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Golden Sierra Alumni Project

The GSHS Crew at the Georgetown Divide Public Utilities District

Chris Barbour and Eric Tyler, Class of 2004, and Brian Cann, Class of 2014, are currently all employees of the Georgetown Divide Public Utilities District. Barbour earned his water license and is a permanent employee with GDPUD. His wife, Brittany, also a GSJSHS grad, is a teacher at Georgetown Elementary, and together they have three children, two of whom are already in district schools. Tyler attended the GSJSHS fire science program and community college, earning his EMT certificate. He also worked in painting on the Divide before joining GDPUD in November of 2016. Cann, son of Scott and Barbara Cann, earned his associate’s degree from Sierra College in Natural Sciences before joining the GDPUD team. Still another GSJSHS grad at GDPUD is Operations Manager Darrell Creeks, who graduated from GSJSHS in 1988. Creeks went on to work for Blodgett Forest and CDF before starting at GDPUD, where he has worked for twenty-six years. Creeks’ wife, Jen, is also a grad and works at Georgetown School.These four grads are not the only ones at GDPUD:  Jason Smith is a distribution operator; Brian Stiles is a canal operator; Christian and brother Jeff Kalhn are in distribution and maintenance in irrigation; Alexis Elliot is in maintenance; Chelsea Anderson is Administrator 1; Adam Brown is the water resource manager, and Mike Chaidez is in irrigation maintenance. As Creeks said, “It’s pretty neat to have so many locals on our staff.  They really care about the Divide and our customers.”

Portrait of a smiling male alumnus.Travis Bisordi, Class of 1997

From Golden Sierra, Travis enrolled in ITT Tech and studied computers. This led to a job at Intel for 5 years, where he worked in research and development of the Pentium 2 processor. After leaving Intel, he worked for his father's business, Load Logistics, where he set up the technology infrastructure. He is now the owner of that business, a transportation brokerage based in Georgetown which serves as a middle man when people want to ship goods by truck. "I chose to stay in my home town," he says. He has vivid memories of Golden Sierra and the start it gave him in his chosen field. He says that in ROP Computer Systems (which he took for all 4 years of high school), teacher Harris Holler "took me under his wing" and taught him to rebuild computers. Travis was part of the team of students that helped set up the original GSHS computer network, and he has wonderful memories of the work they did. In Ted Schmidt's Auto class he rebuilt his car's transmission. He took Larry Highberger's Woods class, which helped give him the skills to build his own house years down the road. And he is thankful to Paul Chollet for teaching him the basic English skills that he uses as a business owner. His advice to today's students is: "Don't be afraid to talk to your teachers. I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for the teachers at Golden Sierra." (Posted 2019)

Bryan Lemas, Class of 1999

Bryan Lemas didn't own a computer until his junior year in high school, and he credits Harris Holler's ROP Computer Systems class forPortrait of smiling male alumnus. his initial success in the field. His skills were of such a high level that the summer after he graduated from GSHS, Bryan got an internship in Information Technology with the El Dorado County Office of Education. After two semesters of college at Sac State, he got a full-time job in the Roseville City School District Office in their IT Department - a job to which he returned after taking time off to complete college and which he still holds.

Portrait of a smiling female alumnus.RENEE DOWD, CLASS OF 1999

When her sophomore career survey pointed her toward nursing, Renee Dowd thought it was a mistake, but now she is a care giver at Auburn Ravine Terrace senior care facility and loves the work. Renee took ROP Construction with Larry Highberger during her senior year at GSHS and helped build a classroom at Creekside School, an experience which has stayed with her through the years. (Posted 2019)


Portrait of a smiling former graduate (woman).

Leah Reyes' sophomore career survey pointed her toward careers with children, but out of high school she attended HiTech Institute and trained to be a Medical Assistant. After working in that field for several years, she re-trained and went to work at UC Davis as a medical front office employee. She has now found what she believes is her true calling as a yard duty and after school program supervisor at Placer Elementary School in Loomis. "I found my true calling after 18 years," she says. "Better late than never." (Posted 2019)


A student wearing a graduation cap blowing glitter from her handsI graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with my Bachelor of Science in Nursing. I am currently working as an RN in a cardiac intensive care unit.

During my senior year of high school, I enrolled in ROP Hospital Occupations, a program that allowed me to submerse myself in a hospital environment and extern as a nursing assistant at a local hospital. This course and the hands-on learning set the foundation for my future and opened many doors for me in the healthcare field.

After graduating in 2009, I attended community college as a pre-nursing major. I began working in a skilled nursing facility and became a Certified Nursing Assistant, and later, a Medication Technician. I continued to work full-time to support myself and eventually went through training to become a Nationally Registered EMT to supplement my healthcare background.

All the while, I never stopped going to school. I went to summer school and took night classes, and I attended three different community colleges, two of which I was enrolled in concurrently to ensure I registered for the classes I needed. I always took anywhere from six to 15 units, so combined with work, I often didn’t have a real day off for weeks. After what seemed like an eternity, I moved to a new city in another state to start nursing school.

I grew up in an economically-challenged family and dreamed of obtaining an education that would provide me endless opportunities to grow and build a life for myself that I could be proud of. So, in the wise words of Shia LaBeouf, my advice to current students is this: “Don’t let your dreams be dreams.” It took me six years to get a “four year degree”, but reaching my goal of becoming an RN gives me a feeling of pride unrivaled by any other life experience. (Posted 2014)

Portrait of a smiling male alumnus.JEROME BRAGDON, CLASS OF 1999

Jerome Bragdon went directly from GSHS to UC Santa Cruz, where he earned a B.S. in computer science and economics and an M.S. in finance while studying abroad in Germany, at which time he went to work for Porsche in technology and finance. He is currently employed at a financial technology company in San Francisco, where he works in artificial intelligence. He credits Harris Holler's Computer Systems class and his AP math class for giving him his first exposure to the subjects that have become his life's work. Also central to his GSHS experience was the trip to Germany he took with Kevin Ahern's German classes, as the trip opened up the world to him. (Posted 2019)

Portrait of smiling female alumnus.CHRISTINA "PINKY" KESSLER, CLASS OF 1999

Christina Kessler took the ROP Dental course in high school and has worked as a dental assistant ever since. She lives in Palo Alto and is now studying to advance to the position of Registered Dental Assistant.

Keeley Hallett, Class of 1999

Portrait of a smiling female alumnus.For Keeley Hallet, GSHS was a profoundly positive place. "It taught me the meaning of community, the  meaning of family," she states. "I brought my daughter back here so she could experience the same things I did." After high school graduation, Keeley earned her A.A. from Folsom Lake College and the University of Phoenix, after which she worked in property management in San Diego. She is currently employed as Administrative Assistant for Jeremy Meyer, superintendent of BOMUSD. (Posted 2019)


A mom and a dad holding a newborn baby in the delivery roomMy road after high school is long and random.  One of my random stops was Ft. Benning, Georgia in the fall of 1997. During my training at the Infantry Officer Basic Course, I found myself pulling security (i.e. trying to stay awake) at 2 am in the woods on Ft. Benning. In my efforts to stay awake, I began to contemplate how the heck a kid from Cool, CA, ended up staring at the dark at 2 a.m. in Georgia.  To my surprise, I discovered the exact moment I started down the path less traveled…and it did make all the difference.

It was the spring of my junior year.  I didn’t know what I was going to do after high school, but I did know I wanted to go to college.  The problem was how to pay for it.  I come from a dysfunctional middle class family, and my college fund had been spent on drugs or alcohol long before then.  I thought my only hope was a football or wrestling scholarship.  Although I didn’t know it, that changed one afternoon as I was leaving Golden Sierra. 

I am not sure why I passed by the office as I was leaving; I normally just left though the locker room. As I walked by, the Guidance Counselor, Mrs. Martin, called me into the office.  She informed me that the interview committee from Boys State (a week long mock-government conference) was there and that I should interview.  Without any preparation I interviewed, and through a long and complex story, I ended up going to Boys State representing El Dorado High School, not Golden Sierra.  It was at Boys State that I met a West Point Cadet who told me I should apply to West Point.  At that point, I had never considered the military or the academies. After another long and complex story, I got into West Point and graduated in 1997.

It struck me how lucky that afternoon had been.  I also realized that luck is 90% hard work and 10% opportunity.  I worked very hard in high school.  I was my class valedictorian, 3 time letterman in football, and 4 time lettermen in wrestling.  Yes, it was lucky that Mrs. Martin asked me to interview for Boys State. However, if I hadn’t put in the hard work, she would have never thought to ask.  If you don’t do the hard work, you never see the opportunities.

After my epiphany at 2 a.m. in Georgia, I went on to serve for 6 years in the military. A sudden exit from the military due to injury left me to bounce around several jobs trying to find my calling in the civilian world.  I landed as a Program Manager for L-3 Communications where I help develop new weapons systems for the Navy.  Many times, while I sit in my house in Hayward, CA, looking at my wife and son, I find myself grateful for that lucky afternoon my junior year. (Posted 2014)


Sarah Lobner attended Cosumnes River College before earning a B.S. in Natural Resources and Interpretation at Humboldt State College. Her first job was to lead guided hikes and do campfire programs. Now she is a Park Ranger for the Metropolitan Regional Government in Portland, Oregon. She says that growing up amid the rich beauty of the Divide influenced her to go into stewardship and conservation. (Posted 2019)

Portrait of a smiling female alumnus.GENELLE BAILEY, CLASS OF 1999

After earning a B.A. in studio photography from Sonoma State College, Genelle Bailey ran her own photography business before realizing that what she enjoyed most was "making people feel good." She says that her experiences at GSHS, where there was "so much love from the community and the teachers," contributed to this impulse. From elementary school through junior high and high school, Genelle stuck with the very friends whom she values most today. She finally realized that she needed a new career, and for the past three years she has operated her own massage therapy business, where she can make people happy on a daily basis.(Posted 2019)


I am currently the Finance Manager for the Kansas Division of the Federal Highways Administration. How I got here an interesting question because I would have never thought I would end up in Kansas when I graduated in 1984. The first two years after I graduated from GSHS, I attended Sierra College. In March of my second year I was offered an appointment to the United States Coast Guard Academy. It was the second time I had applied, so the first lesson to take away is be persistent. This appointment started a 26 year odyssey culminating in my retirement on 1 July 2012. During those 26 years I earned a BS from the Coast Guard Academy in Mathematics and Computer Science, an MBA from UC Irvine, sailed to Australia on a 3 masted sailing ship (the USCGC EAGLE), had tours of duty all around the country, married my awesome wife of 24+ years, became a father to 4 great kids, and obtained the rank of Commander. My final tour was Chief of the Customer Service Division at the Coast Guard Personnel & Pay Center in Topeka, Kansas, where I also filled the role of second in command for the 75 military personnel stationed there. Fifteen days after retirement I started my current job mentioned above. The things that kept me on track were a love for the job I was doing and a desire to do it well, and also a sense of responsibility to provide for my family. My advice would be to have high integrity, be diligent at whatever you are doing, and never stop learning. Even after earning my Masters Degree I went back to night school to pick up accounting classes to enhance my job opportunities post retirement. It was fun to be the “old” guy in the class who was more a peer of the professors than the students. (Posted 2014)


Portrait of a smiling male alumnus.I am currently a professional engineer with Granite Construction Company working as a Project Manager on the Interstate 5 HOV lane construction between Sacramento and Elk Grove.

Quite a long tale got me to where I am now. First, I worked my tail off and got a 3.75 GPA at UC Davis in Civil Engineering, which helped me earn a couple of internships, eventually with my current employer, Granite Contraction. Working nearly 60 hours a week back in the summer of 2007 during my internship helped me earn a job offer from Granite, and after graduating from UC Davis in June 2008 with High Honors (3.75 GPA and second best GPA), I worked full time out of Granite's Sacramento branch until 2010. Because 2010 was the depth our nation's recession, and seeing the writing on the wall, I leapt at the opportunity to move across the country, and I worked for three years as a Lead Engineer on a subway project as part of New York City's East Side Access Project. In addition, I used the time in NYC to earn a Master's Degree in Civil Engineering from NYU (3.9 GPA), and I took and passed the California Professional Engineering Exam. After my time in NYC, I negotiated a transfer back to Northern California, where I now reside.

