ESS Region 14: Olivia Fernandes
October 5, 2020
ACSA Region 14 Every Student Succeeding recipient Olivia Fernandes.
Editor’s note: ACSA’s video series profiling the winners of the Every Student Succeeding awards program was impacted by COVID-19 shelter-in-place restrictions. Each week, EdCal will feature Q&A interviews with all 19 winners from each ACSA region. In addition, there will be video stories of the students whose footage was completed before the pandemic. Watch for these videos to premiere on ACSA’s
YouTube channel
and ACSA’s
Facebook page
this fall. 
Grade: 12 School: Cerritos High School District: ABC Unified School District ACSA region: 14 As she approaches the end of high school, Olivia Fernandes is thinking about which careers she may pursue. Becoming a social worker is of particular interest — her mom is in this field and often tells stories about the job. Someday Olivia can use her own experiences when helping others, especially those who have dealt with disabilities. Olivia was born with Popliteal Pterygium Syndrome, which gave her a cleft palate and resulted in her legs being amputated above the knee. These challenges caused Olivia to work harder to keep her grades up and improve her speech. Olivia’s perseverance has made her more confident and strong so that she can overcome any obstacle before her.  What are your hobbies and interests? While I have many hobbies, writing is one I find myself doing more often than not. Another hobby that is a part of my routine is yoga. In my freshman year, I was on the wrestling team. This, of course, had its difficulties as an amputee. My coaches had to come up with alternative wrestling moves. In the sport, I learned that it is possible to overcome any challenge if I put my mind to it. Another thing I learned is that no matter how tough something may seem at the start, if I keep pushing forward, eventually all that hard work will become worth it. I will carry these lessons that this experience has taught me for the rest of my life even though I am no longer a wrestler. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to get where you are today? The biggest challenge that I’ve had to overcome in my life is the syndrome I was born with called Popliteal Pterygium Syndrome. These physical disabilities have presented many obstacles in life for me, both socially and academically. For instance, my amputation has caused physical struggles because the prostheses I must wear to walk have many discomforts that I needed to learn how to deal with. The academic problems come with the doctor’s appointments that I must go to for my prostheses, which are typically during school hours, which means I oftentimes miss far more than is necessary to maintain acceptable grades.  My cleft palate has caused me to struggle in my classes as it makes it harder for others to understand me, which can cause my grade on a presentation to be marked down, which affects my grades. It also affects my social life as many of my peers struggle to understand me when I am talking, which causes a barrier between me and my peers. What educator helped you along the way and how did they help you? One of my teachers that helped me a lot was Robert Adam, my sophomore year geometry teacher. He helped me when I began to fall behind in math because I was missing class a lot for appointments. He is the teacher that I know I can rely on if I have any challenges, as he has always helped me out. What advice would you give for students facing similar situations? The advice I would give is to take time for yourself to take care of your needs as the struggles you may be going through can sometimes feel overwhelming, so you need time to breathe. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re struggling. What does it mean to win this award? As someone who has struggled throughout their life, it’s an honor to receive this award. There are many who are going through similar struggles to me and it feels great to know that it’s not going unnoticed.
Every Student Succeeding winners overcome the odds
Contact Us

© 2020 Association of California School Administrators
ACSA EdCal logo.
Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators