Yo’el, 17, attended since age 4
What do you like doing at DVS?
Y: I like playing with my friends. That’s the biggest. But I think in general the most enjoyable thing is the social interaction and everything that comes along with it. There’s no particular piece that I enjoy the most. I play my games, I like role-playing, but I also enjoy just walking around and talking to staff members or people not really in my immediate group. Hanging out is mostly what I enjoy.
Over time, have there been changes in the things you like doing?
Y:Most certainly. When I was younger, I was only really interested in the gaming aspect, the video games and the role playing. As I’ve grown older it’s definitely shifted over into more of the social and just sort of talking and not necessarily doing anything towards a particular end but just more meandering through the school and letting things flow through, and perhaps reading books.
I go to DVC [Diablo Valley College] concurrently, and I’m very happy with it. There’s a bunch of things I’m really interested in. I tend to take night classes, because I enjoy my time at DVS, so I prefer to wait until night to go over to the college.
I have usually taken classes every other semester at DVC, that’s been pretty solid, I’ve been doing that since I was 13. I just will do a class or two and then stop for a semester because I like to take a break and cool off. I have taken several multimedia courses. I’ve also taken language courses and will be taking more in the future because it’s something that fascinates me. I took a Japanese course and I will probably be taking a Russian course sometime soon. There are endless languages I’m interested in. I did one music course over the summer, a guitar course. It’s not quite my area of skill but it was quite entertaining. I’m more interested in digital music.
How do you decide what to do each day?
Y:Usually it’s planned, at least in part, beforehand on the previous day. For instance perhaps I was playing a game with my friends and a day just ended, so we figure out when everyone’s coming in the next day so we can continue that game. Aside from that, if there’s nothing actually happening, I just wander around and anything that catches my eye I participate in.
How do you get the resources you need?
Y:The internet. I definitely use computers for all my information gathering. Usually I research information on the laws of physics and solid data for games, such as densities of materials, chemical interactions, human anatomy, different animal sizes, and ranges of things I can use to better create a realistic world for my games. Or if it’s more physical, then there are repositories at school for the cards and the board games. I’m not playing video games, board games, or card games here quite as much. It’s mostly role playing dice games.
What are you most proud of that you’ve done during your time at DVS?
Y: I’m most proud of one particular game that I ran for two years straight, sometime back. It was very popular. I’m happy and feel that I had a success because of the length of time that it ran. Usually games will run for a week or a month, but two years is a very long time for a small game like that to be running. It had eight players or so, with multiple characters each. It was really engaging, and people would come to me and ask to play it, so it was just fulfilling.
What is your best skill or talent?
Y: I would probably say dealing with electronics. I find that there isn’t really any electronic device that I can’t figure out how to do anything you could possibly want to do with, in under an hour. For instance, cell phones or small devices like PDAs, people have come to me and not known how to do something on it. I’ve never seen this device before, it’s a brand I don’t know, and without damaging it I can figure out how to do what they need, plus more. I like fiddling with things, and that ends up getting to that end. I just know where to look.
Is there anything you are working on improving?
Y:Two things. One is I’m working on improving my artistic ability. I like art but I’m not particularly good at it, so I’m working on it but that’s a very slow process. The other would be making websites, something that I also enjoy doing and I’m fairly good at. I’m constantly trying to figure out how to do that better and learn little tricks to progress me in that area.
For the art I mostly practice; I sit and I draw. The area I have trouble with is drawing humans. Probably eventually I will take a figure drawing class at DVC [Diablo Valley College] because it’s important to me to know how to do those sorts of things. But for now if I want to know how to do something and I get stuck, I look online. I have several books I’ve downloaded that have good information. I’m particularly good at copying things just by looking at them and then drawing them and tweaking them until they look good. I learn from doing that, because I get more built into muscle memory so I know where things should go and what needs to be done to improve the look of it.
In terms of improving the website design, I am using an online video training library that has hundreds of videos on different programs from simple to advanced. I learn a lot from watching those videos. If I need something very specific I’ll just search the internet for other tutorials.
Has the staff helped you in any way?
