A Troubled Past Won’t Define the Future for this Motivated Grad

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This story is part of a series of profiles the Ventura County Office of Education is presenting about graduating seniors in the Class of 2024.

Ricardo1The high school years can be challenging for anyone, but it was especially tough for Ricardo Vasquez. His dad was in and out of his life, which left a significant void. “It was very hard learning certain things that you need a father figure for,” he says.

Ricardo was struggling with his mental health and became the target of bullying, which led to a fight that got him expelled from school. But he got the second chance he needed after being referred to Gateway Community School in Camarillo. “At first it was hard because I didn't know anybody, but then a couple of days passed, and it was actually good. The teachers were really nice.”

c24w-v2Gateway is operated by the Ventura County Office of Education and serves students who have issues that make it impossible for them to stay at their traditional schools. Gateway combines high expectations with extensive academic and emotional support to help students like Ricardo get their education and their lives back on track. He says the personal attention he received from Gateway’s teachers and staff made all the difference. “When I asked a question, they would come up and give me one-on-one help. They really cared.” 

Ricardo recently joined 16 of his Gateway classmates in an emotional graduation ceremony where they received their high school diplomas as beaming family members cheered their success. It’s a milestone that carries special significance given all they’ve had to overcome. “There were times that I would doubt myself, but the teachers would remind me that I have the skills and I have what it takes to do it.”


Ricardo says he’s grateful for everyone who believed in him and pushed him to achieve his goals, especially his mom, Maria Mendez. “This is something that I always looked forward to because I never graduated from school,” she says. “This is a big step for him.” 

As high school comes to a close, Ricardo is not slowing down. He’ll be attending Moorpark College and has plans to join the military. He’s fascinated by nuclear physics and wants to pursue a career as a nuclear weapons specialist for the US Air Force. 

For other students facing obstacles in their lives, Ricardo has these words of wisdom, “There’s always going to be darkness, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel. If you ever need help, you can rely on your teachers and your family. So whenever you need help, just ask.”

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