Brenan, 17, attended since age 11
What do you like doing at DVS?
B: I like role playing games, video games, cooking.
Over time, have there been changes in the things you like doing?
B:When I first came here we played a lot of video games, tons. Then I stopped playing video games and started role playing games, a lot. Then for one year I did a lot of cooking. Then I moved back into video games and role playing games. It just switches around.
Now I take more college classes. I’m spending time now mostly at Diablo Valley College. I took a jewelry class, a casting class, a speech class, art classes, martial arts classes, nutrition class … I’ve taken so many classes. I like learning. It’s a good way to learn, and generally I learn at my pace. I like doing things with my hands, which is the art thing. It’s basically interesting for me.
How do you decide what to do each day?
B:We come in the morning, and I talk to my friends for a while and we decide what to do from there. It depends on who’s here and what they brought and what everyone wants to do. It depends on what ideas we have.
How do you get the resources you need to do the things you choose to do here?
B:Most of the resources we need are very simple, or we already have them and bring them, so it’s not all that hard. Sometimes we’ll need to use a computer, and there are computers here. We bring the [role-playing game] dice; there are papers and pencils here. We bring the video games ourselves. When we want to cook something, we bring the ingredients.
What are you most proud of that you’ve done during your time at DVS?
B: College classes. I really enjoy college classes, because most people consider college classes to be challenging, and I generally don’t find them all that challenging. The biggest problem for me is I’ve always had trouble with focus, and so I’ve had to focus. The rest is generally easy. I just apply my mind to something.
What is your best skill or talent?
B: My ability to talk to another person or group of people. I usually use it to cheer up my friends, if that’s something that needs to be done. It’s a fairly useful talent that I’m at least decently good at.
I prefer to talk to just one person. If you’re speaking to one person you can use all the information you know about that specific person to address them and the needs they feel, their thoughts. Whereas when you’re talking to a group, you have to address group needs, group feelings. Some of the things you say, certain members of the group may not like. You have to try to go for the majority. When you’re talking to a singular person you can make sure that everything they want to think about is addressed, but when you’re talking to a group you can’t please everyone.
Is there anything you are working on improving?
B:Getting up late and procrastination. My time sense stuff and my focus stuff. I’ve been getting up earlier now. Why? Because it’ll make life a lot easier. I went to New York, and they’re three hours ahead of us, so now I stay on their time. Now I’ll get tired by 8 or 10 o’clock, so then going to sleep is easier and waking up is easier because I feel it’s later in the day. It’s relatively easy.
Has the staff helped you in any way?
B:Yes! I had issues with respect when I was young. The staff helped me by being people that I could respect. For the most part. Everyone has their failings. They gained my respect by working hard at something that is hard. It’s not easy to deal with some of the people and situations here. They’ve got to be here early, they stay late, and people don’t make things easy for them.
What do you think about how decisions are made at DVS?
B:In JC [Judicial Committee] sometimes decisions are made too light or too harsh, sometimes there are biases towards friendship, but in a general sense, they’re fair decisions. There aren’t any really big problems with it. Sometimes people are too easy to sway to one point or another, but generally everything functions fine, except not enough people show up to School Meeting. The difference in people showing up for School Meeting is whether they have something that they want to see passed, or something that directly affects them.
How do people get along together here?
B:They get along pretty well in general. There’s no real fights, there’s arguments, but most of the time people are just fine with each other. Me and my friends will tease each other, but no one ever gets really upset. So it’s generally a good thing.
Have you ever had a conflict or frustration that you resolved here? How did it get resolved?
B:Yes! Lots of them. Lots of conflicts, lots of resolutions. I’m pretty good at conflict resolution by now, because I create a lot of conflict. I’m a very conflictable person, because I’m very vocal, and I kind of step on things to get my views up. I’ve also learned to step down a bit.
Talking is a good way to resolve things. I almost never write complaints, which is a system that other people use to resolve things. I don’t like to resolve things that way, because I feel if you want to come out with someone as a friend, then trying to punish them doesn’t work as well as trying to talk it out.
How does DVS compare to other schools you’ve attended?
B: It’s much better than the public school I attended for a while. Much, much better. Most of the stuff they were trying to teach me – math, reading – I already knew. I learned bad social skills, to argue and be vicious about it.
What would you advise another kid who is thinking about coming to DVS?
B: Bring a sense of humor and some energy. With a sense of humor and some energy you can find almost anything to do here. If you don’t have a sense of humor, you probably wouldn’t like it here.
What are you thinking of doing after you leave DVS?
B:I’m going to do community college for a while, and then I’m going to get myself in shape and try and join the ROTC program. I want to join the army, get a degree in international geopolitical relations, international law, economics, that sort of thing. And become a politician one day.