Admissions & Records

Student Success Stories

Courtney Caldwell

When Courtney Caldwell decided to go back to school, she knew she wanted to do something related to the digital arts. She chose Cañada College because it gave her the most options for exploring creative fields in an increasingly digital world. Caldwell says “With Web Design, Graphic Design and Animation classes available at an amazing price, I could try them all and see what resonated with me. The skills I learned and the connections I made while at school landed me my first job as a Production Artist and Copywriter at Hotwire. Cañada helped me launch my professional career and literally changed my life.” Caldwell has since held User Experience positions in the insurance and financial services industries and is currently working at a major Silicon Valley technology company.

When asked what advice would she give students pursuing a career in digital arts or web content development, Caldwell said “Give it your all. Investing in your career starts by taking your skills seriously and using the classroom as a place to build them. Use the resources available to you, including your teachers, counselors, and classmates. Don’t waste your time or your money in any class if you aren’t going to do your best to knock it out of the park. Remember, people in your class and on campus could become someone that can give you a job later, so you always have to do your best.”

Sir Wade Neistadt

When Sir Wade Neistadt, originally from southern California, wanted to pursue a career in animation, he chose Cañada College’s Digital Art & Animation program to get his start. Neistadt says it was the breadth of classes, both artistic and technical, that attracted him to Cañada. “Basically, I Googled every single college in the San Francisco area, and Cañada was the only animation program I had interest in.”When Sir Wade Neistadt, originally from southern California, wanted to pursue a career in animation, he chose Cañada College’s Digital Art & Animation program to get his start. Neistadt says it was the breadth of classes, both artistic and technical, that attracted him to Cañada. “Basically, I Googled every single college in the San Francisco area, and Cañada was the only animation program I had interest in.”

While studying here, he entered a film in Campus Movie Fest, an annual competition for student filmmakers. His superhero spoof, “Kerflooey,” using many of the techniques he learned in class, earned Neistadt a trip to the prestigious Cannes film festival in France.

Since completing his studies at Cañada, Neistadt has continued to hone his skills and recently landed a job with DreamWorks animation in their training department. The most rewarding part of his job, Neistadt says, is “...there are so many talented artistic people around me every day, there’s so much motivation and so many who share the passion that I do.”

When asked for advice for current students, Neistadt says “One of the biggest differences between a student who’s going to make it in the industry, and one that isn’t, is whether they show up to outside events to meet people in the industry.”

Emily Carson

Cañada College Digital Art & Animation alumna Emily Carson has landed a job as a production assistant at Walt Disney Television Animation. Emily is working on “Tangled: Before Ever After,” debuting in February 2017 on The Disney Channel.

After completing her studies at Cañada, Emily finished her education at Woodbury University in Burbank, Calif., studying in their Animation degree program. In addition to her new job at Disney, Emily also interned at Frederator Studios, the studio behind shows like The Fairly Oddparents and Adventure Time. She also has a very popular YouTube channel which she has run for many years.

Photo caption: Emily Carson (left) with singer Mandy Moore at a “Tangled: Before Ever After” recording session

Gerardo Pacheco

Gerardo Pacheco is a former ESL Student, Now Published Poet and Adjunct ESL Professor. His student success story is very special as the ultimate goal was to return to where his journey began… Cañada College. “I first met Gerardo when he was a student in one of my ESL classes,” recalled Cañada ESL Professor Jenny Castello. “When he was in my ESL Reading Level 3 class, I remember noticing him as a student in this class because he was very eager to learn and was very engaged in class. By the time I had him in ESL Grammar 4, he had become a student with very strong motivation to succeed and very good academic skills.”

Gerardo continued on his educational pathway at Cañada where he earned his Associate in Arts Degree in English with High Honors and transferred to San Francisco State University (SFSU) with a scholarship. He stayed in touch with the College while at SFSU and was invited back as a guest speaker (and read some of his poetry) at Cañada’s ESL Recognition Event. He continued his education at SFSU and earned a Master of Fine Art degree in Creative Writing and just last year, earned a certificate in Teaching English as Second Language (TESOL). Gerardo also completed his student teaching in Professor Castello’s ESL 912 class where she shared that Gerardo was very easy to work with as a student teacher because he worked hard to prepare for the lessons that he taught and connected right away with the students. Gerardo is now an award-winning and published Poet, Creative Writing Instructor at SFSU and also teaches ESL 901 Language Skills for Workforce Careers at Puente de la Costa Sur in Pescadero; the program is part of Cañada’s off-campus ESL Program and in collaboration with La Costa Adult School and Puente de la Costa Sur, one of the College’s ACCEL partners. In addition, last year, he was invited to be part of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, one of the oldest and recognized writers’ retreats in the nation, and this summer, he will be joining some of the most well-known Latin writers at the CantoMundo Writers’ Retreat and Macondo Workshop in Texas and the Frost Place writer’s retreat in Franconia, New Hampshire.

“One of the many things I have dreamt in my life is teaching at Cañada College,” shared Gerardo. “As an undocumented student, Cañada College gave me the tools to dream. At Cañada, I learned to read, write and pursue a career. I also found mentors like Jenny Castello. She is a great teacher, role model, friend, mentor and I wish to be a fraction of the teacher she is. Cañada College gave me a chance to succeed regardless of my legal status. At Cañada College, I feel like I have a real family. Teaching at Cañada has fulfilled my promise to give back to my community. I believe I can have a positive influence on my students’ lives by sharing my life story. I always tell my students, ‘If I could reach my dreams, you can do it too.’ Coming back to Cañada is a dream come true.”