Heather Oswalt has a lot going on in her busy life. When the Gerber Jr./Sr. High School Senior Extension Program (SEP) student isn’t focused on earning her high school diploma, she’s working six days a week as a server at IHOP restaurant in Sacramento. It hasn’t been easy.
“Two years ago, I didn’t even think I was going to graduate from high school the way my life was going,” Oswalt said. Despite facing her own personal challenges, she wanted to do more to help others during the holidays. Interaction with the homeless near the restaurant inspired Oswalt to ask classmates if they would help. They collected donations to purchase items for sack lunches and care packages to distribute to the area’s homeless.
“It hurts my heart to see people hurting like that,” Oswalt said. “I’m worried about going to college when somebody else is worried about eating tonight or having a place to sleep, and I know what that is like.”
The project grew and eventually involved several Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) Community Schools programs. Because of Oswalt’s efforts, SCOE Transition Specialist Heather McTighe nominated Oswalt for the “Every Student Succeeding” award from Region 3 of the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA). The association honors students who exceed expectations, overcome great obstacles, and face life’s challenges head on. Oswalt will receive the award at a banquet on March 25.
“Since she has become a student at our school, Heather has shown determination and commitment to both her schoolwork and community,” said McTighe, who nominated the student. “She is a positive role model.”
Oswalt still finds time to serve as a member of Gerber’s Student Leadership Team. As part of that group, she recently met with Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools David W. Gordon to discuss ways SCOE students can get more involved in their communities. “Heather is a true example of a successful student and exemplifies what we want all students to be,” said Senior Extension Program Principal Craig Bradford.
About the Senior Extension Program
SCOE’s Senior Extension Program allows students to extend the time they can remain in high school, with the goal of reducing drop-out rates. The program offers flexibility which allows students to earn credits while still meeting work and family obligations. With a more personalized approach and staff to address their individual needs, students are more likely to complete high school and transition to college, military service, or the workforce. For questions about the Senior Extension Program and enrollment information, e-mail or phone Craig Bradford: (916) 228-2073.