Marisol Rerucha: Reaching Youth
By Mario A. Cortez
Having been a student who was slipping through the cracks while in high school, Marisol Rerucha has taken her life experience to connect with students and create an environment where they can learn and feel valued.
“I want to be the person that identifies the kids that are struggling because they aren’t always the loudest,” she said to La Prensa San Diego.
Rerucha has worked in a variety of education-related positions during her career, from English teacher at Chula Vista Middle School and principal/director at MAAC Community Charter School to her current position managing career technical education programs for juvenile court students through the San Diego County Office of Education.
While it might seem unlikely to some that someone who has made a career in education might have been an underachieving student, Rerucha shared she was very close to not graduating from high school due to her environment and her parents being very busy with their jobs.
“I went to San Diego High School in the late 80s and early 90’s –I graduated in 1992– and that was during the height of the gang problems there and my mother was working all the time,” Rerucha recalled. “I had a 0.5 (grade point average) and had friends in a similar situation at the time and nobody was trying to catch us.”
As the daughter of school administrator and activist Irma Castro and Chicano muralist Abran Quevedo, Rerucha recognizes that she always had a good example at home and was aware of the possibilities college can open up for her.
“Both my parents had master’s degrees; I had phenomenal role models,” she stated.
With a near unsalvageable GPA and an unexpected teen pregnancy, Rerucha realized her family wanted more for her. But it was the prospect becoming a mother what really pushed her to seek change.
“I thought about who I wanted my kids to be and I decided I wanted to be that person, so getting my education and making a difference in the world is the path I chose,” she confessed. “Being pregnant got me to step it up and my daughter became my driving factor.”
After completing remedial courses and walking away from bad friendships, Rerucha managed to graduate and enrolled at Southwestern College, where she set her goals to become an educator.
Rerucha stepped into the world of education after being a diaper bag-toting mom at San Diego State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English in 1998 and her teaching credential in 1999. Since then, Rerucha has had the opportunity to impact the lives and education of students with a focus on creating equity and addressing the problems children of color and in marginalized communities are afflicted by.
“I believe in the inclusion of restorative practices at school and understanding that students and staff deal with generational trauma and schools need to be a place where healing can happen,” she explained.
During her tenure as principal and director of the MAAC Community Charter Schools, she was involved in creating lesson plans for students which incorporated real-world problems affecting people like the students themselves.
“The kids were learning their regular skills in subjects like math and social science and English but they were also learning and identifying about issues in the community like bullying, immigration, and violence against African American men,” she detalled.
Today, in her current post with the County Office of Education, Rerucha focuses on evening the playing field for youth in the correctional system by leading career readiness and foundational workforce skills programs.
Through an approach that develops business, leadership, and communication skills, Rerucha aims to “legitimize the hustle,” or teaching these minors how to apply their skills in the real world.
“These kids have a need for money and unfortunately have broken the law to help ends meet, so through career readiness and technical education they can work to help their family by keeping their hustle but also with new skills like financial literacy.”
With the task of finding the way to reach and connect to troubled students, Rerucha says that the sense of honesty that comes from being a mom and forging relationships is the key to making a real difference in the lives of any student.
“I am not afraid of their ‘ugly,’ I’m not afraid of their truth because there is no reason to. When people lie it is because they are scared,” she explained. “I’m not just there to tell them what to do. We are learning together and that is a big part of life.”