Most students primarily focus on school and a few extracurricular activities, but Nautica Rios from Nueva Vista Continuation School has more on her plate than most.
Raised primarily by her father who works full-time, Nautica worked at multiple different jobs throughout her school years to help with family finances, while also caring for her four younger siblings. As early as the age of 11, Nautica took on more responsibilities than the average student.
When taking care of her younger siblings in middle school, Nautica’s youngest brother Diego would call her “mom” and always ask to sleep in her room because he was afraid of the dark.
As time went on, Nautica found it difficult to tend to her siblings and keep her grades in order—often skipping school to prioritize her siblings.
“I never focused on myself. I would always put my siblings first,” Nautica said.
After Nautica and her father met with the school district, they were told they may face severe consequences if her attendance did not improve. Nautica knew something had to change.
It was then that she transferred to Nueva Vista Continuation School. This transition let her succeed at her own pace, while the staff and faculty encouraged and motivated her to keep pushing forward.
Nautica described her experience at Nueva Vista as less “dramatic” with fewer distractions that allowed her to focus on her own academics. Nautica appreciated the warmth and friendly atmosphere of the campus.
Her 11th grade English teacher, Ms. Lancaster, would act as a “motherly figure” and role model by encouraging her to stay focused in school despite her personal struggles.
“She [Ms. Lancaster] always pushed me to do my absolute best,” Nautica said. “Whenever I was slacking, she would encourage me and let me know I had the help and support. She told me to never give up, and was one of the few people that I was able to open up to about my personal problems.”
Whenever Nautica was upset, Ms. Lancaster would personally walk by her desk and offer immediate support.
“I would make her look me in the eye, and I would ask her if everything was all right,” Ms. Lancaster said.
If something was on Nautica’s mind, they would step outside of her classroom for a “quick personal conference”, and Ms. Lancaster would reassure Nautica that she was doing great.
Nautica excelled at Nueva Vista. She completed 28 hours of community service, donated blood, became an active member in her school’s Associated Student Body, and participated in a Water for Kenya school fundraiser.
Nautica was recognized at the Riverside County’s Office of Education’s 2019 Top Scholars Recognition for her academic accomplishments and her personal growth as a student and young adult. At the event Nautica shared her story with other students who are experiencing similar challenges and setbacks. She encouraged them to persevere and continue moving forward despite having to face tough obstacles in life.
After graduation, Nautica hopes to pursue a career in nursing at Riverside City College due to her love of children. One day she plans to become a social worker to assist individuals in need.
Nautica became the first child in the family to finish high school and believes her accomplishments exemplify what her father sacrificed in order to take care of the family as a single parent.