Innovation High principal Heather Barnhart poses for a photo with Leslie Partida who graduated from the school Thursday, Nov. 14. Ryan Ponitz photo


“It was a warm sunny morning when Leslie Partida set out for Innovation High School at 39665 Avenida Acacias in Murrieta with her infant son David in tow. But Thursday, Nov. 14, wasn’t just any day for Partida, it was the day she would graduate with her diploma from the alternative high school.

Leslie and David Partida, along with Murrieta Mayor Kelly Seyarto, school Principal Heather Barnhart and Partida’s instructor Tonja Politiski, celebrated the milestone in front of Partida’s classmates with the ringing of a bell that signified her high school graduation.

It was an emotional moment for everyone in attendance as many enrolled in the school, which focuses on high-risk students, overcome multiple obstacles to earn that high school diploma. Whether needing to work a full-time job, parenting, hunger, homelessness or being in foster care, Innovation’s personalized learning model provides the extra support they need, Barnhart said.



“I loved the flexibility; everyone is open to help,” Leslie Partida said.

Politiski said that Partida was a motivated student.

“She was always in contact with me when she was out on maternity leave,” she said. “When she got back, she worked her butt off to finish.”

Innovation High School doesn’t have a set schedule for students who come and go as they please, but the day Partida graduated, the classroom was full, showing how motivated the students are to reach their goal of high school graduation.

“It’s a cool concept,” Valley News freelance photographer Ryan Ponitz said. “The amount of kids there shows me they want to change their paths. They are making the choice to achieve their goal.”

For Barnett, it’s all about seeing students like Partida succeed.

“Seeing students like her overcoming obstacles, watching teachers surround her and helping her succeed is great,” Barnhart said.

Innovation High School offers year-round enrollment, one-on-one attention, a flexible schedule and a dedicated team of teachers for each student – all within a trauma-informed learning environment. It provides wrap-around services to help students navigate issues outside of the classroom such as food, bus passes, counseling, parenting classes and mentoring.


Written By:
Ann Abajian
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