WATCH: Annual gathering bridges past and present for ACCESS teacher

Over the years, students enrolled in the Orange County Department of Education’s Alternative Education Division — also known as ACCESS — have found unwavering support and a sense of belonging. Many of them had Tom Kostic as a teacher.

For the past seven years, the longtime educator has been inviting his former students to attend a potluck with those who are currently enrolled in the program. This event serves as an opportunity for both alumni and newer students to connect, demonstrating to the latter group that graduation and success are attainable goals. 

Despite their busy schedules and obligations, Kostic has managed to maintain connections with a large group of former students and attract dozens of them to return each year. The events have only grown in size, with some students starting their own families or bringing their own parents along, underscoring the ACCESS teacher’s deep relationships with families as well.

“It’s important for me to set my students on the path to becoming lifelong learners,” Kostic said. “I want to see their successes and watch them grow in both education and life.”

ACCESS stands for Alternative, Community and Correctional Education Schools and Services. The program offers pathways for nearly 2,500 students to learn in non-traditional settings and gain the academic credits necessary to graduate within the program or with their home school districts.

Kostic emphasizes that the support ACCESS provides to students extends beyond the classroom and graduation day.

“We’re here if you need us,” he said. “Come back and be part of our community as we help more students academically and socially.”

To get a sense of the support that Kostic and other ACCESS educators offer, watch the brief video above. It’s the opening installment of our “Voices of ACCESS” series, produced by the OCDE Media Services team.