Y:Most certainly. Mostly what they’ve done for me is provided boundaries. Especially when I was younger, they wouldn’t put up with me. I was quite a troublemaker. They helped me learn what I could do and what was not acceptable, and that definitely helped to build my character as I am now.
Aside from that, they’re good people and they make good conversation. At times I ‘ve had arguments or misunderstandings and haven’t agreed with them, but it’s part of the human experience. They’re people, like everyone else who comes to DVS.
What do you think about how decisions are made at DVS?
Y:I think it’s a good process. There are things in the Law Book that have changed that I think probably shouldn’t have been changed. There’s a large amount of people who are followers, and if you get one person in a certain area to suggest something, then [their motion is] going to pass because they’re the majority, even if they’re not actually correct. That seems to be a problem with democracy in general.
There’s the School Meeting, but people don’t actually attend it very much. And I’m guilty of that myself. The problem is that if you don’t go every single time, then if someone does go, they can have [a motion] appear and then it’ll pass because they are the only one there. I don’t think it’s quite right to have something possible to move if there aren’t enough people there, and there is no one to question it. So there are definitely problems, but it’s workable. It functions. And it’s so far superior to anything else I’ve seen that there’s not really much you can complain about.
How do people get along together here?
Y: There are definitely groups of people that do different things, and those groups can clash, but even within the groups people get along with each other like they would in any other situation. Being in the school and interacting with people in the school is no different from doing so outside of the school, anywhere else. It doesn’t matter where you go, you’re going to have conflicts.
I get in arguments with my friends, but it usually lasts a day and not past that. People are quick to recover, and because of the fact that we are subject to these kinds of conflicts, they don’t last as long. It’s good to have several conflicting opinions but not actually fall apart. People generally get along, not all the time and not without complaint, but people are living together here, and if you’re not getting along with someone it’s going to make your life more difficult. So the tendency is to put up with it because it makes your life more enjoyable, even if they are a pest.
Have you ever had a conflict or frustration here?
Y: Oh, more than I can count. Most of them have been resolved without the aid of the JC [Judicial Committee]. My particular group is not too keen on writing complaints, so we end up resolving things with speech. There have been times I’ve written up complaints and those have been resolved; there are times I’ve had conflicts that haven’t been resolved that I didn’t end up writing complaints about. It takes quite a bit to get to me.
Everyone, including staff, has different opinions and that makes for a problem sometimes, and I’ve definitely had my fair share of those sorts of conflicts. Most of them usually get resolved quickly. Usually after a disagreement the two parties will get back together and discuss it, come to a conclusion or sort of an impasse, or it’ll just fade. That’s probably what happens most of the time, is that what you’re unhappy about at first isn’t important enough to infringe on your life, and ends up disappearing by the next day or after two days. You just get back to doing what you were doing before, because [the issue] is not important, it’s not worth ruining yourself over.
What would you advise another kid who is thinking about coming to DVS?
Y:Take a visiting week, and come in without expectations. Pretty much no matter what you’re thinking, it’s going to be different. So don’t expect you’ll find something here. Don’t expect perfection. If you just look at it and let yourself experience it, then I’m pretty sure that you’ll enjoy it and want to come.
There are people that it’s not right for. Just because this school is by many people considered a superior form of education, people are different, and something else might be better for you. Let yourself experience DVS and see how things go.
What are you thinking of doing after you leave DVS?
Y: I’m going to continue with DVC classes, and mostly I’m going to focus on building my business. I’ve started a web design business and I want to get that really going. It’s starting off, but just don’t have as much time to dedicate to it as I will once I have left DVS. I will, hopefully, begin making more money and become even more independent than I am now. I intend on getting a driver’s license soon. I’m doing research on it. Aside from that, I’m just going to let things flow. I’m open to whatever else might happen.
What has been the biggest influence on you?
Y:My freedom to be able to do the sort of mental activities that I’ve done previous to now, which is mostly the games that I played. It’s all brain training, and I’ve been able to do that because of this environment. Definitely freedom, something that I get here that I might not have gotten somewhere else, and it’s definitely shaped my personality.