This story is part of a series of profiles the Ventura County Office of Education is presenting about outstanding graduating seniors in the Class of 2023.
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. Her father was unable to care for her and moved out of the country, so she was sent to live with a relative. But that turned out to be an unsafe environment and she ended up in the foster care system.
After losing her mom, Natasha started struggling in school. “At first, I was angry toward the teacher,” she says. “Shouldn’t she understand I’m going through a lot? Why did she fail me?” But then she had what she calls a lightbulb moment. She accepted that life wouldn’t stop to wait for her and decided the only way to go was forward. “There’s so much worse going on in the world,” she says. “It’s pointless to sit around and mope when you have goals in mind and you have opportunities.”
Natasha made a concerted effort to take advantage of those opportunities and the support she received from friends, loved ones and the staff at Newbury Park High School. She was fortunate to find an ideal foster home with the family of one of her school friends. She started taking challenging Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses to build up her academic resume. And she did it all while working 20 hours a week at a local veterinary clinic.
Natasha’s hard work paid off and she earned admission to UCLA where she plans to study biology. She qualified for several grants and scholarships, including one from the TEACh Fund, which helps Ventura County foster kids further their education.
Due to her love of animals, Natasha’s goal is to become a veterinarian. She also hopes to start a program to help homeless people get their pets spayed and neutered to reduce the number of unwanted animals.
Rik Napora is Natasha’s counselor at Newbury Park High School. “She has an innate sense that she’s going to turn lemons into lemonade,” he says. “I’m not sure why some kids have it and some don’t, but I think it’s something that she had all along.”
For other students who are facing adversity, Natasha has these words of encouragement. “There’s always a way out of any situation you find yourself in. Even though it may not seem like it, there is an opportunity to break that cycle of trauma. Don’t ever give up on your goals.”