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Park Avenue Alternative Education hosts career day at Sierra College.

Jennifer Terman
Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Marty Mathiesen. Students from Park Avenue Alternative Education visit Sierra College as part of career day May 17. Ted Popson, former San Francisco 49ers player, speaks about his experience playing football in a small town and how with determination and passion he was able to play professionally.

The idea of a four-year college can be unrealistic for some students, which is why Sierra College offers certifications and associate’s degrees to provide vocational careers and opportunities.

The programs were introduced to Park Avenue Alternative Education students May 16 when principal Marty Mathiesen arranged tours around the campus with counselors who discussed classes, financial aid and programs.

“We designed this day where students will go to Sierra College, go to classrooms and be exposed to the benefits of AA degrees and certification,” Mathiesen said.

Mathiesen also arranged for Kevin Brady, a high school dropout who received his diploma at the age of 36, to speak to students about his experience and how he attended California State University, Chico and works in construction management in San Francisco.

“He spoke to my kids, and that was something that connected them,” Mathiesen said.

Alex Barnett, a Park Avenue student of two years, said he enjoyed learning about the different courses Sierra College offers and will consider attending the college.

“I’m definitely thinking about going to Sierra College because it’s in the town,” Barnett said. “I don’t want to go out to a different city, and it seems really nice that it’s so close.”

Mathiesen also arranged for Ted Popson, a San Francisco 49er player, to speak to students about how determination and perseverance can go a long way.

“He didn’t even play high school football and was told he could never be a professional football player, pursued it, went to college and went to the pros,” Mathiesen said.

Barnett found Popson’s story to be inspirational.

“I found that interesting because anybody can do anything they put their mind to, and that goes to show it,” Barnett said.

Park Avenue Alternative Education received a positive review and accreditation in March and has improved in terms of student behavior and progress, with a reduction in physical altercations and alcohol and drug-related suspensions from the “one offense” message Mathiesen has instilled in the students.

“He’s increased communications between staff, so kids aren’t able to get away with things they were before and he’s very black and white,” said Jim Amaral, school resource officer for Grass Valley Police Department.

Such consistency adapted students to a structured environment, which created a better school climate and culture, Amaral said, “which has decreased everything that goes along with that — bullying, school violence, drugs, alcohol, fights. All that stuff decreases when you have a positive and encouraging school climate. That’s what it boils down to.”

Mathiesen said the improvements are part of his uniform discipline practices with defined expectations.

“You have to get the culture straight. I came in and talked with my staff about what things were going to be important to move the school forward and a lot was management and behavioral things from students,” Mathiesen said.

“The first step I took was building a consistency and strong structure where everyone knew what to expect and teachers jobs were better and students felt comfortable and went to class engaged.”

Barnett said he has noticed a change in the school where students get along better and there are fewer violent outbreaks.

“It makes me happy that our school is changing and not just doing the bad stuff they used to,” Barnett said.

“I think a lot of kids are listening to the message that our principal is putting across and just wants it to show to a lot of places around town that we’re doing better because of lot of kids have been out of line and it seems like it’s really fixing itself and I like that.”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email jterman@theunion.com or call 530-477-4230.

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