Episode 3: Under Fire

was November 8, the morning of your birthday Navy, and we were on a way to get bagels.
We got the shop and I pulled up my phone as a text from my friends. And there was a fire in paradise. But there's always a fire in paradise. So I kind of ignored it blew it off the lower, you know, bagels, there was a small TV in the corner of the cafe that was showing the local news and add a report of a 1000 acre fire those bigger than I expected. So again, my brother called who works at the hospital nearby.
He answered the phone saying he just left work and the building he works at is inflamed.
And I asked him, How bad is it Jesse? And he said, it's the worst case scenario.
This is your host navy and I bringing to you a special episode of Get Schooled. What you just heard is a conversation I had with Ben Mallory, who's from Paradise, the small town in northern California that the campfire raged through on November 8, 2018.
This has been the most destructive wildfire in California history. And a lot has changed since then,
after I hung up with Jesse, we continue to, you know, bagels and kept our eye on the TV in the corner.
And we found that the fire kept getting bigger quickly. And so I decided to give Jesse a call again. And he picked up the phone and this time he was sitting in a parking lot off the road. And he said he was with the fire truck that was spraying water around the cars to keep them from burning. And he said he was stuck there because there's a wallet flame on either side of the road gridlock traffic both ways on the road.
And then the line cut out.
Jesse and the rest of Ben's family are thankfully all safe from the fire. They've now relocated away from Paradise since they, along with their neighbors and a large part of their community have lost their homes.
A week after the fire. I went up to Chico, California, which is about 20 or 30 minutes from Paradise. I went up there to volunteer at a shelter and learn more about how the community was reacting and recovering after this tragic disaster. When I was in Chico. I met a boy from Paradise high school named Caleb, Caleb and moved to California without his parents and was essentially living alone in a trailer that he had bought. He had been quite excited to go to community college, and he'd saved up a considerable amount of money. But after this unexpected fire, he had to put it all towards rebuilding his life. When we asked Caleb if anyone from his high school had reached out to him, or what the game plan was for going back to school. He told us that he had no idea he hadn't gotten any emails from teachers or administrators checking in on him or letting him know what the situation was and what the plan was for being enrolled back in school.
Caleb was a senior at paradise High School. We didn't have a lot of time to chat with him to see what his plan was or if he had a backup plan. But I did get to go up to Chico a couple weeks. Later to talk to Doria Charlson.
Doria, and I met a month ago at a Marriott Hotel in Chico.
She was putting on a two day event for paradise high school students and students in any of the other neighboring high schools that might have been displaced or in any way affected by the campfire. Similar to Caleb, a lot of these students didn't know what their options were now after the fire had affected them. There were a lot of questions surrounding financial aid, college applications, resumes essays, and any other question that a high school senior has during this really complicated process
event today is is the college applicant workshop, what we're doing is, you know, hoping that students from Paradise calm and students from the county generally come and get some professional help with their college applications. So things like getting fee waivers for applications, getting extensions for certain schools, getting your essays chat, figuring out whether there are new colleges that they want to add to their list. Perhaps students thought they were going to college about they were going to go and commuting no longer have a place from where to commute, right. So all those type of things are the goal for today, we have about
eight independent school counselors here we have reps from the CSU us and from Willamette University. So that's really, really excellent. And, you know, some of the challenges that we faced last week, I worked with Dr. Elizabeth stone, who's based in San Mateo,
we're recognizing that a lot of students that they were eligible for this is us finding out that that's not the case because they are, you know,
we had we had students who thought a math class that they were taking is not actually a math class that is counted by the user. So how is that happening? Was the high school counting in or Yeah, so how it works. And this is true for every public high school in in California is that, you know, they use the High School's themselves have the ability to kind of set their own graduation requirements, even public schools, even public schools, I mean, they're based on like state standards, but then within that there's a lot of flexibility. So, you know, certain electives at the school can count towards XYZ graduation requirement. Those do not necessarily correspond to the CSU requirements. So that's the discrepancy. And then we also had students who had, you know,
these apps on their transcripts, that if you look at most schools, most public schools in California here even still graduate. And that's happening. Unfortunately, that does not count towards your CSU or you see transcripts. So if you have a D in a class, you can still graduate from high school, but it doesn't count towards your CSU application. Is this something that you expected or that you already knew, or it was not something I personally expected? I have I teach primarily at an Ivy League university I attended and elite school, but I went to public high school,
my high school is a very different socio economic bracket then than paradise high and, you know, coming out of the public school system, I was like, Okay, I got this. Yeah, it's going on. So unfortunately, you know, I think that this is more endemic and then, you know, this particular site like a site specific generally there is a lack of oversight accountability for this and, you know,
we kind of found out that there's like no complaint on this right at all when a school or in the count it as well. So, without, without that, you know, I mean, it's not a particular part isn't as high school I think the senior classes like 250 students, but still that's that's significant. And, you know, they're kind of profile for, you know, that you can look up online essentially shows that only 25% of graduating students have taken a college entrance exam likely the ICT eg Yeah, exactly. Which means a lot when those exams are required to get into sex, or you see you kind of mentioned this earlier, how they were counting a math class or a financial literacy classes, a math class.
