This month's student representative on the San Diego County Board of Education has stayed focused and gone above and beyond in her studies.
At 16, Destiny Huerta will be graduating soon, thanks in part to the opportunity she had at Cuyamaca Prep Community School to mix college courses in with her high school classes. The school is in a classroom on the Cuyamaca Community College campus, which makes it easy for students to hop back and forth between their regular room and other spots on the East County campus.
Huerta takes pride in everything that she does, teacher Alicia McBride said.
"Destiny is one of the most thoughtful and mature students I have ever come across," McBride said. "Destiny is a great mother, daughter, student, and friend…. She is an inspiration to all of us."
Huerta plans to continue her education this fall, studying neonatal nursing.
"I am interested in this because my son was born premature," she said. "Without the amazing work of those neonatal nurses, my son may not have survived. I want to help others and make a difference in the world."
Her advice to other students is to work hard and focus on goals.
"Take advantage of all the opportunities that are given to you," she said. "Do not give up, and do not let your past dictate your future."
Huerta attributed her success partly to her teacher Alicia McBride.
"She not only helped me with school work when I didn't understand, she also helped me with my other life struggles," Huerta said. "She gave me advice, love, and support…. I truly believe that Alicia has been a huge factor in the success I have today."
Huerta is focused on health for both herself and her son. She's a vegan and regularly practices yoga. She also has a passion for traveling and other cultures.
Each month, the County Board of Education recognizes a student from the San Diego County Office of Education's (SDCOE) Juvenile Court and Community Schools program at its regular meeting.
"In addition to giving the board a chance to honor a student, participation in the meeting also gives students valuable experience in leadership," said Dr. Paul Gothold, San Diego County Superintendent of Schools.
Cuyamaca Prep is one of the San Diego County Office of Education's Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS). It offers a blended and independent-study program for students in grades 7 through 12 who were referred by probation, social services, or school district officials.
Juniors and seniors enrolled at the community school have the option to take any college course that isn't being offered as a class at the high school. Some of the courses the high school students have taken include foreign languages, science labs, real estate, music, and physical education. Some have taken summer school classes, too.
SDCOE's Juvenile Court and Community Schools program educates nearly 5,000 students each year who are either wards of the court or have been referred by social services, Probation, or one of the county's 42 school districts. Services are provided at more than 20 sites across the county to students who are incarcerated, pregnant or parenting, in foster care, expelled, chronically truant, in drug treatment centers and group homes for neglected or abused children, and experiencing homelessness.
Photo: Destiny Huerta with County Board of Education member Alicia Muñoz.