Our 2018 Annual Gala, The Power of Youth, was bright, bold, cheerful, and inspiring! Thank you to everyone who attended and sponsored. We are grateful for your support and belief in our work.

Relive the magic of the evening by reading the powerful speeches that our Rising Youth Leader, Cindy Hernandez-Rivas, and Distinguished Educator, Jesús Galindo, delivered and watch two of our newest videos featuring Jesús and Nancy, a graduate of our Napa campus.

Cindy Hernandez-Rivas

2011 Aim High Graduate | 2018 Rising Youth Leader

AIM High Gala 2018 | Photos © Show Ready, @showreadyphoto

My name is Cindy Hernandez-Rivas, and I am a proud Aim High graduate.

I visited a college for the first time with Aim High. I’ll never forget how cold and gloomy it was, and how miserable I was walking across the forested campus and up and down endless hills. I thought it was a waste of time. “Why am I here?” I asked myself. “College isn’t for me.” No one in my family had attended college, or much less talked about it.

I was born and raised in Redwood City, in a neighborhood where being bilingual was the norm and my neighbors were immigrants. Neither of my parents received an education past the sixth grade. My dad was a gardener and my mom is a babysitter. As a result, they constantly pushed me to do well in school. It was ingrained in my brain to graduate high school and to continue my education.

I attended public schools where I felt unsupported and the learning felt irrelevant. I always wondered, “why am I learning this and how does this align with the real world?” Middle school in particular was hard. As a sixth grader, I was bored and disrespectful in class. I always sat in the back row and distracted my classmates.. I felt so disengaged. Nothing kept my attention; Nothing encouraged me to think critically; Nothing connected my learning to the challenges I was navigating in my life. My teachers kicked me out of class so often that I was on a first name basis with the principal.

During the summer, my mom worried about me. She wanted me to read books, rather than watch TV at home, so she enrolled me in Aim High.  I was a rising 7th grader.

During that first summer, my Aim High math teacher  constantly told me to respect my classmates’ learning and to behave.

A year later I returned to Aim High.  That same math teacher began to really see me. He saw more than a kid who disrupted class.. Instead, he saw a student yearning for additional support.. He saw someone who wanted to succeed but who also needed an extra push. He helped me realized that I had a voice and I needed to speak up. . In math class at Aim High, I finished my work early and then I asked for more. I no longer wasted my time in the office. I started engaging and I wanted to keep learning. Luckily, teachers at Aim High always pushed me to do more. They infused Aim High’s CORE values–Community, Opportunity, Respect and High Expectations–into everything we did. The High Expectations stood out because it meant that teachers saw great potential in you, even if you couldn’t see it in yourself.

Aim High was much more than just a place for continued learning and growth. It provided a home and safe haven.

Aim High was much more than just a place for continued learning and growth. It provided a home and safe haven. Two months after the program, my father passed away. I felt scared and alone. I was only 12 years old. It dawned on me that the people who surrounded me  during this challenging time were my Aim High community. . Aim High was my support system. We became a  family and they helped me navigate the loneliness of losing a parent. My sadness motivated me to work hard and keep my dad’s memory alive.

This drive, passion and motivation to deepen my learning continued throughout middle school, high school and into college. In high school, I studied AP Calculus and AP Statistics at the same time. And Aim High’s high expectations pushed me to apply to fifteen colleges.

So what about the teacher who made an impact on me at Aim High? He just introduced me a moment ago. His name is Marcos Lopez. He is now the Site Director at one of Aim High’s Redwood City campuses. He was the first teacher who believed in me. He inspired me to be the best person I could be. It was Marcos who led me on that cold and gloomy tour of UC Santa Cruz, and it was Marcos who told me I’d succeed in high school and attend college. Marcos was the first person who ever told me that college was both realistic and achievable. No one in my family had attended college, so I never thought it was possible for me. But, after the tour, Marcos assured me I’d succeed in college once I got there. And I am.

Because of Aim High, I attend UC, Santa Cruz where I am a first-generation Latina college student. I am pursuing a B.S. in Marine Biology and a B.A. in Spanish Language and Culture on a full-ride scholarship. I am a Spanish tutor, a staff member in the Student Union, and co-chair for the Central American Cultural Group on campus. I also intern at the Long Marine Lab as part of the Slug Survey Network where I collect samples of beach debris for research. I am considering pursuing a career as a  Marine Mammal Vet.