I think what kept me on track most of all was an internal motivation to do my very best. After my first semester in college, when I received a 3.25 GPA, I recollected the grades I received in each class and realized that I could do so much better. I tried to focus on my studies, and over the next two quarters I worked my way back to a 3.45 for my freshman year. But in the process, I also felt I was disproportionately dedicating myself to my studies, and I needed a way to fix that. So I developed what I now call the "Kelly Challenge.” Here's how the "Kelly Challenge" works: From the time you wake up Monday morning until 5:00 p.m. on Friday, you dedicate yourself completely and entirely to your academic endeavors. That means you stay up as late as it takes to complete all your homework assignments, and you study as long as it takes every night to be ready for any exams or quizzes. But to keep yourself sane, and to stay motivated, every Friday, at 5:00 p.m., regardless of where you are in your studies, you break away from study and dedicate each and every weekend to relaxation and enjoyment so as to be better prepared for the following week's arduous studies. The idea is that the "Kelly Challenge" prevents procrastination, as the weekend is not available as a catch up period, and it helps you keep a stable work/life balance. I stuck to the "Kelly Challenge" from sophomore to senior year, and I ended my time at UC Davis with a 3.75 GPA. Damn it, with all my pleading I can't think of a single soul who stuck with me for more than a single quarter, but I do my best to live by the "Kelly Challenge" to this very day!

Here's my advice to all current high school students: Remember back to your time in elementary school. At that time high school was a distant and daunting dream. Now after years of hard work you are in high school. It may not seem like it was actually that hard to get here, and now you are looking towards the cloudy future, but the future is no different. Hard work, lots of it, will get you where you want to be, whether a college grad, journeyman, or enlisted man. There is no substitute for buckling down and getting your studying done. Whether you want the "American Dream" or your own personal dream, the best way to achieve it is to plan it step by step (stay a five year course) and literally dedicate your life (or, as per the "Kelly Challenge," your life from Monday 5 a.m. to Friday 5 p.m.) to achieving your goals. (Posted 2019)


A smiling manI am the Director of IT & Professional Services at Enterprise Security, Inc., headquartered in Orange County, CA. My company designs, installs, and configures physical security systems for government, municipality, education, and commercial organizations. I primarily work in custom software development and IT infrastructure deployments as a working manager. I now have the privilege of separating my work and personal life to spend most of my time with those I love, enjoying things I have worked so hard for.

Due to being a valedictorian at GSHS, I was accepted into the President’s Scholar’s Program at CSU, Long Beach, which covered tuition and housing. After completing my BS in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Computer Science, I sought a career in technology in Sacramento. After a year of being unable to break into a career I wanted due to the poor economy, I returned to Southern California and interviewed with some contacts I had made during college. I was hired quickly and have been living in Costa Mesa ever since. As an entry level engineer, I worked my way up until I was Engineering Manager. Wanting a change of pace with more software focus, I moved departments within the company and started at the bottom of the Professional Services Group. I now report directly to the CEO and oversee the department.

The love and support from my family and close friends has helped keep me on track. I was fortunate to have found my wife and long-time best friend Rani Oliveira (class of 2003) early on, and wanting to secure a future for the two of us has driven me much harder than if I had done things alone. Putting others’ needs first has kept my priorities less on financial wealth and more on personal connections that are so much more rewarding.

If you are one of the lucky few to be going to GSHS, appreciate the amazing level of free, public education you happened to stumble into. It will be on someone else's dime in the future, maybe even yours (gasp!), and it won't necessarily be any more educational. You can be financially successful without college, and you can be extremely unsuccessful with a degree. Life isn't fair, so enjoy the good and take the bad along with it. In business, who you know is often more important than what you've done, and you will be judged on your first appearances. In pleasure, don't be afraid to love with all your heart, and always communicate openly and honestly. (Posted 2014)


A smiling womanI am working as a Medical Transcriptionist for two transcription companies, one based out of New York and the other in Georgia.  I transcribe a variety of medical documents including records for hospitals, small clinics and oncology centers.  My favorite type of report is the operative report; I find being taken step by step through a variety of surgical procedures fascinating.

I obtained my Associates of Applied Science in Medical Transcription through Kaplan University Online.

I had been, so to speak, dilly dallying through college courses, completing mainly my general education requirements but never putting a foot down as to what direction I ultimately wanted to go when it came to career choices.  I was getting fairly bored with the classes required for general education, so when I heard about Medical Transcription being a field I could go into and work from home doing, I signed up with Kaplan and made my new focus that of obtaining my degree in Medical Transcribing.  I had always been good at keyboarding, editing, grammar and English, so this field was a good fit for me, and I enjoyed the classes I was taking that pertained to my degree.  Long story short, if I had to narrow it down to one thing that kept me on track to this goal, it would have to be that I was tired of dibbling and dabbling in college, I wanted to be done with school, and I knew if I chose a field I was naturally skilled in that the course would be more enjoyable for me and I could look forward to being in a profession that suited me well. 

I'm not quite sure what type of advice is the best, but the bit of advice that came to my mind first involves the social atmosphere in high school.  GSHS is a small school and, being such, kids may tend to be overly focused on what others think of them or what gossip is going around about them or whether or not they are liked or not.  I did not have the easiest social time in middle school or high school, but what I learned when I graduated, moved off "the hill," and jumped into bigger waters, so to speak, was that all of the stuff you thought mattered so much socially in high school no longer exists in the world outside high school.  If you were the "cool" kid in high school, you are now the low man on the totem pole in college, and if you were maybe "not so cool," according to the other kids in school, you will find life after high school rather refreshing as you realize that social circles no longer exist in college and you have a "clean slate," as it were, as to how you are viewed by others because the values of kids within a high school are in stark contrast to the values of a society outside of high school where very few have the time, desire or immaturity to create a social ranking class in a world that is no longer confined to Room A, B and C.  Your opportunities after high school are limitless, so my advice is to "think outside the box" while you are at GSHS, yet treasure the good moments and friends you do have (and the freedom from work!!).  Four years seems like a lifetime to a high school student, but coming from a girl who just attended her 10 year reunion, if those four years were likened to the pages of a book on my life, it is astounding how little time they have covered, and how much more writing is needed to cover what the future has in store! (Posted 2014)


A woman climbing up a rock face with waves crashing under herI have just built a bed/storage area in the back of a van with my dad and am about to embark on a rock climbing adventure road trip across the wilderness of the American Southwest with my friend and climbing partner. We both have been saving money for this trip for a long time, and my friend even quit her job as a veterinarian to be able to do it!

I went to Long Beach State University from September 1998 through May 2003, earning a bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Spanish.  During that time I studied abroad for a semester in Seville, Spain, and worked at NASA Goddard in Maryland.  I wanted to study math and physics in more depth, as well as find a way to support environmental causes, so I applied for graduate school in Civil and Environmental Engineering.  I ended up earning a PhD from the University of California Berkeley, with an emphasis in environmental fluid mechanics and applied mathematics.  In June 2010, I moved to Lausanne, Switzerland, to work in a research lab, studying the hydrologic cycle in the Swiss Alps. In Switzerland, I became chronically ill and found out that I have a serious allergy to wheat and a hampered ability to digest fructose. These conditions were exacerbated by a high stress work environment. I realized that I needed to take better care of myself. In September, 2012, I moved to Sydney, Australia, to live with my boyfriend (after 2 years apart).  There I continued to write research papers - but unpaid - so that I had time to read books about psychology (an extremely interesting and useful subject I had never learned much about before) and train at the local indoor rock climbing gym.  In December, 2013, I returned to California to spend time with my family and prepare for my rock climbing trip.

Both my motivation to work hard to learn and to develop my own creative capacities, as well as just general curiosity about the world we live in have guided me to take risks while attempting to reach my goals, knowing that I might fail.  Friends, colleagues, and mentors have taken a central role in supporting me through the ups and downs of my career and personal decisions, as well as encouraging me to keep working toward my goals and helping me to reevaluate them when necessary. My mutual support network of friends and colleagues is perhaps the most important resource I have. Investing in my relationships has kept me on track, even providing the connections necessary to landing job interviews, and admission to graduate programs. Connecting with people has been enjoyable, inspiring, and absolutely key to my success.

Sometimes I made sacrifices because I thought that's what I was "supposed to do" -- these were the most unhappy times of my life.  Whenever I have "followed my heart,” or, in other words, when I have done what I feel is right in my own heart, I have known joy, even if it meant following a non-traditional career or life path, or just doing something that was not what someone else wanted me to do. I've realized that life is short; the tragic loss of a close friend from high school in 2011 made this clear to me. I try to live each day giving thanks for all that I have; this gives me optimism and motivation to keep working for a better world for all of us. 

I used to think that working as much as possible was the ideal; now I know that it's unhealthy and counter-productive in the end. Quality of work is more important than quantity!  So, here's my own list of advice (for myself) which I'll share with you: 

a) Remember to have fun! You can't have fun all the time, but you should find time to play or just create something non-work-related every day, even if it's only for 20 minutes. Don't get me wrong-- work can be fun, too (and ideally, it should be, at least some of the time!), but I think it's important to have balance and remember to explore and try new things. 

b) Remember to rest. Everyone needs rest. Even if you think you can get ahead by skipping on sleep for a few nights, you'll pay for it later. I find I'm better at everything when I'm well-rested. I don't get sick, and I enjoy life more, too.

c) Go out in nature. If I take a walk down the road by my house (even when I live in the city), I find it improves my mood and my ability to focus. I enjoy doing outdoor activities and have been much healthier and happier since I've prioritized spending active time outdoors. (Posted 2014)


A portrait of a smiling manI am working as a Tow Truck driver and live in Massachusetts with my wife Rebekah, who also graduated from Golden Sierra.
After graduation, I attended Sac State, but I didn't truly know what I wanted to do. I decided to take classes at Folsom Lake College and gain some work experience before deciding what career path to take. Since then I have done a variety of jobs from welding to changing tires, and now to tow truck driving. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to learn new skills and work with my hands.
The desire to finish each day knowing I worked hard and earned my keep is what keeps me on track. I am also motivated by the opportunity to help other people when they need a project done or are stranded on the side of the road.
My advice is don't feel like you have to go to college immediately after high school. Take time to get to know yourself and learn new skills if you aren't sure what you want to do. (Posted 2014)


2 women watching somethingAfter graduating from Golden Sierra, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Illustration, with a minor in Creative Writing from California College of the Arts in Oakland and San Francisco. During that time I lived in the Bay Area, I loved it to bits and pieces, and then I returned to the forested mountains from which I came. I had the pleasure to partner with the Zen Hospice in Hayes Valley via CCA’s ENGAGE program, where I was able to spend time with the hospice residents as a junior art therapist. My less exciting exploits include my work as a receptionist at an eco-salon. Currently I am working on a graphic novel, bolstering my portfolio, and doing my best to navigate the harrowing world of the freelance artist.

Times have been tough - between the precarious market of the visual arts field and my waning health, I definitely experience my share of uncertainty. But I have no regrets. Among the things that keep me going is the realization that I can do great things, as well as the support from my incredible support network. Making plans for the future with my husband, Bryan Burrows - a graduate of Golden Sierra, as well- also helps me keep up the momentum. Even with my struggles with diabetes, I value my health, and for me, taking care of my well-being is an investment for the future; part of my decision to stay on track is the decision that I want to lead a higher quality of life than I would live if I chose to mistreat my body.

My advice would be to remember the vast worth of life itself. Remember that life is an on-going learning experience; always remember to learn, and remember the importance of caring for yourself and others. Know that you have the power to change your life. It also helps to see the good in wherever you go - while life is never free of challenge, loss, or hardship, there is always good to be found, and if you have a hard time finding it, be the good you want to see in the world. There isn’t any reason to hold yourself back worrying about the little things. Don’t sweat the small stuff, stay positive, and know that each good act is a blessing on the world. (Posted 2014)


A man smirking in a restaurantCurrently I'm working in San Luis Obispo as a Software Engineer for SRI International.  I work on a large variety of research and development projects, mostly government contracts.

