Niki / JP Collaborative MIT- Rio Blog

It was great to hear from a local student today who has made her way to MIT – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology – a world class university and seat of science on the planet. From Oxnard to Boston, this blog connects a superintendent of the Rio School District to a freshman (1st year woman student) at MIT who reached out to the District to help in these coronavirus times. Here goes a shot at some Q&A that might be interesting on several levels;

Q1: Tell us about yourself. How did you choose MIT and how has the freshman year been?

I have recently graduated from Rio Mesa High School, class of 2019, and am now a first-year at MIT, class of 2023.

When I was applying for colleges, I knew that I wanted to major in engineering. I had applied to all schools as an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Major, so my dream school was MIT. (Big emphasis on dream) (…although coming to MIT has shown me that my interests extend to many other majors so I’m leaning towards declaring as Computer Science with a minor in Anthropology or Brain and Cognitive Sciences).

It wasn’t about me choosing MIT. It was more of MIT choosing me.

The week prior to 3/14, PI day, I made all sorts of plans to volunteer with different organizations to distract myself from the rejection letter that was sure to come. PI day then came. I got out my laptop as soon as I got home from school. My friends and teachers were so supportive. They kept asking me if I had gotten in yet. They were so sure. I went to the decisions page three minutes before it was supposed to come out, so I completely skipped the introduction page and what do you know, I got in! It felt surreal for the next several months. I reread the page every so often, pinching myself, logging onto different platforms to see if it actually happened. Since I didn’t believe this outcome was possible, as soon as I told my parents that day, I left to go help put up posters and update websites for my internship as promised and missed the pizza party that my interviewer threw for alumni and newly adMITted students in our area.

Having said that, there was no way that I would NOT choose MIT.

I am more than happy to say that MIT has not let me down and have even exceeded my expectations.

My freshman year has been amazing, and it saddens me to a great extent that it was cut short.

Grades during our first year is on a pass no record policy. This means that we get credit for our registered classes as long as we pass, and if we fail, there is no record that we ever attempted to take that class and can try again another semester. MIT does this to teach us the balance between academics, health, and extracurricular activities. I learned that we don’t have to sacrifice any.

During the short-lived three quarters of my academic year, I have grown both personally and academically.

Academically, I completed Bioethics, Multivariable Calculus, Physics: Mechanics, Introduction to Biology, Introduction to Professional Success in Biological Engineering, and a freshman seminar called Mens et Manus: The Joy of MIT, where I was given the opportunity to visualize real-time music with frequency and isolate antibiotic-producing bacteria from soil samples I got from the middle of campus (including fluorescent-bacteria)! Currently, I am working towards completing Introduction to Python, Culture and Identity of Israel, Anthropology: Meaning of Life, Physics: Electricity and Magnetism, and Mathematics for Computer Science.

MIT also requires PE, so last semester, I took an archery class, which was such a blast! In regards to fitness, I felt like I couldn’t give up sports, but I wanted to venture out to try something new. I was the intramural team captain for badminton and ultimate frisbee for my dorm, Simmons Hall, and have played other IM sports with friends in Simmons. I am also a proud member of sMITe, MIT’s Women Ultimate Frisbee Team!

In terms of extracurriculars, I learned to find and keep with few projects and groups I love the most so I can put my best efforts into those rather than overextend myself to several. Currently, I am an Off-Campus Outreach Chair for Society of Women Engineers, and the chapter photographer deputy for my sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta.

Additionally, there have just been so many opportunities of growth through career fairs, workshops, and just gathering with friends to complete problem sets that take hours to finish half a problem. I’m also researching in Israel through the MISTI program this summer, fingers crossed, as long as it doesn’t get cancelled because of COVID-19.

Overall, the best part of MIT has been the strong friendships and communities I have joined: sMITe, Simmons, my lounge, Kappa Alpha Theta, SWE, First-Year Leadership Program, and more! I can’t wait for sophomore year!

Q2: Tell us about this multischool initiative you are involved with in these coronatimes? 

I have lived in Ventura County my entire life. It has provided me great friendships, fond memories and experiences and has shaped me to who I’ve become today. Therefore, when COVID-19 hit with the school shutdowns, I sought ways to meaningfully support my home community.

Luckily, I had friends who were thinking the same.

I am a part of CovEd, an undergrad-led initiative in response to the COVID-19 crisis to connect low-income K-12 students with undergraduate and postgraduate students for free virtual tutoring during these months. Our vision is to encourage and empower students who may be struggling with online schooling because of limited access to resources and technology or because of a difficult home situation. We also hope to minimize the extra work placed on teachers because of the transition to online classes.

We currently have more than 300 mentor volunteers so far from universities like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and MIT, and are continuing to expand through our university networks. You can find us on MIT’s Rapid Innovation Dashboard as CovEd!(

Here is our sign up form for students, teachers, or parents to fill out. Once it is filled out, we will match the student with one of our volunteers, who will reach out to the student by email to schedule the first session!

CovEd Academic Support Registration Form:

I’m currently leading outreach for this in Ventura County to help reach as many students in need as possible. But, please share our flyer with anyone who might be interested in signing up! We would appreciate any help you can give us in our outreach process!

