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.
Amara Baker's road to high school graduation has been anything but ordinary. Her journey has taken her from Santa Susana High School in Simi Valley to an international school in Italy to a year of home schooling and finally to one of Ventura County's most unusual public high schools.
Amara is about to graduate from the High School at Moorpark College. Known as a "middle college," it gives students the opportunity take a combination of high school and college courses. There are only 19 students in her senior class and she often spends 11 hours a day on her studies. "You really have to want to be in this program," she says. The school was originally just for 11th and 12th grade students, but it's expanding to include 9th graders beginning in the next school year.
Amara attributes her unusual high school journey in large part to learning disabilities that went undetected until the start of her senior year. In addition to ADHD, she's was diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia that made reading and writing difficult and made it a constant struggle to get good grades. She says discovering the reasons for her difficulties was a breakthrough. "It encouraged me because I finally realized I wasn't stupid and there was actually a problem."
With medical help and the support of her family, friends and school staff, Amara's grades improved dramatically this year. "This is the first year I've seen an outcome from my hard work, which is really nice," she says. The school's small size has let her build tighter bonds with her fellow students. "We've all become extremely close and I'm sure I'm going to know them for the rest of my life." She says that applies to the teachers as well. "It's really nice to have a relationship with your teachers. I've struggled at bigger schools where the teachers don't always see you because they have a hundred and something students every day."
After graduation, Amara plans to take a gap year to earn money and fulfill her dream of returning to Italy for college. Her interests include art, psychology and criminology, but she hasn't yet settled on a career. She's confident that keeping her options open is the right move for her right now. "If I just continue to learn, I'll end up finding something that I really enjoy that I really want to do."
More Stories about the Ventura County Class of 2019