Pathway Spotlight

Each month, a new pathway is given a spotlight article. Whether it’s the accomplishments of the Academy itself or the success of a particular student, we want to share with you how incredibly proud we are of each and every one of our Academies, students, teachers, industry partners, and administration.

Let’s continue to celebrate the many accomplishments we’ve achieved and continue to support our students and the entire West Contra Costa community!

Full STEM Ahead For WCCUSD Students at CSU East Bay

Engineering Students Set to Gain Career Readiness Skills and College Insight

CSU East Bay and Contra Costa Economic Partnership’s (CCEP) model program, Discover Engineering!, is geared up for another year of college and career readiness activities for 49 students from West Contra Costa. This residential week-long program provides students a truly unique experience on a college campus to facilitate a seamless transition from high school Engineering Pathways to post-secondary educational opportunities in the East Bay.

We are excited 24 of our Engineering Pathway students from Richmond High School, Pinole Valley High School, and Pinole Middle School will be attending. Additional students from Hercules High School, Middle College, and DeAnza High School are participating through Contra Costa College’s MESA (Math Engineering Science Achievement) program.

A Week with Discover E!

Middle school and high school students will spend a week in residence at Cal State East Bay Hayward Hills Campus taking part in a series of rigorous, hands-on, engineering activities designed to prepare students for college-level engineering programs. Carefully curated by Project Lead the Way high school teachers, industry partners, CSU East Bay and CCEP, students will experience a blend of lectures, hands-on labs and field trips, project-based learning with a design/build of a bridge and autonomous vehicle, along with career readiness activities including a career panel and industry-juried team presentations as part of the culminating event.

WCCUSD Teachers Design and Lead

Eight teachers from WCCUSD have been part of the planning process, several of whom will be facilitating activities as part of the summer residency. Thank you to Emerlyn Gatchaleon (Hercules High School), Fema Bernido (DeAnza High School), Sanet Hipolito (Middle College), Felipe Franco (Richmond High School), Trevor Roberts (Pinole Valley High School), Edgar Monroy (Pinole Middle School), Angela Johnson (Pinole Valley High School) and Marilyn Ahuna (Richmond High School) for all your work in planning and support for this program.

Partners and Sponsors

Discover Engineering! is only possible through the support of several partners including: business partners Chevron and Andeavor who sponsor the effort; CSU-East Bay Engineering Department Faculty; High School PLTW Engineering Pathway & MESA teachers in West Contra Costa, Mt. Diablo and Pittsburg unified school districts; as well as CCEP STEM Workforce Initiative.

Discover Engineering! kicked-off on June 24th and we can’t wait to see what insights, projects, and friendships emerge through this fantastic program!


Partner Spotlight: Vivien Macnguyen

One engineers journey from a Pathways’ Advisory Board Member to launching her own start-up to support students in STEM.

Vivien walked in the doors of Richmond High School in early fall 2017 not knowing this experience would change the trajectory of her professional career. As a professional engineer, and employee at the local Chevron Refinery, Vivien was eager, albeit apprehensive, about joining the Richmond High and Pinole Valley High School’s Engineering Advisory Board. How could an individual with no background in education attempt to support teachers, inspire students, or shape curriculum? Vivien’s trepidations were quickly put to rest when she met the Engineering Academies Lead Teachers: Marilyn Ahuna (Richmond) and Angela Johnson (Pinole Valley), both STEM professional who made the transition from corporate work to teaching.

Over the next several months Vivien grew her relationships with the Engineering Pathway teachers, the school administrators, the other professionals on the Advisory Board, and most importantly, the engineering students. Richmond High resembled her own high school experience, a period of her own life marked by inspiring relationships with educators that eventually led her down the path to becoming an engineer.  

Industry-Focused Leadership

It wasn’t long before Vivien stepped into the role as Chair of the Advisory Board, championing opportunities for students to build relationships with a diverse range of professionals, taking part in meaningful field trips, raising additional funds for the Academies, organizing guest speakers, and ultimately, assessing the opportunities and current limitations available within the curriculum and relevant educational experiences.  