So that's something that public schools or schools in general are allowed to do. I don't understand how this came about, like, I've never grown up and something I'm sure, yeah, so I mean, that's not I would say that that's not particularly uncommon. There are a lot of ways that tools, kind of configure what used to be called like, remedial math, essentially. And, you know, whether that is kind of
put into place through a course that is actually more qualitative and quantitative, or a class that, you know, might be called like, in terms of that actually doesn't correspond to like algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre calc, stuff like that. So it's not particularly uncommon, when is uncommon, I think, is the lack of communication about the fact that this doesn't correspond to a major requirements. And this yesterday, you see these communicated with students are mostly administration about like these discrepancies solely with students personally, solely with students. Yeah, they love their reactions, then to know this information. Oh, yeah, I mean, you know, I was working, I think I mentioned to you in our previous conversation, I was working with a student who,
I don't actually know whether she thought she was eligible just because of her GPA. But yeah, I mean, breaking down into tears and crowded room figuring out that like, what, even if it was a reach, you know, yeah, actually, just not an option at all. So, there are ways of getting around not having taken an entrance exam or not having an ag requirement. And normally that kind of motive redress for that would be applying to a private school, right? Unfortunately, if you have a GPA that is, you know, under 2.0, yeah, it's not particularly desirable. So, might as well either. So, you know, it sounds like she based on our conversation in attendees ago, that she's going to enroll in community college, college grad. And, you know, hopefully, she is able to, you know, follow through the cloud and transfer to where she wants to know what, what are your goals with this event, and with your organization? Yeah, I mean, I think our goals today are pretty simple, you know, Dr. Seuss lead a
little orientation this morning. And I think she's right in the sunset. You know, our goal really, is just to have students walk away with a sense of having accomplished something tangible. So whether that's finishing one as they are submitting one application such that, you know, they feel like they're in control of this process, and have something material that they can take away. So, you know, we hope students are, we have a couple of like, who wanted today, but we definitely have five registered for tomorrow, which is great. So, so people have been hearing about it, it's been on local calendars. But I think the goal is, is pretty small. And the hope is that these steps are incremental. Yeah, and the students continue. So we have this event today, and it's going on tomorrow, December 8, and ninth, but students can also register to be matched with a college have private college counselor, basically, anytime between now and the end of January, when applications are done. So students can also work remotely from here on out as participating in this event. And, and seeing all these systemic problems and challenges. What are your thoughts
for like the mid to long term for a community like this, that
regardless of the natural disaster would have been rather I'm prepared. Yeah, I think what's important is figuring out kind of where the deficiencies are right now, I think they're, you know, his attention to these types of problems know, I think the tangible solution is that what we're trying to do is get matched with high school juniors. So getting juniors prepare, so that they have the time to take the necessary entrance exams or to understand the transcript and make sure that it's sufficient. But I think starting earlier, like understanding college, that I see my understanding the requirements, and all of that is going to be really important than, you know, kind of a push generally, to value the counseling office actually, in a lot of these schools, and, you know, changing I think, some of the understanding of the role of community college in the sense that I think they kind of default, you know, this was true at my school to, which is, you know, as I mentioned, middle to upper middle class community is, you know, community colleges, not a catch, all right, and it serves a very specific purposes or critical purpose and providing education to students who don't feel ready or want to take advanced classes or don't have the other abilities maybe they have children maybe looking for and then really don't have the opportunity to, to go to college. I'm a huge proponent of community college I went personally hoping to teach there, but it is not a replacement for for your call. Yeah, if you know that you can get into a four year college, right? And you can afford to do that. And there are a lot of ways that school can be made affordable and if you have the assistance and the guidance and the mentorship to help you with that. So I think there is in some ways, you know,
for the college population, you I think there's a lot to be said about vocational programs and things like that we really need to be pushing that more but I don't think the acceptable answer as well they'll go to community college. Yeah, because there isn't the support where the counseling Community College to ensure that students graduate at a rate that is going to get them to where they want to go. Thanks so much.
Special thanks to Dr. Elizabeth stone of Camp Amelie college admissions, counseling for putting on this two day event in Chico. We'd also like to thank Doria for having this wonderful conversation with us as well as Ben Mallory for giving us some insight into what the situation was in paradise on November 8, as always a huge shout out to Connor Hormel for making all the music you've heard in this episode. You can check us out via soapbox project.org slash Get Schooled, like us on facebook@facebook.com slash soapbox, project podcasts or follow us on Instagram at soapbox project
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Nivi Achanta