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Life at Whitman College – Jillian Colwell’s Journey to Walla Walla, Washington

April 9, 2015
Jillian Colwell

Jillian Colwell’s popular Life in College Series continues with a profile of Dublin High School Class of 2014 alum and Whitman College Class of 2018 freshman Jillian Colwell.

Jillian shares how Dublin High School athletics, including cross country, track, and soccer, helped shape her high school experience, how she’s adjusted to life in Walla Walla, Washington far from the major cities of the Bay Area, and offers advice to high school seniors looking forward to their first year of college. What was your thought process during your senior year that led you to Whitman College?

Jillian Colwell: “Like most, my senior year at Dublin High School was spent full of excitement and query, comparing colleges, jotting down pros and cons. Quite early in the process and after several campus tours, my focus began to narrow to smaller, Liberal Arts colleges as I enjoyed their smaller feel and moreover I was still unclear about the direction I was planning to major. Along with my search for a fit academically, I was also determined to include athletics, running cross country, as part of my college experience.  In the end I applied to a handful of private schools mostly in southern California, to two UCs, two schools in Washington State, and one in Oregon. My final decision was difficult as each school that offered me acceptance had distinct and appealing qualities, however after a second visit to Whitman College, it was clear to me that this was my best fit.” Would you describe the Whitman experience?

Colwell: “My Whitman experience has been an amazing introduction to creative thinking, independence, and a whole new world of outdoor adventure.  I have definitely been challenged in the classroom, with a full schedule of courses required in a Liberal Arts distribution as well as courses unique to Whitman such as “Encounters” a class for all freshman where we are learning to analyze a variety of classic texts and novels and recognize their parallels.  On the flip side Whitman’s Eastern Washington location lends to and offers a renowned Outdoor Program where I’ve been introduced to rock climbing, cross country skiing, sand dune sliding and I hope to soon learn sea and whitewater kayaking.”

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LLNL Engineer Dr. Vanessa Tolosa’s Quest for Neurotechnology Breakthroughs

April 7, 2015
Dr Vanessa Tolosa

Dr Vanessa Tolosa

The next entry in our popular Women in STEM Series profiles Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Principal Investigator Dr. Vanessa Tolosa. Ms. Tolosa was recently the keynote speaker at the Alameda County Science and Engineering Fair where middle and high school students from across the Tri-Valley shared projects and applications of the scientific method.

Ms. Tolosa earned a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Florida and a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from UCLA.

James Morehead: What does the scientific method mean to you?

Dr. Vanessa Tolosa: “The core message of the scientific method is to first come up with an idea, a hypothesis, for why something might be happening, and then test that hypothesis by performing experiments. The experiments aren’t random; rather you look at a specific variable that you believe is causing the problem or effect, perform tests and measure or monitor the response. If you are right, you’re done; if you’re wrong you adjust the test and iterate. That alone is really the heart of science and engineering, it’s what I did while completing my PhD, what I do when conducting research, and what I do on a daily basis without thinking about it.

“Taking a step back, what I just described is what people do every day to avoid being fooled by charlatans. You stop and ask questions – how does this cure work and why? What evidence is there to demonstrate the hypothesis? Just stopping to ask questions is a key element of the scientific method. When it becomes natural to ask questions, formulate and test hypotheses, it makes you less susceptible to being fooled. This way of thinking more independently helps me every day in and outside the lab.”

Morehead: When sparked your interest in engineering?

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Meet Jennifer Freitas – Dublin Elementary School Run Club Volunteer and Difference Maker

April 3, 2015
Difference Maker Jennifer Frietas

Difference Maker Jennifer Frietas

As we have learned throughout this series, adult volunteers can come in many shapes and sizes. Further, some folks are capable of assisting solely after school or in the evenings. And, others can become completely embedded within a school site. recently had the opportunity to visit with Jennifer Freitas. Jennifer attained a B.S. in Exercise Physiology from California State University Fresno and a Master of Physical Therapy from Samuel Merritt University in Oakland. With a rapidly growing family, she decided to devote her energies in supporting her children and to their school. Ms. Fretias grew up in Dublin and attended Murray Elementary School, Wells Middle School and Dublin High School. She has also captured the rare trifecta of enrolling all three of her children concurrently at Dublin Elementary. Bradley is a fifth grader, Ashley is in third and young Andrew is in first grade.

She invited us during a Friday lunch period so that we could witness the Run Club. This activity occurs bi-monthly and involves a large portion of the enrollment. We gathered her thoughts on this program and on other fundraising efforts. The Run Club is a fully formed program at Dublin Elementary. Please explain how this came to be. As an organizer, how did you assemble your army of volunteers?

