Ventura County’s Graduating Seniors Impress and Inspire

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Ventura Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Babb with IrieAnn Harris

From the “Ventura County Office of Education”

IrieAnn Harris – Buena High School-Unstable home life motivated her to build a better future

IrieAnn Harris had no choice but to grow up fast. Due to family problems, she says the responsibility of caring for her three youngest siblings fell primarily to her. “I would get up, go to school, come home right away, watch the kids until they went to bed and clean the house and make food and do homework,” she says. Then last summer, she says her mom moved away with the younger kids. She says it’s been years since she’s seen her dad.

She’s been living with friends and relatives, and despite the instability at home, she’s achieved great things as a student at Buena High School in Ventura. She has a near-perfect grade point average and earned a QuestBridge scholarship, which gives high-achieving low-income students a full ride to elite universities. She will attend USC in the fall and dreams of becoming a teacher. In January, Ventura Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Babb presented her with the “Most Inspirational” student award. She also finds time to volunteer at Casa Pacifica, which provides support services to families in crisis.

She credits her success to the positive role models in her life, including her half-sister’s father and her US history teacher Norma Saatjian. She also says the AVID program that helps underprivileged kids with the college application process was invaluable. “AVID taught me everything I didn’t learn at home and that would be too hard to figure out online,” she says. “It teaches you how to be a successful student.”

Instead of repeating mistakes made by some of the adults in her life, IrieAnn says she has learned from them. “Everything from life choices to mannerisms to how to raise a child. I learned what not to do and what I didn’t want my life to be like, so that really motivated me to go the other way.”

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