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Warner, Jay

Jay Warner
Acalanes Class of 2005
Gap Year, DVC, Pacific Lutheran University, Environmental Jobs, Landscape Architecture Intern, Merritt College, Full Time Landscape Architect

Jay found the culture at Acalanes very competitive but still loved high school. He was into band and very athletic, swimming and playing water polo. His grades were mostly B's and C's and he didn’t have much of a passion except for his sports. He thought he would get into college through swimming and was looking at Cal Poly and schools that were big on swimming and water polo such as UC Santa Barbara.

While he was accepted to a few schools, including UC Irvine, his parents were not prepared to send him to a four year school if he was not truly invested in it. So, after graduating, he went to Hawaii and worked for a family friend doing the manual labor of landscaping. This made him realize that he “would rather be the guy in the polo shirt with the nice truck than the one wearing the steel toe boots and carrying the shovel."  

He returned to Lafayette and attended DVC for two years, preparing to transfer to a big sports school. Then his mom suggested a smaller school with smaller classes and he ended up attending Pacific Lutheran University, a liberal arts college in Washington. He says of the transition to Pacific Lutheran, “I met a host of new people and tried new things like back packing." Toward the end of that first year, he met his advisor in Environmental Studies and began to find out what really interests him.  

Graduating from PL, Jay took a series of environmental jobs in Hawaii and California. He felt uncertain “but learned a lot along the way.” He looked at environmental consulting firms but wanted a job "in the field" rather than office based. He worked setting up nurseries and then on an olive farm. It was there that he met a landscape architect who noted Jay’s love of plants and design talent. Jay was offered an internship at the man’s top rated San Francisco firm. While still working there part time, Jay began to attend Merritt College in Oakland taking landscape architecture courses. The school had a new program with small classes and a hands-on approach that he loved. He became close to the department director. After graduating with an AA in Landscape Architecture, he was given a full time position at his firm. 

Jay's advice to current high school students is “don't worry!” Everything happens for a reason. Go with your heart, try to learn and do as much as you can wherever you are. He says at first it was scary not knowing what he was interested in. He remembers being scared as he watched his friends go off to college while he was not. But now, looking back, he says "everything kind of works out if you're willing to explore and try new things." Some of those friends who went straight to big name schools and then into high paying jobs now envy Jay for having found what he truly loves to do.