I was hired right out of college after earning a BS in Computer Engineering and a MS in Computer Science at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.  I interned at SRI while working on my Master's thesis and was hired full time right after I finished.
I kept on track with lot of hard work, focus, and a desire to learn.  I knew what I wanted to do early and was very focused on achieving my goal. College is a time for fun and partying for most, but for me it was mostly hard work.  Although I did manage to have fun and meet my future wife, I worked hard to earn my Bachelor and Master's degree in a little over 5 years.  I knew I had lots of opportunity, and I was determined to take advantage of it.  Sure enough, when the housing market crash hit in 2008 and most college grads were having trouble finding work, I got hired right away into a lucrative and rewarding career.  I regularly receive
offers from companies such as Google, Facebook, and Netflix, but I'm pretty happy and comfortable where I am.
My advice is to focus on an end goal.  I see a lot of college students major in subjects that interest them without thinking of their career opportunities.  They usually end up having trouble finding jobs or hate the careers associated with their degree.  Try to aim for a career
instead of just a degree.  Don't be afraid to be wrong, look dumb, or ask questions.  Having interest in high tech fields is definitely helpful.  Try to be the best in whatever you choose to do.  Don't be afraid to aim high and get as high an education as you can.  You have the rest of your life for it to pay off. (Posted 2014)


A smiling woman in a dressI received a full ride volleyball scholarship to a private school in Oklahoma. I later transferred to Point Loma Nazarene University and graduated with a BA in Child Development and a minor in Psychology.  I went on and received my teaching credential and did my student teaching. During my first year of teaching I got my Masters in Counseling. After three years of being in the classroom I received a position as a middle school counselor in Orange County.
 Currently I am living in Germany with my husband and our four children. We have been here for almost three years and love the opportunity of living overseas. Our children are immersed in our village, and they all attend the German schools. Even though I am not currently "working," my days are filled with teaching, helping, and a lot of cooking!!
 I always knew that I wanted to further my education after high school, so college was the next step for me. I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do, but I think it often takes time to figure out what our passions are in life, and we can only figure this out through experiences and maturity. I do know this much, each one of us has gifts and passions and desires that drive us, and it truly is tapping into our gifts that makes us productive and successful, and ultimately brings us satisfaction in life.
 My advice for current high school students today is to develop good academic habits, take responsibility for yourself, and be accountable for what you do. Be involved and expose yourself to as many different activities or clubs as you can, and, last, learn your foreign language.
 Mahatma Gandhi wrote, "Be the change that you wish to see in the world."
 We all have purpose in life! (Posted 2014)


A portrait of a smiling manI am currently living in New York City, finishing an MFA in Screenwriting and Directing at New York University. Between classes and personal projects, I find work as a freelance director, cinematographer, or camera assistant. It's exciting to have the chance to do work that doesn't feel like a job, but it hasn't been easy. And I still have a long way to go before I'll be able (if ever) to make a living writing and directing feature films.

Before NYU, I attended UC San Diego, where I double-majored in Communication and Film/Visual Arts. It was in college that I fell in love with filmmaking and decided to invest my time and energy into making it a career. I took every internship and assistant job I could find until I amassed enough experience and confidence to feel ready to apply to grad school.

I've been kept on track by a simple love for movies and a supportive family who understood I was serious from the first little videos I made. 

My advice to current high school students is: You live in an amazing place. Find something you love to do, whether it's on the Divide or elsewhere, and find a way to do it for the rest of your life. Don't be afraid to commit yourself wholly to that one thing, and don't be afraid to change your mind.(Posted 2014)

MAIA DAVIS - CLASS OF 2003Top of Page

A smiling woman with a German ShepherdI work for an oil field service company as an In-Field Geophysicist, processing and performing quality control of seismic data. I work off shore and travel all over the world. I also just got into graduate school and will be getting a Masters of Science in geology at CSU Long Beach.

I attended Santa Barbara City College from 2003-2007. That is where I really got my education. They have a stellar geology program, not just for a city college, but in general. I learned so much there that when I transferred to UC Santa Barbara, I was basically just repeating courses. I transferred to UCSB in 2007 and graduated with a BS in geology in 2009.I got to where I am because I found a subject that thrilled me - geology. It didn't happen until college, but when it happened, I WANTED to learn, I made it my business to know all I could about my subject, and I worked at it. I worked really hard at it. My subject consumed me in a great way, and it changed my life.

I am lucky to have a supportive family that values education, and they kept me on track. I also wanted to be independent with a career and a non-confining lifestyle, and I knew having a solid education would get me nearer to that goal. What really helped me learn over the years, though, were my peers. They challenged me to do better on a daily basis, and we worked together to try to beat each others' scores. I had a strong community that wanted to see me succeed, and everyone did his or her part to help me stay focused.

My advice to current high school students is don't give up, even if you're not getting great grades. There is a big, beautiful life beyond high school, and there is SO MUCH to know. You can't even imagine your potential. Let something start a fire inside of you, and pursue it, no matter what. Jump in, get dirty, and give it your all. It will set you free. I would also encourage you to continue your education. Attending college is a pretty exciting experience, intellectually and socially, and it opens new worlds. The idea may be intimidating, but you can do it. I believe in you. (Posted 2014)


A portrait of a smiling womanI am currently doing my medical residency in Pathology at the University of California San Francisco.

I got here on a long and winding road that has eventually led to medical school and residency:

-Undergraduate degree in Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley in 2005

-Semester abroad in Lund, Sweden, in the fall of 2004

-Research during my undergrad studies in a plant genetics lab at UCB in 2003-2004

-Research after my undergrad studies in a physical anthropology lab at UCB until 2008

-Osteopathic medical degree at Touro University in California in 2013

-Research during medical school in neuropathology and dermatopathology at UCSF from 2009-2013

What has kept me on track is perseverance, determination, drive, passion, immense work ethic, perspective, balance, soccer, facing and defeating fears, developing a strong sense of self, confidence, family, and friends.

My advice is to follow your heart. Perseverance and good nature will take you far. Seek advice and form strategies from those who have gone before you (I am happy to offer specific strategic advice to anyone specifically interested in medicine). (Posted 2014)


A smiling woman holding a happy babyI graduated Golden Sierra in 2005 and I am still proud to be a Grizzly! After graduation I went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for a year and then transferred to the University of Colorado where I completed my B.A. in math and a teaching credential program in 2009. After getting married that summer, my husband and I moved to Washington where I got my first teaching job as a high school mathematics teacher and continued to do that for three years. During the first two years I also completed a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction – Mathematics Education at the University of Washington. Working on my masters and teaching was a lot of work, but I am so glad I got it out of the way right away! Not only did I get a pay raise when I finished, but it has also opened a lot of doors for me. During my third year in Washington I was the head coach of the high school’s cheerleading team. This was definitely my favorite year of teaching. After three years in Washington we moved to Alaska and I had my beautiful daughter, Payton. I took the year off of teaching to stay home with my baby girl. Currently I teach part time online math classes for Ashford University. That’s right… I “go” to work in my PJs.

This probably sounds weird, but I think what kept me on track was being insanely busy. Through most of college I worked full time as a lifeguard and swim instructor and was a cheerleader for the University and for a semi-pro football team. I didn’t have time to get off track. Almost every minute of every day was scheduled. It was crazy, but I am so glad that I got to be part of so many things.

Take the time to really think about what you want in life. Then figure out what you have to do to make that happen. Don’t rely on other people to make your dreams come true. Work hard, because it is totally worth it! And when you are trying to make your dreams a reality, don’t take “no” for an answer. If one path doesn’t get you there, find a new path that will. And don’t be afraid to fail (except your classes, don’t fail your classes). But remember, failure doesn’t mean stop, it means try again and try harder. (Posted 2014)

EDDIE MAHON - CLASS OF 2000Top of Page

A smirking manI am working for a non-profit as a Social Worker with the homeless in Seattle, Washington.

I got here through hard work, life choices (some good, some bad), passion, and school. I attended San Diego City College and am currently at Seattle Central Community College working toward my MSW that I will get at University of Washington.

I kept on track through learning the hard way. Although there are long periods of my life where I didn't make the best choices,  I don't regret anything because it made me who I am today, and I couldn't be happier with my life.

My advice is to study hard and live your life to the fullest.  Life is too short for anger, regrets, and sadness.  Live everyday like it's your last...happy, joyous and free. (Posted 2014)


A portrait of a womanI am a wife and a mom, and I love my family! My husband is a singer/songwriter. I do a lot of his event booking/planning, and am part of his management team. I am also a photographer and have the privilege of capturing beautiful moments like weddings, births, family portraits, artists, live events, etc.

I got here through hard work! Nothing comes easy! Success comes through trial and error, failure and progress, persistence through the doubt and disbelief, pushing through the obstacles that stand in your way, and mostly listening to that gut feeling inside of you that screams you can’t do anything else!

What has kept me on track is sheer tenacity, determination, and stubbornness! Having two businesses can be a little crazy at times, but it is so worth it when you get to do something you love to do for a living! Music, art, and creativity overflow in our home. We also have amazing family and friends who have believed in us, supported us, and loved us along the way. I say “us” because my husband and I are quite the team in all of our endeavors! (Posted 2014)

My advice is that if you have a dream, don’t give up! Fight for it! Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not possible, and work hard to make it come true! Enjoy the journey along the way, and learn from every bump in the road. The bumps are there for a reason, usually to teach you something, or to grow your character.


A portrait of a manI am currently living in Berlin, Germany, where I recently got a job working at a start-up heading up the customer support division for their German office.

I attended UC Berkeley, where I majored in Theater and German and minored in Conservation and Resource Studies.  I studied abroad in Berlin and loved it so much that I wanted to come back and live here for a while.  I moved here simply because it sounded like a good adventure, and I figured I could probably get a visa.  Luckily, I was right.

There is no track, only hard work and happenstance.

It's cliché, but I would advise current students to find what they love, study what they love, and do what they love.  Don't choose a path just because you think it's something you're supposed to do.  And please, if you get the chance, study abroad.  You won't regret it. (Posted 2014)


A portrait of a smiling manI am a lawyer in Los Angeles, where I represent the organic food industry and a number of people considered celebrities by some.  I also volunteer with California Lawyers for the Arts and love to cook and play golf in my spare time.

I got where I am because I worked very, very hard.  I missed only one period of high school in four years.  I did all of my homework, every night.  I went to Middlebury College in Vermont, where I worked even harder.  Going to college was the best decision I ever made.  In college, hard work is fun.  I explored topics that were completely new to me.  I discovered that I love art and believe it plays a necessary role in the development of our society.  I took chances.  After college, I put off law school to move to New York City and work in a museum.  I then put off law school again and worked at the Apollo Theater.  Those two experiences were risks, and they helped shape me in fundamental ways.  I learned that I have the power to be successful no matter what I do, as long as I work hard and ask questions when I don't know something.  I went to Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City and worked harder than I have ever worked in my life.  Working that hard helped me find a job when there were very few jobs available.

Two things kept me on track.  The first is my family, who helped me take risks and showed me love no matter what.  They also helped me see when I needed to focus and helped me figure out the right things on which to focus.  I am lucky to have that kind of family.  The second is that amazing feeling, on which I thrive, when I finish something that I have worked hard to finish, and I know that it is worthy of me--that I created something that captures my hard work and talent to be shared with the world.  In other words, I cared.  I believed that my hard work was for something, and achieving that something was worth my time and effort.

My advice is that when you don't know something, raise your hand and ask questions until you understand.  If you do not understand something, then you will never know whether it is important or whether it interests you.  Failing to ask questions is taking a step toward missing out on life.  Pay particular attention to learning to write.  If you learn to write well, then you will be a better communicator.  Being able to communicate well brings you power.  People listen to good communicators.  Pay attention to the details in everything you do.  Paying attention to detail decreases the chances that a silly mistake can detract from the beauty/power/persuasiveness of your final product.  Ignore the noise of those who doubt you, including people who are supposed to be cheering you on but fail at it.  Only you have the power to accomplish what is important to you.  The rest is just noise.  And whatever you do, work very, very hard at it.  We are only on this planet for a limited amount of time.  Make whatever it is you are doing (including high school) worthy of you.  Make it GREAT.  There is no downside to doing your best, and there are far fewer regrets. (Posted 2014)


A smiling woman in a libraryI am currently working through my 3rd out of 5 Co-op rotations at Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation in Savannah, Georgia. Being in a Co-op means I work every other semester at Gulfstream. The semesters at Gulfstream are called rotations, and each rotation I work in a different engineering department within the company. I am currently working in Flight Test, and previously I have worked in Powerplant/Environmental Control Systems and Systems Safety. I am still very active at Purdue while I'm away every four months and have recently gotten my Level 1 Rocket Certification which means I can shoot rockets in abandoned corn fields in Indiana that can go up to 5000 feet in the air. I am absolutely loving my time at Purdue and Gulfstream and will be going into my junior year at Purdue in the Fall.
I've been attending Purdue since I graduated from GSHS, and I earned the Co-op position after my freshman year.
I believe the one thing that has kept me on track the most is building a support system while across the country and keeping in touch with my family. I call my parents every day if I can to check in, and I have built a strong academic support group at Purdue through students who are taking the same classes and understand all the frustrations that come with them as well as a strong Co-op and Gulfstream support group in Savannah. The best part about Purdue and the Co-op program is they force you to interact so you are never alone when going through tough situations whether school related or personal.
My advice is to never limit yourself. As cliche as this sounds, nothing is impossible if you have the drive to do it. If you want to do something, do not make excuses not to put your whole self into making it happen. Make connections with people and find a way. (Posted 2014)


A portrait of a smiling womanI am currently at Portland State University where I will graduate in June with my BS in

Social Science and minor in Anthropology. I have committed to the Teach for America corps

where I will be teaching elementary education in Jacksonville, Florida starting next Fall. 

