Catching Up With a Grad Sierra Jenkins, ’01 – enjoying a life unimagined
Sierra Jenkins, a former Index-Tribune reporter, has found success with the California Charter School Association.
Sierra Jenkins is living proof of the statistical estimate that more than half of all the jobs of the near future haven’t even been invented yet. Jenkins, Sonoma Valley High class of ‘01, and a former Index-Tribune reporter, is currently the communications director for the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) in Los Angeles. Her job revolves around social media that hadn’t been invented when she was back in high school imagining her future career.
“When I was younger, I wanted to be an investigative reporter. Since then, dozens of major newspapers have gone out of business. When I was young, I said that I would never work for a nonprofit, never work for the government and never live in Los Angeles. I have since done all those things,” said Jenkins.
Her job combines public relations and advocacy, with a focus on improving California’s public schools. CCSA’s mission is to leverage the collective advocacy power of the charter school movement to grow new charter schools, strengthen existing charter schools and ensure accountability. Jenkins’ role in communicating that mission to current and potential charter school parents and educators, is critical to the organization’s future success (calcharters.org).
“I am very pro-public education,” said Jenkins, “I received an outstanding education at Sonoma Valley High School, but my eyes have been opened since moving to L.A. Not all kids receive a great public education and they should. All parents want the best for their children. We need to change our thinking to broaden that – ALL children in California are OUR children – we must demand the best for each and every one of them.”
Like many graduates, Jenkins’ life has been a series of twists and turns since high school. She had always planned to attend a U.C. school but her counselor at Sonoma Valley High suggested that she consider a small liberal arts college with the thought that it might reward her strong academic standing with excellent financial aid.
Jenkins was offered a full-tuition scholarship at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, widely regarded as one of the top private schools on the West Coast. “When I visited Lewis & Clark, I fell in love with the school, especially its international bent and focus on excellent teaching, and I also fell in love with Portland,” explained Jenkins.
Lewis & Clark is small, a fact that originally worried Jenkins, but she said, “I actually loved being part of a small school, and had so many opportunities to be a leader in student activities and be involved with everything from the school newspaper, to playing on the varsity soccer team to dancing in the luau. It was also great experience to get out of California and out of my comfort zone.”
Jenkins learned as much from her peers as she did in her coursework. “I learned maybe one-third in the classroom and the rest from the wonderful people I met along the way, especially studying abroad in Cuba and Mexico. I was exposed to so many new things in college, from veganism to Ghanaian dance to Japanese tea ceremonies.”
In her free time, Jenkins writes and takes photographs. She puts out a great blog, articulate and diverse in its focus, at cruzandocalifornia.wordpress.com/ that is accompanied by gorgeous photos of her travels around California and in Mexico, where she still spends a great deal of time. She also runs a very successful videography business, with her boyfriend, that specializes in La Quinceanera parties.
Jenkins’ first job right out of college was as a reporter at The Sonoma Index-Tribune. At the age of 13, she had founded a small neighborhood newspaper, The Oak Lane Journal, that covered very local news and hit 30 subscribers at its peak. “I am grateful to the I-T, particularly Patricia Henley, my first boss, for giving me a chance,” she said.
Through jobs that led her from industrial development in Mexico City to politics in Los Angeles, Jenkins learned that, “The world is changing fast so you have to be adaptable. I had goals and I worked hard, but I am where I am today by being open to opportunities that I hadn’t even imagined.” Switching jobs and careers without a safety net can be scary, she explained. “But I’ve never regretted the risks I have taken. Sometimes you just have to go for it.”