Jesse Bethel High School is located at the eastern end of San Pablo Bay, approximately 30 miles east of San Francisco. Jesse Bethel High School is one of two comprehensive high schools in Vallejo. Our student population reflects the ethnic and social diversity of our community. Academic achievement for all students is celebrated and is the backbone of instructional delivery. Our 1,395 plus multicultural student body is supported by 80+ culturally and linguistically diverse faculty members and caring counseling staff. We are equipped to provide numerous support services with state-of-the-art technology, one-one iPads for students and teachers, two iMac student labs, multiple Computer-on-Wheels units with classroom sets of laptop computers and other equipment available through the Instructional Media Center/Library.
The philosophy of Jesse Bethel High School is rooted in the belief that the ultimate purpose of education is to help each student become an effective and responsible citizen in our democratic society. To achieve this goal, our school provides an environment for intellectual development, mental growth, social interaction and physical development. Structural reinforcement to support these endeavors includes rigorous A-G graduation requirements, including AP courses, small learning community academies and a full service community school, to name but a few.
Jesse Bethel High School provides the curriculum each student will need to achieve his/her academic and post-high school goals. Our mission is for all students to graduate. We encourage each student to focus on academic achievement and invest time, effort, and energy toward this success. In conjunction with students and parents, our counseling department assists with developing four-year academic plans for each student. In addition, we encourage students to become involved in one of the many extra-curricular activities offered at our school. These activities help provide a connection to school and will often help them find a lifetime interest that may lead to a career. Student activities at Jesse Bethel High School are numerous and designed to involve students with varied interests. For the four-year college-bound student, extra involvement is a big factor in the admissions process. Regular, daily school attendance is emphasized and is critical for academic and extra-curricular success.
Together we can…together we will.
The Story of Jesse M. Bethel
Our school is named for Jesse Moncell Bethel. Mr. Bethel was a man who demonstrated the depth of his integrity as an individual and scope of his passion for education in many ways. Born in Harlem, New York, Mr. Bethel experienced many challenges that shaped his character, guided his future, and established him as a legend in our community.
Mr. Bethel was orphaned as a young child, and was raised by his grandparents. His grandfather and great-grandfather were college-educated men, and his grandmother was the successful proprietor of a business establishment. Mr. Bethel attended integrated elementary schools in Ohio, and segregated middle and high schools in Oklahoma under Jim Crow Laws. He persevered through the racial injustices that existed and graduated as valedictorian of his class. Inspired by Thurgood Marshall, an African American Trial Attorney who defended a Black man falsely accused and then viciously tortured into confessing a crime he didn’t commit, Mr. Bethel was determined to pursue a career in law. However, with the onset of World War II, Mr. Bethel altered his goal. He resolved to become a chemist in order to help with the war effort.
Mr. Bethel realized that to have a meaningful life, he had to continue his education – that meant not just finishing high school but attending college and graduating with a degree. Higher education did not seem unachievable, as it did (and still does) for so many others because of the real-life examples set by his grandfather and great-grandfather who had done so before him. In 1944, Mr. Bethel graduated from Tillotson College in Austin, Texas with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry.
Upon graduating from college, Mr. Bethel married his college-sweetheart, Claudia Nichols, and moved to Vallejo, California where Mr. Bethel embarked on a career as a chemist at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Three children followed along with grand and great-grandchildren. Mr. Bethel’s sheer determination and commitment to excellence gained him the respect of his peers, which assisted him in advancing to the position of Head Chemist of the Nuclear Power division at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in 1960. Mr. Bethel was the first African American to hold the position of Head Chemist on this elite military base. Fourteen years later, Mr. Bethel also started his own business. While a Chemist with Mare Island, he also worked part-time selling life insurance and collecting the premiums – literally nickels – for Golden State Mutual. It was a natural progression that he would later acquire his own insurance agency for the “Good Neighbor” company, State Farm Insurance.
Always a seeker of greater challenges, in 1969 Mr. Bethel believed he could provide “Better Education through Honest, Effective Leadership (BETHEL)” and ran for the local school board. The community demonstrated their agreement with and support of Mr. Bethel and elected him to the Vallejo City Unified School District Governing Board. In 1970, Jesse M. Bethel was selected as the VCUSD Governing Board President, again the first African American to hold such a prestigious position. In 1976, Mr. Bethel became the President of the California State School Board Association. In the mid-1990’s, Vallejo City Unified School District honored Mr. Bethel’s leadership in and influence upon our community by naming its newest high school in his honor. JBHS opened its doors to students in the fall of 1998, and saw its first graduating class in the spring of 2001. While Mr. Bethel’s life on this earth did not extend so that he could witness these milestones with us, our leaders recall the honor and blessing of his participation in the groundbreaking ceremony for the institution that is named for him. Our desire is that all who walk our campus will be inspired to live their lives with the integrity, passion, and valor that are hallmarks of our namesake’s character. #BETHELPRIDE