Social and Emotional Support Helped Her Overcome the Odds

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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 2019.

It was her sophomore year at Adolfo Camarillo High School and things weren't going well for Bethany Ochoa. Difficulties in her personal life had her struggling with depression, getting involved with drugs and ditching class. The goal of graduating from high school seemed like it was slipping away.

But then, school officials suggested Bethany leave Camarillo High and transfer to Phoenix School. Operated by the Ventura County Office of Education and located near the Camarillo Airport, Phoenix School serves students who are referred by their home districts because of their emotional and behavioral issues. At first, Bethany wasn't looking forward to transferring. "I knew it was going to be different and I wasn't going to have the freedom that I had," she says.

But her worries started to fade when she arrived at Phoenix and found an environment designed to support her in ways a traditional school never could. Phoenix teachers and paraeducators along with specialists from the Ventura County Behavioral Health Department are trained to help students like Bethany deal with their traumas and manage their behavior. Students have access to resources like one-on-one counseling and therapy sessions whenever they need them. Small class sizes and a more personalized approach to teaching create a setting where students can succeed academically as well as socially.

With the extra support she received, Bethany got a handle on her depression and got her life back on track. She says Phoenix paraeducator Amy Hutchins is a big reason she's about to achieve her dream of graduating from high school. "We've become very close and she actually helped me get into college. She's very caring."

This fall, Bethany will attend Moorpark College and study criminology with the goal of becoming a probation officer so she can help other teens like herself. She says her career choice was inspired by her own probation officer, Araceli Robles. "I loved my probation officer and she motivated me to do a lot better."

Bethany will soon receive her high school diploma with her proud family looking on. As she prepares to graduate, she has a message for the educators and support staff who cared enough to believe in her, "You guys are the reason that I'm being successful in life."


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