Let me know if you have any questions at I would be happy to further discuss how we can best support our community!

Q3: What are the goals that CovEd hope to accomplish? Any ideas on how you will measure the work you all do?

Our goal is to encourage and empower students who may be struggling with online schooling because of limited access to resources and technology or because of a difficult home situation. We hope to reach students and motivate them during times as such. We also hope to minimize the extra work placed on teachers because of the transition to online classes. When the worst of this virus is over, we just hope that students are able to return to school without having fallen too far behind and teachers up and ready for the normal learning process again without having been burnt out.

We have sign-up forms that could provide a tangible measure of our work. However, it is less of measuring how much we could do for as many people as possible, but rather the quality and depth of positive change we could make to assist the well being of our community in need. 

Learning Links for March 23-27

Superintendent Video Blog: Rio Plaza Dual Immersion

Non-Car Drivers

This post is about pedestrians and bicycle riders, wheel-chair riders and skateboarders, scooter riders and other people in the community not driving cars. This post wants to state the obvious at first and go on from there. People not in cars who are out there navigating the community and it’s streets and intersections are just as valuable life forms as those in cars. They deserve the opportunity to not be killed or injured unnecessarily. (the obvious).

Walking and biking in the community occasionally or regularly gives a person a non-car driving experience and perspective. Like all experiences, there are upsides and downs. A T-chart- for the researcher folks out there in terms of pros and cons. One pro for sure is thanon-car drivers get a much more proximal and visceral experience of the community and it’s neighborhoods. You experience things up close and have more time to observe and sense things more difficult to perceive when conducting a large enclosed vehicle on the road. Among the many things to see and smell and even touch are the great variety and beauty of plant and animal life. 

You are also closer to and more easily sense the trash, blight, or decay that exists alongside the beauty. One thing for sure, it’s much easier to see how many people in cars are dangerously maneuvering their vehicles. They are in a rush and they seem empowered to use their vehicles in aggressive manners that (giving them credit) seems to ignore the very potentially lethal consequences of their driving. This observation is not an accusation but rather just an observation that offers the part time biker/walker moments of reflection on their own driving habits/experiences. It’s easy not to see or pay attention to non-car driving people out there crossing intersections. It’s at these intersections that non-car drivers learn the essential necessity to connect with car drivers through eye contact and other means in order to not get run over. 

The patterns of civil engineering coordinating and sequencing traffic lights is also much easier to discern or forcibly discerned when not driving cars. The rhythms of the city and roadways reveal themselves more easily to the pedestrian or bike rider. As does the conditions of the roads, sidewalks, railroad crossings, buildings and other elements of man’s suburban/urban engineering. 

We have designed our places for cars in many ways and often not that well for them. Down on the street, in direct contact or more proximal contact we’re more human or more fully human and we’re also much more vulnerable. Not only from the potentially lethal collisions with people driven cars but also from our sense of identity in these car dominated contexts. Me thinks that car driving people somehow think less of the pedestrians in many cases. The homeless are there too. Walking, sometimes biking, pushing carts, they are perceived as obstacles. The cars must go. Where to, I don’t know. To work? In a hurry? In a lethal hurry?

Repetition is a simple tool as is stating the obvious. Walkers, bicylers, other non-car driving people in their motility want to continue living. They deserve life. (the obvious).

Among the many pros on the T-chart is the general well being that physical activity provides the non car driver. For sure, there are aches and pains and other cons associated with non-car driving in terms of the body. The mind is also benefited by this non-car driving. Non-car driving gives us time to think/reflect and develop the inner voice. Car driving too might offer this, perhaps long car driving – commutes – but the local driving I often observe seems contextualized to make reflection quite difficult.

Well, the post is done I suppose. A reminder, non-car drivers are people. Love them, value them like you would a brand new car or truck driver. Maybe even consider affording them a little bit more. They might need it.     


Principal Profile – Adrienne Peralta, Ed.D.

Adrienne Peralta, Ed.D.


Rio Del Valle Middle School

4 Years as Rio Del Valle Principal

8 Years as Administrator

18 Years as Teacher

This is Dr. Peralta’s 4th school year as principal of Rio Del Valle. Previously she served as assistant principal at Rio Vista Middle School. Prior to her work in administration she served as a 6th-8th grade teacher of math, science, and ELD. 

Dr. Peralta earned her Bachelor’s at UCLA in Latin American Studies, Master’s in Elementary Education, and Doctorate in Educational Leadership both at California State University Northridge.  

Adrienne is deeply committed to family and community and to building ramps for all children and families to achieve academic success. Having worked in our community and schools for years, she has developed keen senses for what our schools and community need to develop and grow. Dr. Peralta combines her unique blend of systems thinking and relationship building with strong and persevering leadership and these efforts have yielded improvement and coherence in support of excellence in learning and teaching. 

Principal Peralta is a great example of “leader as learner.” She realizes that a professional grows when they learn and she continues to pursue and develop new knowledge that can support her work as both school manager and instructional leader. Adrienne combines mind and heart in pursuit of supporting teachers and children to find acceptance, growth, and excellence in all their pursuits.   

