Alumni of Da Vinci High School returned to campus last week with some advice and words of wisdom for the current senior class.
Some 35 alumni in all spoke of the challenges they faced, changing course and the blessings of a Da Vinci education to a group of students currently immersed in applying to colleges and making decisions about their own futures.
Their advice couldn’t have come at a better time, said Da Vinci counselor Carol Curinga.
“As they prepare for what’s ahead,” she said, “they’re going to hear better advice from the students going through it.”
Many of the alumni who returned to campus Friday had graduated only last year, and they brought with them the sometimes hard-earned wisdom the first semester of college provides. Others had long since graduated from college and moved into the real world.
Each was asked to discuss the one thing that most surprised them about life after high school.
Many commented on how unstructured college life can be.
“You’re accountable for your own tasks,” said one.
They talked about how big many college campuses feel, how much reading is required, how stressful finals can be and how much writing they do.
“When teachers tell you that for every hour you spend in class, you need to study four hours on your own,” said one, “take it seriously.”
Rose Driscoll, who graduated last year and now attends Reed College in Oregon, said she was most surprised by “how much I used my Da Vinci skills.”
Especially, she and others said, the public speaking skills they all master at Da Vinci.
Other highly prized skills students pick up at Da Vinci — working in groups, critical thinking, time management — all proved incredibly valuable afterward, students said.
“Use the way you’ve learned to think at Da Vinci and apply it to your college classes,” one alum said.
But college needn’t be the route for everyone, several alumni said.
“Don’t do what’s necessarily expected of you,” said Daniel Parrella, a 2009 Da Vinci graduate, who is now running for city council.
Parrella headed to UC Santa Barbara after graduating from Da Vinci, but dropped out and started his own business, Spearhead Solar.
Others found their first college wasn’t where they really wanted to be.
“You may have an idea of what you want to do,” said Will Robinson, but that may well change.
He went to Cal Poly originally, planning to focus on math or science. But he ultimately changed course, headed to Sacramento City College for a while and is now at USC focusing on journalism instead.
Community college, several students said, can be a great route, especially for Da Vinci students because of the ability to sign up for small classes and save money.
Living at home, a couple alums said, is great, “if you get along with your parents.”
Whatever you do, said alum Henry Spivey, “there is a vast array of opportunities presented to you. It’s up to you how you use your time.”
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy.