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Every Student Succeeding 2016

February 16, 2017  |   Comments Off on Every Student Succeeding 2016

The All-American Refuge

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Mohammed Mohammed’s story has a happy ending. But the cruel reality is Mohammed’s story is the exception.

“He’s a very inspirational case,” said Sophia Jacoub, an English language coordinator in Grossmont Union High School District. “Not every student who comes in to a new country at 14 or 15 years old makes it this far.”

Mohammed, ACSA’s Region 18 Every Student Succeeding Award recipient, was born in Iraq. His father owned a car dealership. Terrorist groups used the family’s wealth as an opportunity to incite fear and threaten violence.

“They would always tell my father that they were going to kidnap me, but if he paid them money, they wouldn’t kidnap me,” Mohammed said. “From that, he didn’t let me out of the house. He told me to stay home and be safe.”

In 2008, the same terrorist group kidnapped Mohammed’s father. His mother sold the family’s house to pay off the ransom, but his father was never returned, and they never saw him again.

“Some people say he’s alive and some people say he’s not,” said Thekra Betrus, Mohammed’s mother, in her native language of Arabic. “But I don’t really care because we’ve missed him for eight years now, and he hasn’t shown up. I’ve been the one raising my son. So whether or not I have my husband, it doesn’t matter because God gave me a son, and I care about him the most.”

Mohammed’s mother made the difficult decision to move the family to Syria. When they first arrived, Mohammed described his new country as “another United States.” But that quickly changed when the civil war began in January 2011. The United Nations estimated more than 90,000 people were killed in the first 28 months of the war. More criminal groups began kidnapping children in Syria, just as they had done in Iraq.

“I was really scared, and I just thought that it was the end,” Mohammed said. “My family is all going to get murdered by those people, by the terrorists. But then my mom stepped up and she said, ‘We need to leave this area. We need to move on with life.’”

In November 2012, Mohammed and his mother escaped Syria with the help of the UN and made the journey to the United States, ultimately ending up in El Cajon. Knowing very little English, Mohammed struggled to adapt to his new environment. But he quickly discovered, he was not the only refugee in El Cajon. The city is believed to have the second-largest number of Iraqis in the United States. El Cajon Valley High launched two summer school programs to help refugees assimilate and adjust to their new lives: Hope, Opportunity, Prosperity and Education (HOPE) and Perseverance, Responsibility, Independence, Dedication and Education (PRIDE). Mohammed flourished, and before long he was named captain of the school’s soccer team and was crowned Homecoming King.

“When I heard his name, I cried because I felt this is who deserves it because the students vote and it just proves how liked and well-respected he is on campus,” English teacher Melissa Drake said. “It was the greatest moment.”

Mohammed suffered through two wars, multiple attempted kidnappings and the loss of his father. He graduated from El Cajon Valley High and has dreams of becoming a doctor.

“His impact on campus transcends being a refugee,” El Cajon Vice Principal Jason Babineau said. “It’s not about being a refugee to Mohammed. It’s about him impacting groups of people throughout the entire campus, including staff members, including teachers, including vice principals.”

But more than anything, Mohammed Mohammed is safe and secure. And that’s what matters most.

“At first I always thought that I would be murdered or kidnapped,” Mohammed said. “And I would always have that fear. But right now in America, I don’t have any feeling of that. I’m in a better place. I’m in a place where it’s safe.”





2016 “Honoring Our Own” Awards Dinner

January 19, 2016  |   Comments Off on 2016 “Honoring Our Own” Awards Dinner

2016 “Honoring Our Own” Awards Dinner

Sheraton Harbor Island Hotel & Resort

Region 18’s 2016 Awardees were celebrated at the Honoring our Own Awards Dinner on March 18, 2016. Read the story and view photos in the Fall, 2016 issue of the Communicator.

Awards Dinner Emcee, Jim Esterbrooks, welcoming our 2015 Region 18 ACSA/San Diego County School Boards Association Student Scholarship winner, Andria Montgomery, to the stage at the Honoring Our Own Awards Dinner on March 18, 2016.

