ESS Region 6: Leilah Castle
August 10, 2020
Region 6 2020 Every Student Succeeding Leilah Castle.
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: Alhambra High School District: Martinez Unified School District ACSA region: 6 Leilah Castle is a survivor. For a time in elementary and middle school, she was homeless. In 2012, her sister was shot and killed. And in 2014, when Leilah began living with her aunt, she suffered from bullying at school. Despite these obstacles, Leilah succeeded academically, achieving a 3.5 GPA while taking Honor’s English and playing sports. She was a member of the support crew for the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why,” and her hobbies include lacrosse, writing, music, astrology and enjoying mystery and crime shows. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome to get where you are today? [The] challenge most difficult to overcome was stepping up and telling my sexual assault story. For months, [I] held on to something that was so toxic for my mental health. I was too afraid to tell someone. I had no witnesses, I didn’t know him that well and I wasn’t intoxicated, so I was afraid people wouldn’t believe me. Eventually, I told a small number of people who were all close friends because I couldn’t keep that pain in. They really helped me feel more value of myself, and also step up and make sure my voice was heard.  What educator helped you along the way and how did they help you? The first educators I would like to recognize are Ms. Seto and Ms. Tokos (now Mrs. Hughes). These two were my learning center teachers for sophomore and junior year. They both helped me during my time of depression.  [School psychologist] Ms. Nadia has a great impact on my life, and she’s been talking to me since my sophomore year. She’s helped me with homework, she’s fed me when I didn’t have breakfast or lunch, she always made time for me to come and talk when I was feeling down, she made sure that I didn’t let my bad mental state bring me down, she had the most faith in me, and not once has she given up on me.  Another educator I would like to recognize is Mr. Burns. He’s my senior learning center teacher. He pushed me to do better and always offered to help me and never gave up on me. He treated me with much care and respect. I wouldn’t have been able to graduate if it wasn’t for him, Ms. Fennel, and Mr. Doigny.  Last but not least, of course all of the administration in the VP, including Ms. Billeci, Ms. Malky, Ms. O’Malley and especially Mr. Chamberlain for helping me get to where I am today. I know I was only supposed to pick one, but truly, I couldn’t just pick one because these educators are immaculate.  What advice would you have for students facing similar situations? If I could give advice to other students, I would say to not be so hard on yourself if you’re struggling, because the struggle is hard enough. Do not be afraid to use your voice when in need. Do not let anyone tell you that your depression isn’t a reason to not do schoolwork, because trust me, it’s extremely hard!  What does it mean to win this award? Winning this award was so crazy. I was struggling with friendships and school and work, and the balance of all that and winning this award gave me faith and showed me that good things really do come my way. It made me feel proud of myself, and I don’t remember the last time I felt proud of myself. 
Every Student Succeeding winners overcome the odds
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