Fresno Unified's Sequoia Middle School named a '2022 California School to Watch'

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A Valley middle school is gaining statewide recognition for going above and beyond in supporting its students.

It's an honor only 16 schools across the state can boast of.

Fresno Unified's Sequoia Middle School was newly designated as a '2022 California School to Watch'.

"Of course there's thousands of schools in California, so it was really exciting for us to be recognized," said Sequoia Middle School Principal Matt Ward.

"There's 80-plus people that work here and they work really hard," added Ward. "They work with the best intentions for students and for our community."

The distinction goes beyond just student test scores.

"It also is about supporting schools in their social-emotional well-being, their development and finding their interests," added Ward.

That's something that 8th grader Allen Lor says his teachers did day after day, even amid distance learning.

"They would remind me every day they were there for me and give me encouragement to go on," said Lor.

Staff say after facing the challenge of distance learning, the award means even more.

"We all just picked up where we left off," said English teacher Esmeralda Ruiz. "We all said what are we going to keep doing to support kids? What are we going to do to create strong support systems for them?"

"I think there's not necessarily the same expectation of schools from our community as there should be," said Ward. "I think it's empowering to show that students everywhere are capable of doing great things."

Mitchell Senior Elementary School and Peggy Heller Elementary School in Merced County were also designated as new 2022 California Schools to Watch.

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