David Thain is a Gateway to College student at Riverside City College in Riverside, California.
David loves parables and analogies. During our conversation, he brought up the story of Icarus as an illustration of missed opportunity. And he compared
education to water: in order for water to be useful, you need to know how to utilize it, not merely that it exists. David says that when he was
young he couldn’t wait to grow up. Now, with newfound curiosity, he wants to take advantage of his educational opportunities to learn as much as
he can. After he finishes the Gateway to College program at Riverside Community College, David plans to complete his general requisite credits
at Riverside before transferring to UC Berkeley to study environmental engineering, chemistry, or linguistics.
Not long ago, David’s outlook on education was very different. He started kindergarten normally but, by the end of grade school, he was getting into
fights. In middle school, things became more difficult and he no longer wanted to attend school. David started ditching, drinking, and hanging
out with the wrong people. These activities pulled him away from an “I can do it” mentality. Throughout 8th grade and freshman year, David didn’t
leave the house. He spent his days watching anime instead. In sophomore year he started school again but stopped caring after one month. This manifested
into skipping half days and eventually ditching the entire school day with friends. During all of this, David was going through major changes in
his home life. His mother died when he was fourteen. His brother became involved in gangs, and his father moved the family to a new neighborhood
for a fresh start. For those closest to David, education was regarded as an obligation, not as an opportunity. Growing up, he knew that he was
expected to complete school, but he did not see this happening with everyone around him.
By senior year, David didn’t know how he was going to complete high school. There was a requirement of 225 credits to graduate and he had earned 10.
One day his counselor, Mr. Estes, mentioned Gateway to College. David was immediately interested because of the chance to attend college classes.
At Gateway, David slid into his old habit of procrastination until, after three months, he was given an ultimatum: complete two units by the original
due date. In most cases, it takes two weeks to complete two units worth of work. David was given a single day to finish. This ultimatum marked
a turning point for him. David completed the assignment on time and began to understand something that he had not at traditional high schools:
“If I don’t figure out how to learn to the best of my ability, then I won’t learn."
David credits Gateway with teaching him a sense of responsibility; he enjoys the feeling of accomplishment that accompanies a finished assignment or
task. This makes him recognize and appreciate his power. At traditional schools David felt that he was merely given a pen and paper and then blended
in with a bunch of other students. In contrast, he feels welcome at Gateway to College and likes that he is treated as an adult. Counselors’ doors
at Gateway are always open to him: “If something is upsetting, they take the time to sit with me, understand my level, and explain things”. After
joining the Gateway to College community, David learned that he is not the only one who has struggled with school, lost a parent, and rejected
opportunities. David knows that his past is often misunderstood, but he also knows that his community of support has helped him and taught him
to better represent himself. One of the biggest lessons that he’s learned is that, before doing something, you need to imagine yourself doing it.
David imagines himself working in the sciences, and likens his own transformational experience to terraformation of planets. After completing his
degree in a scientific field, terraform machines may transition from a metaphor for life into his future career.