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 2020.
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. “I’ve had the whole Hoj experience,” Kelsie says. In addition to having classes with her brother and sister, “I was in class with my dad all four years and with my mom in my freshman and senior years.”
Jonah and Kelsie are ranked number two and three in their graduating class, with Jonah having a slight edge over his sister. While Kelsie is the more competitive of the two, she says she’s taking it in stride. “I’m still a top senior, so no worries.”
The family connection will continue in college since both Jonah and Kelsie have decided to attend UCLA this fall. While they didn’t plan it that way, UCLA turned out to be the best option for both of them. They’re not too worried about being in each other’s shadows since they’re taking different majors on a campus with more than 30,000 undergraduate students.
Kelsie will be majoring in theater and dreams of performing on Broadway. Jonah will major in political science and is interested in careers in government or journalism. While the twins are excited about the future, they’re also concerned about what their college experience will look like in this era of COVID-19 and social distancing. Jonah says online learning can never replace the on-campus college experience. “You’re paying not just for the name brand on your diploma,” he says. “You’re paying for the professors you meet and the conversations that you can have in person.”
Jonah predicts the impacts of COVID-19 and the lessons learned from working remotely will lead to permanent changes in the workplace. “We’re going to see a lot of different jobs that have now moved online, and they function perfectly well that way,” he says.
As they prepare for the next stage in their education, the Hoj twins have nothing but gratitude for their teachers – especially the ones they call mom and dad. “They would have a seven-hour day at work, then come home and work on grading and setting up assignments and planning projects,” Jonah says. Kelsie says the pandemic has given everyone a renewed appreciation of the work that teachers do. “I think it has shown how important teachers are. There are teachers going above and beyond right now to make sure everyone is OK and that everyone has what they need. Teachers truly care a lot.”
More Stories about the Ventura County Class of 2020
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.
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," he says.
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.