Students inspire at annual SBCAE conference.
Each year, SBCAE teachers, classified staff and administrators gather for an annual professional development conference. The theme of this year’s event, another virtual gathering due to the pandemic, was service. A fitting topic, given that SBCAE is in the midst of a three-year planning cycle, focused on the central question of how we, adult schools and community colleges, might best serve adult learners in our community.
In the keynote address, Russell Hancock, CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, highlighted the stark contrasts that have become part of Silicon Valley’s DNA. Despite remarkable growth in the tech sector, service workers in the region have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Homeless encampments are visibly present across the region, sometimes right next to million dollar homes. Race, gender, immigration status, English language skills and low levels of formal education are unfortunately still major compounding factors that contribute to inequity in our communities.
Sadly, none of this is news to those of us who live and work here. Adult educators across our member agencies witness the impact of Silicon Valley’s disparate realities in their classrooms every day. The students who walk through our doors in pursuit of English language proficiency, job skills or postsecondary education, more often than not, are the very people who experience the challenges of living in one of the most competitive and most expensive regions in the U.S. on a daily basis.
It would be easy to become numb to this tale of the two valleys, to minimize the impact that inadequately funded public adult education programs can have on just a fraction of the people who could benefit from their services. And yet …
And yet adult education practitioners believe, and know, that they do make a difference in their students’ lives. During the conference, attendees had the opportunity to hear from five SBCAE students who shared their experience going to adult school or community college. They talked about how taking ESL classes helps them participate more fully in their communities, find a better job or advocate for their children in school. How contextualized ESL for childcare classes ease the transition from adult school to a community college career pathway. How Computer Science classes activate and refresh prior training received in a different country. How adult education makes people feel alive, happy and proud of themselves.
These students, and so many more served in our schools and colleges, inspire us every day to keep going. To teach our hearts out, whether it’s in the classroom or on Zoom, to design better programs, to make sure everyone gets at least a fighting chance at belonging here. We couldn’t be prouder of their accomplishments, and we are committed to do our part to serve the South Bay region now, in the next three years, and beyond.
You can watch video clips of the SBCAE Student Panel on the SBCAE YouTube Channel.