First and foremost, I’d like to thank my mom. I would not be able to share my story with all of you tonight without her support and belief in me. Unfortunately, she is not here tonight. She is on her first trip ever out of the country. I am very happy for her, but sad she is not here to share this moment with me.
Over the years, in support of Aim high, I have had many opportunities to share a bit of my story. At the essence of my remarks I always say, “When I walked through those Aim High doors in 1987, many other doors opened for me.”
Here’s my story.
Twenty-seven years ago, I was a gangly (not anymore), over-achieving 11-year old who did not know she was looking for something to do during the summer until Mr. Lee and Mrs. McBride walked into my 6th grade classroom. They handed out glossy folded brochures that detailed this “Aim High” program. I was immediately drawn to the words “enrichment,” “free,” and the array of activities available to me…the most I had ever been exposed to before. . I knew this was bigger than anything I had experienced, and that I had to be a part of this program. I eagerly turned in my application and waited. When I received my notification letter, I was shocked. I was waitlisted (can you believe they waitlisted me?). Oh no! They must have made a mistake. This was THE program for me! So what do you think I did next?
I called almost every week for a status update on my application. Mrs. McBride, even years later, jokes with me that during one of our status calls, I professed that God had ordained me to be a part of the program. She must have believed in my “special annointment,” because here I am. I was accepted, walked through those campus doors in 1987, and became a part of the magic – a magic that is with me today as I stand up here speaking to you.
Until Aim High, I had been educated in a small school in the Visitation Valley neighborhood with kids a lot like me. What I remember most about that time was how diverse the program was. There were kids from everywhere across San Francisco. We were all so different in how we had been socialized and educated. This was a challenge, too. There were cliques – tight knit groups of kids from the same schools. Looking back, part of the Aim High magic was how the teachers got us to go beyond the boundaries we created and come together with one central idea of Reaching for a Dream. Actually, there was no way we would take full advantage of what Aim High had to offer if we were not working together. Dance classes, wring for the Aim High paper, and Capoeira classes would have been not have been the same.
Almost thirty years later, I still remember the progress reports we received at the end of every summer. They were narratives the teachers wrote about our successes and challenges. I remember wondering how a teacher I had only spent five weeks with, could know me so well. I am blown away when I think about the level of thought and care that went into describing who I was and who I could be. I would go back to school and reference those reports throughout the school year – they would remind me of what was possible and reassure me of my promise. It was like someone had written beautiful poetry about me. As a direct result of my Aim High experience:
- I became an “A Better Chance” scholar, and was able to spend the summer of my junior year taking micro-economics at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management.
- I became a student at Lick-Wilmerding High School. I had never heard of the school prior to Aim High. As a student there, I was blessed to be able to continue my relationship with Mr. Lee and Mrs. McBride. Mr. Lee taught me US History and Mrs. McBride taught me Bio (?) and AP Bio.
[Directly to Alec] Mr. Lee, I’m sorry, I have to still call you Mr. Lee. I will be forever grateful for your unwavering support of me from the age of 11 until now. All the doors you have opened for me: From Aim High to Lick to Teach for America, YOU HAVE always been a mentor and someone I knew was always in my corner
During the last 27 years, distinct memories of my Aim High experience have faded and what I am left with is a feeling. A magical feeling. The feeling of, “I can do this.” I am an integral part of a community that has seen me grow up and have a career and children of my own. I was a founding member of the KIPP Bridge Charter School in West Oakland and now work for the KIPP Foundation as a Human Resources Partner, supporting our national team to deliver on their promise to our schools and students across the country. Now, on the other side of education, as a parent and someone who works with other people’s children, I truly understand what a difference a quality program can make. I am blessed to still be connected to the many people I met during those summers. One of those people, who I have to mention is no other than Vincent Matthews. He was a teacher I would never forget, with a put together Jhery curl and an aptitude for computers…the epitome of cool. And to imagine that now our daughters are at the same Aim High site. His, a teacher, and mine, a student.
I want to close my story by saying that our story is an Aim High story. We have come full circle. Aim High is my family’s legacy (I have two sons who will be Aim High students in the future)– This legacy has been made possible with the support of many of you in this room. As you leave tonight’s event and reflect on this evening, please remember that Aim High is truly “the gift that keeps on giving”…I stand here before you as a testament to the doors Aim High opens in a student’s life, and for my family, and almost thirty years later, they are still opening. THANK YOU…