2016-12-09 / Schools

Simi adult school celebrates a new beginning

Campus has new name, motto
By Michael Aushenker


ADULT SCHOOL REBOOT—Students and faculty gather for the relaunch of the Simi Valley Adult School Dec. 5. Below, student Ashley Ferrer cheers as Principal Michele Arso speaks during the event, which celebrated the campus’ 80th anniversary and the school’s new name: the Simi Institute for Careers and Education. 
Photos by BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers ADULT SCHOOL REBOOT—Students and faculty gather for the relaunch of the Simi Valley Adult School Dec. 5. Below, student Ashley Ferrer cheers as Principal Michele Arso speaks during the event, which celebrated the campus’ 80th anniversary and the school’s new name: the Simi Institute for Careers and Education. Photos by BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspapers The continuing-education institution long known as the Simi Valley Adult School has a new name, a new logo and a new approach.

School officials celebrated the launch of the Simi Institute for Careers and Education, as well as the campus’ 80th anniversary, on Monday.

Before an audience of 100 on the courtyard of the newly christened school, Principal Michele Arso said she looks forward to “empowering adults with an academic institution that is supporting their lives in a passionate, collaborative and success-driven setting.”

What’s new at the institute: additional classes and the on-site Job and Career Center, which debuted in August.

What remains unchanged: its 1880 Blackstock Ave. address (opposite Apollo High School) and core academic offerings.

After SVUSD undertook a districtwide image overhaul last year, Arso and other administrators at the adult school decided they wanted to follow suit, said Jeannette O’Brien, spokesperson for the institute.

“It wasn’t a matter of losing enrollment,” she said. “We wanted to be current.”

80 years of continuing education

Established in 1936 and located in Simi’s geographic center near Blackstock and Los Angeles avenues, the adult school started out as part of Simi Valley Union High School.

Across eight decades, the institution has assisted people with learning English, with obtaining General Education Development certificates and high school diplomas, and with training for specific vocations, including manufacturing and health industry jobs.

The campus, which has 5,254 students enrolled, also provides on-site child care for students.

Superintendent Jason Peplinski, Director of Secondary Education Deborah Salgado and school board member Bill Daniels were among the district officials who attended the Dec. 5 celebration along with faculty and students.

Peplinski praised the reinvigorated campus as being invaluable.

“We’re so proud to have this institution in our school district,” he said from the podium.

Entering 2017, Arso’s administration will consider including more classes on its roster of about 100 courses, on top of recent additions like barbering and mud makeup in the cosmetology department.

Michellene DeBonis, principal of Los Angeles-based marketing firm Zeste, who also consulted on SVUSD’S recent districtwide rebranding effort, said the adult school’s image makeover was not about whitewashing with a slick ad campaign but about drawing out campus strengths: solid courses and solid teachers.

DeBonis helped devise the new name and website. She also helped formulate the institute’s new slogan: “Be what’s possible.”

Revitalized identity

After the ceremony, students and faculty gathered outside the institute’s new Job and Career Center for birthday cake.

Sandi Knox, a job developer at the center, helps students write resumes, learn social media and prepare for job interviews.

She said the school’s revitalized identity will be helpful to her, especially as she enters the community in the spring — at the April 29 San Fernando Valley job fair, for example — to recruit new students.

Enjoying a celebratory slice of cake, student Mariam Mahmood, who is learning English as a second language, said she loves attending the school.

“The teachers are very nice,” she said. “They come to your level. They’re very friendly.”

As an employee, ESL instruction assistant Susan Burden finds the rebranding effort exciting.

“This is a safe, comfortable place,” she said, explaining how important that feeling is to ESL students. “For many students coming from other countries, we might be the first contact that they have.”

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