“My partner had to close her business due to Covid and all of a sudden Oakland rent was really expensive and we had to move someplace where we could afford to be,” Brodkey said. The couple decided to try out living in Eureka, roughly five hours north of the Bay Area, where rent was cheaper, until school reopened in person.
Brodkey’s partner found work and Brodkey taught remotely. They both planned to return to Oakland, but when they tried to find housing in February 2021, Brodkey said rents had increased even more. “In some ways I’m making a decision and in some ways the decision was made for me,” she said, of her decision to quit teaching at Fremont after this year. She’s looking for a teaching post in Eureka now.
Brodkey says she applied to teach at Fremont five years ago because people who work at the school are “scrappy and creative” and fight hard for their English language learner students, who make up the majority of the school. But she says things have been different for this graduating class.
“I’m very worried about them going out into the world with I think much less preparation than seniors normally get,” she said. “And this year, there’s been so many students that have just kind of fallen off the map.” Of 153 seniors who began the year at Fremont, 138 will graduate according to school administrators, a graduation rate of about 90 percent, similar to the senior class from last year, according to Nidya Baez, Fremont High Assistant Principal.
Brodkey says school staff was able to reconnect with many students by doing outreach to homes and helping provide assistance to families, but the continuous in person support that the school prides itself on took a hit during distance learning. Brodkey says that’s the kind of support that can not only help determine whether a kid graduates, but also sets them up for their future.
“There are students who could have had a more solid post high school plan, who don’t have that because that support hasn’t been there,” Brodkey said, adding that not all seniors are interested in college because many see work as a priority.
“There’s a lot of students who really would benefit from something structured and something that’s really going to put them on a path for some kind of career, build a real strong skill set,” said Brodkey. For the last couple of years, she’s brought in speakers from places like AmeriCorps, California Conservation Corps and Cal Fire to talk about other post high school options. This year, she said there was increased interest for these programs, even if it was done virtually this year.
Dealba Perez herself needed a plan. “I didn’t even apply for colleges because I was so busy with work,” she said. “Ms. Brodkey was helping me with programs that were going to be in the summer.” Dealba Perez liked the idea of entering a program that would give her exposure to different career paths.
Brodkey said this kind of plan also protects students from moving onto community college without a focus, potentially using up credits while trying to find a direction, resulting in them having to pay for college before they have determined a career path.
Dealba Perez is counting on a program like AmeriCorps to pay her living expenses over the summer so she doesn’t have to work. As she and Brodkey wrap up their in person session at Fremont they agree to stay in contact over the summer to follow up on more applications. But until she has something solid, Dealba Perez says she will be picking up more hours where she works now, at the phone store.