I transferred to Portland State in 2012 to play for their NCAA division I volleyball program

after playing two years at American River College. 

Volleyball has played a huge role in keeping me on track in my schooling because not only is

it something that I am passionate about but it has also required me to stay on a four-year

graduation track. My advice for students in high school would be to start exploring what you want to do after high school early on.  Actively look to find your passion or interest and go find out what paths will allow you to pursue those when you get out of school. (Posted 2014)


A portrait of a smiling womanI am attending Westmont College and majoring in Physics. I am currently a research intern with a physics professor. We are studying variable star systems by telescopic observation using CCD cameras and analysis software. By analyzing the systems' brightness curve over time we can determine parameters of the system, including orbital dynamics and stellar characteristics.

I visited Westmont my freshman year of high school and fell in love with it. With hard work and determination, I got myself there.

I kept on track because I had a goal and passion for what I was going to do and had the motivation to get me there.

My advice is don't give into the peer pressure of thinking "school doesn't matter." It really does, and it will get you closer to your dreams than anything else in life. (Posted 2014)


A smiling woman with her 2 kidsI am married to Jason Royal and we have two beautiful children....Hannah Margaret, age 8 and Stephen Wayne age 1. We currently live in Lotus but will be moving back to the Divide this winter after purchasing our first home. I just recently retired from El Dorado County Health & Human Services-Alcohol Drug Programs after working for the county for 15 years. I am currently enjoying the blessing of being with my children more while staying active in things I am passionate about, working in Hannah's class and pursuing my Masters and Credential in the Art of Teaching. Jason is employed by Pacific Gas & Electric.

I graduated from GSHS in 1994 and received a full volleyball scholarship to the University of San Francisco. I participated all 4 years in NCAA Division 1 Volleyball and had a very successful career there. I graduated from USF in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology with an emphasis in Child Development. After my career at USF ended, I tried out for the Olympic Team. Since graduating I have received many honors from the University for my athletic endeavors.

After graduation I had planned to return to San Francisco and continue teaching at St. Ignatius College Preparatory where I had interned and coached during my senior year but while home visiting for the summer found an amazing opportunity to work as a counselor to Severely Emotionally Disturbed teen girls at Summitview Child Treatment Center. I simultaneously worked as well for the El Dorado County Probation Department as a Deputy Probation Counselor at the El Dorado County Juvenile Hall. From there I began my work at Alcohol & Drug Programs where I coordinated the county prevention programs and programs such as Friday Night Live, Divide Action Club, and Teen Court to name a few. I worked on many local community coalitions and in many local programs such as Drug Free Divide and Every 15 Minutes. I also coordinated the county Dependency Drug Court and Juvenile Drug Court.

The support of a strong community, engaged parents, and a strong faith made me who I am today. I have always had a strong work ethic and desire to follow my passions. I am self-motivated and driven but, there is no substitute for meaningful adults in the lives of young people. From an early age I was blessed to have caring and engaged adults in my life....some in certain stages, some who followed me all the way through and still support me today. I wish I had the time to name each person individually because there is a long list of people who truly impacted my life and who made me who I am. My selfless parents Toney & Peggy Sargenti, amazing teachers, coaches, community members....supported every idea, interest, subject, dream, pursuit......

I in turn was able to give back exactly what was given to me when I chose to work in human services!

My advice is to walk with your head up and your eyes open! You will be surprised how one simple hello or smile can change a person's day for the better. GO TO COLLEGE! Sounds so simple but it was the best decision I could have ever made. I left home and went away to college at 18, and that was where I truly found who I was independent of my parents, sisters, community. I was given the opportunity to travel the country playing volleyball and to learn and experience so many different customs, cultures, faiths both in my travels and within San Francisco.

Last, be engaged in the things that matter to you, fully engaged, not just with your words. Do not work just to be paid, but work because you love it or you love yourself and your family enough to sacrifice. Don't look past young have no idea how every move you make, every word you use, is slowly shaping them into who they will become! (Posted 2014)


A smiling woman with a smiling kidI've been married almost 7 years and have 2 beautiful little daughters that I currently have the privilege of parenting at home. We live in Placerville where my husband works in public service for the city. I am involved at our local Waldorf School and have started a local moms’ group where we meet, talk, offer support to one another, and provide healthy outlets for our children to play all while sharing healthy food choices, parenting ideas, etc.
After high school I moved to Santa Rosa to attend junior college and then transferred to UC Davis where I graduated with a B.A. in Human Development/American Studies. I then went on to get my teaching credential specializing in early childhood education. I worked several years for our county as a home visiting teacher for high risk mothers and children with multiple family issues including attachment disorders. Many of my clients were teen mothers who needed a lot of encouragement and direction. Currently I’m looking forward to augmenting my early childhood specialization by getting certified as a lactation consultant.
As I grew up in Georgetown, I grabbed hold of my goal to be a teacher fairly young and got lots of positive feedback to continue in that pursuit. Having a simple life like Georgetown provided helped my goal remain clear to me, and I think I’m a tenacious person who never gave up on what I was trying to achieve. Living in a small town offered a lot of support; however, knowing when to close that chapter was also important because I knew I really needed to be a serious college student. To do that I personally had to move away.
My advice is to figure out who you are. Get out in the world somehow, someway. There are organizations that you can join up. Serve other people and get outside the 1500 people who live around you in your small town. That way you can really learn who you are so getting a higher education will be more meaningful to you and you’ll be more directed in what you’re doing. Consequently, you’ll have the wonderful experience of working everyday doing something you truly love, you’re good at, and that others appreciate. (Posted 2014)


A portrait of a smiling womanI live in Sacramento and I am the Assistant Director for Sacramento Children's Museum. I wear many hats, but I focus on development, grant writing, fundraising, membership, facility rentals and field trip visits, marketing, and visitor services. 

I received a degree in the History of Art and Visual Culture from UC Santa Cruz in 2009. I began working in the Visitor Services department at the Museum of Art and History Santa Cruz after interning in their Education Department during school. That job led to a position as a program assistant with the California Association of Museums, an organization that connects Museum professionals through conferences, workshops, networking events, seminars, etc. After one year with CAM, I moved to Sacramento and began working with SCM 3 weeks before their grand opening as a Membership Coordinator. 2.5 years later, I am the Assistant Director of this amazing organization and I have gained incredible experience.

I would say that what kept me on track was that I received my education in something that I absolutely loved. While I don't actively practice Art History in my job at the moment, I couldn't have loved my education more and the writing, research, and analytical skills that I learned from that major have helped me to be a successful (though not yet an expert!) grant writer. 

I also made the wise choice of finding an internship while I was still in college. Museum work is hard to find and hard to break into, but starting as an intern opened doors that may have been closed to me as a recent graduate with no museum experience - and, admittedly, maybe doors that I wouldn't have wanted to put the effort in to open. If I have one piece of advice for someone going into college, it's get an INTERNSHIP! 

My advice is to pick something that you absolutely love. I know it's a cliche, but your life will be easier if you are studying something that is interesting and fun for you. And if you don't know what you want to do - try a little of everything! I know lots of people who didn't go to college because they didn't know what they wanted to do - that's where you figure it out! And there are at least two years of classes and subjects that you have to do regardless of what your major is, so you might as well get that done while you are deciding what to do. You'll be ahead of the game! (Posted 2014)


A smiling womanI am now married with three kids, and I am a second grade teacher living in a rural area in Southern California.  

I got my MA in Education in 2006 after my multiple subject teaching credential in 2001 and my BA in English in 1995.  After college graduation I worked in the private sector for a few years before deciding education was where I wanted to be.  I took seven years off to stay home with my kids after teaching from 2001 to 2003.  I'm grateful to have spent the time with my kids!

I have no idea what kept me on track!  Self-motivation and the love of learning, I guess.

My advice is that you can do anything you set your mind to do!  Believe in yourself! (Posted 2014)


A man wearing military fatiguesI am a Staff Sergeant in the United States Army in Monterey, CA. I am a Signals Intelligence Analyst currently learning to speak Chinese. I have worked for the NSA and prior to that was a part of 2nd Battalion 1st Marine Division and Combat Logistics Battalion-1. I held the jobs of 0331 Machine Gunner and 0411 Maintenance Management Chief while in the Marine Corps.

Honestly, I sort of "fell" into the military after a year and a half at Sierra College. I joined the Marine Corps. After a successful 5 years on the Marines, I wanted to transition into the Military Intelligence (yes, it does exist) field. The Marines had no room for me there; however the Army did. So I crossed over to the darkside and went Army.

Not being satisfied with what I currently had kept me on track. I always want more; I want better. That is not to say that things are not going wonderfully. They are and always have been, but the second one stops shooting for the stars is the second life becomes stagnant.

The lessons you learn today are the ones that have more meaning later in life. NEVER be satisfied. Always seek for self-improvement and seek for ways to better enlighten yourself. (Posted 2014)


A portrait of a smiling womanI am a school secretary for the home school charter school in Placer County.

I started out working at Sac State after I graduated, then worked at UC Davis for a year, and this job came up, so I applied for and have been here for the last 7 years.

I have always been pretty goal oriented. Great guidance and advice from my parents and having a strong relationship with my family created who I am today. I also never gave up and figured everything will always work out the way it should be.

 My advice would be to stay focused while still having fun and enjoying life, but always do what makes you the happiest. Don't do things just because others think that's what you should do.(Posted 2014)


A portrait of a womanI am currently an Assistant Nurse Manager for a large High Risk Postpartum Unit at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley, CA. I have been with this hospital and unit for 17 years now.

I started as a CNA, while working toward my nursing degree at Dominican University of California. I then moved up to a Registered Nurse and within 2 years I became the PM shift Charge Nurse. I served in this position for about 13 years before being offered my current position as Assistant Manager.

Through high school and college I was able to stay on track due to some amazing teachers at GSHS, and the knowledge that having a degree and a good career would allow me to do the things in life I love, which in turn would allow me to be productive and happy. It was not always easy, AND, it was all well worth the outcome!! I stayed on track with my career because I love being a nurse, helping my staff and patients, and knowing that with this career I could provide a good life for my family.

My advice for students in high school now would be to look to the future. Life now will not be your life in the future!! You have so much opportunity ahead of you that can only improve and increase your own worth, value, and happiness!! I graduated in 1992 and these last 22 years have been a roller coaster of amazing growth, establishing my self-worth and confidence, and ultimately MY life!!! (Posted 2014)


Megan Herrod. A woman in front of a green Volkswagen BeetleCurrently, my partner and I live in Placerville and have two children. He is a master auto technician, and I am an automotive reconstruction engineer, work at home, and maintain our website/off-road  racing blog. We co-own our business - Two Larrys Racing ( and custom fabricate performance parts and cars as well as high-performance motors. Additionally, we are home to The Green Booger, a Class 11 Stockbug that we race off-road. Its accolades include a Season Championship for our class, the only Class 11 to earn an overall championship title at a race, back-to-back first place titles in the longest loop track off-road race in the US (the VORRA USA 500), features in several off-road movies, and a segment on Good Day Sacramento in 2012. Our statistics include 50% first place and 89% on the podium out of eighteen races (as of the end of 2013). We are honored to support causes though the Green Booger, such as a calendar feature for a team to race in Morocco and partial proceeds donated towards breast cancer foundations, a local family and youth center fundraising car show, fundraising for the Mountain Quarries Bridge in Auburn, CA, and a local animal shelter. Not to mention racing this unique car itself provides fantastic experiences like no other. Once you get out there in the desert, there’s no going back. Racing will be in your blood.

We are very proud of one of our teams that we sponsor with Two Larrys Racing – CBCFS Racing took second place in the 2013 SCORE Baja 1000 (essentially the Grand Prix of off-road racing) in their class after spending two months with us renovating the car and readying it for such a grueling race. They also made history by being one of the youngest teams to compete; they are only seventeen. Two other Class 11’s that we sponsor each received Season Championship titles in their racing association.

