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.
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 as far as work and school, friends, football,” he says. “Then it all went downhill.”
Diego’s dad passed away last year at age 61 due to a rare illness that causes swelling of the throat and difficulty breathing. Diego had been extremely close to his father and his grades started to suffer. Then during his senior year at Oxnard High School, there was an incident that led to him being expelled.
He had a choice to make – take the GED or enroll at Gateway Community School, an alternative school in Camarillo for expelled students. He had heard some things about Gateway that had him a little worried. “I knew a couple of friends who were going there because they did some really bad stuff,” he recalls.
But he chose to give Gateway a try because he wanted a chance to wear his cap and gown at graduation and so he’d be ready to answer the inevitable questions from future employers. “I can tell them honestly that I have a high school diploma, not a GED,” he says.
Any negative preconceptions Diego had about Gateway went out the window after he became a student in the school’s independent study program. “There are teachers and counselors there who care about you and want to see you succeed,” he says.
The coronavirus crisis dealt Diego another blow – crushing his dreams of having a traditional graduation ceremony. “I was always looking forward to taking pictures with friends, putting on that cap and gown, having the moment. Now it’s gone, not just for me, but for everyone unfortunately.” He says Gateway teacher Jennifer Pujol in particular helped him stay motivated despite the disappointment.
Diego ended up graduating early, receiving his diploma in April. He plans to enroll at Ventura College with the goal of becoming a correctional officer. While he once thought Gateway represented an end to his hopes and dreams, he now realizes it was just the opposite. “Once you go to Gateway, it’s not over. Your journey hasn’t come to a stop,” he says. “You can still get your high school diploma and your future has just started.”
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.
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.
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.