During her time volunteering on the Advisory Board, Vivien and her Chevron colleague, Albert Hwang, began to notice a lot of the teachers did not have access to the cutting edge STEM equipment, materials, or specialized content relevant for the current engineering careers. And they decided to do something about it.

Putting Ideas to the Test

Albert Hwang, COO, Co-Founder

Building on their meaningful partnership with the engineering teachers, Vivien and Albert began experimenting with project-based curriculum that introduced engineering and coding in new and exciting ways. WCCUSD teachers offered their expertise and feedback, refining the curriculum over time and ensuring it aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, as well as those of computer science and engineering. Vivien and Albert piloted a summer program at Richmond High during 2017 to text their ideas. The program was an instant success and the seed for QPi Education, a new start-up, was firmly planted.

Galvanized by their success, Vivien and Albert applied and won a position as part of the Launch startup accelerator at UC Berkeley, giving them the resources to really pursue their ideas with greater focus.

QPi Launches

From working at Richmond High, Vivien states that “What I heard from students and teachers is they want to know the why. Why am I learning this?” To help answer this question, QPi Education developed a a professional development platform for teachers to access continuous learning, online learning communities, and curriculum (many in formats that are “ready to go”) in order to keep up to date on technical expertise relevant for today’s world. Good for educators, this is all designed with a low price tag.

Of course, all this focus on supporting teachers and students in STEM comes with a cost. Both Vivien and Albert quit their corporate jobs to run the company full-time. The transition from Advisory Board volunteer to start-up Co-Founder was official.

A Startup Accelerates

Now, QPi is in the middle of piloting additional course material and building the professional development platform based on ongoing feedback from engineering teachers and students. The company is committed to building a bank of lessons and materials that are ready to be brought into the classroom right away, as well as the online learning community where teachers can continue to troubleshoot challenges, learn and gather resources, and offer peer support around a range of STEM education issues. The first series of projects and resources are designed around using Raspberry Pi and work is continuing to be developed on themes such as project-based learning and renewable energy.

Join the Movement

Interested in learning more? From educators, to investors, there are plenty of ways to get involved and learn more about the work of QPi. Everyone interested in STEM education should sign up to join the platform and educators may consider attending an upcoming workshop on teaching with Raspberry Pi. Read more about the work of QPi in this article from Medium, or a recent blog post from VentureWell.

Full Circle: WCCUSD Engineering Pathway Leadership

Vivien is committed to continuing to support Richmond and Pinole Valley High’s Engineering Academies. Now with a new hat on, she is staying as a member of our Advisory Board to continue to offer her expertise in supporting our teachers and students. We couldn’t be more delighted!

Law & Government Academy Students Step into Multiple Roles at the Richmond Police Department

For the second year in a row, we are so excited to have partnered with the Richmond Police Department for a day of interactive, career-focused activities, to support students in DeAnza High School’s Law and Government Academy.

Activity Highlights

Students learned about various roles in the police department through a number of workshops including:

  • The chain of command and the variety of roles available
  • Individual career pathways to becoming a police officer
  • The CSI chain of evidence,  tools, molds, information and fingerprinting techniques
  • Mock trials and the day-to-day work of the DA’s office
  • The role of a detective, how cases are filed and how evidence is used
  • How to conduct a canine search
  • SWAT demonstrations, rescue missions, including the equipment used in crisis negotiation
  • The role of women and people of color in the department

Special thanks to Michelle Milam for all her support in organizing the study trip, as well as all of the speakers and presenters that made the day possible including Lieutenant Tan, Assistant Chief French, Mandy Swirsding, Victor Wang, Simon O’Connell, CSI Cuellar, Detective Villalobos, Sergeant Parker, as well as Officers England, Finaly, Walker, Katz, Reina, Palma, Pagaling and the K9 Ranger.

Now Recruiting for a Welding Instructor

We are excited to announce a job opening for a Welding Instructor for our new academy at Kennedy High School.

About the Position

The Welding Instructor will deliver hands on instruction to offer high school students the opportunity to develop entry-level skills required for employment in trade related fields. The instructor must be willing to work with students having a wide range of skills, motivation, academic, or career goals. And, must have the ability to deliver instruction using strategies designed for diverse learning.  Instructor will foster a safe and civil learning environment and must be able to provide both group and individualized instruction.

