She entered the juvenile justice system in May of 2014, relocated to Riverside, and was at the Arlington Regional Learning Center (ARLC) in Riverside—one of seven community day schools serving at-risk students operated by the Riverside County Office of Education.
“This was the only school that accepted me. When I first came, I thought I was going to fall further behind, fail my classes, and get mixed up with even worse stuff,” Desiree said. “But now, I’m doing better than ever and I’m glad that I ended up coming here because I didn’t realize how much potential I had.”
During her stint at ARLC, Desiree was connected with Kim Scott, a counselor who assists students in everything from tracking credit recovery efforts to succeeding in social situations at home and at school. Scott encouraged the former honors student to get more involved in the various extra-curricular activities offered at ARLC. Desiree took the advice and is now serving as the student body president, a cheerleader, and a teacher’s assistant in various classes. She has recognized the positive differences in her interpersonal skills, public speaking abilities, and her general attitude about school.
“Ms. Scott put a lot of pressure on me to try, and my mom and group home director have noticed a difference in me,” Desiree said. “I used to try to get home from school as soon as possible, but now I want to help out at the school—even if it means sacrificing my lunch break or extra time.”
As a school counselor, Kim Scott works with a wide range of students whose maturity, attitude, and outlook on life can vary widely based on their life circumstances and personalities. With Desiree, she recognized a seed of leadership potential that is making an impact on the campus.
“I noticed Desiree’s potential instantly, and knew she would be a role model from my very first meeting with her,” Scott said. “She is charismatic, empathetic, and has a heart for others in pain because of her own challenges in life. She’ll make a great counselor one day.”
Desiree’s future plans include college, but her area of focus is still up in the air as her interests range from business and cosmetology to psychology and counseling. Desiree has begun assisting the Riverside County Office of Education by serving on a Community School Site Council and the English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC).
“She does an outstanding job communicating to the parents about the highlights of our program,” said Bruce Petersen, Foster Youth Services Administrator at the Riverside County Office of Education. “She is a valuable member of those committees.”
Regardless of her career direction, she is already aware that one mistake in her high school career is an experience that can continue teaching her lessons about life.
“Now, I’m really thankful for where I am. It was a bad way to learn a lesson and sometimes you just have to go through the hard way,” Desiree said. “I learned that it’s hard going through things, but now I have a lot of supporters and advocates, and Ms. Scott is one of them. Being around her has really showed me what I could be doing for kids because of what she’s done for me. Every time I see her, I get a smile on my face.”
When asked what other students could learn from Desiree’s experiences, she revealed a maturity that would be the envy of many teachers and school administrators who work with at-risk students.
“All that matters is attitude and doing what you’re told,” Desiree said. “Even if you aren’t sure you want to do it, you truly can gain from it. They have your best interests in mind, and it will lead to a great thing if you can follow along.”