At Goodwill Education Center in Victorville, educators are committed to helping students in unique circumstances find a sense of belonging and community.
“We help students that have not been successful,” counselor Lora Walsh-Martin said. “For whatever that reason is. They need that support. They need that; to know that somebody cares about them. Asks them how their day is. And I find that that’s what we do here. And I feel that’s what makes a difference.”
Jessica Corona transferred to Goodwill Education Center after struggling both academically and socially in middle school.
“I was always the one to goof around,” Jessica said. “I wasn’t really taking school seriously until 11th grade.”
In November 2016, Jessica’s mother was diagnosed with urinary system cancer. Jessica made the decision to change her ways and get back on track with her schoolwork.
“When she was diagnosed with cancer, I dropped everything,” Jessica said. “I stopped playing around. I made a promise to her that I would graduate early. I came to school on time. I did my work.”
Goodwill Education Center Principal Kevan Loyd quickly noticed Jessica’s newfound commitment to education with her mother’s wishes at the forefront of her mind.
“I think that was a turning point for her,” Loyd said. “She realized that there’s something more important than actually being a social butterfly here at school. She wants to graduate and do bigger and better things because she wanted to take care of her mother.”
But on October 9, 2017, Jessica’s mother lost her battle with cancer. It’s a loss Jessica still feels every day.
“It’s like losing another piece of me,” Jessica said. “I cry at night sometimes. I have difficult days where I don’t want to get up. I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to talk to anybody. I want to shut everyone out.”
It would have been easy for Jessica to regress after her mother’s death. But the community at Goodwill Education Center stepped up and provided support.
“We all have a part,” Walsh-Martin said. “And basically, it’s cheerleading. It’s kicking them in the butt and saying ‘Come on. Let’s go.’ But we are family here. And with us being family, we surround.”
In May 2018, Jessica fulfilled her promise to her mother by graduating from Goodwill High.
“After all she’s overcome, the behavioral issues at the other high school, her mom passing, she still had the drive to graduate from high school,” Loyd said. “That was the greatest thing she could have done for me is to actually graduate.”
It’s been quite a transformation for Jessica Corona. From a challenging student trying to find her way to high school graduate, Jessica is looking ahead to the future. But she’ll always have her mother in her thoughts.
“I think Jessica now is a person who understands grit,” Goodwill Education Center Dean of Students Benisha Carr said. “How to persevere. And she knows that if she puts her mind to anything, she can achieve. I think her mom is looking down on her and is extremely proud of the wonderful young lady her daughter has become.”