For More Information and to Apply

View the full job description and details on how to apply.

Academy Students Participate in S.H.E. Leads STEM Summit

Students from Pinole Valley High School’s Law Academy, Richmond High School’s Health Academy and Richmond High School’s Engineering Academy joined the 200 youth participants in Junior Achievements’ annual S.H.E. Leads Summit focused on female STEM leadership. The Summit this year focused on the theme of “The Women Who Power the Bay Area.” It was an inspirational day of panel discussions, hands-on activities from Junior Achievement’s career readiness curriculum, and a student Q&A with women in the energy sector and supporting industries.

Supporting Our Students to be Career Ready

Here are a few quotes from what students had to say about the day.

JA SHE Leads STEM Summit taught me: 

“There are more career choices than just math and science for STEM and STEAM careers.”

“Just because I’m a woman does not mean I cannot do better than a man.”

“That I, as a woman, should believe in myself and continue to believe in myself because I am capable of doing so much.”

The Best Career advice I received today was:

“To take time to think about what you really want to be; it’s okay of you change your major and your path.”

“Don’t compare yourself with others.”

Students taking part in a round table discussion as part of the S.H.E. Leads STEM Summit

I feel motivated to pursue a career in STEM after this summit because:

“There were many mentors that gave me a new outlook on life.”  – Pinole Valley H.S.

“I feel like if I work hard enough, I can become an architect and become someone who other girls looks up to.”- Richmond H.S.

“This event and the mentors made me realize that there are different paths to get to where you want.” – Pinole Valley H.S.

Thanks to Junior Achievement and their sponsors including Andeavor, Valero, CSAA, Robert Half, Intel, Cisco, AON, CAN, PG&E, GE, Heritage, Tesla, and Thomson Reuters for making this day possible for our students.

For more information, see Junior Achievement’s press release about the event.


Four Unique STEM Study Visits with Berkeley Lab

Students from the College & Career Pathways program worked alongside world-class scientists and engineers as part of four unique study visits piloted in partnership with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Workforce Development & Education team. Over the course of several months, teachers in the academies collaborated with Berkeley Lab staff on translating cutting-edge science into high school level learning. These genuine STEM hands-on learning experiences allowed students to “step into the shoes” of various scientific and technical careers to really bring STEM alive.

Below are just a few of the quotes from student participants about their experience:

“I really liked to see someone from the same thread/place that I come from who’s really out there making a difference in the community. Truly inspirational!”

“Thank you so much for giving us a tour and explaining what you do on a daily basis. The jobs that are here are very interesting, in the way how it all works out in the Labs. Also all the new things that have been discovered. Not only that but thank you for helping out and giving advice about picking a major and all.”

“This really made me want to continue to pursue Electrical Engineering as a whole. Being able to talk to scientists and engineers about their careers, lives, and their path to where they are now made me look more into what I wanna do and how I wanna go about becoming an Electrical Engineer.”

Each of the four innovative study trips aligned to a different Pathway, each combining facility tours, career networking, and project-based learning activities:

The ALS Experience

As part of a pilot program to strengthen the STEM career pipeline in the East Bay, Workforce Development & Education and the Advanced Light Source collaborated on a high school study trip: The ALS Experience.

The Advanced Light Source is a unique particle accelerator that generates incredibly bright beams of x-ray light for scientific research in a range of disciplines including Energy, Physical, Materials, Biological, Chemical, as well as Earth and Environmental Science. Students from Pinole Valley High School’s Health Academy, designed a crystallography research project with scientists from Beamline 12.2.2 to understand the crystalline form of aspirin. Learn more about the students’ visit in this photo exposure piece from Berkeley Lab. Special thanks to Christine Beavers, Dula Parkinson, and the ALS staff for making this visit possible.

Energy Innovation

Students from Richmond H.S.’s Engineering Academy pitching their residential home designs to Berkeley Lab mentors.

