CONNECTS Fellow: Samantha Espinoza

“I just love working here. I love working with students. Each year I reapply for CCA CONNECTS. I have friends asking ‘Why do you keep applying? Why do you like working with high school students?’ I think it’s the funnest thing. It’s something I definitely aspire to do with the rest of my life.”

– Samantha Espinoza, CCA CONNECTS Fellow

Samantha Espinoza (left), Alicia Arnold (right)


Fellowship Description

Samantha Espinoza started in the Connects Fellowship Program as a Freshman and has been a teaching assistant at Oakland Technical High School in the Fashion Arts and Design Academy (FADA) ever since. She’s worked with two different teachers in the visual design class learning how to run a high school classroom and support students. Over the years, she’s gained confidence in how to explain art processes, create safe spaces for students, and working with a wide range of students.

Samantha explains how her Connects experience led her to become a Community Arts major:

“The reason that I went into Community Arts is because I worked here. I was initially just planning on doing craft. I came in as a painting major, and then I started working here….I didn’t have the language as to what community art was and then I came here and I started to understand this is what I want to do.”


This Connects Fellowship is an example of:

Site Mentor, Alicia Arnold, described the impact of having CCA students mentor high school students:

“It was very powerful for my students that they were being taken seriously by the coolest people in the world, which are college students. They were really focused and very engaged….That made a huge difference for so many kids.”

Impact Statement

CAPL asked Site Mentors and Fellows how CCA CONNECTS impacts them and their community:

Site Mentor, Alicia Arnold – “Samantha has been a bridge between CCA and FADA. As a college student, she has been an influential role model to the high school students.”

CCA Fellow, Samantha Espinoza – “My Connects experience has directly impacted my choice of career path. It also has show me the professional and administrative side of education.”


CONNECTS Fellow: Olivia Houghton

“It can be so creative and liberating to make these projects and find a way to express yourself in the world. It’s definitely a reinforcement of all the skills that I’ve learned. I feel like I benefit from it by helping them learn and grow….It’s not just a teaching experience but a relationship.”

– Olivia Houghton, CCA CONNECTS Fellow

Fellowship Description

Olivia Houghton brought her training in fashion design and textiles to help teach an afterschool program at Youth Art Exchange. With guidance from CCA alumni Sierra Reading and Raffaella Falchi, Olivia created a lesson plan on how students represent their identity through clothing. Olivia particularly enjoyed connecting students at Youth Art Exchange to CCA and professional art practice.

Olivia reflected on the impact of connecting CCA with Youth Art Exchange:

“[Having a CCA connection brought] students into that whole realm of this is what professional work looks like and this is professional practice….seeing the ways I can make connections…really enrich the experience for the students and make it really fulfilling, and show the opportunities they have.”

CONNECTS Qualities

This Connects Fellowship is an example of:

Site Mentor, Sierra Reading, described the mutual impact of having a CCA student at Youth Art Exchange:

“CCA students take what they learn at CCA and reiterate it to younger community it allows them a reflection of what they’ve been so involved in their CCA community….It’s one: reflection, and two: empowering to able to give that knowledge to a new community.” – Sierra Reading, Arts Instructor, Youth Art Exchange

Impact Statement

Site Mentor, Raffaella Falchi (L) and CCA Fellow, Olivia Houghton (R) share how CONNECTS impact them and their community:

“Olivia has been a great intermediate level mentor to the students. She brings a unique experience and perspective to the class because she represents the next step after high school and the step before becoming a professional artist.”

“Becoming more involved in multiple communities and making connections to foster idea about social justice, activism, and engagement.”


CONNECTS Fellow: Amber Padilla

“I’m just really glad that the program exists. I did have a TA position at the college, but this feels much more engaging. I feel important. And being able to see what is around the community outside of CCA is really important.”

– Amber Padilla, CCA CONNECTS Fellow

Fellowship Description

Amber Padilla joined the Youth Arts Program at Kala Arts Institute in the Spring semester and received a crash course in teaching art to elementary school students. Kala Arts Institute provides arts instruction to local schools through a school visit program. Amber was teamed up with Yael Levy, an alumnus of the Connects program, to teach 45 minute arts workshops at Berkeley Arts Magnet School in up to 5 classes a day. Through one-on-one mentorship and support from the Director of Education, Jamila Dunn, Amber was able to bring her training from the MFA Comics program to design curriculum and grow as a teacher.

