Many people think of continuation school as a place for “bad kids,” kids not smart enough for a regular high school.
Students at Cambridge High School in Fresno are working to change that narrative by being the first continuation high school in Fresno County to participate in the academic decathlon.
“It became this really positive thing on our campus even with the staff and teachers that got involved. They saw what the kids felt like, they just felt normal, they felt like all those kids from the other school who are in the academic decathlon,” says Elva Carlos, the campus culture director.
In addition to helping coach the academic decathlon team, Carlos has worked at Cambridge High for 10 years. First as a science teacher, and now as the campus culture director.
She says, “Campus culture to me is making our campus welcoming for students, to not only feel (welcomed) but to feel a part of the school.”
If a kid feels connected to the school they will want to come and they will graduate, she explains.
Therefore, Carlos makes sure there are plenty of activities, events and clubs for students to join, working hard to remove the stigma of attending a continuation school.
“She helps you open your eyes to the reality of the students here. We’re all just kids that had a hard time and want to get our credits, we’re nothing bad,” says student, Ashley Valle.
She’s earned the respect of these kids. Mention her name on campus and this is what you hear:
- She’s amazing
- She’s awesome
“With her guidance, they’ve taken the lead to change the perception of alternative education,” says Pete Pulos, principal at the high school.
“They want people to know we are Cambridge, this is a good place, you can further your education here,” he says, calling it “a school of hope.”
Carlos calls Cambridge home, saying she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, that this is her purpose.
“If i’m that one person who’s going to make you feel your worth it and that you can (do it), that’s my drive that’s what keeps me going,” she says.
The goal of Cambridge is to get students caught up on their credits so they can go back to their home school and graduate with their peers.