After double tragedy, student finds support
October 18, 2021
Rayahna Fraijo Grade: 11 School: Esparto High School District: Esparto Unified School District ACSA region: 3 Right as “Ray” was about to start middle school in Southern California, her mother passed away. She was taken in by her grandmother, but tragedy struck again when her grandmother died two years later. Adding to her double loss, Ray then had to leave the only community she ever knew to travel to Northern California and live with extended family.
Upon arriving at Esparto Middle School, she struggled with grief and fell in with the wrong crowd. But eventually Ray found support, both formal and informal, from her school principal, teachers, counselors, advisers and school staff, which she refers to as “second mothers.” Ray joined athletics, FFA and leadership, determined to make new connections in her school community.
What was your reaction when you found out you won the ACSA Every Student Succeeding award? I was very, very shocked. I didn’t know that teachers and faculty had seen me in that light. And I’m very appreciative that they saw me in that light, and I was recognized. I was just very shocked.
All of our winners have overcome some type of adversity or obstacle to get to where they are today. But your story is one of great loss. What impact did the loss of your mom and grandmother have on you? It was very, very harsh. I was definitely very rebellious. When my mom passed, I was a seventh grader. So instead of hanging out with my class, I was hanging out with the older kids. So eighth graders and freshmen. I would constantly be going out, going to parties. Constantly missing class. I didn’t really care. I just wanted to be distracted. I felt like I had no one. And then moving and having no friends. It was really hard.
You made the move from southern California to northern California and started school in Esparto Unified School District. How did you adapt to your new environment? In the beginning, I don’t think the move helped me at all. It was very hard. A lot of long distance with my friends. It was so different coming here. Smaller school. Different environment. But at the end of the day, I got very close with the office ladies and the principal at the middle school. They were like second mothers to me. And then, from there, I got really close with a lot of friends who have really been there for me.
In what way did the members of your school community shape you and help you get to where you are today? I think in the beginning, I wasn’t with the right crowd when I first came here. But I definitely was wanting to participate in leadership activities. I wanted to be something at this school. I didn’t just want to have a horrible life after what happened to me. I wanted to fix it.
What would your advice be for students who have dealt with the loss of a loved one? It’s OK to grieve. I definitely felt like it wasn’t OK. And now I realize it is OK. And always just do it for yourself because at the end of the day, everything is going to be for you. Your purpose is for you.
To look at where you are now compared to where you were only a few years ago, what makes you most proud of what you’ve overcome? I’m glad that I finally went over that hard mountain and just said, ‘It’s OK.’ I’m doing this for my mother and grandmother.
ACSA Region 3 2021 ESS Rayahna Fraijo.
ACSA Region 3 2021 ESS Rayahna Fraijo.
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