Amber reflected on getting to teach her artistic practice:

“I had always wanted to teach and that was one of the reasons I had wanted to get a master’s degree. I wanted to both make more illustration and comics, and also teach. So it’s been really great that the teaching I have been doing is completely related to what I’ve been studying.”

CONNECTS Qualities

This Connects Fellowship is an example of:

Amber describes the benefit CCA students brought to the classroom:

“We’re making sure that we’re giving the students information that they won’t get from their teachers. Having them experience material that they may not experience otherwise. Making opportunities to give them a broader artistic experience.”



Industrial Design 4

Industrial Design 4: Sustainability was taught in collaboration with the Berkeley Turkish School.  

CCA Students were tasked with designing and fabricating toys for the schoolchildren that are responsive to the cultural and sustainable contexts of the school. 

Industrial Design student Hugo Waldern shares his experience working with The Berkeley Turkish School for his ENGAGE course: ID4: Sustainability

Is this the right course?

I was not quite sure what to make of the Engage Program at first. I remember the first day of our class, having only a fraction of the student count than in my other industrial design courses prior. This gave me a bit of skepticism.

Was I in the right class for what I need?

I understood the course stood for involvement with the community, and I understood this could mean a product that could yield real results, yield real answers that so many other design classes failed to take advantage of.

Hugo also interviewed his fellow students about their experience:

The end product was nothing like what I imagined it to be. It was genuinely directed by our insights from each visit we made to our users. I enjoyed the open ended approach we took on. It allowed us to dive into research in
our own styles. Hence each group came up with unique products that were completely unlike one another.
– Ritz, CCA Student

Designing with children

The course required what any other class did; working prototypes, sketches, research, CAD modeling and a clear, cohesive story that explained how I ended up with my results. What was new to this list of requirements was deep understanding paradigm of ecology and sustainability, cultural perspective and understanding of Turkish customs and practices, an understanding of our client (Berkeley Turkish School students AND faculty) as well as a deep immersion back to my childhood.

What would I want if I were a kid? Dinosaurs! No, seriously Hugo, get dinosaurs out of your head! How can I understand a classroom full of children’s wants and needs for this hybridized tool and toy? I was soon paired with my partner, Zander, whom I have no doubt had equally concerning questions, and we began to tackle the problems presented as we have been trained. Research turned to sticky note ideas, soon turning into sketching then to prototyping. Zander and I were left in this cycle for weeks; testing, adjusting, tuning, modeling. We refined and went about throwing in all the ideas we could, ducking deadlines and fortifying our design against criticism, constantly destroying and rebuilding, questioning every element. Everyone (including my grandmother) was brought into our process, opinions and outside voices just as important as our own. All options were as quickly on the table as fast as they were off, as our process soon yielded its final results.

ENGAGE Set Apart

Theoretically, any ID class could offer the rigorousness course that Zander and I took. What separated the Engage course from the rest came down to the impact of our work. The work wasn’t just for a computer-modeled project online or in a portfolio, never to be built and rigorously tested. The Engage class was more than just making someone interested in our work. The course left my peers and myself open to elements of real design. For the first time ever during my three years at CCA, I felt had a real client. I felt I had a very legitimate, real obligation not to fail, like there was someone who I could actually help.

Hugo interviewed the community partner about the impact of the Engage projects:

I think it helped the BTS community feel more connected and engaged with the bigger context of the Bay Area. The products obviously are going to be very influential and helpful for our teachings. And I would be thrilled to have the course come back to us again. – Basak Cakici, Co‐Founder, The Berkeley Turkish School

Getting it right

We had real requirements; cultural, environmental and educational, each having to be handled separately to eventually become one chorus of working coherence. There were lots of elements to be tied together, what felt like three languages that had to morph to become fluent, understood, even intuitive. These are some of what felt like real challenges my peers and I faced while taking the Engage course. The Engage course is a lesson of observation, process and delivery to a client that will not be afraid to put your product to the test, and continue to do so years after you deliver your final prototype.


Oakland Technical High School

Externs have the opportunity to work with Oakland’s Fashion Art and Design Academy instructors to enrich a variety of science and humanities classes by integrating arts education methodologies.