The Communicator, Summer 2015

January 19, 2016  |   Comments Off on The Communicator, Summer 2015

Volume 45, Number 1
Summer, 2015

Read this issue


  • Presidentʼs Message
  • Region 18 Calendar
  • Leadership
  • “Honoring Our Own” Awards Dinner
  • Administrator of the Year Awardees
  • SDCSBA Awardees
  • Imperial County Awards

2014 Every Student Succeeding

March 3, 2015  |   Comments Off on 2014 Every Student Succeeding

Alannamae Charfauros

Daniel Boone Elementary School, San Diego USD

During the 2012-13 school year, Alannamae endured a major tragedy and was sent to live with her extended family. The English language learner had already proven herself to be tenacious and talented enough to become classified as a GATE student. Her resolve only continued to grow.

Alannamae maintains excellent grades and is a model school citizen despite hardships she faces in her home situation.
Alannamae’s circumstances would weigh so heavily on the average student that the pressure would keep them from functioning. Alannamae, however, found the warm environment of Boone school to be a nurturing place where she could thrive and make school success a priority. Alannamae is an excellent example of how Boone Elementary School staff surrounded and supported one of its own; school is a safe haven where she can blossom and grow.

2015 Region Administrators of the Year

February 10, 2015  |   Comments Off on 2015 Region Administrators of the Year

View a list of the 2015 Region 18 Administrators of the Year:

2015 Region 18 Administrators of the Year

2015 Every Student Succeeding

January 19, 2015  |   Comments Off on 2015 Every Student Succeeding

Kamil Robinson
Hoover High School, San Diego USD

Supporting ACSA Member: Joe Austin, Principal, Hoover HS
Support Team: Robert Robinson, Teacher, Hoover HS; Terena White, Counselor, Hoover HS

Determination and grit are what best describe Kamil Robinson, a recent graduate of Hoover High School in the San Diego Unified School District. In September 2014, Kamil’s mother suffered a heart attack. Although she survived, he and his siblings were going to be placed in foster care. Luckily, his grandmother was able to care for the children. However, his mother and grandparents decided it would be best for the family to move out of state, a decision that Kamil feared would derail his plans to finish high school and attend college in California.

The day before the family’s scheduled departure, his mother agreed that Kamil could live with his teacher in order to remain on track for graduation. Since that time, Kamil raised his grade point average, competed in Hoover High’s first-ever divisional championship football game, and received letters of acceptance to several colleges. He intends to pursue a degree in political science and criminology, so he can take on a career in law to help others through social change.

Along with students from all of ACSA’s 19 regions, Kamil was honored at the Leadership Summit Every Student Succeeding Luncheon on November 5, 2015 in Sacramento.

Every Student Can Succeed

September 17, 2013  |   Comments Off on Every Student Can Succeed

Region 18 2013 Every Student Succeeding

Eduardo Arredondo is a student who could have easily fallen through the cracks. In middle school, his grade point average was 1.93, and by eighth grade, he had eight failing grades. By the time he entered Vista High School, he had 28 absences and 38 tardies. He was brought before the School Attendance Review Board, which found he was in dire need of intervention and counseling services.

His principal brought together a student study team, and developed an individual education plan to help him reach his academic and behavioral goals. His principal would call him early in the morning to make sure he was up for school. Weekly counseling sessions from his therapist helped him gain the confidence to stay the course.

By his senior year, Eduardo earned a 3.67 grade point average and a previously unattainable goal of attending college.

Welcome to Region 18!

December 6, 2012  |   Comments Off on Welcome to Region 18!

We are delighted to welcome you to our region. ACSA’s Region 18 serves the southern California counties of San Diego and Imperial.

Please check back often to see regional and state updates, news, events, networking and volunteer opportunities and resources, or to quickly contact your Region 18 leadership.

We look forward to hearing from you!

2012 Every Student Succeeding

December 6, 2012  |   Comments Off on 2012 Every Student Succeeding

Mirza Hernandez, Region 18’s 2012 ESS Recipient

Mirza Hernandez made tremendous progress in her last two years in high school. Her English teacher encouraged her to take AP English her junior year, which required a leap of faith from Mirza since she had failed regular English in grade 10.

But she really blossomed in AP English. As she worked to help raise her 9-year-old brother, she turned herself around from being an unmotivated student to passing all her classes and starting to think about going to college.

But her prior lack of motivation had left her deficient in credits. That didn’t stop this determined girl. She transferred to a different school in her senior year so she could take advantage of their trimester system. That wasn’t enough though, so she took night classes too, all this while working at the local Jack in the Box.

Through her hard work, she finished all her A-G classes and now looks toward her goal of graduating college and becoming a social worker.

ACSA is pleased to honor Mirza Hernandez and the Region 18 team that supported her.

For more information on the ESS Program and to download the 2013 nomination form, please visit