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) contracts to most of them. DVC annually transfers hundreds to private institutions, such as St. Mary’s, USF and USC as well as the Kaiser Permanente School of Allied Health Sciences. They have students from dozens of ethnic backgrounds, from all over California and other states, and hundreds of international students – most all of whom can speak various languages. The community college’s faculty are chosen to teach small classes– 20 to 40 students– and are primarily recruited for both their academic training, experience and dedication to… teaching. And you’ll have much to consider being taught –which you fully get to choose yourself: hundreds upon hundreds of courses in all sorts of formats, and you’ll also have the option to take coursework at “sister schools” Los Medanos and Contra Costa College, all in the same district. Formats offered include weekend classes, evening or late-afternoon, on-line, traditional classroom-style, hybrid (a combo of online/traditional), short-term, late-start, etc. Parking will be ver-r-r-y tough (arrive way early!) particularly during busy, morning class times. Attend a Counseling 95 one-day orientation class this summer, or take a course during the 3- or 6-week classes offered beginning June 19. The website– and navigation– is simpler than ever: www.dvc.edu And returning, transfer, veteran and parents are every bit as welcome.
This is a crowning time for all your K-12 efforts, trials, persistence and accomplishments. I wish you well and congratulate every graduate. And I promise you: a new phase and a very new educational adventure lies ahead …
Rob Peters is a semi-retired counselor at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill. He’s both taught and counseled students for more than 30 years.