Organization Description:

Fashion Art and Design Academy (FADA) provides a small, engaging, and diverse collaborative learning community for all students. Through real-world, work-based learning experiences, industry partnerships, and education in a range of disciplines, FADA students are empowered to begin post-secondary paths in the fields of fashion, art, and design.

Externship Description:

Externs at Fashion Art and Design Academy assist in lessons by engaging students one-on-one with their work. Externs help FADA students with specific assignments, such as exhibition installations, portfolio presentations, photo documentations of artwork, and writing their artistic statements. Externs also have the opportunity to work with instructors on enriching a variety of science and humanities classes by integrating arts education methodologies.


Screen Printing Workshops

Inspired by student interest in the arts, Allison secured resources through the Center’s Micro-Grant to utilize her skills as a printmaker to encourage self-expression among students.

Project Description:

Allison Chalco received a Center Micro-Grant to design and facilitate screen-printing workshops at June Jordan School for Equity. Allison built, gathered, and received donated materials that were accessible and environmentally friendly. Allison first recognized an interest and need for her screen printing workshop at June Jordan School for Equity through her position there as a CCA CONNECTS Extern. Inspired by student interest in the arts, Allison secured resources through the Center’s Micro-Grant to utilize her skills as a printmaker to encourage self-expression among students.  There was such an overwhelming interest and engagement with Allison’s workshop that she enlisted the support of a fellow printmaker (Angel) from California College of the Arts to ensure her class had all the necessary resources to thrive.

“There is a buzz about the classroom where students are working together while learning and teaching each other and building upon their skills. There are some very talented printers at JJSE thanks to Allison.” — Ms. Anne Gradeja

Project Outcome:

Allison’s program sparked an interest in screen-printing among students at June Jordan School for Equity. After implementing the beginner workshop, the school began offering a semester-long screen-printing elective course. JJSE continues to use the grant-funded equipment, and is eager to offer the screen-printing class for years to come. Allison has cultivated a creative learning community, where students work together and teach each other to hone their skills. She continued to be committed to the program after her grant.


Teaching Creative Writing

Inquisitive Oakland School for the Arts students learn literary arts from CCA student-teachers

Project Objective: 

In “Teaching Creative Writing”, ENGAGE students taught students at Oakland School of the Arts and created a portfolio of lesson plans and creative writing syllabi in poetry, fiction and plays. For each assignment ENGAGE students crafted lectures and identified the learning objectives/ goals for their Literary Arts class while learning to work through potential stumbling blocks.

Project Outcomes(s):

“Teaching Creative Writing” introduced students to both the practical and conceptual aspects of teaching creative writing and a unique hands-on experience to teach Literary Arts to High School students. Through their experience with students at Oakland School of the Arts, “Teaching Creative Writing” participants were able to fine-tune their teaching materials as welcomed guest teachers in the classroom. At the conclusion of “Teaching Creative Writing,” ENGAGE students created a chapbook to highlight the final writings of OSA students that they mentored and invited the OSA students to read their work at the CCA Writers Studio.


Athena Project

CCA and ARISE High School art students researched Oakland history and collaborated on the creation of a 30-foot mural installation at the Fruitvale BART Station.

Project Objective

Through the “Athena Project” ENGAGE students mentored ARISE High School art students in the design of a community mural and that they painted together, bringing the mural to life. “Athena Project” participants developed leadership and collaborative skills in the research, design, and implementation of a community mural. As part of the design process, ARISE High School and ENGAGE students consulted with the National Park Service for guidance into the history of the area prior to submitting their mural proposal to City Hall.

Project Outcome(s)

The “Athena Project” culminated with the installation of a 30-foot mural in the Fruitvale station depicting the history of the De Anza trail, contemporary living, and future life of the Fruitvale neighborhood. The “Athena Project” created a mutually beneficial art making opportunity for under-served Bay Area youth and California College of the Arts students with a focus on service learning, youth empowerment, and socially engaged art. The mural was so well received that a local shopkeeper provided a site for the mural panels to be permanently installed.


Since its installation over 1,000 people view the mural each day. The mural has been displayed at festivals in Fruitvale, and students have been interviewed by the local news about the mural.