The Energy Innovation study visit piloted with Richmond High School’s Engineering Academy featured a day of facility tours, networking with career professionals, and workshops from innovative residential building technologies to research and fabrication of energy efficient materials on the nanoscale. This trip supplemented the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Civil Engineering curriculum as students brought to the Lab their residential building designs and worked side-by-side with scientists and engineers to discuss and build upon their choices in Indoor Air Quality, Water Usage, Energy Conservation, and Environmental Impact. Special thanks to our partners with the Energy Technologies Area, the Innovation and Partnership Office, and the Molecular Foundry for making this trip happen.


Students from Hercules H.S. classify microbial communities in their soil samples as part of the Microbes-to-Biomes study visit.

What is the microbial health of soil in your community? How can you advocate for better practices to improve local conditions? These were the questions asked of students from Hercules High School to explore in a month-long experiment to identify, gather and then test soil samples from their community at Berkeley Lab. Working with scientists from Earth and Environmental Science (EESA), students conducted experiments in classifying and quantifying microbes, determining DNA biomass using DNA Fluorescence, and measuring biological activity in the various soil samples. At the culmination of the day, students presented their findings and ways in which they could improve soil conditions in their school and community. Special thanks to Eoin Brodie, Javier Ceja Navarro, Shi Wang, and the Microbes-to-Biomes team for thir collaboration on this study visit.

Big Data

Students from the IT Academy at El Cerrito H.S. taking part in a BLEND Study Visit centered around Big Data.

Over 90 students from El Cerrito and Kennedy High School’s Information Technology Academies took part in the Big Data study visit. Here students got hands-on experience in R, a coding language used by scientists for statistical analysis, to understand the impact of the recent North Bay wildfires on water resources in Sonoma County. Later, they applied these skills in a “Big Data Challenge Project” where they worked in teams with a scientist mentor to design a research experiment to understand the environmental impact of a contaminated site on San Pablo Bay. In addition to learning about the challenges and opportunities afforded by big data, students got to see, touch, and explore the machines that make the computing power possible through a tour of the former and current supercomputers at Berkeley Lab. Special thanks to the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), the Energy Science Network (EsNET), and Earth and Environmental Science (EESA) for their support in developing the curriculum and workshops for this visit. Read more about the Big Data Study Trip in Berkeley Lab’s Computing Sciences article.

These four study visits gave Pathway students a remarkable opportunity to have hands-on experience in STEM research, technologies and insight into scientific and technical careers. What a great way to bring STEM alive to our students!

Dilraj Singh from DeAnza H.S. Wins Junior Achievement NorCal 2018 Glenlyon Scholarship

Dilraj Singh, from DeAnza High School’s Health Academy received the Junior Achievement Northern California 2018 Glenlyon Scholarship. This scholarship program provides a 4-year renewable scholarship of $5,000 to only two students in the Northern California region each year. According to Junior Achievement’s announcement, Dilraj exemplifies their values with his entrepreneurial mindset, as well as financial and workplace skills. Dilraj participated in Junior Achievement as a volunteer mentor in the JA High School Heroes program at Valley View Elementary School. In addition, Dilraj recently attended the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame Gala.

College Ready

Dilraj will be attending UC Berkeley in the fall, pursuing a degree in Political Justice and Philosophy with a minor in Public Policy. He plans to continue onto Bolt Law School.

We are so proud of Dilraj! Congrats!

Congrats to Pinole Valley High School’s Mock Trial Team!

Congrats to the Pinole Valley High School’s mock trial team as it moved onto the playoff round last week at the Contra Costa County courthouse in Martinez, then with a win (3-1) onto the bonus round Tuesday evening.

The Spartan team, led by student advocates Lindsey Thepmany and Angelyn Armistead, beat Monte Vista of Danville last week on the verdict (Not Guilty) and on points.

Read More

Good Day to be a Spartan

Ethan A. (pictured) has just been notified by College Board today that he has been named to the National Hispanic Recognition Program for being amongst the top 2.5% in terms of test scores on his PSAT/NMSQT in our region. He was just notified earlier this month, and we just found out. Way to go, Ethan! Proud of you!

