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‘We Want a Kid You Don’t Have Any Idea What to do With’

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Jason Wasserman, a teacher, plays chess with an advisee. “It’s all the underdogs,” he says of students at SAVA.

This story was produced in collaboration with the Hechinger Report.

Earlier this year, Ricketa Bluford, a teacher at the Elk Grove campus of the Sacramento Academic and Vocational Academy, assigned her students a personal narrative essay. The one submitted by Maria Garcia, a senior in her independent study class, stopped her cold.

“The beginning of my senior year I got addicted to drugs and was really depressed. I was in a very toxic relationship and let a man control my every move and thought. … When the drugs stopped working I thought about the next best thing or what I thought it was.”

Maria, then 17 and addicted to cocaine, wanted to end her own life.

As the essay recounted, she was admitted to a psychiatric hospital. After several weeks of interventions by doctors and caseworkers, and with the help of family members and educators from SAVA, she began to improve. She expressed the desire to go back to school.

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