FATIMA RAMIREZ/Coachella Unincorporated
COACHELLA — As I sit on a park bench, enjoying the appetizing food and appreciating the company of my classmates, I realize how much I have grown to appreciate every single one of them.
My classmates and I are taking part in a celebratory event known as Spring Picnic at Olive Crest Academy – the charter high school from which I graduate today — a a day of fun, food and family at Bagdouma Park for the entire student body.
I have been a part of Olive Crest Academy (OCA) since the day it first opened its doors in 2010. While some might find it unorthodox to leave behind a familiar school in order to attend a completely different one, the promise of an early college model enticed me too much to decline the opportunity.
And with that leap of faith, I began my path to something I can only now recognize as fate.
OCA prides itself in offering qualified students the chance to participate in classes at College of the Desert. While I was applying to be a concurrent student during my junior year, I could not help but wonder what attending a college class would be like. After receiving the news that I had been accepted and the time came for scheduling classes, I was caught up in an array of bittersweet emotions. Although I had enrolled in a class during the fall term, it proved to be a more difficult task the second time around.
College of the Desert’s impacted classrooms and the fact that high school students are the lowest priority, I was not able to sign up for a class.
I stayed positive. When my counselor mentioned the possibility of crashing a course, I knew that somehow this would be the right solution. When I walked into the class, I soon realized I was not the only one with similar intentions for it was filled with people planning to get a spot in the class. As luck would have it, the way the professor decided to give away the remaining spots was by the drawing of cards. Luckily I was able to get one of the few remaining spots and went on to thoroughly enjoy and learn many lessons from this class.
Attending Olive Crest Academy has not only helped me be successful in my academics. Our family program, a daily class with the students and teacher who have been my school family for my entire time here, has taught me valuable life lessons and has provided me with a safe environment filled with people who genuinely care.
Teacher Margaret Hensel recently told Coachella Unincorporated, “I think (the family class) is such an awesome opportunity for the student body to really bond and come together and have a safe haven, not many schools – in fact, this is the only school – I’ve ever worked in that offered the family class and I think it’s wonderful.”
As I approach graduation, I cannot help but look back onto the past three years and be immensely proud and thankful for what the school has done for me. I would be extremely disappointed and upset if this opportunity was not given due to my school’s complicated relationship with the Coachella Valley Unified School District. (OCA is a charter school, but it operates under Coachella Valley Unified School District. The school board recently renewed the school’s charter for two years, against staff recommendation to deny the petition. The school’s future beyond that remains unclear.)
As part of the first graduating class, I look forward to seeing future classes benefit from the same experiences I have had as a student of Olive Crest Academy.
Fatima Ramirez is a reporter for Coachella Unincorporated. She will be a first year student this Fall at Northern Arizona University, where she plans to major in journalism.
Learn more about Olive Crest Academy.