June 17 at 7:00am

Oceanside student finds path to college with help from Interfaith’s Transitional Youth Academy

Kara Zerucha has never visited the state of Washington, but that will change this fall when the senior from Oceanside High School begins her studies in nursing at Washington State University.

It won’t be the first time Kara, 18, has started fresh far from her previous home. She and her mother moved from Colorado to Oceanside before her sophomore year after her parents divorced.

With the transition in her family situation and at a new school, Kara’s grades began to fall. Seeking a job, she dropped in to talk with Vu Nguyen, a client advocate for the Transitional Youth Academy, a prevention and intervention program of Interfaith Community Services for high-risk youth in Oceanside.

Nguyen told Kara that getting assistance in finding employment was available, but that there were things she had to do in return.

“She wasn’t too fond of school. She had poor attendance and was having issues with her mom,” said Nguyen. “I told her you need to improve your grades and attendance, and that we could provide her with an internship…and she has been on board ever since.”

Kara stepped up to the challenge, getting her grades back on track. She then served internships through the program doing office work at Interfaith and in the wound care department at Tri-City Medical Center. The opportunity at Tri-City helped her focus on a career path.

“I really liked it,” said Kara. “I liked the fact that I got to talk to nurses and see what they do. That’s what I want to do, and the internship let me go there. It was really awesome.”

Getting her grades above a 3.0 average made Kara eligible for a $4,500 scholarship from her father’s company to Washington State. Although living in the Pacific Northwest will be a new experience for her, she is looking forward to it.

“It’s going to be exciting to go there,” she said. “Some friends from there who were talking about the nursing program said it was one of the best nursing schools in the country. That really caught my eye.”

Kara plans to pursue a career in pediatric nursing. She’ll spend the summer working, baby-sitting, and assisting adult clients of Interfaith through the Teens Teaching Tech program.

Nguyen credited the incentive of the work options available through TYA with pushing Kara toward success.

“She’s very stubborn … in a good way. If you challenge her, she will fulfill that challenge,” he said. “Each student you approach differently. We really challenged her during her senior year. She’s going to be OK.”

The TYA program definitely helped with motivation, said Kara. Nguyen’s support also helped when she was dismissed from the school’s softball team.

“I did get in trouble for having a disrespectful attitude towards a coach and Vu helped me by talking to the head coach,” Kara said.

She was reinstated to the team, and the change in her attitude was so positive, Kara was selected to receive the team’s most improved player award.

One main message from Nguyen brought her to this point.

“Vu told me I had to go to college. That’s the main thing he told me,” she said. “I would not have had a chance at a university without TYA.”