Benicia High Explores Options For Life After High School

Students pose for the college and career tour in the admissions classroom at St. Mary’s College. (The Paw)

By Trina Bernal

    Benicia High School students went to our first college tour of 2019, where we went to Ruszel Woodworks, St. Mary’s, and Cal Maritime.

    If you are graduating this year and are interested in the trade business, we have a manufacturing business nearby called Ruszel Woodworks. They’re one of the few economically-conscious companies in Benicia, as they won Benicia’s Eco Award in 2015 for utilizing their resources wisely with trash reduction and recycling.

    Located in the Industrial Park here at Benicia, there are many positions you can take. A few notable ones are a “cabinetmaker” who cuts and measures wood, or “operator” who is proficient at operating a machine to design the product that may be in the next store you visit.

     The product above can be created in a mere hour or less. It takes a considerable amount of time to design each piece of this beautiful handiwork, but as technology progresses, production expectancy increases. Workers at Ruszel Woodworks effortlessly meet the standard thanks to their lead engineer Mathew Rondoni. So yes while it takes some time to outline the product, Ruszel Woodworks employees can create hundreds of products if everything is in order.

    Woodworks is one of the American occupations on the rise, according to Truity, to “grow 8% from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as average for all occupations.“ So it is a wise occupation to pursue.

     Ruszel Woodworks doesn’t believe in apprenticeships that aren’t paid, so if you are interested, the number to contact is Jumi Ikenaga at (707) 745-0979 or email They have taken in employes as young as 17.

    St. Mary’s College of Moraga is another college we attended. It’s a co-educational institution that encourages all pupils to take charge of their education. St. Mary’s Alumni Admissions Counselor Ardi Samonte was able to guide us in the college application process. Samonte was a communications and music major but he didn’t fail to keep up with his grades even though he took multiple college-level classes, sang, and learnt guitar.  

    Samonte shared with us the importance of familiarizing yourself with the colleges you’re applying to. For example, St. Mary’s is a Lasallian Catholic University with religious classes, but no mandatory mass. There are two theology courses interwoven in the mandatory general education courses, Bible and Interpretation. But you’re not expected to have a religious belief upon entry or even exiting the campus after graduation. The founding principles of St. Mary’s is based on how St. Mary’s founder Joseph De La Salle provided free education to poverty-stricken people from the streets.

    With a lot of prerequisite classes you must take for your chosen major, your social life may be reduced to nothing. But St. Mary’s doesn’t want you to neglect that. September term, you have your general education, but on your January term, you have a variety of fun classes to take, like ‘Binge-watch Breaking Bad’ to find themes, ‘Caffeine and Tea’ to discuss which flavors are most fragrant, ‘Children’s Story’ to write, design, and create a children’s storybook to read to one of your younger relatives, and ‘Slow Down and Go Outside Class’ to do exactly that. These classes are to assist with your major; for example, Breaking Bad is for your communications degree while Caffeine and Tea is for your chemistry degree.

    Not only that but you can also travel. About half of the St. Mary’s students are traveling because it’s part of the tuition. Your hotel and flight is paid for but you yourself have to pay for the class you want to take. Examples of places to travel to are South Korea where you can explore their country and pursue innovation, Ireland for its “Terrible Beauty”, Spanish to “Explore Spanish Character” and the “Past and Present”, and Mexico for its “Tradition and Modernity”.

    By the end of your second year, you can declare your official major, because St. Mary’s faculty understands how difficult it can be to find your major.

    If you’re interested you can apply. The application deadline is extended to February 15, and the ACT/SAT test scores are due March 15. Even if you’ve passed the deadline you can still apply; they have rolling admission and accept until they’re full of students. Our counselor told us that they once accepted a student some days before the first day of school, and even during the summer. Search Common App and click on the first link to have a chance of going to a college that’s in the heart of the Bay Area, near Berkeley, Walnut Creek, and Oakland. The staff recognizes that students not only have academics, but a personal life on the side, they do a holistic review where they review not only your weighted cumulative GPA of your four years, the superscores of your SAT and ACT, your 2-3 letters of recommendation, but also your personal essay where the only topic is you and you talk about yourself, your values, and other things St. Mary’s faculty asks you to answer. Don’t worry about the essay because it’s not expected to be written in any fancy way but rather personal as the St. Mary’s admissions staff care more about what you have to say rather than how you say it – that’s not to say you shouldn’t have a peer edit or a teacher edit it.

    Financial aid is generous at this private college, because in the 2017-18 academic year, Saint Mary’s offered a financial aid package approximately $33,000, which covers 70% of the $47,000 annual tuition. They also give you $20,000 if you enter the school with a GPA of 3.3 or above. You can also do a federal work-study program where you work while you continue your schooling, as well as sign up for grants and loans.

    There is currently a student population of 4,000 students, with an 11:1 student:faculty ratio.
    As Samonte said, “Enter to learn. Leave to serve.”

    Cal Maritime is another postsecondary institution where future students are treated like adults and have high expectations to meet, like the way the uniform is worn and how the bed is set up. With high expectations there are also quarters and inspections three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays in the morning at the quad. Announcements like awards and student recognition will be declared, so no student should miss out on the quarters and inspections weekly meetings.

   Cal Maritime is a 100% residential campus, with the exception of those who live close and can use public transportation to commute. In total, there are six majors, with oceanography coming in the fall 2020 (juniors, looking at you!) But while Cal Maritime offers housing to all students, they also offer traveling opportunities for all students after their sophomore year, especially if their major is international business & global studies, which is a 3-4 week study-abroad program where the Cal Maritime student can seek out the culture, learn about economics, and figure out the government infrastructure of various countries they explore in. Not only that, but if you’re interested in engineering, engineering technology, or marine transportation major, you’re encouraged to train on the Cal Maritime training ship called Golden Bear where you can man all systems of the 500 ft. ship, while your engineering peers oversee 16,000 horsepower engines.

    Other majors you can learn about are business administration, marine transportation, global studies and maritime affairs, mechanical engineering, marine engineering technology, and facilities engineering technology. All these majors offer the Maritime students an advantage over other non-Maritime students: a job after graduation. Employers take you more seriously if they know that you actively pursued your major not only in the classroom but outside, where you travel and intern abroad.

    Ladies, don’t let the 4:1 male female ratio throw you off. Don’t be pressured to follow a certain career path because you’re a female who’s good at math. If you don’t personally think math is for you that’s okay but there are other opportunities at Cal Maritime you can take part in, like the aforementioned international business major, as well as business administration. The objective of going to Cal Maritime is to get a hands-on experience with 19 other classmates in every class you have in an average Cal Maritime day. According to our admissions counselor who spoke with us, there is a current student population of 1,025 students with a 14:1 student faculty ratio. There are eight Maritime academies in the US, but one of our tour guides from Florida said the location pulled him to the West Coast’s Cal Maritime Academy because of its special title of being the only Maritime Academy in the West Coast

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