Three Adult Students Earn Diplomas Thanks to New PYLUSD Advance Program at El Camino Real

Advance Program Graduation on January 24, 2024, at El Camino Real High School in Placentia.Advance Program Graduation on January 24, 2024, at El Camino Real High School in Placentia.

The Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District (PYLUSD) prides itself on being a dynamic and supportive learning community that prepares each and every student for success now and in the future. The addition of the Advance Program this school year supports that vision.

Before the Advance Program, some PYLUSD students with special needs who were approaching the end of 12th grade and the achievement of a high school diploma would instead enter the district’s Adult Transition Program, Venture Academy. They would never receive a diploma but would receive work experience and job training until the age of 22 and earn a certificate of completion upon finishing the program.

Thanks to the Advance Program, these same students are now earning their diplomas! Special needs high school students are now being provided extra instructional support and opportunities to earn credits at El Camino Real High School. Students are paired with staff members who take the time to learn their stories and commit to helping them be the best versions of themselves. They are supported every step of the way as they work toward completing their graduation requirements and preparation for college and a career.

The district’s first three students in the Advance Program—Dennis Conant, Thomas Cornelius, and Daniel Villarruel—graduated with their high school diplomas on January 24, 2024. The ceremony included district leaders and the students’ loved ones. Superintendent Dr. Alex Cherniss shared words of praise and encouragement with the students and other speakers included Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services, Renee Gray, El Camino Real Principal, Scott Mazurier, and Venture Academy Principal, Rebecca Allan.

“You have shown resilience, determination, and grit in the face of challenges that many of your peers have not had to confront,” Principal Mazurier shared. “You have overcome obstacles, juggled responsibilities, and demonstrated unwavering determination to reach this day. Your journey has taken many turns, but you have risen above the challenges, and you should be incredibly proud of yourselves.”

The entire ceremony was a moving testament to the hard work and determination of Dennis, Thomas, and Daniel. It also shined a light on the district’s new investment in helping students with special needs be successful.

Mrs. Renee Gray, Assistant Superintendent of Student Support Services, recently shared more information about the Advance Program and our new special education school-to-work program, Placentia Linda Upward Success, at a recent Board Meeting. View her presentation in its entirety on the district’s YouTube Channel at

Congratulations to the Advance Program Class of 2024 and be on the lookout for more graduates of this new program in the near future!

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