It’s safe to say there has never been a senior year quite like this one. In March, the coronavirus crisis abruptly forced students from their schools and into a strange new world of distance learning. Then at the end of May, the death of George Floyd and resulting protests threw important and difficult issues of racism and equity into the spotlight in a way most students have never experienced.
This is the time of year when graduating seniors are usually celebrating with friends, attending proms and receiving their hard-earned diplomas in front of crowds of beaming family and friends. Instead, they are participating in car caravans, watching virtual graduations and contemplating an unsettled world where our economy, our social fabric, even our basic health and safety seem far from secure.
Against this backdrop, I am proud to introduce you to some remarkable Ventura County graduates who aren’t letting the difficulties of our current moment extinguish their spirit or stop them from pursuing their dreams. Among them are students who have personally felt the sting of social inequity and found the inner strength to rise above.
The Class of 2020 has proven it is ready to meet the challenges we face as a community and as a nation. We hope their stories will reassure you that, whatever uncertainty lies ahead, this new generation of graduates is prepared to lead us into a bright future.
Ventura County Superintendent of Schools
Destiny Sausedo - Ventura High School
By the time she was sixteen, Destiny Sausedo had lived through the death of her brother in a drive-by shooting and the loss of her mother to a drug overdose. Before she died, her mom was often incapacitated by drugs and Destiny was her primary caregiver.
Nico Young - Newbury Park High School
Newbury Park High School track and cross country star Nico Young isn’t used to standing still. In the past two years, he’s racked up an incredible series of victories, shattering records along the way. He’s widely considered one of the best high school runners in the nation. But these days, amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic, this champion is adapting to a slower pace of life.
Jesus Martinez - Hueneme High School
Jesus Martinez remembers taking trips to Malibu with his mom when he was younger – not to enjoy the beach or the restaurants, but to help with her job cleaning houses and hotel rooms. “I grew up fast and I lost a lot of my childhood because I had to work at a really young age,” he says.
Jonah and Kelsie Hoj - Nordhoff High School
For Jonah and Kelsie Hoj, high school was a family affair. They both attended Nordhoff High School in Ojai along with their older sister. And both of their parents are teachers at the school – dad teaches history and drama, mom teaches dance.
Diego Mosqueda - Gateway Community School
Things were going great in Diego Mosqueda’s life until the start of his junior year when his dad became seriously ill without warning. “I was thinking that my life can’t get any better than this. Then it all went downhill."
Jamie Gregory - Santa Susana High School
When Jamie Gregory was 11, her beloved uncle Jimmy died of a heroin overdose at the young age of 31. "I was super close to my uncle," she says. "It was really hard for my whole family because he was battling drug addiction for years."
From the Superintendents
The leaders of Ventura County's school districts share their messages of congratulations for their graduating seniors in this most unusual year.