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.”