Raymond Bradford, a graduating student from Sequoia School who’s on the autism spectrum, said he often feels that people look down on his school, but they shouldn’t — as many students feel it was the only place in the Santa Clarita Valley that gave them a shot.
“I feel that a lot of people might look at Sequoia with disdain,” said Bradford. “But, I feel it should be more of the opposite — people should see Sequoia and see the future of where our schooling should ultimately be.”
Bradford was one of six graduating students at a ceremony held at the Santa Clarita Sports Complex on Thursday. The small but moment-filled graduation allowed for each student to be highlighted by the teachers who impacted them and vice-versa.
Sequoia is a continuation school that integrates academic, behavioral and therapeutic support during the students’ studies. For example, therapy is mandated for every student during their term. This is done through Educationally Related Intensive Counseling Services (ERICS).
According to Bradford, it’s a place where students, such as himself, can feel safe and supported in ways they didn’t at other schools. Bradford’s transition to Sequoia started at Arroyo Seco Junior High School, where his conditions made him feel like he didn’t fit in — both academically and socially. But Sequoia was different.
“It’s a very small campus. It’s probably about a fourth of the regular high schools, in terms of size … it keeps attention on the students, where staff are able to keep an equal amount of care to each individual student and their needs,” said Bradford.
As Bradford attended to his learning disabilities, he also faced a crushing personal blow while at Sequoia — his long-time mentor and teacher Fidel Garcia died while Bradford was a student.
“(Sequoia) takes them from where they are and takes their strengths and just moves them forward and where (Bradford) came, to where he is now, it just was quite a journey,” said Bradford’s mom, Dana. “Then his late teacher … was really instrumental in picking up the pieces.”
Garcia’s brother, Domingo, presented a scholarship in his brother’s honor during the ceremony.
Dana also said Bradford and the other students found it difficult when the school was moved from its original location at The Centre to Castaic High School. This was challenging because being in a traditional high school campus environment was what led them to Sequoia in the first place.
The students were able to adapt, but the William S. Hart Union High School District eventually green-lit their return to The Centre, where they remain today. While it was difficult for the students, many of them adapted and overcame the challenge.
“Let me first start by saying how incredibly proud we are each and every one of this graduating class has overcome numerous obstacles that include having to adapt to significant changes and during the move from in-person learning to an online format at the height of the pandemic, adapted to the best of their ability when we went to Castaic and they were patient with us as we adjusted to our relocation back home to our Sequoia campus,” said Tracie Tewksbury, ERICS therapist at Sequoia, as she delivered the welcoming address. “Much like a phoenix rises from the ashes, our students have shown that they are able to be successful despite difficult situations that they are given. My hope and message for all of you today is to remain faithful to your dreams.”
The following is a list of the six students graduated from Sequoia School on Thursday:
Alyssa De La Rosa