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Student turns greatest fear into a career goal through the Independent Learning Center, Supported by Orange County United Way

Student Turns Greatest Fear Into A Career Goal Through The Independent Learning Center, Supported By Orange County United Way

As a sophomore at Western High School in Anaheim, Breena struggled with social anxiety disorder, which coupled with the pressure and distractions from everyday classes brought academic instability.

While it’s common for people to experience some nervousness or feel “butterflies,” Breena was extremely self-conscious and had physical symptoms such as shaking, blurred vision or feeling faint when being around classmates.

She had trouble walking to the restroom, and every day, she would email her school counselor asking to get out of class. This form of anxiety is particularly harmful at the school-age level as it limited Breena from academic advancement – she only had 65 school credits.

Her friend referred her to apply to Western High’s Independent Learning Center (ILC), supported by Orange County United Way that provides personalized instruction for students who seek alternative approaches or who face challenges with a traditional school setting.

The study program offers a rigorous, blended online learning curriculum with flexible hours. Students progress toward graduating at their own pace, with teachers and counselors providing academic and emotional support.

Thanks to support from ILC, for the last two years, Breena has learned day-to-day coping strategies and techniques for different situations, such as learning to calm panic when it starts. Now a senior, she is on track to graduate, and after high school, she plans to study to become an elementary school teacher.

Today, Breena’s counselor at the center helps assess her goals, knows her story and helps respond to Breena’s individual goals.


The Independent Learning Center provides a 21st Century, independent study approach to educate and graduate at-risk and disengaged students. The learning center is a dropout prevention program focusing on addressing social and emotional issues to help students find a pathway back, acquire the academic and behavioral skills needed to achieve their high school diploma, and achieve success in college, career, and life. Using socialization, service education, and community integration, the program aims to develop independence, relationships, and comfort.

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