Small School, Big Dreams: Creekside, IVA Grads Reach for the Stars

Creekside and IVA Grads Reach for the Stars

Creekside High School and IUSD Virtual Academy at San Joaquin (IVA) represent Irvine Unified School District's commitment to personalized education and student success. 

This year, we are highlighting the success stories of four remarkable graduates who have overcome significant challenges and exemplify what these schools can do to nurture their students' passion and potential.

"I am incredibly proud of these students,” Principal Dr. Rebecca Roberts says. “They have overcome challenges and obstacles beyond their years to achieve so much. It has been an honor to be part of their journey and watch them grow."

At Creekside and IVA, the dedicated staff works tirelessly to meet individual student needs, ensuring they are well-prepared for the future. 

"We're a small school with a dedicated staff focused on meeting the individual needs of our students,” Roberts says. “We've created programs to help them reach their full potential by the time they leave us. We work hard to support them, recognizing that each student has their own story and has overcome obstacles along the way.”

Sanai Hudson (Creekside)
Sanai Hudson

Sanai, who is headed to Southern University in Louisiana, overcame significant challenges during the pandemic to achieve her goal of attending a four-year university. 

In her 10th-grade year, Sanai faced a devastating loss when her beloved aunt, the glue of her family, passed away from COVID-19. This tragedy, coupled with the shift to online classes and the lack of social interaction, led to a decline in her motivation and academic performance.

Determined to improve her situation, Sanai transferred to Creekside in the middle of her junior year, where she found the supportive environment she needed. 

“They focus on each student and provide exactly what each one needs,” Sanai explains. “Creekside has helped me focus on my work and get things done on time. Being a smaller school, it also helped me become more social.”

The structured approach at Creekside, where all schoolwork is completed during class, helped her manage her time better. 

Sanai’s grades improved from Cs and Ds to As and Bs. She also took dual-enrollment courses to enhance her GPA and meet Southern University’s requirements. Working part-time at Walmart, often until 9 p.m., she earned extra credit for her college applications.

Sanai attributes much of her success to the supportive teachers at Creekside, including Mrs. Alinda Broughton, Ms. Esme Bernier, and Mrs. Donbi Chung.

Sanai also volunteered in Compton, helping her aunt with community services, such as picking up trash and working with children at a community center. This experience solidified her desire to become a speech therapist, working with children. She plans to major in speech pathology at Southern University while pursuing Army Reserves training. 

Jeannine Velazquez (Creekside)
Jeannine Velazquez

Jeannine’s aspiration to become a 911 dispatcher began in her freshman year, inspired by her older sister's ambition to be a police officer and her own desire to help people. 

However, stress and typical teen-related issues caused her grades to decline, a situation worsened by the pandemic.

“I didn’t want to disappoint my parents, but life drama was going on,” Jeannine says. “I was doubting myself about keeping up grades.”

At the start of her senior year, she decided to switch to Creekside. The supportive teachers and staff, including school counselor Lauren Yadon, helped her overcome academic challenges and self-doubt. Economics and history teacher Ms. Melinda Fowler reminded her she could achieve her goals and nominated her as an outstanding student, boosting Jeannine’s confidence. English teacher Mrs. Donbi Chung praised her writing and provided her with a sense of comfort, allowing open conversations without judgment. Since arriving at Creekside, Jeannine has maintained grades above 3.0. 

Detective Ghilarducci, Irvine Police school resource officer, arranged a two-hour sit-along in the dispatch room at the Irvine Police Department, where she witnessed the critical role of dispatchers in emergencies. One call, involving a distressed father unable to reach his child, particularly resonated with her.

After graduation, she plans to work as a security guard at Irvine Ranch Water District to gain experience handling situations and working with people, preparing for her dream job as a dispatcher.

“Creekside opened my eyes and made me realize I can pursue my goals,” Jeannine says.

Daniel Reyes (Creekside)
Daniel Reyes

Daniel credits Creekside with helping him nurture his dream of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. Graduating a semester early with a 3.2 GPA, Daniel enlisted in the Army, a goal he pursued by excelling academically and meeting rigorous physical fitness requirements. 

Daniel transferred to Creekside in 11th grade because he needed additional credits to graduate on time, and the school didn’t have a maximum cap on credits. The supportive environment at Creekside helped him turn his academic performance around, from Cs and Ds to mostly As by the time he graduated. The Creekside staff motivated him, lifting his spirits.

Meeting Army recruiters who came to Creekside last fall, Daniel was inspired by the opportunities the military offered, including educational benefits. A security officer at Creekside, Juan Hernandez, a veteran, shared his military experiences with Daniel, further fueling his ambition. Daniel’s dedication to his goal of joining the Army led him to take two extra online classes in his final semester to graduate early. 

Daniel left for basic training in Georgia one day after his 18th birthday in April. He will graduate in July and then undergo additional training to become an infantry airborne soldier. After that, he will begin his first job assignment in Italy. He also plans to attend college so that he can move up the ranks in the Army.

Kevin Chang (IVA)
Kevin Chang

Kevin chose IUSD Virtual Academy (IVA) for a deeply personal reason: The flexibility of online learning allowed him to better support his older sister, who has autism and epilepsy. When his parents aren't home, Kevin steps in, giving her medicine, cooking meals, drawing with her and making bracelets together.

Kevin's academics also improved dramatically since switching to online learning. In middle school, he struggled with grades, receiving Cs and Ds and even failing a class. However, when the pandemic hit in eighth grade and classes went online, Kevin thrived in the virtual environment.

"Being able to do homework ahead of time gave me so much more time to spend on other things,” he explains. “You can get your homework done in two days and not have to think about it for the rest of the week.”

When given the option to return to a physical campus in 10th grade, Kevin decided to stay with IVA. With average class sizes of about six students, teachers provided individualized support. This tailored educational experience, combined with the diverse range of courses offered, including multiple AP classes and unique subjects like criminology, helped Kevin excel. As a result, he achieved nearly all As in high school.

“All the teachers at IVA are very passionate about what they do,” Kevin says. “They make the best of what they have and try to make personal connections through Zoom. I feel a lot closer to my teachers even compared to my physical school because classes are much smaller.”

Kevin's involvement in extracurricular activities is equally impressive. As the Tech Commissioner and TV Commissioner for IVA’s ASB, he managed the school website and produced episodes for IVA TV. He also co-founded Med Veda, a nonprofit providing medical career opportunities for students. 

Accepted into the Science and Technology Studies program at Cornell University, Kevin plans to explore the intersection of political science, ethics in healthcare, and technology.


Check out the Irvine Standard’s 2024 Graduation Coverage, which includes the following schools and students:

Irvine High School

  • Eddie Chen
  • Heather Chen
  • David Palacios


  • Kevin Chang

Northwood High School

  • Muhanad Hilal
  • Matthew Lin
  • Mallory Venezia

Portola High School

  • Bernice Hung
  • Rory Miller
  • Michael Shen

University High School

  • Alec Apelian
  • Niloufar Forghani
  • Julia Shabanie
  • Julianne Wu

Woodbridge High School 

  • Katherine Hua
  • Ashley Niu
  • Camille Roussel
  • Wesley Zeng