After graduating high school in 2002 I attended American River College and earned my Associates degree (with honors) while working full time. I was accepted to Sacramento State, but in the same month learned I would be having my first child. Skipping ahead many years, I find my degree hasn’t really aided my career! However, life skills have. I believe I have arrived where I am today through remaining dynamic, maintaining an open mind, embracing failures as learning experiences, and forging ahead with that knowledge to achieve success. It’s intriguing how being able to look back on years after high school, all my decisions (good and bad) have paved a way in which all the pieces have essentially just fallen together. Was it all easy? No. Has it been worth it? While I might not have felt like it at the time, I now recognize that even the difficulties were worth it. My experiences assisted in the shaping of who I am today, and I like me.

In retrospect, I don’t believe there has been an actual set track to follow. Most importantly, I have children to raise; if you choose to be a good parent, you will keep yourself on track. It is not a hard choice. I have always been a fairly determined person anyway. My oldest daughter is considered on the Autistic Spectrum (Asperger's), and that is been an interesting ride in itself. I know that for any child we have, it’s our job to create a loving atmosphere, set a good example, show them it’s okay to make mistakes but take responsibility for them, and overall try to give them the tools they will need later in life. With an Asperger's child, that also includes consciously teaching natural social nuances, self-control, and awareness that she otherwise does not understand or even recognize. How can I possibly provide basic yet important life skills to my children if I do not emulate that myself?

I think the advice that I could humbly offer to students would relate more towards life itself and practicality, rather than schooling or future planning. High school is a tough time, where young adults are establishing who they are and so much is unsure and awkward. The most important thing is be a good person and don’t be afraid to be yourself. If you like who you are, and you know you are a good person, then that is paramount. Not others’ opinions of you. As you grow older, you will find that when you have confidence in yourself and treat people with respect, people gravitate to that naturally. Self-evaluate yourself from time to time – this is so important for success in relationships as well. If there is a problem you can meditate on it and make necessary changes. That being said, do not change yourself to suit another’s desires. That’s the quickest and surest way to lose who you are, and you will become increasingly unhappy within. Conversely, do not expect someone to change for you either. Those are unfair terms. Acceptance for who someone is, rather than what you feel they should be, is so key in being happy with not only your partner but yourself. It is difficult sometimes, but if you cannot accept certain traits in that person then it is beneficial for both to move on in life. Remember, you have that self-preserving “gut feeling” instinct for a reason. Please do not ignore the red flags you may feel in favor of simple words spoken from someone else. At the same time, it’s counter-productive to hold onto misgivings through negative experiences, especially if you apply those experiences to another unrelated person. Don’t make someone unnecessarily pay for the wrongs committed by someone else.

Common sense, confidence in yourself, temperance, humor, flexibility, work ethic, love of learning, and kindness will go so much farther than money, a higher education, a free-ride, you-fill-in-the-blank.  Honesty is SO important in all aspects. The hard fact is that negative things will happen in your life; you cannot have the ups without the downs and how you manage both is personally defining. If you remain flexible, and hold on to the silver lining, you will find that everything happens for a reason – even the bad things. Don’t be afraid to admit if you are wrong – once you have accepted that, you can move forward with what’s right. You earn a piece of yourself with each life experience. There is always a path to tread, even if finding it is obscure, and don’t be discouraged. There cannot be success without some failures along the way. Stay determined and happy within yourself, and you’ll get there.

Also very important, if someone offers you bacon, take it. (Posted 2014)


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Portrait of a smiling female alumnus.Emily Matthews, Class of 2011

After graduating from Golden Sierra in the top ten of her class, Emily earned her B.A. in political science (with a minor in religious studies and Chicano/a studies) from San Diego State College. Motherhood happened, and Emily is currently working in the food industry, trying to get a job with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. She remembers that GSHS had "an amazing culture where people cared and were generous." She feels blessed to have had the opportunity to take ROP Journalism classes from Mark Hendrix and is grateful for the small class size that she experienced at GSHS. (Posted 2019)


A smiling womanI am currently the librarian at the British School Chicago, a private international school. I primarily work with children age 3-10. Day-to-day, I read to the students, check out book to them, and recommend books to them. I'm in charge of the whole library, so I also order books, catalog them, and maintain the library databases.

Long ago I was a library aide in Golden Sierra's library. Later on I worked at my university's library. As my graduation approached, I started to panic about how to get a job after graduating. I had no idea what sort of job I wanted, or what jobs I could get with an English degree.  Then I thought about how much I liked the librarians I'd worked with, and how they seemed like interesting people who enjoyed their jobs. To be librarian, you have to complete a Master in Library & Information Science graduate program. I decided to enroll, and it turned out to be a good decision for me. I love being a librarian. 

I didn't follow a linear path. At one point I dropped out of the library program and took a break for three years. Then I re-enrolled and earned my degree in 2011. Besides working in libraries, I also worked as a reading tutor, waitress, retail sales associate, barista, and I even worked for the 2010 Census in El Dorado County. At one point I thought about being a pastry chef, but decided I didn't want to work such long hours.  I also thought about being a veterinarian, but it would have taken a long time to get the education for that, since I hadn't taken many science classes in high school or college.  

What kept me on track was something a professor once told me: "Pitch to your strengths." What I took from that was: figure out what you're good at, and do that. It's not easy to match yourself with a job.  For me, it took a lot of trial and error.  I owe my family a lot of credit for being very patient and supportive. I also owe my good friend Amanda Arsenith a lot of credit for helping me get a job one summer and generally bucking me up whenever I needed it.

My advice is don't put too much pressure on yourself to get it all figured out quickly. Give yourself time. Forgive yourself if you regret a decision--you'll learn something from every experience. (Posted 2014)

Portrait of a smiling woman.MARA BRANAM, CLASS OF 1999

Mara Branam took Steve Depue's ROP Computer Assisted Drafting class at GSHS, a class in which she says Mr. Depue "went above and beyond" in helping her achieve excellence. Because of that class, she was able to make a living for seven years by wiring houses. She also learned tiling and carpentry from Mr. Depue. Her passion is still drafting.(Posted 2019)

Portrait of a smiling male alumnus.DUSTIN BURTON, CLASS OF 1999

Dustin Burton credits his music classes at GSHS with developing his math skills, listening ability, and sense of camaraderie - all skills that he uses on a daily basis in his logistics operations business. After attending Sierra College for two years after high school graduation, Dustin entered the work world, where, he says, you can't survive without relationship building. Having attended school in BOMUSD since kindergarten with many of his classmates, he believes that the cohesiveness of the Class of 1999 (in which he says there were no cliques) created a "fertile place for the mind to grow." Dustin's children have attended GSHS and have had the had the same positive experience. (Posted 2019)

Portrait of smiling female alumnus.CRYSTAL COURY, CLASS OF 1999

After a very difficult high school experience, Crystal Coury successfully completed the Progress House drug rehabilitation program. She earned her A.A. from Folsom Lake College and has been working for the past five years for Progress House as a substance abuse counselor. She is a Registered Alcohol and Drug Counselor trainee who is working toward certification through a series of classes that lead to a state test. (Posted 2019)

AMBER COUCH - CLASS OF 1995Top of Page

A smiling woman holding a catI currently live in the heart of Appalachia in Southwest Virginia. It's a small community much like the Divide. I am the librarian for the High School and Middle School, and I absolutely love it. This is exactly what I was meant to do with my life. Every day I inspire students (and sometimes the teachers) to pick up a book. Heaven.

Unfortunately, it took a long time to get here. After graduating from GSHS, I went to the University of Nevada in Reno. I started with a Broadcast Journalism major, but I was soon very unhappy and completely unsure of what I wanted to do with my life. It's possible I changed my major every day (Broadcast Journalism, Theatre, Music, Music Education, Geology). I soon started having issues with depression and social anxiety and found myself close to failing. I left Reno and transferred to Sac State, where I changed my major yet again. After quite a few years of college, and hoping to finally graduate with something, I changed my major to Public Speaking. However, that untreated anxiety was starting to get to me, so I dropped out of school and moved back in with my parents. Three years, two more colleges, and a few more majors later, I was finally (sort of) on track. I moved to Las Vegas and attended Nevada State College. At the time, this was a brand new college, so I was one of only a few hundred students. All my teachers knew me, and I had an incredible support group of fellow students. I finally graduated in 2006 with my BS in Elementary Education.

Since my parents had just retired from BOMUSD and moved to the coast of North Carolina, I decided to move out that way, also. I taught 4th grade in Raleigh, NC, for a year and half before I realized I was miserable. I was not meant to be a teacher. I was accepted to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Information and Library Science when I realized I loved books and wanted to read for a living. I LOVED IT!!! I completed the program in December 2009 (exactly on time) and moved to the mountains of Virginia.

Nothing kept me on track. I floundered something fierce! College was a very unhappy time for me, and I felt lost for most of those years. The pressure to go to college after high school, and then to succeed in college, was very high for me. And that was probably self-inflicted. My advice is that college is not for everyone. That's not to say that college is wrong. But if I had it to do over again, I would have stayed at home and received my Associate's Degree from a community college first. I did so much better once I transferred to a small school where I was able to get the attention and support I needed to complete my degree. But despite all those difficulties, I am now the happiest I have ever been, and somehow that long, arduous journey brought me here. (Posted 2014)


I am a postdoctoral fellow at the National Human Genome Institute at the NIH in Bethesda, Maryland.

Getting here was a long road.  I started off at Cuesta Community College in San Luis Obispo; then I transferred to Chico State where I graduated with a BS in Microbiology.  I went to the University of Iowa and received a PhD in Immunology before coming to the NIH.

Sometimes it was hard to stay on track - especially early on.  I made many mistakes - some were tiny, and others were close to being devastating, but having a strong family and people who believed in me (friends and teachers) helped.  Mostly it was the belief I had that I was meant for something bigger.

My advice is to get off the Divide as soon as you graduate and never look back.  The Divide is comfortable for those of us who grew up there, but to get what you want out of life I have found that you have to continually put yourself in uncomfortable situations. So my advice is to leave the Divide, push yourself to get outside your comfort level, and trust yourself and your abilities.  Above all, don't give up. (Posted 2014)


A smiling family near a rock foundationI graduated in 1987 and then, scared by the adult world, promptly re-entered high school as a Japanese exchange student. This year out of all context was the perfect training ground to learn about and grow into myself without the pressure of academic performance. While there I applied to, and when I returned I matriculated at, UC Berkeley, where I majored in Japanese and minored in Russian. These back-to-back language lessons - so different, so challenging - stretched my brain to see, think, and communicate in new ways, and cemented my love for communication and the diversity of human interaction. I paid for my tuition by working as a personal care attendant for individuals with disabilities - this also stretched my perspectives, and built my love of service work. 

After graduation I obtained my single subject teaching credential in high school English (Thanks, Liz Ketelle!) at San Francisco State University, yet my student teaching experiences taught me that I'm not cut out for classroom teaching. Fortunately, I then moved to Connecticut, which didn't honor California teaching credentials anyway, so I didn't feel the need to further pursue that path (especially after some disastrous days substitute teaching). I found another personal care attendant job, with a man who had a startup non-profit project. I slowly added research and writing for his non-profit to my attendant work, and also found some other part-time jobs. 

Through a circuitous series of events involving a boarding school and a tai chi class (and people I met in both), I ended up entering a Masters program in Special Education at Southern Connecticut State University. The professor of one of my classes took us on a field trip to the Assistive Technology lab on campus (, and I was hooked. I began working as a grad student assistant in the lab, and I wrote my independent study project on Assistive Technology. When I completed my Masters program in 2000, I (with my new family) moved back to Berkeley and began working as an Assistive Technology Specialist at the Center for Accessible Technology ( I've been there ever since. I love the eternal variety of my job - no two clients are the same, and the technology always changes. It's like an endless string of puzzles to noodle over; I've even coined a phrase for my process of observation, inquiry, and discovery: "puzzle-shooting." 

I don't see this meandering path as "keeping on track.” Rather, I see it as the forking paths in Destiny's Garden*. As Neil Gaiman wrote in Sandman Vol 4, "With each step you take through Destiny's Garden, you make a choice, and every choice determines future paths. However, at the end of a lifetime of walking, you might look back and see only one path stretching out behind you…." All the pieces of my life, disparate though they seem, have coalesced into a passion, a profession, and a path that will continue to lead me circuitously through my life. 

