WATSONVILLE—Twenty-five years ago, Don Eggleston and Albino Garcia recognized a need that was not being met in local education.
The two came together and founded New School Community Day School, originally located at the La Manzana Community Resources Center and now situated on a small campus just off of Harkin’s Slough Road in Watsonville.
The idea was to provide high school-aged youth a chance to earn back credits lost at larger, comprehensive high schools. Some had been expelled, others referred there by a review board, and many of them were high-risk.
“Kids would come here; they were hurting, by the very nature of being kicked out of a school,” Eggleston said. “We tried to help them understand what was going on and what they needed to do… so the same thing didn’t happen again.”
On Friday, students and their families joined faculty, administrators and both New School founders to celebrate the milestone of 25 years. Before the festivities began, students and staff were busy setting up—creating posters, setting tables of food and drink and preparing to sell commemorative t-shirts.
“I love it here,” said teacher Wendy Sigmund. “These kids are amazing. They are each unique with their own special gifts, and I love getting to know them and watching them discover those gifts for the first time.”
Small class sizes at New School give educators the opportunity to learn about each student and their situation, working one-on-one and receiving additional support from everyone from psychologists to vocational counselors.
Eggleston said that at New School, the goal is to replicate a healthy, functional family dynamic. This, he said, gives the students a solid foundation for change.
“You don’t do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result,” he continued. “We try to help them understand that.”
Friday’s event had both Eggleston and Garcia as its guest speakers, and also on hand was current New School principal Rafael Ramirez II. All of the school’s former students, staff and volunteers were invited to the campus to share in the celebration.
“Working at New School is by far the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Bryan Love, who has been working at the school for the past nine years. “I’ve reached my full potential here as a teacher. It’s always exciting here—never a dull moment. I’m honored to be part of it all.”
Love is also the Head Coach of New School’s athletic teams, which are part of the Monterey Bay Alternative Schools Athletic League—the only competitive sports league organized exclusively for alternative schools in California.
Friday’s chilly temperatures did not dampen the enthusiasm of New School students and staff as they prepared for their campus to host a slew of guests.
“We try to provide a healthy family here, where everyone is accepted and held to high expectations,” Eggleston said. “That allows them to grow, to become the new person they want to be.”