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By Veronica Jacuinde
Wasco Tribune 

Wasco Independence High School receives Model School Award


Last updated 2/25/2022 at 5:41pm | View PDF

Veronica Jacuinde | Wasco Tribune

Principal Rusvel Prado and former Principal Martin Lonza.

Wasco Independence High School beat out over 400 alternative schools in California to win the 2022 Model School Award.

Founded in the mid-1970s, WIHS has since played an essential role in the community for those students needing extra help.

"I feel ecstatic, and especially for the staff, students, and parents as they all worked so hard for the award. It was a team effort," said Principal Rusvel Prado, a former teacher at the school with over 18 years of experience in alternative education. "This award is important because it proves that what we are doing here is working and that we are giving the best education to our students."

The California Department of Education and the California Continuation Education Association made the selection. Recognition was based on student attendance, behavior, parent involvement, and commitment to the community. Only 36 schools in California received the award, with WIHS one of three from Kern County.

"I believe we received this award because we have some of the best teachers and staff in the state of California when it comes to teaching at an alternative site. All of them want to be here; they love our students and have a passion for the community of Wasco," said Prado. "Our school is small with only 140 students, and that allows us to create a warm environment for kids to thrive and realize their full potential."

"We help youth that has fallen behind in credits, had disciplinary issues, suffered a family crisis, a life change like teen pregnancy, or just didn't fit in at a traditional high school. We offer a traditional high school diploma and also provide an independent study program after school for those that are parenting minors, have a medical condition, or have a job," added Prado.

"It starts from the top district office for supporting our small school and providing us with the resources to be that special school," said Prado.

"The community support is huge, and so is their perception that we are not a school for bad kids; we are a school for kids to move forward," said former principal of 20 years Martin Lonza. "Each student is unique, and everyone has a story behind it. For whatever reason, the traditional high school was not a good fit; we offer an education that is accommodating to all."

The school regularly brings new opportunities to their students like motivational speakers and colleges to help prepare them for their next step in higher education or other post-graduation options. Students can also earn college credits towards their associate's degree through a partnership with Bakersfield College.

"Here, one can grow from past errors. That instead of failing and giving up, you can learn from your mistakes and keep growing towards your goals and dreams," said senior Noel Abugan.

After graduating, Abugan plans to go to the Army and believes the school has prepared him for the next chapter in his life.

"They helped me in a lot of ways. My communication skills have grown, and so has my confidence. Through the encouragement of my teachers and staff, I believe I can achieve anything," he said.

Veronica Jacuinde | Wasco Tribune

Students, from left, Ciara Garcia and Noel Abugan

"The most important thing about the school, with it being so small, is that everyone knows each other and there is mutual respect for one another," Abugan said. "The staff is energetic, they are interested in your success and really enjoy their work. We form bonds that help with the anxiety or stress one might feel at a traditional larger high school."

Student Ciara Garcia originally came in for credit recovery, but loved it so much that she stayed. Through the early college credit program, she said, "I am super excited to still be in high school and already start working on my future goals."

In May, WIHS will be recognized at the California Continuation Education Association Conference in Long Beach and will be taking a delegation of students to celebrate.


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