Reversing the Stigma Around Continuation Schools
By Victor Seguin
Image via Flickr
Why do people in our community associate students at Yosemite High Continuation School with titles like “thug,” “drug dealer,” “gang member,” or just all around “bad kids?” How did a school, which was designed as an alternative to traditional high school to help struggling students graduate, gain such a bad reputation?
California has 460 continuation high schools, which serve over 116,500 students, according to the state’s Department of Education. Students who choose to go to continuation schools usually do so because they are at risk of of not graduating from a regular school, or need a more flexible schedule because of a job of family issue.
As a Yosemite High School graduate I want to clear up these hurtful misconceptions about my school, and other continuation schools like it. Contrary to what many people seem to believe, it is not a just place for the worst kids in Merced Union High School District.
During my sophomore year at my neighborhood school, Golden Valley High, counselors told me that I had no chance of graduating. School officials also informed me that even if I went to the continuation school, I still had a slim chance of getting a diploma. I defied their predictions and graduated from Yosemite on June 1st, 2016.
Before showing up at Yosemite I was told by many different people — both family members and members of my community — that the school was filled with dangerous people, like drug dealers and gang members who would attack me the second they got the chance. People said the school was for stupid kids who did simple education packets all day because they couldn’t handle real class work.
Because of what I heard, I was genuinely scared of Yosemite before ever setting foot there. I was also constantly put down by most people as soon as they found out where I went to high school. But after spending my junior and senior year at the school and graduating, I’ve come to see how undeserved Yosemite High’s bad reputation is.
For me, Yosemite High was a much better learning environment than my previous school. I found the staff and students to be kinder, more welcoming, and more helpful than at my last high school. The classes were smaller, usually with only about 20 to 25 students per class. This allowed for more one-on-one help for students and created a more personal connection with my teachers.
My smaller classes made a huge difference, as compared to the 40-plus students in my previous school. I saw students who would otherwise fail easy classes, pass with straight A’s, simply because they received more hands-on help from the teachers.
Back at Golden Valley I felt like just another student that a teacher had to deal with before the school day ended, but at Yosemite that feeling was non-existent. The teachers were invested in our lives. I knew that when I had problems, I could go to a teacher and they would listen, whether it had to do with school or my personal life. It wasn’t just the teachers, though, who tried their best to help us, but also the office staff and the liaisons who did everything they could to support the students and help them achieve their goals.
Of course, another big rumor is that students at Yosemite High are just assigned homework packets and have overly simplified classes. This is not true in the slightest. Students at Yosemite do the same work as students at non-continuation schools like Golden Valley or Merced High. The only major difference I noticed was Yosemite students don’t receive homework. I think this might be for the better – and a study by Concordia University showed that homework does not help students effectively in just about any way.
Yosemite High students are also encouraged to help one another with school work, something I didn’t really see at Golden Valley. Our method of learning may be different, but nonetheless it is just as good, if not better than, that of a school like Golden Valley or Merced High. Everyone learns in different ways, and the program at Yosemite recognized that when it comes to high school, one size does not fit all.
Lastly, and probably the most hurtful, is the widespread belief that Yosemite students are a bunch of thugs and gang members who are bad for our community and unfit for other schools.
But that’s not the type of people I encountered there. Instead I met people like my best friend Asher Fitzpatrick, who was not a drug dealing gang member. No — she’s a respectable, funny, girl who loves pandas and video games.
And I was never once harassed by a student or offered drugs by someone on the Yosemite High campus. Actually, there were more lockdowns and fights at Golden Valley than there were at my continuation school.
When I hear these stereotypes coming from people who have never been to the school or even interacted with the Yosemite community, it’s upsetting because they are unfairly judging these students. Most students who attend Yosemite have valid reasons for going to an alternative school, such as being student parents, needing a flexible schedule because they work, or hoping to resolve attendance issues.
If it wasn’t for Yosemite I don’t think I would have been able to graduate from high school, and I know I wouldn’t be the type of person I am today. Since I’ve graduated I have been looking for a job to help support my family while also applying for college.
Continuation schools are not filled with bad kids as everyone seems to believe — they are actually full of kids like me who want to learn but struggle in a regular school setting. Next time you hear someone is going to Yosemite or another continuation school, think twice before judging them.
Victor Seguin, 18, is a Youth Reporter at We’Ced. He enjoys Anime and Rock music and is obsessed with Thrilling Intent. He loves to draw, write, and read. Victor see mental health as a huge matter that is overlooked in our community, the entire Central Valley, and within our youth. He hopes to one day help in the efforts of bringing a youth mental health facility to the Central Valley that is made specifically for youth.