Dublin Elementary School Run Club 11Jennifer Freitas: “I am a runner and I love running. I had been looking for a track/ running program to enroll my kids in and couldn’t find anything that fit what I was looking for. I had been talking with a fellow mom and runner about a run club that she did at her son’s school in Pleasanton and it sparked a fire. Strangely enough, it was about the same time that Lauren approached me and asked if I had any interest in helping with a lunchtime run club. We had a meeting to brainstorm how we would run it and thus Run Club, as we know it at Dublin Elementary, was born. The first year was 2013. We had a few run clubs at the end of the year. It was such a hit that the following year, we decided to hold run club twice a month throughout the year. We are now in our second full year of run club! Every other month I check in with Lauren and her secretary Nancy, to put the dates for the next few months on the calendar. Lauren orders the special charms that we hand out to the kids. I write occasional announcements for our weekly newsletter and an email blast to inform parents of the dates for each month and the details. Some include the benefits of running, wearing proper shoes, bringing and drinking water, etc. These newsletters are also the place where I ask for any volunteers. I currently have +nine volunteers that help me on various weeks and it is helpful to have at least two or three other helpers each week. I have a sign-up genius link that I send to them as the dates are set-up. Most of the original volunteers are my friends and we have children in the same grades.” Historically, Dublin Elementary has been very effective at fundraising. Share your thoughts on the Jaws-a-Thon and how do the funds raised impact the classrooms?

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Dublin School District Looking Above and Below Ground to Tackle Overcrowding

April 1, 2015

Two Story Portable Classroom

Dublin was recently listed as the second fastest growing city in California. In an interview last year Dublin’s School District superintendent noted that “growth does come with challenges”. During the City of Dublin Mayoral race last year managing growth was a major theme. With a seemingly endless demand for new homes, Dublin’s school district is looking for innovative solutions to the resulting classroom crunch.

Building more schools will address some of the capacity crunch: Dublin’s latest school addition, Amador Elementary School, with a capacity for 950 students, opens this fall, and the City of Dublin and the Dublin School District recently announced a partnership to build two additional schools.

While many school districts have struggled with declining enrollment, program cuts and school closures, Dublin has faced the opposite challenge. To completely address the capacity issue the District is looking both above and below ground for solutions. Some of the options being explored according to a leaked report:

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Meet Albert Lee – Green Elementary School Site Council Member and Difference Maker

March 30, 2015
Difference Maker Albert Lee

Difference Maker Albert Lee

In our continuing series highlighting Dublin Unified School District adult volunteers, reached out to Green Elementary School Principal Joe Romagna. He quickly offered up Mr. Albert Lee as a worthy individual to profile. Albert is a true transplant to California. He was born in Texas, lived in Pittsburgh and for a period of time in CT before coming to the Bay Area in 2008. Along the way, he attained an undergraduate degree from Caltech and an M.S. from University of California Berkeley. While Albert, his wife Jina and three children reside in Dublin, Mr. Lee operates a tutoring service in the Lamorinda area.

His clients are generally middle and high school students so he meets with them Sunday through Thursday between 3:00 – 10:30 PM. He provides this large window as some of the older students participate in sports and other activities. In addition to ACT and SAT preparation, Albert has subject matter expertise in the areas of physics, mathematics and chemistry. He notes that it is difficult to succeed in this industry without a solid foundation in math skills.

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Dublin High School ROP Photojournalists Capture Talent Show, Honors Night

March 29, 2015

Dublin High School Tri-Valley ROP students Marcus Dotson, Aaron Johal, Adrian Tamayo, and Nick Wagner teamed up to capture two terrific events showcasing student achievement at Dublin High, the annual student Talent Show and annual Honors Night.

Dublin High School Honors Night 2015 Photo Credit Aaron Johal 10ROP photojournalist Adrian Tamayo, “Many smart and great students were awarded for all their hard work that night, for all the dedication they had put into school to succeed. Hearing the speeches from the awarded students was quite a motivator and very encouraging. It’s a good feeling to hear from a fellow high school scholar and not only see them rewarded for their achievements, but also they leave their wise words of advice to other junior classmates so you can hear their experiences and their struggles. Though I was not given an award at the ceremony, I still had a great time at Honors Night.”

Dublin High School Talent Show Nick Wagner 24ROP photojournalist Marcus Dotson, “Of the many impressive acts that night, a couple of my favorites were Kevin Sun, Noah McMoyler and Joonie Jong, Darrion Carion, Kat Cordero and Jocelyn Deleon. Kevin Sun’s B-boy dancing was very entertaining to watch, he kept me interested and amped up. Noah McMoyler gave me goose bumps when his voice hit certain notes, something that only happens to me when I listen to new music and new sounds that I appreciate. Joonie Jong, Darrion Carion, Kat Cordero and Jocelyn Deleon had a great sound together. The way all of their instruments and voices went together was very pleasing. Over all the talent show was very good and I’m happy I went.”

Photo collages from both events:

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Tri-Valley ROP Digital Media Students Capture St. Patrick’s Day 2015

March 27, 2015

Tri-Valley ROP teacher Chris Meyer reached out to recently looking for a platform for his students to share their visual communications skills. was happy to partner. Here is the first set of photos from several Tri-Valley ROP Digital Media students. ROP Digital Media includes practical training in Visual Communications, Animation, and Game Design. The Tri-Valley ROP program “provides engaging learning opportunities for high school students eager to acquire career training and technical skills essential for business and industry employment.”

Marissa Medeiros, Granada High School Senior:

“While at the festival taking photos, we walked around some of the booths to check out all the different jewelry and clothes. If only I had the money, I would’ve bought a ton of sundresses there! There were many rides that I wish that I would’ve gone on while I was there, but unfortunately I had to go to work in the late afternoon. There was so much food and the parade was really nice. This was my first time at the City of Dublin Saint Patrick’s Day Festival, and it was a great experience. If I have the time when I’m in college, I’ll definitely come back out next year to experience it again!”

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