The students graduating from Ventura County high schools in 2023 had anything but a typical experience. They were in the second half of their freshman year when the pandemic forced classrooms to close. They had to adapt to distance learning and all of the challenges that went along with it. Many faced the ordeal of seeing loved ones pass away or fall ill from COVID-19. And when in-person instruction resumed, social distancing and masking became a part of their daily routines.
Despite it all, there is no shortage of students in the class of 2023 who have achieved incredible things during their high school years. Several have overcome obstacles that go well beyond the pandemic to reach this important milestone. In our annual graduation edition of Focus on Education, we are proud to share some of their inspiring stories with you.
Dr. César Morales
Ventura County Superintendent of Schools
Sinthia Cardenas - Ventura High School
When Sinthia Cardenas landed the prime role of Wednesday Addams in the Ventura High School production of The Addams Family, it was a particularly meaningful accomplishment. Since childhood, she had struggled to pronounce her Rs and Ls and often found people had difficulty understanding her.
Joey Hazlett - Triton Academy
Joey Hazlett was diagnosed with autism in sixth grade. “It makes it so that my brain is kind of running nonstop,” he says. “Even when I’m trying to stop thinking, my brain just comes up with something new to think about and it makes me hyper-focused on stuff.”
Brinda Garikapati - Santa Susana High School
Graduating from high school at age 16 is impressive enough, but Brinda Garikapati is doing it after arriving in the US as a seventh grader who spoke little English. Brinda had been living in India with relatives before moving to Simi Valley to be with her parents.
Osvaldo Jimenez - Nordhoff High School
Osvaldo Jimenez is the son of Mexican immigrants who made sure he knew the value of education at an early age. In his elementary years, they took him to the local library for tutoring in English and math. And they worked overtime in their jobs at restaurants and construction sites to make sure he’d be able to attend college.
Natasha Senjack - Newbury Park High School
Natasha Senjack’s high school counselor says she’s wise beyond her years, and it’s no surprise considering all she’s been able to overcome in her young life. Her troubles started when she lost her mom to cancer at age 11.
Dillon May - Moorpark High School
Dillon May doesn’t hesitate when asked about the biggest challenge he faced during his four years at Moorpark High School. “Definitely the pandemic was a tough one, being locked up for all of that time,” he says. “Especially during high school when it’s supposed to be the most fun years of your life.”