I believe it is valuable to keep a wide-lens long view, and I often use the artist Grandma Moses as an illustrative reason why; she found her passion for painting at 76 and spent the next quarter century as a successful folk artist until her death at 101. The field of Assistive Technology didn't really exist when I was in high school; there's no way I could have pursued it as a career then. Learning a wide array of lessons and meeting a broad spectrum of people helped me stumble upon my passion and make the most of what I found. So my advice to students at my alma mater is:

- Make mindful choices.

- Plan ahead, but don't be tied to outcomes.

- Learn as many diverse things and meet as many diverse people as you possibly can. 

- Be open to the possibilities.

*Likely inspired by "The Garden of Forking Paths," by Jorge Luis Borges, (Posted 2014)


I am currently living in Pacific Beach, San Diego. Since October of 2012 I have been working as a software developer for NKI Engineering, a small company that gets contracts for projects through the U.S. Navy. The primary area of work for NKI is writing software used to aid secure internet communication in the Navy. At the end of March I will be leaving my job to take some time off for travel. In September I'll be returning to UC San Diego to pursue a PhD in Electrical Engineering with hopes of becoming a college professor.

After graduating from Golden Sierra, I started college at UC San Diego. I majored in Computer Engineering, which is a mix of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. Throughout my time at UCSD I was a member of the Ski and Snowboard Team, which competed with other Southern California colleges at Mammoth Mountain. I also worked as an intern at a software company called Teradata. Before graduating from UCSD, I attended the school's engineering career fair, where I was able to land a job with NKI Engineering. The company allowed me to take three months off between graduating and starting work. During this time, I lived and snowboarded in New Zealand.

What kept me on track throughout those years was time management. I used things like snowboarding to motivate me to stay on track with school and work. By setting deadlines for myself, I was able to get my work done in time to enjoy extracurricular activities without being stressed or distracted by a daunting to-do list. I know it is cliché, but it was really a matter of work before play, with a focused effort not forgetting the play. I always made sure to have something to look forward to.

Everybody has different styles. From my experiences, the advice I would give is to have a plan when possible. The plan does not have to be long-term, and may not have the answers to all your questions. Work towards something that makes you happy and understand that it is an iterative process. If you find yourself doing something that you do not enjoy, know that it is not a mistake – unless you don't consider ways to make it better. (Posted 2014)


A smiling woman with sunglasses on her headAfter graduation I attended American River College while working full time. I majored in English with a minor in Theatre Arts, fully expecting to become a teacher. I was hired by the El Dorado County Office of Education while working towards a transfer to Sacramento State University. I was also a licensed and bonded process server for El Dorado County and a local attorney’s office.  Life had other plans for me, and in 1995 I was hired by the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office and assigned to the District Attorney’s Investigations Unit in both the Family Support Division and the Criminal Division. Turns out I had a nose for investigation and enjoyed the work immensely. I had the privilege of working in various units and helping in numerous investigations and prosecutions.

After a horrible car accident in 1997, I questioned whether I could obtain the goals I had set for myself but continued on my journey. After almost a year off to recover, I returned to the District Attorney's Office and also became a Court Appointed Special Advocate for El Dorado County’s youth. Working as a CASA was some of the most rewarding work I have ever done. I volunteered in this position for 12 years working with both foster children and children in the Juvenile and Family Law Courts.  In 2001, I transferred from the District Attorney’s Office to El Dorado County’s Special Investigations Unit, and the county sent me back to school and put me through an academy. I attended Yuba Community College as an Administration of Justice major and received my AA and my POST certificate becoming a sworn law enforcement officer. I worked for the Special Investigations Unit as a Fraud Investigator for nine years and left when the unit was dissolved.  I decided that I was too old to start over in law enforcement (happy to let the young guns go after the bad guys) and transferred to a nice quiet library job, which I loved and took a promotion to my current place at the Department of Revenue Recovery, as a Collections Officer. I also love this job as it gives me the opportunity to utilize my skip tracing skills, and to go after money owed to the County. I have been with El Dorado County for 17 years and am looking to retire after my youngest graduates from high school in 2016.

I am married with three great step-children and a beautiful grandson. What kept me on track was an inner desire to accomplish my goals, the belief that God has a plan for me, the support and devotion of my loved ones, and the desire to prove to myself that even when life threw me curveball after curveball, I could and would complete my journey.  

My advice to students would be find your passion and follow it; be open to where you are led even if it isn’t where you pictured yourself, and enjoy your journey. (Posted 2014)


A smiling woman and manI am a TV commercial producer and graphic designer for 9NEWS, a local television station in Colorado.

I started out in college majoring in Journalism, but quickly realized that I preferred taking what other people wrote and making it look better and easier to understand, so I switched to Graphic Design.  During college, I worked full time, had two internships, and designed ads for the school newspaper. Once I graduated, took the first full time job in graphic design that I could convince someone to offer me.

I worked in the financial industry as a part of an internal marketing department for 7 years as and print and web designer.  Because of my organizational skills and ability to learn quickly, I moved up to Senior Graphic Designer and managed our freelance team. After 7 years, I was ready for a change and was fortunate enough to be contacted by a recruiter from the top local TV station in Colorado.  I was hired primarily to be a web ad designer for local business that purchased advertising through the station.  I also began to write, direct, edit, and produce broadcast commercials, learning as I went along.  When the company restructured, my web design position became obsolete, but because I had been working on more and more broadcast commercials, I was offer a position as a TV producer.

The key to my success has been my willingness to try new things.  There have been a number of times that my job position was in jeopardy because of company restructuring, but because I am always learning as much as I can along the way, my managers have always made sure to find a place for me.

My advice is to start at the bottom and learn as much as you can from the people around you.  Try new things; you never know where they might lead you.  Ask questions and be willing to collaborate; all of those group projects that you hate as a student are going to become your everyday reality.  I cannot remember the last time I had a project that was completely mine from beginning to end. (Posted 2014)


A selfie of a woman in front of an old treeI am currently living in a reed hut in Inhassoro, Mozambique, as a health volunteer for the Peace Corps. I arrived in Mozambique in May 2013 and will be here, in Africa, until at least July 2015.

After graduating from GSHS I went to the University of San Francisco where I obtained a BA in Sociology. I studied abroad at the University of Amsterdam during my senior year, studying sexuality and identity in an international context. After graduating from USF in 2006, I worked odd jobs (at the De Young Museum, restaurants, bookstores) before moving to Santa Cruz to live with my sister. Again I worked odd jobs (organic farm and a health food store) before I started working for the county of Santa Cruz as a social worker.  I quit in 2007 to travel in Asia (with friends from GSHS) and ended up living in Kathmandu, Nepal from 2007-2012. During this time I obtained a Masters degree in Negotiation, Conflict Resolution, and Peace Building with an emphasis in bi-lateral human rights agreements from California State University Dominquez Hills, which I did completely in a distance learning format from Kathmandu. I volunteered for numerous international and local nongovernmental organizations during the five years I was there.  I applied for Peace Corps on a whim on a visit back to California in the summer of 2012. I was accepted, and eight month later I arrived in Mozambique to study Portuguese and work at rural health posts.

Support is key to keeping you motivated. Stay in contact with your friends and family. And make yourself believe that nothing is really ever out of reach, because it really isn’t. I journal often and ask for help. I try to be 100% honest with yourself.  “And shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars”-Les Brown.

My advice is to have faith in yourself. Visualize where you want to be and where you to go. Imagine how you want to live your life rather then what you want to do with your life. If a door slams shut, jump through the window. Befriend your teachers, mentors, and anyone regardless of age who you can speak to honestly and freely. In college, GO TO OFFICE HOURS! And become a TA for your favorite professor. (Posted 2014)


A smiling man in the mountainsI run the Training and Implementation Department for an email marketing software company.

I have a BS in Telecommunication from DeVry University and an MBA from the School of Hard Knocks. Upon graduating from college as class valedictorian in 2002, the tech bubble had burst and no one was hiring college grads, so I started my own company out of my business partner’s garage. I built it up working 50-60 hour weeks commuting one hour each way paying myself $800 a month for the first couple years. Three years later we had 8 employees and $500K in annual revenue. 

What kept me on track was the support of my girlfriend (now my wonderful wife), my ability to constantly teach myself new skills and stay flexible, being well-rounded, and not being too focused on one type of technology or ability. In the technology world my career has changed 3 times!

My advice is:

- Be passionate about learning and teaching yourself how to find the answers because with the internet anything is possible! 

- Be NICE to people, smile, go the extra mile, stay positive, look them in the eyes, and say you’re sorry when you screw up. People will enjoy working with you, teach you, and give you tips. You never know who will give you your next opportunity. 

- Work hard but more importantly work smart; find the outcome you need and work backwards with milestones. Identify the tools you need to accomplish the outcome and embrace the process. 

- Time management is key. Always know where you are and try not to get too distracted by things you cannot control.

- Love and appreciate life. If things don’t turn out right… it’s okay. You will move on and learn from the experience. Don’t be afraid to take chances and do what you feel is right.

- Take care of your body. Eat right but reward yourself with yummy stuff, too. Work out and stay in shape. When you are proud of your body and appearance it creates confidence in you, and your peers will notice. Participating in physical activity 3-5 days a week will calm your emotions, help your focus, and give you a break from studying, working, computers, etc. It will also give you a time to think/reflect/plan and even analyze your choices and prior behavior as good or bad.

- Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable. Necessity is the mother of invention! Challenging yourself and putting yourself out there will broaden your skills and personality. Take up hobbies and interests you would never have thought you could do or be interested in. 

- Find personal heroes, either artists, musicians, or professors in your classes. Listen to podcasts, youtube lectures, read old books. One of my favorite sayings is Miyamoto Musashi: “If you know the way broadly, you will see it in all things"

- Choose your own adventure, don’t follow in someone’s footsteps. People caught up in comparisons will ultimately be unhappy with the outcomes. DO YOUR BEST and you will have no regrets.(Posted 2014)


A smiling blond womanI am an Emergency Room physician at Marshall Medical Center in Placerville.

I left Georgetown at the age of 18 and spent five years at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo earning a biochemistry degree. I then spent three years in San Diego working in biotech and four years in medical school at UC Irvine. I did three years of emergency medicine residency at UCI Medical Center and Long Beach Memorial Hospital.  I received a Healthy Policy fellowship with California American College of Emergency Physicians in Sacramento. I spent one year splitting time working between Sacramento and Placerville. And then finally – I moved back to El Dorado County! 

Enjoying what I do has kept me on track.

My advice is to be yourself. Do what you are good at and what you love. (Posted 2014)


A portrait of a smiling womanCurrently I am attending the University of Massachusetts Amherst pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Studies with a minor in Education. My expected graduation is Spring 2015. I am married to my GSHS High School sweetheart Michael Buettner.

I attended Folsom Lake College after graduating from GSHS. While there I got the opportunity to explore a variety of classes to help me discover my passion for Communication Studies. While attending FLC, a few of my mentors recommended that I continue my post-Associates education on the East Coast to get a greater perspective of our nation and the cultures within it. This advice encouraged me to pursue attendance at UMass.

A support system has kept me on track. Not only do I have great support from my family, but also I have made connections with other students and professors. Just when I need someone to bounce ideas off, encourage me, or keep me accountable, they are there. I have also kept on track by getting involved on campus. Feeling like I am a part of a community motivates me to stay on track. At FLC, I was involved with Student Government and served as the ASG president in my last two semesters. At UMass, I attend campus events put on both by Student Activities and my department. There is always something going on.

My advice is that life is unpredictable, so don't feel like something is wrong with you if you don't have all the answers or know exactly what you are doing. I never imagined that my educational paths would go in the direction they have, but I wouldn't change it for the world. Never stop learning. Whether you go on to college, straight to the work force, or travel after high school, do something that makes you think. And that includes learning about yourself and other people. Make a commitment to lifelong discovery. (Posted 2014)


A portrait of a smiling womanCurrently, I am the Executive Director of a nonprofit organization in the Columbia River Gorge region of Oregon and Washington, about an hour east of Portland and nestled at the foot of Mt. Hood. Our nonprofit is called Gorge Grown Food Network, and we work to promote and support a local food system that is resilient and inclusive. We operate farmers’ markets, teach cooking skills, support and promote small family farms, pursue more fresh local food in schools, hospitals, and food banks, and catalyze community food projects that will improve our food system. It’s an amazing organization, and the community support behind it inspires me to go to work and do my best each day.  Being an Executive Director of a small non-profit means I wear many hats and work long hours. I write and manage grants, oversee staff, plan events, manage and develop programs, direct marketing efforts, coordinate a board of directors, manage volunteers, fundraise, represent the organization publicly and more. It’s hard work, but it’s different every day, the people I work with are amazing, and the outcomes of my work means so much to me. I love my job.

