An alternative route to success

Over the years, Creekside High School has helped hundreds of Sonoma teens stay in school and reach graduation by offering a safe and stable haven for students who are short on credits, whose families are in turmoil, or even those in trouble with the law or in a family way. The school offers a comprehensive curriculum in a dynamic environment that seem to just click with some students.
This year, 63 students are enrolled in the school. Of that number, 29 are in grades 9 and 10; 17 are in 11th grade; and another 17 are in grade 12. Of the 17 seniors, four have transferred to Sonoma Valley Adult School upon turning 18, one has graduated early, eight are preparing to graduate in June and three should be ready to graduate come December.

“Creekside is truly alternative education which is important for the community in that everyone doesn’t fit into the mainstream,” said Pam Garramone, principal of Creekside. “This school is critical for capturing those students so they can complete their education. Being able to do classes by credit or partial credit is key to that. I also think we’re going to see more of a need for these types of programs in the future. With adult education going away across the state and community colleges becoming more competitive, getting a high school diploma is paramount.”

Emily Simkins
Creekside class of 2007
Women’s ware buyer – Sonoma Old School

After graduating from Creekside, Emily Simkins attended Santa Rosa Junior College and worked in construction and food service before taking a job at Sonoma Old School in April of 2008. Starting as a sales representative, she quickly got the hang of retail and was promoted to the position of buyer within a year. She loves the job and even sells her own handmade jewelry and artwork in the store.

Of Creekside, Emily said that it was the best learning environment for her, having attended Sonoma Valley High School for freshman year, doing Independent Study as a sophomore and being homeschooled in her junior year. “I wish I’d gone to Creekside for all four years of high school. The teachers were awesome and the schedule fit my life. It helped me branch out and work on my art and learn to be independent,” said Emily who lives on her own and is fully self-supporting.

Emily is excited about returning to SRJC this summer for a degree in fitness, health and nutrition. She is enthusiastically optimistic that a door will open for her in that field and is looking forward to her next adventure.

Nicole Griffith
Creekside class of 2007
Licensed Vocational Nurse

Nicole Griffith was a regular high school student when she found herself pregnant with her now six-year-old son Eric. Transferring to Creekside gave her the support and stability she needed to finish high school and prepare herself for life as a mother.

“I was always a good student but I would have had to drop out of school if it weren’t for the teen parent program. Going to Creekside allowed me to have a more flexible schedule and one where I could bring my baby to school. The teachers were all supportive. All in all, it’s a great school.”
Following Creekside, Nicole attended Santa Rosa Junior College, graduating this past December with a degree in Vocational Nursing. She was hired in January at Spring Lake Village in Santa Rosa. She is enjoying her new job, the house she just moved into, and watching her son grow.
“There are a lot of kids that have challenges in their lives. Creekside helps them stay in school. Who knows where they’d be without that support.”

Sarah Alsip
Sonoma Valley Adult School class of 2012
Pets Lifeline full time shelter employee

Sarah Alsip moved to Sonoma from Rohnert Park during her sophomore year in high school. Always a good student, she found SVHS too big for her comfort level and transferred to Creekside after just a couple of months. Instantly a better fit, she attended Creekside for the remainder of sophomore year through the beginning of senior year. Upon turning 18, she transferred to the Adult School and will graduate this May with her diploma.

“Creekside was more welcoming than the high school. I felt lost there. But at Creekside, I did really well and made the honor roll. It was a great fit.”

This past summer, Sarah worked part-time at Pets Lifeline through Social Advocates for Youth. At the end of the summer, she was hired by PLL and was then offered a full time position at the shelter in December. Her duties run the gamut from cleaning kennels to socializing pets to answering phones and everything in between.

“Pets Lifeline is great. I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.”

Sam Murillo
Creekside class of 2011
A man who leaps at every opportunity

Creekside hasn’t really lost track of graduate Sam Murillo. It’s just that he moves so fast it can be difficult to pin down where he is and what he’s doing. Unable to reach Sam for this interview, his former teacher Walter Williams said that, most recently, he had put his professional boxing career on hold for an opportunity to interview for a position on the set of the Maury Povich show. It seems that Sam will leap at any and all opportunities that life throws his way. Luckily today, he only jumps at the good ones.

Sam attended Creekside as a junior and senior and was named Student of the Year both years. Exemplary performance from a young man who, just a year or two earlier, had been living alone in a ramshackle trailer in Southern California after his father was sent back to Mexico. Forced to steal and sell drugs just to survive, Sam was left with few options. A sister intervened and found him a place in Sonoma with two aunts who took him in. He enrolled in Creekside and quickly, life took a turn for the better.

Spend any time around Sam and it’s easy to see why his teachers honored him with Student of the Year. Quiet and polite with a reserved intelligence, Sam is eager to please and will go far, whatever punches come at him.

Angela Farias
Creekside class of 2012
Student of the Year

Students of the Year fly in pairs and Angela Farias got to grace the dais with Matt Jones in 2012. A teen mom, Angela’s two-year-old daughter Fernanda was with her when she received the award at a recent school board meeting. Angela is expecting again this June and, with two babies under belt is ready to tackle the next step in her life, being a full time mom.

But Angela understands that education is her future. Wanting to learn and gain as much knowledge as possible, she puts full effort and care into her assignments. Through Creekside, she volunteers and has worked with SAY and the Boys & girls Club, offering her bilingual skills to younger children by supporting their academic and emotional needs. She is actively involved with the district’s Teen Parent Program and is a big fan of academic field trips that allow her to explore higher education options.

After her second baby is born, she’ll take a year or so to be a mom and then, she’ll be back at her education with dreams of becoming a phlebotomist. Angela originally wanted to study to be a nurse but decided phlebotomy was a faster route to a well paying job. “I liked the career when I found out about it. It’s flexible and the course of study is something that appeals to me.”

Matt Jones
Creekside class of 2012
Student of the Year

Matt Jones is one of two Student’s of the Year for 2012. A Creekside student since last year, Matt may be familiar to Valley movie-goers from his job at Sonoma Cinemas. Cheerfully selling tickets and slinging popcorn since December, Matt is a stellar employee and is training for a position in management.

In many ways, Matt could be the poster boy for the perfect Creekside student. Almost as soon as he’d enrolled at the school he was incarcerated into juvenile hall for non-school related activities. While there he went through a personal transformation and realized that he had the choice to either be “in the system” or move out of it. Upon release, he returned to Creekside and became a quite yet powerfully unassuming leader in school including maintaining a 4.0 GPA and earning certificates as a Top Credit Earner, among other honors and responsibilties.

Upon graduation from Creekside, he plans to attend Santa Rosa Junior College and would like to become a probation officer or juvenile corrections officer.

“I feel like I can talk to troubled teens and relate on their level,” said Matt, who has had his own share of trouble with the law.


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