• “Every child living within PUSD boundaries is assured placement in their neighborhood school.”

      (L-R) Jazzmyn Viray, Maggie Higginbotham, Ella Uriu and Alexia Dowell (Photo – Graphics Dept.)

      To add some personal perspectives to the recent article about all the great colleges that PUSD graduates attend, I reached out to some PUSD graduates from recent years to hear how they are doing at college and how their experiences in PUSD prepared them for college.

      By Scott Phelps

      This is not a scientific sampling of alumni, but rather statements I could get from those that I knew personally and/or I knew their teachers or parents. Here are their statements:

      A person smiling

      Jazzmyn Viray, Pasadena HS alumna, in front of a mural she was hired to do (Courtesy of Jazzmyn Viray)

      Pasadena HS alumna Jazzmyn Viray

      Jazzmyn, now a freshman at Pasadena City College and alumna of the Visual Arts and Design Academy (VADA) at Pasadena HS said “I wanted to share how much the VADA academy has helped me grow and develop as a person and prepared me for my college experience.”

      I was given so many opportunities and support that a lot of high school students aren’t given that I am extremely grateful for.  Our teachers were always there for us and were always open to talk to them and ask them questions.  They wanted the best for us. I remember, during quarantine, in our junior year, they were constantly pushing us.  That year we were given an opportunity to do an internship which was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I worked on a mural on campus with my teacher, Ms. Gorecki, and eight other students.  It was a fantastic experience of team building, of creativity, of collaborating on an art project.  It was one of my favorite memories of high school because I was able to leave my mark there.  I was able to work with people. I was able to create something that was meaningful and important.

      After the internship, my friend and I were able to talk about appreciating the internship at a meeting. That one instance covered so many things—-public speaking, collaboration, creativity.  That was just one instance from my three years of classes with Ms. Gorecki where I learned things that will help me in my future career as an artist. That experience gave us so much encouragement.  I will never forget getting a shout out from a senator! That was such an amazing day. That experience with the mural translated to being hired to work on a mural. If I didn’t have that internship, that guidance, I would never have succeeded. I never would have taken the offer. I was able to apply what I learned to work on that mural. This academy was something special. It gave me these learning opportunities that will always come in handy and be useful in the future. I will always be thankful for VADA.

      A person standing in a field smiling

      Maggie Higginbotham, Blair alumna, at a UCLA game (Courtesy of Maggie Higginbotham)

      Blair HS alumna Maggie Higginbotham

      Maggie, alumna from Blair’s International Baccalaureate (IB) program, and now a sophomore at UCLA, wrote “I was in the IB program from the 6th to the 12th grade doing both the Middle Years and Diploma Programs”

      I graduated full IB and now attend UCLA as a second year. IB helped me so much. Like with AP, IB allows you to get a multitude of credits for college. My scores for IB also made me eligible for an additional 6 credits toward graduation. I am on track to graduate two quarters early due to these credits. Honestly, the academics were amazing for me. The curriculum was very well suited for my love for critical thinking and asking questions. I truly loved this program. At Blair, I took AP and IB classes and their respective exams (even taking AP exams when taking the IB class). I was uniquely able to challenge myself to learn in different styles and I became a more well-rounded test taker (which has been very valuable for college exams). The rigor of these courses and exams similarly prepared me for college by helping me to develop skills like time management and study techniques that work for me. For me though, IB was beyond these academic challenges and rewards. IB really helped me think differently. I was able to learn a lot about perspective and understand how to look through the perspectives of others. Classes like Theory of Knowledge really force you out of the comfort zone of your own experiences.

      IB helped me to build my critical thinking into a more open-minded, inquisitive mindset where I was challenged to look beyond my point of view. I truly believe this program shaped me into the person I am today, helping me to grow and develop in a multitude of ways. IB requires you to take your learning into your own hands. This is especially shown in things like the Extended Essay where you completely shape and design your essay how you choose. This program is beyond academic, it is truly a way of thinking. IB helped to show me how valuable learning is beyond formulas, memorization, names, and dates. IB taught me to learn because I want to grow as a person and not just for good grades or a good GPA.

      A person with a backpack smiling

      Ella Uriu, John Muir alumna, at the farm at Bucknell (Courtesy of Ella Uriu)

      John Muir HS Early College Magnet alumna Ella Uriu

      Ella wrote “As a freshman in high school, I knew my decision to come to John Muir (over the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts) was one of the best decisions I had ever made.”

