On Wednesday, November 16, Aim High hosted its 30th Anniversary Gala in downtown San Francisco. The evening was a remarkable success!  More than 500 guests joined us to commemorate three decades of community, opportunity, and joyful summer learning.

Michelle Cody poses with Vince Matthews, Aim High's 2016 Distinguished Educator.
Michelle Cody poses with Vince Matthews, Aim High’s 2016 Distinguished Educator.

At the event, our 2016 Distinguished Alumna, Michelle Cody, delivered a powerful and awe-inspiring speech about her role as both an Aim High graduate and educator. She joined Aim High as a middle school student and now co-leads our campus in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco. We are deeply appreciative of her commitment to students, and we’re grateful she’s a part of our community. Michelle is truly Aim High at its finest. Read her speech below and get inspired.

According to Merriam-Webster, the word ‘distinguished‘ is defined as being “marked by eminence, distinction, or excellence.” When we hear this word, we likely think of scientists curing the ailments that plague the world, dreamers creating the next Great American Novel or blockbuster, or innovators producing the Silicon Valley’s next big startup that will change the way that we function in daily life. No matter what or who you think of when hearing the word ‘distinguished,’ there is a sense of pride and awe that comes with the association. The word carries weight. As it should.

So when you look at me on the stage, one would think why should we call this young woman from San Francisco ‘distinguished?’ Allow me to try.

I come from a very wonderful family of supportive and educated parents. (Shout out to mom, dad and mema.). I am surrounded by friends who have become family and family members who are dear friends. I am a proud product and graduate of SFUSD, Howard University, and the University of San Francisco. These mere accomplishments are great, but not quite excellent.

I am the mother to an amazing boy who pushes me and challenges me everyday to think differently and be better. Again, honorable, but not distinct. Lets come back to this…

For the past 17 years, and especially tonight, I am a proud Aim High alumna. I think my fellow alumni would agree that this gives us membership into a special and valuable club of people who spent their summers learning how to believe in themselves. . My mom put me in this position to be a part of this magical program of Aim High when she saw Alec Lee present to 6th graders at Aptos Middle School. This presentation  would change the trajectory of my life. So we can all agree that I fit the second half of the recognition of ‘distinguished alumna.’

But what about distinguished. How am I distinguished? My job does not come with the accolades that follow doctors, mayors, attorneys, CEOs. The space I occupy as an educator puts me in a very elite and often under-appreciated group. You see, my distinction does not lie in my own resume of accomplishments. In fact, my being and presence as an educator allows me be among the pre-distinguished and current distinguished: my students.

So as I accept this award, please note that I do not take it lightly. That everyday that I enter the classroom and work with my babies, I work toward the goal of being relevant to their life, critical to their growth and hopeful that I will help them to be distinguished. So you may not call me Dr., Senator, Mayor or Judge. But I will proudly wear the honor of Teacher.

Thank you. In solidarity. In peace. Good night.

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