Santa Barbara High Student Receives ACSA Award for Remarkable Story of Success in the Face of Adversity

Destiny Hernandez

A Santa Barbara High School student won an Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Award.

In 2018, Destiny Hernandez’s grades and attendance were steadily declining.

Seeing a struggling student, Hope School District Superintendent Dr. Anne Hubbard, reached out to Destiny and gave her invaluable support. Since then, Destiny has been on the road to overcoming challenges and getting ahead in her educational journey.

With unwavering determination to succeed, Destiny made a lot of positive changes in her life.  After years of hard work, Destiny’s efforts led to her nomination and subsequent winning of the ACSA – Every Student Succeeds 2023 Award, a recognition to honor students who have succeeded against all odds.

Destiny has gone above and beyond to excel in her educational journey.  She is part of the Dons basketball team and takes on additional classes while looking toward collegiate opportunities.

“Destiny is such an inspiration,” said Dr. Hubbard.  “She truly shows that you can have challenges in life, but it is never too late to turn it around.”

Destiny also takes her role as the oldest sibling to heart by advocating for her siblings’ success.

“My siblings are my ‘why’, ” Destiny said.  “Family was a big factor for my change.  My little sister saw that change, and now she looks at me as her role model.”

SB Unified Superintendent, Dr. Hilda Maldonado, expressed her admiration for Destiny’s achievements and gratitude toward educators who go the extra mile for all students.

“Destiny’s willingness to succeed and courage to overcome obstacles is admirable,” said Dr. Maldonado.  “Our mission is to equip every student with the tools and resources they need to conquer life’s challenges. I commend every educator like Dr. Hubbard for helping our students find their way to success.”

Dr. Hubbard emphasized how much the power of connection can impact– and utterly change completely the trajectory of any student.

“We have to ask ourselves, ‘How can we help? Are we a lifeline for someone?”  Dr. Hubbard said.  “People in education usually know the power of that connection.”


Written by SBUnified

Press releases written by the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD). Learn more at

What do you think?


0 Comments deleted by Administrator

Leave a Review or Comment


  1. So true Salsipuedes. We have thousands of students who are not proficient readers and won’t be by the time they graduate. These students need remediation by a experienced professional with years of experience in the science of reading approach. Students need individualized assessments as some are stuck in different area.

    When I see articles like this, I want to celebrate Destiny who worked hard. I also think she is being used by the district’s PR person to give the illusion that this is how the district rolls. This is not how our Superintendent rolls nor how special ed rolls. I have observed how resistant she is to help a young student who I met who was not even reading at a first grade level and was in the 5th grade. This student started school in the district. The parents were told in the IEP that they did not read to their child enough. ( Reading to child helps build vocabulary but it is not how to teach reading). After many more meetings and with some outside support the parents finally got some services but not nearly enough for what this students needs.

    Hope the community realizes that students who can’t read proficiently become adults who can’t read . Who don’t get to follow their dreams. Make low wages. And far too often are incarcerated. Literacy is a human right. So why do we ignore the needs of our older students who can’t read. How has this been normalized? Why isn’t Hilda talking about them. Are they not part of the Every… Every child, every chance every day.. Or is that just a platitude needed to obscure the painful truth. The most vulnerable hardly ever get their needs met. Scores were stagnant pre pandemic and not much better now.

    .In 2022-23, only 8 percent of the district’s Emergent Multilingual Learners in 3rd grade could read at grade level. That number was 6 percent for students with learning differences. Shouldn’t we be talking and writing about how we are going to turn this around.?

    • When I see stats like “only 8 percent of the district’s Emergent Multilingual learners in 3rd grade could read at grade level,” I wonder, how long have those specific students be in our schools? Have they been struggling since kindergarten? Or did they just arrive from a non-English-speaking country a few months ago? It’s a horribly low number. I sure hope the new reading program helps.

  2. Ahchooo Some of the students are new but the vast majority started in the district and did not make enough progress year to year. Our district is not proactive when it comes to finding these students. Often students are given too little help far too late. It’s called “wait to fail”. waiting until a student is in the bottom 25% before assessing. Best practices is to use simple screener on all students in kinder.. which do not identify for special ed but merely point out a struggling reader. In kindergarten and first we can know who these students are and support their individual needs and get parents aware and on board.. Helping early with a systematic child centered approach will help but some students may need a one on one intervention with a skilled professional. This is typically what is done for some students in the summer months who attend our private schools. The district does not offer remediation to older students typically. Many of the older students are discouraged and act out because of feeling behind and not enough. Our district clings to a” scarcity model” which results in vulnerable students getting too little …way too late and not being proficient in reading or math actually too.

    Poverty plays into this but learning to read should not have to depend on how much your parents can afford, Successful districts have reached 95% proficiency for all by end of third by using best practices like universal screeners and being generous with supporting students early on as part of a proactive model. A focus on this can vastly reduce our juvenile incarceration rates. This monies could come out of our LCAP fund, a fund the state gives us to support 5 vulnerable student groups. This year LCAP is 20 million.

Sleeping Bag Drive for those Experiencing Homelessness

Blue Power: Will Ocean Waves be California’s New Source of Clean Energy?