I now see that my journey and success isn’t just about me. My path opens doors for others like me, students who are waiting to change the world around them. All that they need is an opportunity to use their potential. Aim High sets the stage for this to happen.

In addition to my studies, I will continue to give back to Aim High— the community that gave me a voice and accepted me for who I am: A woman who has the ability to change her community and impact in the world.

Thank you.

Jesús Alfredo Galindo 

2018 Distinguished Educator

AIM High Gala 2018 | Photos © Show Ready, @showreadyphoto

Not too long ago, what you saw in the video was only a dream. Today, Aim High Richmond exists thanks to the unwavering devotion of several students, parents, teachers, funders, administrators, Aim High Staff Members, and countless other –several of those individuals happen to be with us here tonight. Please join me in giving them a loud and warm round of applause.

Good Evening, my name is Jesús Alfredo Galindo, and I have the privilege of not only being a third-grade bilingual teacher in the beautiful city of Richmond, California, but I am one of Aim High Richmond’s founding leaders.

I stand before you tonight feeling immensely grateful. Grateful to do what I love and to be recognized by a community I deeply admire.

My journey to Aim High began with one question, a question that I ask my students every year during our last week of school. “What will you be doing this summer?”

The responses my students gave stuck with me. Bothered me. Most of them said they were going to stay home and play video games, all while devouring a colossal bag of Takis and guzzling their favorite sugary drink.

My students’ responses made one thing clear. They had very few summer options available to them. I knew that if my students were to reach their full potential–to strive academically, attend and graduate from college, and, obtain their dream jobs– then this had to change. Also, on a more personal note, I could not allow for my students’ story to be like mine.

As a kid, I also stayed home during the summer. But not by choice. My parents worked long and exhausting hours to provide for my brother and I.

Summer, for me, meant that I would spend the majority of my time cooped up in a room. Like my students, I long to be outside. Like Bianca, I wanted to dive head first into a pool and play Marco Polo with my friends. Like Juan, I wanted to explore the different parks in my community. My parents would have none of this. In their words, “Compton was too dangerous for kids to be playing outside.”

Determined to make sure that my students had more summer opportunities than me, I made it my mission to bring a high-quality summer enrichment program to my community.

I started by doing some research. Unquestionably, Aim High was the best summer enrichment program out there. It had everything my students needed to succeed. Project-based learning. Social-emotional development. High student and parent satisfaction. Without an ounce of doubt, I knew Aim High was a perfect fit.

In 2014, I joined Aim High as a 6th and 7th grade Science Teacher at their campus in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland. Then in 2016, I had the honor of co-directing Aim High’s campus at The Urban School of San Francisco.

I did all of this while simultaneously advocating for Aim High Richmond.

I do this work because I believe no child should stay home and sit in front of a TV because that’s the best and safest thing they can do during the summer.

I was determined to bring Aim High to my community. I even went as far as gently slide tackling Alec during an Aim High event. Before Alec knew my name, he first discovered my why. Alec learned that I approach this work with so much fervor because I deeply believe that given the right opportunities, any child, even a boy from Compton, the son of two undocumented immigrants, some one who has lived in extreme poverty for most of his life, given the right opportunities, can succeed in this great nation of ours. Alec also learned that I do this work because I believe no child should stay home and sit in front of a TV because that’s the best and safest thing they can do during the summer.

Today, for many of Richmond’s youth, this will no longer be the case.

Thanks to Aim High, last summer, students like Ricardo, a self-proclaimed Fort-Nite champion, got to spend less time in front of a tablet and more time exploring the hills and beaches of Richmond, all while uncovering the different assets in his community.

Because of Aim High Richmond, students like Luna were a part of a summer enrichment program that is shifting the paradigm for marginalized youth. Let me be clear. 97 percent of Aim High graduates move onto college compared to the national average of 52%.

Today, thanks to Aim High, a new story exists in my community. A story in which more children like Ricardo, Luna, and many others like them, have access to the types of opportunities that will allow them to excel in life.

Words cannot express how grateful I am to do this work. The work I love and gives me purpose.

I like to conclude my time by saying thank you. Without your support, Aim High Richmond would not be a reality. This was truly a group effort. Thank you for your time and good night.

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