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    Ventura County Class of 2023 Finds Success Despite Pandemic Challenges

    By Dr. César Morales

    The students graduating from Ventura County high schools in 2023 had anything but a typical experience. They were in the second half of their freshman year when the pandemic forced classrooms to close. They had to adapt to distance learning and all of the challenges that went along with it. Many faced the ordeal of seeing loved ones pass away or fall ill from COVID-19. And when in-person instruction resumed, social distancing and masking became a part of their daily routines.

    Despite it all, there is no shortage of students in the class of 2023 who have achieved incredible things during their high school years. Several have overcome obstacles that go well beyond the pandemic to reach this important milestone. In our annual graduation edition of Focus on Education, we are proud to share some of their inspiring stories with you.

    Dr. César Morales
    Ventura County Superintendent of Schools

    Speech Impediment Can’t Keep Her Out of the Spotlight

    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 2023.

    Sinthia Cardenas

    When Sinthia Cardenas landed the prime role of Wednesday Addams in the Ventura High School production of The Addams Family, it was a particularly meaningful accomplishment. Since childhood, she had struggled to pronounce her Rs and Ls and often found people had difficulty understanding her.

    Speech therapy and lots of hard work paid off, to the point where she has no problem being on stage or giving presentations in class. “That’s why drama was so amazing for me and performing was so nice,” she says. “I was able to talk in front of a large crowd and build my confidence talking in front of so many people with a speech impediment.”

    Theater isn’t the only place this superstar student shines. She’s in the show choir and the improv club and is a leader in the honors string orchestra, where she plays violin. She’s also actively involved in student government where she led a movement to give Latino students a greater voice in school affairs.

    While the majority of Ventura High School’s students are Latino, they’re highly underrepresented in student government. That prompted Sinthia to create a Latino Rights Club that helps create a more inclusive campus culture. The club has held food fairs and movie nights and created mini-libraries in Latino neighborhoods that provide culturally relevant books in English and Spanish.
    The club has also succeeded in getting more Latino students involved in student government. “Our idea for the club was to show students that if you want a place to make your voice heard on campus, this is the place to do so,” she says.

    Sinthia has also excelled academically. She started taking extra classes at local community colleges right after eighth grade. Now she’s about to graduate from high school with 17 college courses under her belt, including anthropology, statistics and American Sign Language. She says more students need to know about the world of options available to high schoolers through the community college system. “I’ve always been someone who likes to take all the opportunities given to me, but I didn’t even know it was an option until I talked to my counselor,” she says.

    This fall, Sinthia will be attending UCLA and majoring in anthropology. Her community service work as a volunteer at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has inspired her to consider a career in the museum industry. It’s clear that nothing is going to stop this highly motivated student from following her dreams and reaching her goals.

    Click Here for More Stories from the Ventura County Class of 2023



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