On Wednesday, November 6, we hosted our 2019 Annual Gala CONNECTIONS. It was an inspiring evening, and we’re grateful to everyone who attended and sponsored. Thank you for your support and belief in our work.

We invite you to revisit the evening by reading the speech of our Rising Leader, Trinidad Martinez, and watching a short film that gives a glimpse into his growth and impact at Aim High and beyond.  We will share photos of the event in the coming days, so please check out this blog post soon!

Thank you all for being here tonight to support Aim High. I am deeply honored to receive this year’s Rising Leader award.

I think the most powerful part about Aim High is that it’s a place for everyone. Truly everyone.

I can’t overstate the importance of this for me as a young person, and I continue to see the power of Aim High’s inclusivity every summer now that I am a classroom teacher. When everyone is welcome–in a real and genuine way–it also means that everyone is valued and validated. I was seen and heard at Aim High during a difficult time in my childhood. It’s like they said: “Thank you for existing.” Their compassion opened a door for me – a door to confidence and self-acceptance. Not having to conform or be something I’m not.

Maybe you don’t remember your own adolescence or have blocked it out of your memory, but these ideas and attitudes are the ultimate gift to middle school students.

The foundation of Aim High’s community is its teachers. My Aim High teachers became my role models and helped me see what was possible in and outside the classroom. I would like to give a shout out to two special Aim High teachers, Jen Fune and Jessie Escobar, both of whom are here tonight, and continue to be my mentors and biggest fans. Let’s give them a round of applause.

Both Jessie and Jen exemplify what it means to be an Aim High leader. They were positive influences for me and my peers. As a student, I was inspired to see teachers that looked like me, leading a classroom. This spoke to me just as much as the lessons themselves.

Just like Aim High broke the mold of my classroom experience, I broke the mold of my family. I am a first generation college student and just graduated from University of San Francisco this past May. There are many different reasons why people enjoy college, for me, when I started at USF, I was able to have the consistency I craved all of my life. The kind of consistency that I experienced during my time as a student at Aim High. After I realized this, I knew that I wanted to provide this feeling and opportunity to other students like myself. There was no better way to do that than to become a teacher at Aim High. I feel unbelievably lucky that I get to be a role model for a new generation of students just as Jessie and Jen were for me as a student, and Omar was for me as a teaching intern.

Your generosity creates this virtuous circle. My hope tonight is that the cycle continues and my students will someday come back and influence Aim High’s future students.

Thank you for your support, and for this great honor.

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