San Benito High School senior Justin DeJesus received the “Every Student Succeeding” award from the Association of California School Administrators’ San Benito County Educational Leaders April 26 at Seascape in Aptos.
DeJesus “is an example of not judging a book by his cover,” said San Benito special education director Paulette Cobb. “His high school career began as a novel, each chapter a page-turner. The plot does not disappoint as he excels and rises above adversity and challenge.”
The nomination noted that DeJesus was honored “because he has made so much growth in his independence and confidence since he came to San Benito High School. Unanimously, Justin’s teachers and support staff reported that he is more motivated to be independent in completing daily tasks and completing class assignments despite his disability,” for which he uses a wheelchair.
His Career Technical Education teachers say he has excelled in metal and wood courses, along with art, completing complex, hands-on projects.
“He is the model for the benefits of inclusionary classrooms,” the award nomination reads. “Despite his obvious and less obvious disabilities, he continues to evolve into a successful, focused and dedicated young man. His supporters at San Benito have seen this amazing person as they look past his wheelchair and struggle with fine and gross motor skills to see his warm smile, respectful attitude and caring disposition.”
It continues, “Where others might get frustrated and take the easy road, Justin has battled to pass challenging classes and earn his diploma.”
Special education aide Jessica Murray, who worked with DeJesus during his freshman year and again this year, said his improved confidence and use of computer-assisted learning has allowed him to complete written assignments on his laptop instead of having someone else write them for him.
DeJesus wants to attend a specialized program that will allow him to pursue a career in welding, and he has also expressed interest in exploring the drone program through Gavilan College.
In woodshop, DeJesus has been guided and supported by teacher Mark Krause. With the support of his teachers, instructional assistants, assistive technology specialist, orthopedically impaired specialist and the campus Workability program, DeJesus has succeeded in a combination of general education, co-taught and resource support classes.
“Justin has been a product of inclusion and academic equity,” the nomination stated. “He has evolved with technology and risen to high expectations from family and educators. Justin has a relentless support system of peers and school staff who appreciate the person” he is.
That appreciation was also expressed at the April 23 San Benito High School District Board of Trustees meeting, where DeJesus and his parents were recognized for his honor.
“At San Benito, we are at the edge of our seats,” his award nomination concluded. “The final chapter for Justin in his high school career will be his successful completion of his high school diploma with all A-G qualifying classes. From here, the rest of Justin’s story is just waiting to be written.”