After all, these are the kids who "weren't supposed to make it," said the school's principal, Bill Pierce. Whether they came to the district's continuation school after a string of behavioral issues, academic struggles or because they simply didn't fit in at the district's two traditional schools, the vast majority of young men and women who come to the campus tucked behind Mountain View High School are able to turn their act around and graduate on schedule.
This year, 57 young men and women received diplomas from Alta Vista at the May 30 commencement. Many of them will go on to community college and some will move on to earn a four-year degree. For some, they will be the first in their families to go on to higher education, and some will even be the first to have graduated from high school.
Alta Vista is a small school with a small staff, but according to Pierce, the high school's teachers work just as hard as any other instructor in the district. A profile of the school, which ran in the Voice in early 2011, found that Alta Vista attracts teachers who thrive on working with teens who have all but given up on school.
One such teacher, Doreen Bracamontes, has been teaching so-called "at-risk" teens her entire career, which began in a rough Oakland neighborhood. She feels a duty to help "students who lack support," and said she finds the work incredibly rewarding.
One of the biggest reasons students end up at the school, Pierce said, is that they simply can't handle the competitive nature or the pace of the four-year college-prep track.
With teachers like Bracamontes on staff, Pierce said, most kids feel they can go at a speed that is comfortable for them. That combined with the more individualized attention they receive at Alta Vista is a winning recipe for reform, he explained.