 We asked Dr. Peralta the three questions and her responses were as follow;


  • What do you think matters most to children when they attend school?


I believe that at the middle school level students want to feel safe, heard, and respected.  Middle school is the beginning of the transition from a child to an adolescent/young teen. They have incredible insight and a great deal of passion, all of which they want to share, but are unsure of how to do so.  This age is beautiful, yet challenging for them. As adults we need to create and nurture spaces for them to speak, share, and learn. Their world is fast paced and messages come at them from every direction – t.v, technology, music, friends, etc… It is incumbent on us to help them decipher these messages, and provide them opportunities to help them develop the skills they will need to thrive.


  • How has your leadership changed over time and experience?


Over the past 8 years my leadership has been impacted by the 

experiences I have had with our students, families, staff, and community.  I have a greater understanding of their needs, and of the responsibility we have as a team of educators to create a positive and nurturing environment.  Leadership is a word that defines how people work together. I want to be a leader in the sense that I will leverage my skills in such a way that they in turn leverage the skills of others.  I expect that as the world around me changes so will my leadership skills. In order to be an effective leader you must be willing to change with the tides.  


  • What has working in schools meant to you in terms of your own development as a person, mother, and citizen?


I cannot put into words the deep commitment I have for those that I serve – students, families, my colleagues.  My work has impacted every corner of who I am. As a teacher and administrator I have had a multitude of experiences, these have impacted how I see the world.  They have taught me to appreciate, love deeply, serve sincerely, and to work harder every day. It holds me to high standards, and it makes me expect more of myself.  I expect to always do better, I expect that we as a whole can always do better for one another. It has taught me to see things from another’s perspective, and to use this knowledge to find commonalities and spaces in which to work well with others.  This work is the best kind of work. The responsibility of this work is great, and sometimes the challenges even greater, but the satisfaction it provides is immeasurable. I cannot see myself outside of a school, it is who I am. 


Principal Profile January 2020 – Ms. Brenda Bravo

Brenda Bravo


Rio Plaza Elementary School

1+ Years as Rio Plaza Principal

1+ Years as Principal

8 Years as Teacher



This is Ms. Bravo’s 2nd school year as principal of Rio Plaza Elementary School. Previously she served as the Intervention Specialist at Laguna Vista, Ocean View School District. Previous to that, she served as a dual immersion teacher at Tierra Vista, Ocean View School District. 

Ms. Bravo earned both of her Bachelor’s Degrees at California State University Channel Islands (CSUCI), one Bachelor’s Degree of Arts in Liberal Studies, the other in Spanish. After a few years of teaching, she decided to return to CSUCI for her Masters in Educational Leadership and Administrative Credential. 

Brenda has lived in our community for some time and has a deep value for education and its power to help people grow and take advantage of opportunities to their well-being and contributions to their family and community. 

Principal Bravo, like most of us, has faced challenges on her journey of education and career development. Among her many resources she counts relationships with mentors, a positive attitude, a caring and ever-learning intellect, and hard work as among the characteristics that served her well in serving her students and community.

We asked Ms. Bravo the following three questions and her responses follow each;


  • What do you think matters most to children when they attend school?


There are three things that I believe matter most to children when they attend school. Number one, children want to feel safe. Often times, children prefer to be at school, as this may be their only safe place. Number two, children want to have a sense of belonging. Even as adults, we often seek those places where we can feel a part of a group. Lastly, and maybe most important, children want to be loved. We all prefer to be in places where we know people care about us. I believe that after children get these three needs met, they are able to focus and learn at school. 


  • How has your leadership changed over time and experience?


Leadership has always been about serving. When I started this journey, I learned about servant leadership and I fell in love with the idea because it aligned with my philosophy of leadership. This philosophy states that leaders serve and demonstrate the following traits: listening, empathy, stewardship, foresight, persuasion, conceptualization, awareness, healing, commitment to the growth and development of people, and building community. As much as I believed in this style of leadership, I now know that it is easier said than done. Over time, I have come a lot closer to being a servant leader, but I know that this will take time. The best lesson that I have learned thus far has been patience. Patience with others, but most important patience towards myself. I can be hard on myself, but I am learning to be patient and take this opportunity to lead one day at a time.


  • What has working in schools meant to you in terms of your own development as a person, mother, and citizen?


It is quite difficult to express how much working in schools has meant to me in terms of my development as a person, mother and citizen. As a person, I have developed many qualities that have improved my way of interacting with others in society. Working with students and families that I see myself reflected in has helped me become more empathetic and understanding. I can see things better because I have learned to stop, think, make a plan and adapt it as needed. I have definitely become a better mother as a result of working in schools. Working with students and their families has helped me understand family dynamics and learn to better interact and respond to my own three girls at home. I have learned to value my family time and to take advantage of what life has to offer. As a citizen, I have improved because I have become involved in the community and have found ways to give back. Overall, I think that working in education has made me a better person. I cannot imagine not working in education my entire life. My husband tells me that I am going to be one of those educators that ends up volunteering her time at schools for the rest of my life. Well, I think he is right, I love what I do!