Beating the odds

Laura Sturza

MEDIA DISTRICT WEST -- Monterey High School graduates overcame

obstacles that included being teen parents, working while in school,

caring for family members and catching up on credits.

The 66 students in the class of 2002, which included four teen

parents, accepted their diplomas in a courtyard ceremony at Walt

Disney Studios on Wednesday.

Monterey is an alternative school, featuring smaller classes and

designed to "nurture students," Principal Ann Brooks said.

"Some people told me I wouldn't make it," said Student of the Year

ShelahKelso, 19.

But that didn't stop her from winning scholarships that will help

her go to Glendale Community College to study psychiatry or zoology,

while working two jobs and raising her 17-month-old son, her mother

Barbara said.

Kelso also had the support of the school, which provides child

care for its students.

Of the 200 students at Monterey, 17 are parents and two are

pregnant, Brooks said.

In keeping with the school's alternative approach, any student who

submitted a speech could speak, and six students did so.

"Miss Burke, you were the first person who I thought of when I was

in labor -- you were always there for me," speaker Joana Ramirez said

of one of her teachers.

Walt Disney Studios has been a partner with Monterey for 13 years,

providing scholarships and job shadowing opportunities.

"We love working with the students -- they are so dedicated, hard

working and deserving," said T.J. Baptie, Disney vice president for

corporate relations. "Congratulations. Walt would have been very

proud."

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