      As a freshman at Bucknell University, I completely agree with fourteen-year old me. My time within PUSD, and specifically at Muir, has presented me with an endless number of opportunities to grow as a student and an individual. I credit my public school education for getting me to where I’m at today. Because John Muir is a College Magnet, I came into Bucknell with half of my necessary credits already completed, which has allowed me the flexibility to pursue a double major and make the most out of my full-tuition scholarship. I was in the Engineering and Environmental Science Academy (EESA) at John Muir. Ms. Beverly (Rodriguez), the CTE & Pathway Lead Teacher, taught me about AutoCad, how to write technical reports, and how to build a solar powered boat, but more importantly, she taught me how to own my ideas. She challenged me to be creative and think outside the box, but also how to follow through and make my out-the-box ideas tangible. Ms. Beverly helped me believe that I could be an engineer. She helped me get an internship at Caltech, where I had the opportunity to realize that I did not want to pursue that career. Another PUSD internship, at DayOne, made me realize that I did want to be a teacher. Before even entering college, I was able to try out different careers and discover what I wanted to do. Now, at Bucknell, I am majoring in East Asian Studies and Education Policy. I have a ten year plan that includes study abroad, research, internships, graduate school, and coming back home to Pasadena to teach Ethnic Studies at John Muir – I love it that much.

      I could truthfully talk endlessly about my experience at John Muir—how being at Muir allowed me to do everything I wanted to, e. g., participate in the Mighty Mustang Marching Band, Varsity Water Polo, Gender/Sexuality Alliance, Generation Green and more. I was a part of the PUSD Think Tank, where I got to make a real difference in the district, working collaboratively with students from every high school. I got to lead a band made up of 100% PUSD students as we walked down Colorado Boulevard for the Rose Parade. I am forever grateful for my public school education.

      Two sisters standing and smiling

      (L-R) Alexia Dowell, Marshall alumna, and her older sister and fellow Marshall alumna Ariana (Courtesy of Alexia Dowell)

      John Marshall Fundamental Secondary School alumna Alexia Dowell

      Alexia, now a sophomore at Kalamazoo College, writes that “With the exception of one school year, I was a Marshall student from the beginning of 6th grade through graduation at the end of 12th grade.”

      As an athlete not being able to play soccer due to an injury and then COVID-19, I really enjoyed filling my time with club activity. I took part in the Academy for Creative Industries (ACI), playing the viola in the Advanced Orchestra. I was also part of the Asian Club, French Club, Latino Club, National Honors Society (NHS) and the Prom Committee. I was one of the scriptwriters of the Broadcasting Club and chaired the Nursing and Healthcare Club (NHC) as the Treasurer my junior year. Senior year I became the president of NHC as well as becoming the Vice President of the Black Student Union (BSU). By joining clubs, I was able to create experiences for myself that allowed me to figure out what I really enjoyed and planned on pursuing outside of high school.

      Through ACI, I was able to go on field trips to see plays like Charles Dickens’ novel that was adapted into a play, A Tale of Two Cities at A Noise Within. Playing the viola, I visited Disneyland and got the chance to perform at California Adventure with the Advanced Orchestra. As an NHC club member and with the help of Ms. Collins-Moore, I visited Caltech’s Seismological Laboratory to learn more about earthquake preparation and to take in-depth look at their facilities. In addition to being a part of clubs, I was also an AP Capstone Student. The AP Capstone course is a two-year elective with junior year being the seminar, with the class focused on teaching you how to research, and senior year being focused solely on one topic as you have the chance to work on your own research question all year. Mr. Tornek and Dr. Stevens were my teachers for these courses, and they both were very passionate about informing their students of the intricacies of presentations: how to get the information you are looking for when it seems like you cannot quite find the answer you need. This elective was the most influential class I took while at Marshall.

      Knowing how to do research is vital once you get to college. I did not expect to see that many of my classmates at Kalamazoo College had never completed a research paper before and were unaware of how to begin one. Research projects are a lot of work, especially one that is a year long. Because of my experience doing such a project in my classes at Marshall, I felt especially prepared for all my writing courses coming into college.

      As the reader can see from the above experiences, PUSD offers a variety of options for students to find their path towards college and career success! Check out PUSD’s ‘Easy Enrollment Steps‘ page.

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