On Thursday, November 12, 2015, we hosted Aim High’s Fifth Annual Generations Gala. It was an exciting evening and we will feel the glow for a long time to come. Beyond celebrating with our vibrant community of supporters and leaders, we also hosted our Inaugural Curiosity Lab and invited a recent Aim High graduate to take the podium.

Aim High students and teachers brought the classroom to life, showcasing quintessential Aim High lessons, and sharing with guests what project-based learning looks like. (Photo credit: Irja Tannlund)
Students and teachers brought the AH classroom to life by showcasing signature Aim High lessons and demonstrating what project-based learning looks like. (Photo credit: Irja Tannlund)

Allan Quevedo Jut (pictured in top photo), graduated from our San Rafael campus this past summer. To an audience of 450, Allan delivered a poignant speech that told of his empowering experience as an Aim High student.

Read his speech below and re-experience the magic of the evening!

Good evening. My name is Allan Quevedo Jut and I’m a ninth grader at Terra Linda High School in San Rafael. My story is an Aim High story.

Tonight’s theme is Summer Transforms. I feel especially honored to be here tonight because of the way that Aim High has transformed my life. I spent three summers at Aim High and just graduated from the program this past August.

My summers at Aim High–the teachers, the friends, and the experiences–helped me get through one of the biggest struggles of my life.

Before Aim High, I didn’t have a lot of friends and I used to be bullied at school. My nose was always in a book. Even though I talked a lot, I didn’t speak up. (I know that may be surprising.) Because of this, I stayed out of group activities and opportunities. I didn’t join in. I didn’t participate. I would read a book instead.

Then I applied to Aim High in 6th grade and there was a spot for me. Aim High has been incredibly beneficial to my life, academically and socially. All of the classes Aim High teaches helped me throughout middle school and prepared me for high school. In sixth grade, I was struggling with science and english and I didn’t know how to ask for help. At Aim High, we learned in small groups and did interactive projects that made school feel more relevant. Now I’m more interested in these subjects, but more importantly — I know how to speak up when I need help. And that’s because of the teachers.

One of the best parts of Aim High are the great role models, many of whom are Aim High graduates, just like me.

They’re walking the path I want to walk. They inspire me and push me to do my best. Aim High was the first place where I saw people with big personalities and tons of creativity and where that wasn’t seen as a bad thing, but a good thing.

Everyone’s uniqueness is celebrated and nurtured so that when you get to high school, you’re comfortable being yourself. Aim High appreciates uniqueness. It appreciates individuality. I started to do things I never would have imagined. I took risks, made mistakes, and I actually played some sports! I played soccer, baseball, tried yoga, and aikido.

I felt comfortable trying new things because the teachers made me feel welcome. They were fun and creative. They were young and relatable. For example, one of those teachers, named Tori, is here tonight. Tori, thank you for showing me how to embrace my individuality and to follow what I love. You taught me to be true to who I am and to not listen to other people’s ridicule because I am great just as I am. Thank you for teaching me to love myself. Thanks to teachers like Tori, I now enjoy going to school, comfortable in my own skin and ready to learn.

Aim High has also prepared me for college in the future. They directed me to resources that will help me apply for college when the time comes, like 10,000 Degrees, Next Generation Scholars, and AVID. They also introduced me to what college could offer me. I used to think that college was unattainable. Aim High changed my perspective. My teachers, who had attended Aim High in middle school, all went to college.I heard stories about other people like me — from all different backgrounds. College went from a faraway idea or dream to something I could actually strive for. I now aspire to one day go to college and study psychology and I will be the first in my family to go to college.

Aim High has also given me and my classmates so many opportunities. Because of Aim High, I discovered my love for theater. The Marin Theater Company visited my campus and taught us about Macbeth and Shakespeare. I fell in love with the way Shakespeare describes everything. No one writes the way he does; how beautifully he puts it all on paper. It sounds like music to me. I learned that I love to act, and theater has become a big part of my life now. Which brings me to today.

Here I am, in front of 500 people, telling my story. But there’s still one part of my story I haven’t shared with you. The Aim High community, the teachers, the role models–they became my family, and they gave me the strength, confidence and courage to come out as gay two years ago.

My teachers showed me it was okay to be who I really am. To love who I am, and not to be ashamed of myself.

Having been out for the last two years, I can say without a doubt, being my full self, my best self, has opened up a world of possibilities for me.

My story may be unique to me, but the transformative experience I had at Aim High is not. There are thousands of kids across the Bay Area who, because of Aim High, are also learning to be their best selves.

I can never repay Aim High for all they have done for me. Thank you for joining me and my family here tonight to celebrate the first thirty summers of Aim High magic.

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