"The Right Plan for Me:" How Community College Kickstarted an Alum's Journey from SF to NY to Prague

Deanna at the beach

When she celebrated her graduation in 2019, GHS alum Deanna Yee was excited about the start of her next chapter, but registered some surprise from teachers and friends when she would share her plans. 

“I think there’s still sometimes a lot of stigma around going to community college,” she said. “I had higher grades and lots of people just expected me to go to a four year university. But I was sure going to City College was the right plan for me.”

In addition to the incredible value of a free community college education and the fact that she lived only five minutes from the San Francisco City College campus, it was the opportunity to play on the women’s soccer team that solidified the choice for Deanna, who had been the captain of the GHS girls’s soccer team and was excited to take her sport to the next level. And when college campuses all over the country began to shutter in spring 2020, she only became happier with her decision. 

“Once lockdown started, every college student was doing the same thing: taking classes online, back at home,” she said. “I felt really lucky that my family wasn’t paying thousands of dollars for me to be on Zoom all day.”

Moreover, Deanna says that her ability to continue playing soccer (women’s soccer was the school’s first sports program to return after pandemic-related cancellations), coupled with the close support she received in her small city college classes were a lifeline when the pandemic was at its worst.

“Because I had soccer I was still able to be a part of a community,” she said. “We stayed very tight knit and supported each other through this challenging experience everyone was going through. And then a lot of my friends from Gateway were still here in San Francisco going through the same thing, so we all stayed connected as well and encouraged each other.”

At City College, Deanna explored a few academic paths before settling on a major in media and communications, which led her to apply to transfer to universities she never would have considered as a high school senior, including her eventual final choice.

“NYU wasn’t on my radar at all!” she said. “My initial goal was to go to Stanford or maybe a UC, but after Covid I felt like I was stuck in my shell and ready to break out, so I applied to schools all over the country. NYU ended up being my favorite for the location, of course, but also the unique major program. And I know I wouldn’t have gotten in without going to community college first.”

Deanna has spent the past year in New York, enjoying the fast pace of life on campus, bonding with roommates and exploring her new city. Next year she plans to travel even farther afield, studying abroad in Prague.

“I wasn’t sure if studying abroad would be an option for me as a transfer student, but it’s been a dream of mine since I was in high school, and my advisor was very supportive,” she said. “I’m going in with no expectations, so everything will be a surprise.”

Deanna attributes her successfully forging her own path through higher education to her open-mindedness and willingness to try new things, traits she says she first picked up at Gateway. 

“I learned a lot of skills about taking initiative and stepping out of my comfort zone at Gateway,” she said. “I was a quiet, reserved kid at first, but I pushed myself to try new things, or take on leadership roles, which seemed daunting at first but turned out to be beneficial. I know now that it’s worth it to take the steps towards something I want, even if I don’t know exactly what the outcome will be, because chances are it will still turn out great.”