Jonathon’s Internship Story

jonathan-ncIn my fourth week at Nerd Crossing, I had to do the most daunting task I had ever had to in my time there. I had to do Angelica’s job all by myself because she went to go have fun on her day off. I answered phones as usual, and also did some basic admin stuff. It all seemed pretty easy until a customer called and asked me to schedule a house call and I didn’t have anybody to ask questions to. I had to quote prices all by myself I had to check the support calendar all by myself I had to schedule a non conflicting appointment for our SUPER BUSY technicians. I had to take into account that the customer also had a busy schedule and had to play a logistical game of tetris to make sure that the customer was taken care off, and that was just one customer.
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Pinole Valley Pacific Choral Academy Job Shadow at W Hotel

Junior Achievement and the W Hotel have teamed up to provide students with this Job Shadow opportunity at the W Hotel in San Francisco. During this one-day event, students will not only have the opportunity to shadow two department at the Hotel but become part of the W Hotel brand.

Student Learning Opportunities

  • Relate school to the world of work
  • Learn about various careers in the Hospitality and Customer Service Field
    • Students had the opportunity to shadow 2 different departments during their time at the W Hotel

–           Food and Beverage                 –           Style (Housekeeping, Design, Spa, Gym)

–           Banquets and Events              –           Security

–           Engineering                             –           Customer Service (Sales, Human Resources, Front Desk)

  • Understand professional requirements to successfully join the workforce
    • After lunch Human Resources managers provided the students with an overview of what they look for in a candidate
      • Resume Building
      • Dress Attire
      • Interview Tips

Junior Achievement & Pinole Valley Law Academy’s Reverse Job Shadow

The Pinole Valley High School’s Law Academy had a great start to the new school year with a wonderful work-based learning opportunity on their campus! Thanks to Junior Achievement, the Contra Costa Dicstrict Attorney’s Office, Contra Costa Public Defenders, Los Medanos College EMS, California Highway Patrol, and the San Quentin State Prison Sargent and Officers, the students got to learn about the process of the judicial system for drunk driving, texting and driving and much more.

This day’s event included sporting “drunk goggles” and operating a bicycle to understand the impact of drinking and driving, what the process of getting pulled over is like, what the impending trial entails, and much more. The students had a wonderful time and learned a great deal.

Learning events such as this could not be possible without our partners and volunteers. (This event had 16 volunteers and one K-9!) We are forever grateful for your dedication to helping our students learn about Law and Justice, and for improving their chances at being successful after their high school graduation.

Richmond NFTE Bizcamp 2016

We’re so happy to announce that two talented Richmond students, Kaleabe Moges from De Anza High School and Makeal Surreal from Deer Valley High School, have won the latest round of the NFTE’s Bizcamp competition. They will be representing the Bay Area in the final round of the NFTE’s National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in New York City on October 6th. These two young men will be joining the 40 top youth entrepreneurs from around the nation to compete for $25,000 in awards. Congratulations to these talented West Contra Costa students. We wish them the best of luck in the final round of this prestigious competition!

El Cerrito Media Academy

Not only do the students at El Cerrito High School have access to a fully operating broadcasting studio, video recording and editing equipment, animation software, and much more, but the teachers involved in the Media Academy have made sure that they always have fresh and engaging experiences. Here are some of the work-based learning opportunities these students have experienced:

  • There is at least one speaker per week to talk to the Media Academy students. Speakers are usually experts in Media fields who talk about their experiences and how they achieved their goals, as well as experts in other fields who are then interviewed by the students. The learning thread of these interviews then funnels the students’ experiences back to broadcast journalism.
  • Students frequently take tours of different businesses that are involved in Media, such as Pandora, public radio stations and advertising agencies. However, the students don’t just meet workers involved in the Media field. El Cerrito High School teachers make sure to introduce the students to those in Management, Finance, Engineering, and other non-Media fields.
  • Annually, El Cerrito High School and their radio station produce a massive World Music Festival, with 15,000 people in attendance. While students are recruited from the whole school, Media Academy students are heavily involved.

Students have many engaging and inventive projects to work on throughout the year. A few of these projects are:

  • An in-class Shark Tank. Students must ask pointed question to decide if they want to invest in other students’ “startups”
  • Students act as an ad agency, including typography, copywriting, design, and thoroughly communicating the message they need to convey
  • Creating compass roses using skills they’ve learned in geometry
  • Creating a full-year calendar that includes 1,100 design elements