Doug Ernst

Napa Valley Register columnist Doug Ernst.

Traditionally, the six Ebersole family kids spend their high school years attending Napa Valley College, where they are able to earn AA degrees by the time other kids their age graduate from high school.

The family’s affiliation with NVC began 12 years ago when eldest son Matthew started at the college at age 13.

“We were unhappy with public school education where we grew up, so we home-schooled our kids until high school,” said mom Sharon Ebersole, who sings with the college choir.

“The principal of Harvest Christian Academy signs my Dual Enrollment Form every semester, stating that she approves of the college-credit classes my children take.”

Matthew earned his AA degree from NVC at 17, transferred to San Diego State University (SDSU), graduated with a BA, and began his career as a construction project manager.

Son Craig, 23, earned his AA at NVC at age 18, also graduated from SDSU and is working for Bloomberg in San Francisco.

Daughter Kelly, 21, earned an AA at NVC at age 19, graduating from California State University, Channel Islands, with a communications degree, earlier this year.

Daughter Sara, 18, is currently attending NVC, taking Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) classes and planning to transfer to UC Davis, UCSD, UCLA or UC Santa Cruz to study marine biology.

Dale, 16, has completed 57 units at NVC, three units shy of an AA.

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Claire, 15, finished three semesters at NVC and has decided to become a physical therapist. Once she earns her AA at age 18, she hopes to attend San Francisco State University or UCSD.

Their father, Steve Ebersole, drove his kids from St. Helena to classes at the college every semester for the past four years.

He then decided to take a class each semester. What began as a way to connect with his kids has become a way to use his college education to expand his business.

“I had lost touch with what it felt like to have classwork and deadlines and what their daily lives were like,” said Ebersole, 51.

“I also found it challenging and rewarding. I wish I had been more focused and taken a few business classes when I was younger. I wish my parents had forced me, but my family was fragmented.”

Now he intends to earn his own AA degree so that he can transfer to Sonoma State University, earn a business management degree and bolster his contracting business.

“It’s a bonding experience,” said Claire.

“Not only do we spend time together in the classroom, but we also spend time studying and talking about the class.”

For information about Dual Enrollment at NVC, which allows currently enrolled high school students 15 or over to earn college credit without paying $46 per unit, call 256-7201 or visit NapaValley.edu.

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Doug Ernst is the Napa Valley College public information officer. Reach him at DErnst@napavalley.edu or (707) 256-7112.