A Path Forward: How Castro Valley Adult & Career Education inspires students to be the best version of themselves

Woman on a school campus
Iema Becerra is a CVACE student and member of the Student Advisory Council. Photo by George E. Baker

by Raul Clement

In 2018, Iema Becerra was enrolled in Castro Valley Adult & Career Education, working on her high school diploma. Completing her education had been a lifelong goal. However, between having to work at a young age and having children, there had been no time to go back to school. Now she was finally getting the chance.

But then she learned she was pregnant with her fifth child. The pregnancy was classified as high risk. She would have to leave school again, and this time it might be for good.

“I’d put my education on hold for so long,” Becerra says, “and I felt like the pregnancy was going to set me back even more.”

But after speaking with a counselor at the school, Becerra realized that this didn’t have to be the end of her education. Now, in 2024, she’s back at Castro Valley Adult & Career Education and is almost done with her diploma work. She credits her counseling sessions for having helped her make the right decision.

This experience has made her a strong advocate for CVACE. She recognizes that not all adult schools offer such hands-on guidance.

“I tried another adult school years back,” she says. “They didn’t give you that level of support. I think it’s something a lot of students could benefit from. It really helped me.”

Another way CVACE supports students is through its flexible curriculum. Becerra does her coursework online, an important convenience for a mother of five children. She has also been able to enroll concurrently in Chabot College, taking classes that weren’t available at CVACE.

“I needed a lot of credits. The English classes I took at Chabot helped me a lot.”

As part of the dual enrollment, these classes will count toward her high school diploma and earn college credits. Becerra plans to pursue a career as a Childhood Intervention Specialist, an occupation she feels a personal connection to due to her own experiences.

“My firstborn was premature—born at 6 months, 2 pounds. He received full services. And my middle daughter had problems walking, so she received services, too. And now I have a cousin that’s an intervention specialist, and I see how she works with the children. She goes to their homes and helps them get what they need. That interested me.”

Once again, CVACE helped clarify the process. Becerra took a course called Get Focused, Stay Focused, a college and career readiness program. In this course, she created a 10-year career plan. The first step is a two-year course at Chabot College. After that, she’ll pursue a Bachelor’s at a university.

Finally, after years of putting the future on hold, Becerra has a path forward. And as an added bonus, she’s modeling good choices for her children.

“They see me studying and reading,” she says. “It reminds them that education is important.”

So deep is Becerra’s appreciation for CVACE, she’s joined the Student Advisory Council, a group of 10 students who meet once a month to brainstorm ways to make CVACE even better.

“The goal of the council is to figure out how we can improve the school even more, how we can get the school noticed more,” she says. “We use ideas inspired by our own experiences.”

And Becerra, of course, has plenty of positive experiences to draw from.

For more information on any of the program options at Castro Valley Adult & Career, visit https://www.cvadult.org/

About Castro Valley Adult & Career Education 5 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.