The short story of how I got here is that after earning my Masters Degree in Ecology from UC San Diego, I was a conservation biologist who accidentally got a job selling cheese at the farmers’ market. It sounds strange, but after that summer selling cheese I saw the connection between preserving our environment and sustainable agriculture more vividly.  Working at the farmers’ market changed me.  I dropped out of my PhD program in Biology that following Christmas. The thing is, I really loved selling cheese--more than I loved lab work. Interacting with farmers and customers at the farmers’ market made me realize a basement lab was not where I belonged. I belonged in a role that had me constantly interacting with people. So, in the height of the recession, I dropped out of my PhD program.

I immediately started picking up side jobs including teaching biology at Portland Community College (teaching science was more enjoyable than lab work). I wasn’t sure where I would end up, but a short internship at an environmental nonprofit helped me realize I would fit into the nonprofit culture. By spring, I was the part-time Outreach Manager of Gorge Grown Food Network. I found myself in a leadership role as Co-Director fairly quickly and then one year later became Executive Director. I’m entering my fourth year with the organization.

What has kept me on track is hope, family, and education. It sounds cheesy but I was filled to the brim with hope that my dream job was out there. It was; I just had to take a few detours to get there. Additionally, my family has been so supportive of this whole process (even the cheese monger phase). I remember calling them to tell them I had dropped out of my PhD. They supported me the whole time. Taking a leap is much easier when there is someone there to cheer you on. My husband has been extremely supportive of my career journey. I’m lucky. I can’t over emphasize the importance of continual education and professional development in my career. It keeps me from getting bored, makes me better at my job, and helps me develop a path forward.

A few years ago I got in a fight with a friend about careers. She thought I was aiming too low. Her goals were to own an Audi and a private island. My goals were to have a family, a biodiesel VW van, and chickens. We were both driven, ambitious women, but success looked very different to us.  Don’t let other people define success for you. Try to be well- rounded. It can be challenging for some people who are really good at one thing, but the skills and assets that round you out will help you get a job over someone else. Even if it just means traveling out of the country to gain a new perspective, find a way to be more than your skill.

Lastly, I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful my Golden Sierra education was. (Posted 2014)


Portrait of a smiling male alumnus.Currently I am the Plant Operations Supervisor at Del Oro High School in Loomis, which basically means I am responsible for the maintenance and operations of the facility.  In all honesty, I never would have thought that I would be doing this for a living, but I am, and I love it.

After completing a mostly college prep curriculum at GSHS, I left the divide for the University of San Francisco.  Not long thereafter I encountered financial difficulties, and I decided to come back home and continue my general education classes at CRC Placerville, where I could afford to do so.  By 1996, I was leaving for the University of Nevada Reno to pursue something (I'm still not sure what, though.  I still wasn't sure what I wanted to devote the rest of my life to).  In Reno, I had an eclectic mix of roommates, each of whom had a profound influence on me and the decisions I made.  One had a guitar and loved the blues and creative writing.  Another had oil pastels, and he and I would stay up late painting.  Before I knew it, I was leaving another college without a degree, but with a passion for music, painting, creative writing, and – finally - a sense of purpose.  I came back to Northern California and put together a punk band, which ended up becoming part of a blossoming punk rock scene in Auburn.  Kids, young adults, and even old schoolers came out of the woodwork, seemingly from the cracks in the sidewalks to take part in the culture.  It was inspiring to see the passion in all these people.  To get by, I worked wherever I could, for however long I could, doing whatever I could tolerate, but it was all worth it.  Long story short, I continued this lifestyle until 2007, when my son was born.  It was at that time I decided I either had to make more money playing gigs and cutting records, or get a real job, preferably one with benefits, so I applied at the school district thinking I could be a bus driver.  I had experience driving, so I figured that would be my ticket.  The district needed custodians, so they persuaded me to sign up.  I change diapers, so cleaning bathrooms wasn't that big a deal. Eventually I came away with some pretty good stories to tell, and an even more enlightened sense of being.  

I realized I loved being around students in a learning environment and being able to contribute to that.  Through determination - really a competitive attitude to be better than everyone else who might be seeking the position one rung up on the ladder - I worked diligently to advance from night custodian at Northside School to custodian at Golden Sierra High School. (Posted 2019)

My advice to any high school student today is my story itself.

RYAN WINSOR - CLASS OF 2005Top of Page

A man in the military posing with his gunI’m working as a Civil Engineering Officer for the United States Air Force.  In my current position, “Deputy Flight Commander, Installation Management,” I supervise about twenty-five people working in various areas including Military Housing, Environmental Compliance and Restoration, and Asset Optimization.  I’ve also worked in long term base sustainment planning, emergency management, and construction management.  In my last deployment (Afghanistan 2013) I managed a multimillion dollar construction program in which my team and I developed and executed projects to provide tactical infrastructure for the Afghan National Army and Police forces. 

I went to the Air Force Academy right after high school and earned my Bachelors of Science in Civil Engineering, and I got my commission as an officer. 

One of the benefits of going to a military academy is that they it make it hard to get off track.   On top of that, setting goals and knowing what I had to do to reach them is what got me here today.

My advice is to find what you love and dedicate yourself to it.  And don’t stress out if you don’t know what you want to do when grow up, because even some of us haven’t figured it out yet. (Posted 2014)


A smiling womanBesides enjoying a gluten free lifestyle...I'm currently teaching Transitional Kindergarten. I spend my days with 5 year olds - twenty of them. TK is a unique slice of life, where there is a deficit of social consciousness and an abundance of impulsivity.  On second thought considering the world we live in maybe it's not that unique.  The learning of numeracy, phonemic awareness, and concepts about print plays second fiddle to snot-rockets, running with scissors, and emotional melt-downs.  At this point teaching is more of a spiritual practice than a job.  My daily challenge is to show up, be present, remain unattached to the outcome, and teach from a place of love.  Miraculously every time I do a formal assessment with my students, they prove to be learning!
The sloppy list of how I got here, minus the odd jobs and crappy cars, is as followed: I attended Cabrillo Junior College, transferred to Humboldt State, took a leave of absence, became an Americorps Volunteer, returned to HSU, graduated with a degree in Kinesiology and a minor in Sociology, took a breath, fell in love, became a VISTA volunteer, rode my bicycle across the country, sold software (discovered I was less corporate and more human), went back to school, got my Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and my Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from San Jose State, got married, had a baby boy, taught 6th grade for 4 years, had a baby girl, taught PE for 6 years, and now I'm teaching TK in a school within walking distance from my home.
At 17, when I graduated from high school, my educational ambitions were loose around the edges.  There were lots of opportunities to be distracted: hunky, unmotivated, entitled, dysfunctional boyfriends; silly, easy money, but mostly my own doubts and fears.  I'm proud to say I worked hard, kept my debt low, and stayed the course.  I was fortunate to have the ability and desire to run cross country and track at the collegiate level. The structure of a team and the caring attention of coaches helped to keep me motivated and focused on my studies.  Surrounding yourself with like-minded people provides an inspiring lift for any endeavor.

From my observations most everyone seeks to know what their unique contribution is to our increasingly complex world. The only person who can answer that question is you.  Your parents, your friends, your teachers, your ego all shape your thoughts about what you think you can and cannot do.  My advice is to question the beliefs you hold about yourself.  Listen to that voice that inherently knows what you need to thrive, even if it doesn't make sense and is totally impractical. Some people are gifted with clarity of purpose, but most of us have to feel our way.  Align your choices and actions to support the vision you hold for yourself.  Be flexible and open to surprises - remember as you interface with the world it is transforming you as you are transforming it. Namaste. (Posted 2014)


A portrait of a smiling womanI am a partner in a law firm in Sacramento where I live with my husband.

After graduating from Mills College with a degree in Economics, I attended law school at University of the Pacific McGeorge, working full-time through law school and raising two kids.

I grew up in an economically-challenged family, and I used my education/degrees as a way to enable myself to be exposed to many more opportunities than I had growing up. I have passed on my faith in higher education to my children. My daughter is a sophomore at University of San Francisco, and my son is eagerly awaiting college acceptance letters as we speak.

I would tell all high school students, as I have told my own children, that with education (no matter what level), you always have something to fall back on even if other dreams and aspirations don't work out. You also have to work hard, as no one will ever hand anything to you.

Incidentally, my law partner is Paul Zappettini, who is married to Erin Dealey, a former drama teacher at GSHS. (Posted 2014)


A smiling woman with sunglasses on her headI'm in my 4th semester of medical school at EVMS (Norfolk, VA). I'm hoping to become either a pediatrician or a psychiatrist, but honestly my preferences change monthly. I'm involved in a couple things that will be published soon about food allergies.

I did 2 semesters of MIT (Cambridge, MA), transferred to UGA (Athens, GA). My GPA wasn't where it needed to be, so I did a grad school year at VCU (Richmond, VA) and got in. I also did a lot of volunteering (even in Ecuador), lab work, followed lots of different doctors, and became an EMT.

Without sounding mushy, my husband Kenny has kept me on track. He was someone I could trust to tell me when I was slacking off, and also he was helpful in keeping track of the moving parts and deadlines. I constantly had to reevaluate what my resume looked like and what holes I needed to fill. Knowing what medical schools were looking for was key. There were a lot of hoops.

My advice is don't focus on the quickest way out of school, focus on what you want to do for the rest of your life. Don't be afraid of change. Also, be resourceful. I lucked into so many opportunities because I submitted applications to things I thought I'd never get, I found excellent mentors by staying after class, I found many ways into hard-to-reach opportunities by just asking and keeping my ears open to offers. If anyone has questions about medical school and how to get there, feel free to ask me or other people you know. (Posted 2014)


A man and a woman in front of a lakeI live outside of San Francisco with my husband. We'll soon be a family of four - we're expecting twins in early summer!  I teach math at a large, comprehensive high school and am the varsity soccer coach, as well.

I got my BA in economics from UC Santa Barbara and worked as an economic consultant for four years out of undergrad.  Before starting business school I had a massive change of heart and went to Stanford for a Masters in education instead.  I'm in my 8th year of teaching and wouldn't trade my career for anything!

  Keeping my bigger picture goals in mine kept me on track throughout high school and college.  I knew that I wanted my day to day life to have meaning, knew that I wanted to be live comfortably, and knew that I wanted to be able to travel and explore the world.  I knew I needed a solid education to make that life happen, and that kept me going.  From there, I just tried to learn to know myself and figure out what makes me happiest.  Learning to understand those things about myself is how I found my way to education.   

My advice is don't worry too much if you're not sure what exactly you want to do long term, but DO know that education is the key to unlocking all kinds of options.  Don't make decisions now that will close doors that you'll later want open.  It's worth pushing yourself now in school so that you can choose the path you want later.  You'll never regret working hard and creating options for your life. (Posted 2014)


A portrait of a smiling womanI work as an ecologist at an environmental consulting firm in Auburn.

After graduating GSHS in 1998, I started out at CSU Chico as a business major. After two years I decided I wanted a different focus, so I transferred to UC Davis and completed a bachelor's degree in landscape architecture and a master's degree in restoration ecology. I worked at a few other consulting firms in California and another state, but always wanted to be back close to home (I have been working in Auburn about 5 years now).

I had a very career/goal oriented mindset when I was younger and a strong sense of responsibility. I knew that no one else was going to make things happen for me.

Advice? Try out different things early in your college career to find what you really want to do. The first major may not stick, but the time you invest figuring it out is not wasted (but the money is, so try to have some focus!). Be crazy and determined with achieving your educational and career goals while you are young so you can coast a little and enjoy the more important things in life as you get older. (Posted 2014)


A smiling woman with a nose ringAfter graduation I moved to San Francisco to attend San Francisco State University. Originally I had gone to school majoring in Theater Arts and minoring in Communications. In order to fulfill a segment of the GE requirements at my school I attended a number of classes in American Indian Studies. The topic of American Indians in North and South America really struck my interest. As a result I have recently switched my major to Communications with a minor in American Indian Studies. My school offers an internship in Cultural Conservation, so because of my love for theater and American Indian Studies I have come to the decision that I will find a career in Cultural Conservation of Californian Native Tribes through the use of media, primarily theater.   

