All Means All: How Castro Valley Adult & Career Education strengthens the community as a whole

Two women at a school campus
Parvin Ahmadi, Superintendent of the Castro Valley Unified School District (left), and Lavender Whitaker, President of the Castro Valley School Board (right), together at the CVACE campus. Photo by George E. Baker

During the economic downturn of 2008, California allowed school districts to close adult schools or reduce their funding. But one school district understood the importance of their adult school and decided not to make any cutbacks. The school, Castro Valley Adult Career & Education, has been open for over five decades, and has become a foundational part of the Castro Valley community.

“They recognized how important the adult school was, not only for the adults but also the kids,” says Parvin Ahmadi, Superintendent of the Castro Valley Unified School District. “It’s all part of a continuum of services. We know when our adults are successful, and they have skills and knowledge, they in turn help our students in K-12.”

In other words, better and more diverse educational opportunities for adults lead to better employment. This in turn leads to a more robust and sustainable local community. To that end, Castro Valley Adult & Career Education, also known as CVACE, offers career education programs ranging from Wastewater Treatment to Medical Assisting to Business to Computer Technology.

These programs are developed with an eye toward local industry.

“In our area, there’s a high demand for people that have certifications, training, connections,” says Lavender Whitaker, President of the Castro Valley School Board. “In a lot of fields you don’t necessarily need a degree, you need technical expertise. This is a wonderful opportunity for people who haven’t had the same educational opportunities or support. It creates equity.”

This equity extends beyond Career Education. Students at CVACE can get their high school diploma or GED. They can also take English as a Second Language classes, reflective of the increasingly diverse linguistic background of the area. There is even a very popular program for adults with disabilities. Called Strides, this program helps students achieve independence by teaching them valuable life skills, such as how to use money in real life situations and make appointments. It also places people with disabilities in internships with participating local businesses.

“Our local employers love the program,” says Whitaker. “The students are dependable. They go to work every day. They do a great job.”

All adult students can also be enrolled in multiple programs at once. This is part of CVACE’s approach of tailoring education to students’ needs.

“We have a philosophy of not being a cookie-cutter district,” says Ahmadi. “We ask what’s best for the individual. We have a lot of people who are learning English at the same time as they’re going through the medical technology program or the water treatment program.”

This approach has yielded tangible success. About 90% of the students who complete Career Education programs have gone onto local jobs within the industry. Students regularly meet with counselors who can connect them to local employers or help them transition to further educational opportunities, such as getting an Associate Degree at Chabot College, the local community college.

“There is a seamless transition from our adult school to Chabot and other educational entities,” says Ahmadi. “I love that. That’s been really needed and something that’s been very effective.”

All this has made Castro Valley Adult & Career Education a staple in the community: It survived one economic downturn and is not going anywhere anytime soon. More than being just another school, CVACE embodies the values of the entire Castro Valley area.

“We have this saying in our district,” says Whitaker. “We say ‘All Means All.’ What we mean by that is that the services we provide to our community, to our students, and to our families, should lift everyone up.”

To learn more about Castro Valley Adult & Career Education, visit https://www.cvadult.org/, email cvaceinfo@cv.k12.ca.us or phone (510) 886-1000 .

About Castro Valley Adult & Career Education 3 Articles
Castro Valley Adult & Career Education educates and prepares adults to train for new careers, continue their education, and pursue lifelong learning in a safe, supportive environment. Programs include High School Diploma/GED, English as a Second Language, Career Education, Parent Education and Adults with Disabilities. CVACE also offers a wide variety of Community Interest classes, such as computers, music, cooking and fitness and health.