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Breaking Down Barriers: Stories from our JCCS Graduates

Breaking Down Barriers: Stories from our JCCS Graduates

Many of the students who attend SDCOE's Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) have faced adversity, often experienced trauma, and encountered countless barriers during their educational journey. With supportive staff and families, 80 students from JCCS campuses around the county persevered and can now call themselves graduates. Here are the stories of some of our students. 


Azaiah – Monarch School

Azaiah is upbeat when reflecting on his years in high school, and says that despite some challenges along the way, he wouldn’t change anything.

Photo of Azaiah in cap and gown

“I am proud that I’ll be graduating this year. I never really doubted myself but seeing myself progress over the years has been nice,” he said.

Azaiah has attended Monarch School for about 10 years. He persevered and continued to dedicate himself to his education and maintaining his grades while taking care of his mom after she suffered a stroke.

It was his late brother and his school coaches who always pushed him to do his best.

“My brother always told me to try and do the best no matter what. I try to make him proud and continue to do good in my education,” he said. “My coaches always pushed me to be the best I could be whether that was in sports or in school."

In the fall, Azaiah is headed to Cal State Fullerton to major in psychology and hopes to become a mental health therapist.

Azaiah gives this advice to other students facing challenges.

“If someone is going through a difficult situation, I know it can be hard to push through and get your thoughts off of it, but you can hang out with friends or do something that you love to keep your mind blank. And never give up on yourself. Try to stay positive and never doubt yourself,” he said.


Luis - North County Innovations Academy of Empowerment

For Luis, it was the one-on-one help at Innovations Academy of Empowerment that helped him reach this important milestone of graduation.

Luis in his cap and gown

“They made sure I was on track and didn’t give up on me,” he said of the teachers and staff at the school.

While attending Innovations, Luis attended an automotive class at Palomar College and is looking to take additional automotive courses at Palomar after graduation.  

He said he is excited and proud of his accomplishments after a long journey. He advises others high school students facing challenges on their path to graduation to not give up on themselves or the teachers looking to support them.

“It may seem hard right now but in the future it will all progress. Keep trying because it will pay off," he said.


Kaitlyn - Monarch School

Like many graduates, Monarch senior Kaitlyn feels the nerves and excitement about graduating.

“I feel nervous and excited at the same time. One thing I’m excited about is going to the real world and learning new things,” she said. “I’m nervous because I don’t know how I’m going to be on my own.”

Monarch student Kaitlyn in cap and gown

Her last four years have been tough, she said, but things have improved over the past year after moving to a different environment where she has been happier and gained the skills and confidence to speak to people.

She credits her oldest sister and her friends with helping her overcome some challenges and stay on track.

“My oldest sister was there for me; she was there for all my siblings. She is the one I look up to. She taught me how to be independent. She taught me how to do things on my own. Taught me many things that my mom could not. She was the parent figure. She’s the one who pushed me hard to become someone in the future. My friends, do, too. They know how to read me and if something’s wrong, they try to support me any kind of way.”

She’ll attend Southwestern College in the fall with plans to transfer to SDSU or UCSD to pursue a career in social work.

She reminds other students facing challenges that it’s OK to cry and that you’re never alone. “There is always someone there.”

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