POMONA, CA – The New Community Vocational Academy is getting a makeover.
Now called simply the New Community Academy, the small, progressive school in Pomona is launching a new website, updating its logo, and hoping to change the way parents in the area view the school and its offerings.
When she launched the school in 2012, founder Kimberly Gunderson says, “We intended the word ‘vocational’ in the sense that we were helping kids who may not necessarily be college-bound, but we could give them a diploma and a career trajectory and they could make a pretty good living. Except that isn’t the way other people saw that word.”
After realizing that many parents believed that New Community would not confer full accredited high school diplomas upon its graduates, Gunderson and her staff made the decision to change their name to more accurately reflect the school’s academic expectations — and while they were at it, why not undertake a full-scale refresh that would showcase their pride in the Academy?
The dozen or so students who attend New Community reflect a mix of backgrounds and aspirations, but they are united by a common thread: Each has struggled in a traditional school environment. The reasons range from unsupported learning disabilities to depression and social anxiety. “These kids just can’t get out of bed in the morning, many times,” Gunderson says. “They’re sitting in the back of the classroom falling further and further behind, and finally they just can’t do it anymore.”
That’s where New Community comes in. The purposely small environment allows students to feel less pressured by social expectations, and to receive the one-on-one assistance they may need to get their learning back on track. Because the school is private and Christian-affiliated, supporting their students in getting fully accredited high school diplomas can be done without standardized testing or strict adherence to state curriculum guidelines. That opens up a world of possibilities in the eyes of Gunderson and her staff.
“All of our curriculum is integrated,” she says, pointing to the example of a history unit on the Middle Ages. “In science, they’ll build catapults and do some physics. You can’t do physics without math. And then in Language Arts, they’ll write about the project and what they learned. Some kids are good at the science, some at the math, some at the writing. So we do them all together.” In addition, Gunderson says that the school requires students to attend classes at CTEC – Career and Technical Education Center at Fairplex – in an area of interest to them, which ultimately leads to every New Community student earning a Certificate of Vocational Studies in addition to their high school degree.
“Our society is so college-oriented, and it’s sad, really,” Gunderson muses. “We need welders, electricians, the guy who comes to fix your dryer. When your pipes break in the middle of the night, you’re not going to call your lawyer. We find that kids think they NEED to say ‘college’ when people ask what their plans are, but not everybody has the tools for college in their toolbox. And that’s okay. What we do is say ‘You can do whatever you want.’ Some of our kids just need a small campus for high school and then yes, they can make that transition to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. But some of our kids are suited for careers after high school, so we try to teach them the value of a career path as a great future.”
Discover A New Way To Learn
It’s working, at least by Gunderson’s standards. She looks at New Community as the school that catches kids before they fall through the cracks of a more traditional educational system and drop out. Keeping her students engaged throughout their high school experience, and seeing them graduate and move on to productive next phases, is proof to her that this model works. As for the students, their pride in their unique educational environment is the driving force behind the new website, logo and communications.
“We’re going to be their alma mater,” Gunderson says. “They want a yearbook. They want an identity. Some of this is about helping them to have that school pride.” After all, the students at New Community Academy are, first and foremost, regular teens. And thanks to Gunderson and her staff, they’re teens with promising futures.
If you know a student who would benefit from this new style of learning, please consider speaking with an administrator to find out more about the school. If you are interested in partnering with New Community Academy through financial support or by offering an internship at your place of business, visit our support page to find our more.