At 31, Kevin Dobson Starts the Capital College & Career Academy
The schoolteacher/principal has some big ideas—and sponsors who believe in them
By Ed Goldman
Kevin Dobson, founder, director and on track to be the first principal of the yet-to-be-built Capital College & Career Academy (CCCA), says he works out most mornings at 4:30 “mainly because I love to eat.”
I’m buying only half of that. While he may well love to eat—between the two of us we devour a basket-and-a-half of oil-dipping bread at Piatti Ristorante one recent late afternoon—this is a young man with a continuous drive to achieve and improve not only himself but also the lives of others.
He takes notes during our chat, asking me almost as many questions as I ask him. It could be seen as merely an ingratiating strategy but Dobson’s sincerity and singleness of purpose make it feel utterly guileless. He’s the kind of young man you wish were your son or who’d marry into your family—the latter an unlikely possibility since he’s already happily married to Suzanne, a Laotian-American woman who works for Kaiser. They live in a home he’s remodeled extensively over the past few years (doing most of the work himself, of course) with Suzanne’s 16-year-old son and their three-year-old boy together.
On September 28, the Sacramento County Office of Education is scheduled to approve or pass on Dobson’s precisely planned vision: a charter high school, already approved to affiliate with a local college and state university campus, that trains young people for real jobs. The objective is to provide them with both classroom and onsite training to develop employable skills.
“The idea started about six years ago,” says Dobson, who holds two master’s degrees, is already a school principal in Natomas Unified, and has been both an award-winning teacher and athletic coach. (Did I mention he won’t turn 32 years old until January?) “I saw a lot of kids who’d be the first in their families to go to college, and they were just spinning their tires, taking courses that had no relevance to their lives. They were often from under-served populations, which can include a number of cultures in the Sacramento region.
“I wanted CCCA to give these young people a choice,” he continues. “They could go to high school and before long, simultaneously start working in the construction industry and have the chance to earn an Associate of Arts degree working with our community college partner.” The three main construction trades students can learn are carpentry, electrical and plumbing. Course work eventually includes, in the freshman year, students obtaining OSHA 30 (for the 30 hours of learning and training required), and CPR certification.
Dobson has amassed an impressive board of directors for his 501(C)(3) nonprofit, including executives from Turner Construction, McCarthy Building Companies and the Sacramento Regional Builders Exchange; Girl Scouts Heart of Central California; the Sebastian Corporation; Volunteers of America; the Elk Grove Unified School District, and the customer-owned Sacramento Municipal Utility District.
The hope and expectation is that they’ll help him raise enough money for the school to officially open with about 90 9th-grade students in 2022. Initial sponsors (at the $5,000-plus level) include Five Star Bank, Royal Electric, Bell Brothers Plumbing Heating and Air, and ABC NorCal. You can donate here.
“At buildout,” Dobson says, “we hope to have 100 kids each in 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade classes—400 students in all.”
Why stop there? “I definitely see what we’re doing as a model that could be adapted around the country,” Dobson says.
While Dobson is well educated, he’s also a self-made man. His mom was single during much of his formative years and once he became a teacher, he never hesitated to accept posts in what many would consider the harshest areas of cities here and back east. He has no trouble relating to young people who feel disenfranchised. He was one of them. But, in a sense, he’s been building his own franchise, both as an educator and an entrepreneur.
Toward the end of our chat, Dobson says he envisions classes at CCCA will feature asynchronous learning. “It means students will learn at their own pace while being provided a definitive timeframe for the work to be completed.” I glance at the basket on our table and notice that our dipping bread is no more. We’ve apparently devoured it in a synchronistic manner. That can happen with maturity.