Holden, an alternative high school

Imagine spending much of your school day dodging threats from bullies. Now picture your teachers turning a blind eye to these tormentors while accusing you of sabotaging your education.

My name is Gabe and the time I spent attending traditional schools led me to lose trust in my teachers and view school (and learning) as something to dread. To say that I hated school would be an understatement.

I didn’t do well in traditional school environments. The teachers were not equipped to teach gifted students like me with ADHD and assumed that I wasn’t trying, even though I was. My ADHD causes me to learn differently.

“Before attending an alternative school, I associated learning with struggling.”


All of that shifted for me when I discovered Holden, an alternative high school located in Orinda, California. In June I graduated from Holden with academic confidence and a game plan for my life after high school.

What An Alternative High School Education Means To Me

In my experience, the main goal of a traditional model of education was to get me to memorize facts and figures and regurgitate that information on a test. I never felt like I was seen or heard as an individual when I attended conventional schools.

Holden, (the alternative high school I chose to attend) was a complete 180 degree departure from the mainstream schools I’d attended in middle school. The teachers focused on creating a learning environment that is small and tailored to teach each student in a way that respects their individual learning style.


Holden, an alternative high school

Alternative High School Increased my Confidence

Once I started attending Holden, the burden of worrying about how I would fit in academically lifted and I was more relaxed and confident. I opened up and it was much easier to socialize and make friends. The close relationships I developed with the students and staff made Holden feel more like a family than a school.

Students treated as unique individuals

I used to feel uncomfortable around adults. Before Holden, I did not view my teachers as people. To me, they were more like prison guards waiting to punish anyone who did not obey the rules.  

At Holden the teachers adapted the way they taught to meet the learning styles of each student, as opposed to the students adapting their way of learning to fit the school. They also showed genuine interest in our lives as students and our progress outside of school. I always felt respected and heard.

My individual interests mattered

The class sizes were small enough for the teachers at Holden to really take the time to get to know me (and the other students) on an academic and personal level. I developed close relationships with all of my teachers and formed a special bond with Katie, my Chemistry teacher. She saw how much I loved science and engineering and introduced me to an astrophysicist named Kirsten Howley who eventually became my mentor!

Preparation for life after high school

Going to an alternative high school like Holden helped to relieve the anxiety I used to have around attending school.  With the support of the Holden teachers and staff, applying to college no longer felt like the apocalypse.

I’ll be attending Merritt College this fall studying what I love: science and engineering.

Why an alternative high school worked for me

I was never happy in traditional school settings. I felt stuck. School sucked for me. After attending an Information Session at Holden I decided to come for a visit day and It changed my life.

If you (or your child) is feeling stuck in life or in your high school experience, an alternative high school might transform your life. That’s what it did for me.

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