Keeping a balance between working full time, going to school full time, and having a social life outside of school had been a challenge my first few years. When I finally got a firm idea of what I wanted to do with my life, everything else fell into place and balanced out. School became easier for me, because I am now taking courses that I really enjoy. In fact these last two semesters have been exciting for me!

My advice for high school students today is pay attention in class, because the first two to three years of college is basically review of the last four years of your education. Once you're in college, don't get frustrated and give up, because when you're past all that review you get to finally start focusing on the career you want for yourself. Combine your passions and discover something you will love doing for many years after you graduate. My parents always told me to pick a career that you love, because then it's more fun than work and you won't get burned out as quickly. (Posted 2014)


A couple leaning against a treeI am currently a second grade teacher at Sutter's Mill Elementary School. I feel very fortunate to be able to teach at the same elementary school I attended as a child. I am also happily married to Joel (BOMUSD's Computer Tech), and we just purchased our first house, which happens to be on the Divide.

After graduating from Golden Sierra in 2007 I began attending Sacramento State where I spent four years earning a degree in Organizational Communication. While I valued the field of Communication Studies, I long knew that Education was where my heart was. I spent the next year earning my Multiple-Subject Teaching Credential from Sacramento State.

I strongly believe that hard work and determination are the only ways to stay on track with your goals. While at Sacramento State I was lucky to be hired as an Orientation Leader for New Student Orientation. During the five years I worked for the program, I met a wonderful group of friends and was able to make many connections on campus. A combination of these two really helped me to stay on track with my education. The unconditional support of my family also played a key role in my success.

My advice for high school students today is to make a goal and then hold yourself accountable for completing the goal. It is okay if your plan or goals change, but always have a goal in mind or you won't have anything to work towards. My advice for students going directly to college is to make connections with people who have similar goals, so you can work together in accomplishing them. Having a support system is extremely important! Good Luck! (Posted 2014)

JAN KOORN - CLASS OF 1996Top of Page

A smiling woman and manI am the Director of Finance for Timbers Resorts (www.  This means that I help manage financial goals for different hotels and managed residential properties in the Timbers portfolio.  
I received my undergrad from UC Santa Barbara in Business Economics with and Accounting emphasis.  I later received an MBA through an online program.
I’m not sure if I was on a track but I pursued opportunities in areas where I wanted to live.  
My advice is:
  • Be nice (nicer) to people, all people.  Always try to understand the others perspective.  Not only is this great for your personal life but it will really help you in the business world where you have to deal with a wide variety of people.
  • Stay active and healthy.  Fitness fuels the body and brain and can lead you to interesting friendships and even open doors professionally.  And I don't mean you need to be a jock to be active and healthy.
  • Get outside more often.  The Divide has so much to offer in this regard and I hope you do anything that involves nature in a personal way.
  • Write.  I am not a great writer, but it is a valuable tool.  I write hundreds of emails a day for work, and it is important that the message be understood (primarily so I don't have to write subsequent emails).  Writing is also a great outlet for creativity and self-reflection... which takes me to my next point.  
  • Self-reflection.  Take time to understand you.  You are different from your peers, and as much as your teenage mind tells you that you want to be the same, you are different... and that is good.   Find time to know and understand your own passions and desires.  I spent way too much time in high school worried about what my friends thought about me.  
  • Date the foreign exchange student.  I didn't and wish I had.  And whatever you do don't pass up the opportunity to date any foreigner (you are attracted to, of course) after high school.
  • Find friends that make you a better person.  And, later on in the work world, surround yourself with people smarter than yourself.  
  • Thank your parents (and older, wiser siblings) for their patience and guidance. (Posted 2014)


A portrait of a smiling womanI am working as a preschool teacher at Apple Creek Private Preschool in Allen, Texas.

I graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Human Development and moved to Texas to be close to my husband's family. Here I found a job working for my mother-in-law at the preschools she started from the ground up 27 years ago.

What I am doing now is not at all what I had ever planned on doing, and I still don't plan on this being my career. I ran into some complications while at university and changed my major to the shortest major they offer. In the future I plan on getting into the high school system teaching Spanish (I am fluent in the language). But when I left GSHS, I told myself that no matter what struggles and challenges I'd face, I would graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Since neither of my parents have one, I felt it was my duty to bring the education level of my family higher.

Unless you want to be a lawyer, doctor, civil engineer, or something that requires you to study that specifically, don't stress so hard about what you choose to study in college. The degree you earn at university is a means to opening many doors and windows of opportunity. Most people don't work in a field related to what they studied in college. My older brother is a perfect example of this. He graduated from UC Davis with a 4.0 in Chemical Engineering and now works for AT&T as a project manager. Moral of the story, just go and choose something you'd be willing to study for 4 or however many years and worry about the job part later. (Posted 2014)


A man hugging his daughter on a beachI am a member of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff Department Search and Rescue Team, am finishing my MBA (with a focus on Global Management), and have just opened my own insurance agency.

I dropped out of 6 or so colleges, started a few companies, had many adventures. Traveled to Vietnam to adopt our daughter, got married, lost my mother to cancer….. Life happens even when you make other plans and have other ideas.

I think that I kept on track with an interest in LEARNING and UNDERSTANDING. There has never been a time when I stopped being interested in things with a deep desire to learn. Five years ago my daughter asked me if I ever finished college, I said no and decided to get my MBA that next day. When it mattered, I just decided to do it.

I know that most people will say “find your passion and the money will come.” My advice is to find what you are amazing at, figure out how to make money from it, and then look for your passion. You may be surprised that they may be the same thing. My purpose in this life is to be of service, and that comes out in every single part of my life. (Posted 2014)


A smiling man and woman wearing formal wearJason is a supervisor with California State Parks, Monterey District, and I own an event planning company in Carmel. Jason started with Parks in Coloma and with continued training and testing eventually became a supervisor. He advanced very quickly and was one of the youngest supervisors for Parks. After moving to the Monterey/Carmel area I wanted a career where I could make my own hours to be with our children. Through the encouragement of my boss at the time and wanting to be home with my kids, I founded the event planning company, Amy Byrd Weddings and Event.

We have kept each other on track. We want to be the best that we can be for our two kids.

The best piece of advice that we could give is to find a job that is more than a job. To do something that you are passionate about becomes infectious and never feels like work. (Posted 2014)


A smiling woman wearing an Air Force dress uniformAshley Mossor (Scroggins) A 2004 graduate of Golden Sierra will be promoted to the rank of Tech Sgt.( E-6) on Jan 1 2014. She has served in Germany,Turkey. Qatar, Republic Of Georgia, and Japan. She is currently stationed at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, 380th Space Control Squadron. (Posted 2014)


A smiling woman next to a scarecrowI work as a Contracts Supervisor at UC Davis Student Housing, commuting 2 hours to work each day. I love where I work and I love where I live.
I graduated Sac State with a BA in Fine Arts. I worked at Yolo County Environmental Health right out of college and started working at UC Davis about 10 months after I graduated. I've been working at UC Davis ever since.
I knew the degree I chose in college was not going to afford me the job opportunities that I may have received with other degrees. I wanted to get through college and get a BA because I knew I would be more marketable with a college degree. I have always been organized and able to visual projects, see the big picture, able to design ideas to make work more efficient, etc. I feel like that attitude has helped me move into a well-respected position in Student Housing.
My advice would be to go to college not only for the social experience, but for the cultural and educational experience you will receive. You will be exposed to so many different people, it will really make you appreciate the diversity that there is outside of Golden Sierra. Above all, be accountable for your own choices and responsibilities in whatever you do. From experience in going to college and now working at one, once you are 18, you are responsible for yourself. (Posted 2014)


A smiling woman next to a kidI live in the Caribbean with my husband, who is a world renowned marine mammal veterinarian. He travels the world taking care of dolphins and whales, etc. I do all the administrative tasks, as well as taking care of two kids.

We both went to UC Davis, both loved science, worked hard, and put in lots of hours in both school and work.

My best advice to any young people who still have school ahead of them is to actually learn it! You think you'll never need or use some of what you are learning, but you never know which way life turns and how valuable information can be and where it can take you! Living in a country where English is not the first language (it's actually the 4th spoken language), I wish I would have taken more time to actually study and learn Spanish and not cram before a test!! Now I'm 41 and taking Spanish classes again?!! Would've been so much easier when I was 16! (Posted 2014)


A smiling woman wearing a blue evening dressI am a Human Resource Communication/Project Specialist for Johns Hopkins. The Johns Hopkins Hospital, located in Baltimore, Maryland, is a teaching hospital and biomedical research facility that is widely regarded as one of the world's top hospitals. U.S. News & World Report has ranked it as the best overall hospital in America for 21 consecutive years.

During high school I decided I wanted to be a nurse. I attended California State University of East Bay and completed all of my prerequisites for nursing. I took my TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills) exam and did very well. The next step was for 100 names to be pulled from a random lottery. I was not chosen. I felt my dreams quickly fading. Luckily, all of my nursing credits carried over, so I decided to pursue my Bachelors of Science degree in Health Science and a minor in Human Development.

 I started working full-time for a non-profit crisis residential organization called Bay Area Community Services – Woodroe Place, which helped rehabilitate psychiatric patients back into the community. Working with these individuals was a very demanding but rewarding process. It enabled me to interact with people that I wouldn’t have normally crossed paths with, and to truly make a difference in their lives. I taught basic human hygiene routines, educated the patients regarding their medications and made connections within the community to help assimilate them back to their normal lives.

I then decided to move to Maryland and apply to The Johns Hopkins Hospital. I applied to three positions and was offered all three of them. I accepted the position in Nurse Recruitment where I screened applications, set up interviews, conducted background checks, verified references, and set the new hires up with orientation schedules and benefit information.

Johns Hopkins is an amazing place to work. It allows employees who are interested in continuing their education to take part in their tuition assistance program. I submitted my application to Towson University and applied to the Human Resource Development (M.S.) track where I gained knowledge, skills and abilities needed to assume and successfully perform professional, managerial and administrative positions in various domains of Human Resources. I was so excited when I was accepted. I worked full-time and completed my Master’s Degree in less than two years.

Completing the Human Resource Development program has made me a better asset to Johns Hopkins. Johns Hopkins has been a supportive platform in giving me more Human Resource tasks as wells as investing in me as an employee through training and education. They supported me in my pursuit of my degree and have made adjustments as necessary so I could complete both my work and my schoolwork.

When I had almost completed my degree, I changed positions and now work in the Human Resource department under the Senior Vice President for Johns Hopkins Medicine and Johns Hopkins Health System.

My “track” changed several times outside of my control. My original goal was to complete my nursing degree, but now I have a Master’s degree in Human Resources and work for the #1 hospital in the world. I did not plan for the life I have today, but instead grew into it based on certain situations and opportunities. I am proud that family and my personal standards were always a priority. I wanted to make my family and myself proud of my accomplishments. I completed both of my degrees with honors and continue to excel in the corporate world.

My advice is to not be too concerned with figuring out what you are going to be “when you grow up.” Explore what you like and don't be afraid to take paths that may not work out. By changing majors/careers you will be able to focus on what you like. Your parents may be worried that you do not have direction. Times are changing. College is important, but it is vital that you learn what you want to do even if it may take you longer to ultimately achieve your goals.

I would also advise you to always give 100% effort. Grades are important. It may seem trivial or meaningless to do homework – but you need to. Having good grades will open many doors. It may help you get into the program you want, the college you want or even the position you want (companies do look at GPAs!). Having structure and dedication is important.

Lastly, I think you should have fun! “50 is the new 30,” so try to enjoy life. I recommend traveling the world when you have the opportunity. When you are able to travel you can learn different languages, see other perspectives, conquer challenges, make lasting memories and prove that you can dream big! (Posted 2014)


A portrait of a manRight now I am a business account executive for a technology company in Southern California. I also have a small side business where I import products from overseas and wholesale them to retailers in the area.

After high school I joined the Marine Corps Infantry which helped me pay for college after my contract was up. Did a couple years of sales while finishing my degree and finally found myself here. I started a business in 2009 when I saw an opportunity for profit and started importing products I found while living in Asia.

I think what kept me on track is the unexplainable need I have to keep achieving. I do not like being without goals. I have a picture in my head of who I want to be later on in life, and I keep striving to achieve that goal little by little.

I would say that, although education is necessary, don’t forget to live a little. It’s the experiences in life that make it worth it. (Posted 2014)