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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators
Small community helps student heal from loss of family
June 28, 2021
Oscar Velazquez Grade: 12 School: Lee Vining High School District: Eastern Sierra USD ACSA region: 11 After the deaths of his brother and mother, Oscar Velazquez moved around a lot. One family member would take him in, and then another — he no longer had one consistent home. Oscar persevered through his grief and struggles.

While working 20 hours a week at a restaurant, he boosted his grades. He also played on the school’s basketball team and served in the student body. School staff supported him with all his goals, even offering him a ride or help with college applications. Now, Oscar looks forward to attending college and beginning the next phase of his life.
How did the loss of your mother and brother impact you, especially as you were getting ready to start high school? I think that was my biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome. That was devastating but I’ve had a really good support group with my family and the community I have. I live in a small town called Lee Vining, California. It’s near Yosemite and I’m on a lake. It’s very touristy but there’s this small community here. And everyone, all the neighbors, are really supportive in every way.
You had some academic struggles to start, but you really made a turn in your junior year by enrolling in some vigorous courses. What led to the transformation? I was struggling because of my hardships in life. But through the support of the community, the teachers, the students, everyone wanted me to do better. And even myself, I knew I wanted to do better so that’s why I decided to take AP courses to better my GPA because I knew I wanted to go to college.
Your school community is about 60 students. How did everyone come together to support you? They tried to support me in every way they could. And it really helped. They did a really good job in helping me. And they still do. I still have such a great support group.
You’d like to major in finance and you’re planning to attend Chico State University. In doing so, you’ll become a first-generation college student. What are you looking forward to the most?
I’m most excited to meet all these new people. New friends. New contacts, too. I want to get to know as many people as I can. I’m sure that will help me in life a lot, too. And I’m looking forward to building leadership skills over there at Chico State.
What advice would you give to other students experiencing similar challenges? No matter what you’re going through, you can get through it. You just have to keep pushing. It does get easier, for sure.
Region 11 2021 Every Student Succeeding winner Oscar Velazquez.
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