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PCS Alumni Share Experiences With Current Students

In late August, PCS hosted four panels of alumni speakers so that current students could hear their stories, learn from their experiences, and have the opportunity to ask questions.
Study Skills and Technology/Health Teacher Hillary Daniels was one of many faculty members who attended. “I really enjoyed what I heard,” said Daniels. “They emphasized the kids should get better sleep, and that is very helpful to what I teach in my classes.”
The 18 alumni speakers, who ranged from the PCS class of 2003 through the class of 2017, were divided into panels by grade. One group spoke to our seventh, eighth and ninth graders, while the other three spoke to 10th, 11th and 12th, respectively.
Each alum gave an introductory brief bio, including what year they graduated from PCS, any sports or clubs they were involved with, and what they are doing currently (job, school, etc.).  
Panelists spoke on topics including how PCS prepared them for college, ways their PCS experiences helped with various aspects of their lives, and advice for current students. “The alumni were very prepared to relate their personal experience,” said Principal Simon Fletcher. “Also, it seemed that our students were really listening to what the alumni had to say.”
The panels concluded with current students asking questions. “I was impressed with the level of engagement amongst the 12th graders, and the quality of the questions they asked us,” shared Ben Dorfan (PCS class of ’05), who presented to the senior class. Ben—whose positions include private music teacher, Jewel Theatre Company music director and PCS accompanist—has a BA in Music from Oberlin College.
Panelist Heidi Cossentine (’08) drove all the way from Fremont to participate. “I remember fondly the alumni panels when I was a student and how valuable they were!” Heidi has a BS in Biology and minor in Public Health from Santa Clara University and a Business Management Certificate from Stanford Graduate School of Business. She works at Sun Pharma.
With 18 speakers, students were able to access a variety of post-PCS experiences. For example, panelist Katie Binger (’16) went to Lane Community College for one and a half years and is now at University of Nevada Reno. She is majoring in Human Development/Family Studies with a minor in addiction. During her time at PCS, she didn’t always love the heavy workload, but she is now grateful because she developed good study habits which make her feel ahead of many college classmates. Macallan Brown (‘14), who studied computer science and graduated from Minnesota’s Carleton College in March, recently moved back to Santa Cruz and is working at Looker as a software engineer. Nilu Mashian (’17) took a gap year before starting college at Macalester in September. Her year included working in New York and going to the Bahamas for a three-month marine survey program.
Mo Cohen (’16) is at Northeastern University in Boston; his major is Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. He plans to go into politics post-graduation “with an eye towards elected office.” He appreciated the panels’ variety. “Getting people from different graduating classes is a terrific way to provide a range of knowledge and opinions for the current PCS cohort,” said Mo. Panelist Aarika Heron (’12) agreed. “I thought it was great that the panel itself was so diverse as far as major/career and age.” After studying food science at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Aarika now works in Quality Assurance at Martinelli’s in Watsonville.
Janette Chung (’13), who recently moved to New York to work for Facebook as a software engineer, enjoyed being a panelist. “It's nice to have the chance to give advice while it's fresh.” She spoke to PCS juniors, who had several questions about applying to college. Janette has a BS and MS from Stanford, both in Computer Science.
Visual/Performing Arts teacher Dee Vlasak is glad she had the opportunity to attend. “I am always impressed with the level of professionalism these kids have accomplished.”
The other alumni who served on panels were (in alphabetical order): Lena Garcia (’11), Rose Garcia (’17), Stephanie (Williams) Johnson (’03), Gabe Kittle-Cervine (’13), Aidan Moncrieff (’16), Liber McKee (’14), Shaw Ramey-Wright (’13), Maisy Russo (’16), Andria Watson (’06), and Brooke Williams (’14).
We are grateful to all of our alumni panelists for taking time out of their busy lives to return to PCS and share with our students.
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