Heading into high school, Kaitlyn Salas was an A and B student, all caught up on her credits without any behavior problems.
When she chose to skip a traditional four-year high school in favor of an alternative education program at Murrieta Canyon Academy, her mother was a little apprehensive.
“My mom said, ‘Are you sure you want to leave (traditional) high school?’” Salas recalled. “But I knew what I wanted. I wanted to do a lot of school work and graduate early. So it was a choice.”
Going to a large high school would mean putting up with a lot of “teenage drama,” she said. Going to Murrieta Canyon Academy with far fewer students would mean less drama.
The small classes, flexible schedule, and independent study worked for her – she finished high school in three years, not four. She will graduate at 17 this June, plans to attend Mt. San Jacinto Colllege, and become a registered nurse specializing in pediatric medicine. Like her father, an X-ray technician, and mother, an instructional aide working with special education students, she is looking forward to helping people.
“I love children,” she said. She learned a lot babysitting for a neighbor who has small children and whose husband was deployed overseas in the military.
For her hard work and commitment to her community, Kaitlyn was named one of Riverside County’s inaugural group of Top Scholars – all students chosen from 27 alternative education sites including district continuation schools, community day schools, and other Riverside County Office of Education programs. Kaitlyn was among the 41 graduating students who were honored at the event held on May 17, 2017, at the Moreno Valley Conference and Recreation Center.
Kaitlyn was appreciative of the recognition, which she believes is a motivation to students.
“It was a big deal,” she said. “It meant a lot to me. I think the award will motivate students to push through school, to do better.”
Her teacher, Linda Spoon-Schleuniger, said Kaitlyn has great goals and is a great person, too.
“Kaitlyn is graduating a full year early because she is a bright, articulate, diligent and curious student and a positive, empathetic, personable, and honest young woman,” she said. “She makes me smile every day with her quirky sense of humor and her kind, gentle nature. I will miss her, but I also celebrate Kaitlyn continuing life’s journey knowing her dreams and goals are sure to become her future realities.”
Even her mom is a believer now. “She was ecstatic,” Kaitlyn said. “My parents, my family, and my teachers were so proud of me. I didn’t know how big a deal this was. Anyone can do what I did, if you are built that way, and if you have the goal in your mind and in your heart.”