Stefanie Fajardo never gave up on her education.
Despite facing challenges, she graduated from Lindsay Community School this spring and will go to Grossmont College this fall to pursue a degree in orthopedic technology.
Because of this determination, Fajardo was recognized this week by the County Board of Education as
this quarter's Winners' Circle award recipient. The award honors Juvenile Court and Community Schools (JCCS) students who have made outstanding progress and achievement.
Fajardo is also active in her community, where she gives human rights training as part of Mothers United for Justice, Education, and Respect, or MUJER.
She said she doesn't consider being a young mother to be a negative thing.
"We are powerful mothers, and our children challenge us to be our best," she said.
Her advice to other students is to learn about their history and culture.
"Your voice and your knowledge are your biggest weapons," she said.
Her teachers at Lindsay Community School helped to teach her that lesson.
"My teachers taught me to always speak my mind," she said. "They showed me love and helped me discover that I am beautiful and intelligent inside and out."
Lindsay Community School is an education program SDCOE operates in partnership with Neighborhood House Association for teens in grades 9 through 12 who are parents or pregnant. Children of students at the school attend Lindsay Early Learning Academy, a preschool housed on the same campus.
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: Stefanie Fajardo Santos with San Diego County Board of Education Vice President Paulette Donnellon.