On January 8th at City Hall, Aim High graduate Malia Cohen took office as the City Supervisor for District 10 of San Francisco. We sat down with her during her first few days on the job to talk about her Aim High days and her exciting new job.
AH: 20 years ago you were a 13-year-old Aim High kid, and now you’re a City Supervisor. Wow. What can you tell us about your Aim High days?
MC: Aim High definitely made learning fun. I remember always looking forward to going to summer school because it was fun and engaging, it wasn’t so rigid. You had the opportunity to talk to TAs and get insight into what high school life was like. Aim High always provided lots of support around that – I remember that I got help with my college essays through my Aim High network. I remember that there was a science teacher named Malia Dinell [Lehman] who made science really fun. The trip to the ropes course, and leadership experiences – at Aim High you had the chance to start a club or activity, or to take the lead on planning Cultural Days. And I remember Mr. Lee with the megaphone. Does he still walk around with the megaphone?
I’m still in touch with friends from my Aim High days. One of my friends from Aim High, Kamika Dunlap, went on to become a journalist, and she did some work on my campaign. She wrote the swearing-in speech I gave last Saturday. Some of the teachers, too, we’re still in touch.
AH: You also served on the Aim High board.
MC: I was very active on the development side, communicating to donors the importance of Aim High and the impact it will have on young people’s lives. For me, I felt a responsibility to add a personal story, so that they know Aim High is more than just a feel-good charity. This will absolutely have an impact on the kids in the southeast part of the city. Trust your gut on this. As far as I’m concerned, Aim High is a program that meets its mark every single time.
AH: And now you’ll be more focused on the big picture. In your role as Supervisor, what do you hope to accomplish on behalf of education in San Francisco? And how does Aim High fit in to the education landscape in the city?
MC: I am proud to say that I am chairing the city and school board’s ad hoc committee where members of the city board and the school board will come together to address some of the challenges of public education. We’re going to be focusing on the southeast sector, which is home to many of the same kids that Aim High serves. Aim High is very critical because we have some pretty challenging budget times, challenging in terms of meeting our educational responsibilities to the kids.
I want to make this office available to any and every Aim High person who’s interested in coming by – students, parents, teachers. In a nutshell, ultimately, I want to inspire people to do public service, and I want to help redefine what it is to be cool. Being smart is cool, and being in school. It’s very glamorous and it will pay off in the end. I want to encourage kids to do well in school because, ultimately, their livelihood and their family’s livelihood is contingent on their educational backgrounds.
Want more Malia? Check out her interview in this month’s San Francisco Magazine.