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On Wednesday, November 13, over 400 supporters gathered at Bimbos’ 365 Club in North Beach to support Aim High and celebrate the accomplishments of its teachers, students, and partners.

10957383944_43060ded9bTony Rodgers, an Aim High teacher for 12 years, was introduced by a group of his former students as this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Educator award.  They shared a video of Tony in action and thanked him for “teaching us what community is and how to nurture it.” They added, “We are only six of the many students Tony has inspired through his 12 years of teaching at Aim High, but every one of his students has felt the magic of the community that Tony has built – that’s why so many of us come back to Aim High.”

Terrence  Riley, last year’s Distinguished Alumnus, then introduced Patty Nguyen as the recipient of our Distinguished Alumna award for 2013. Patty’s inspirational speech moved the audience and ended with her receiving a standing ovation. You can read Patty’s speech below:

“Everyone has a story and tonight, I have the opportunity to tell mine.  I stand here, a young woman, with a Master’s Degree and a promising career at UCSF.  However 17 years ago, I had just arrived in the U.S. and was struggling at Visitacion Valley Middle School.   Although I had always been a dedicated student, it was challenging to focus in class due to my limited English.  I didn’t have any friends and I felt like an outsider.  It was discouraging and I even thought about quitting.

Then I joined Aim High – the summer before 7th grade.  Every morning started with a morning assembly and every afternoon ended with an activity. I recall my first day.  I was terrified when it was my turn to introduce myself in science class. Suzy Garren was my teacher. Where is Suzy? Suzy, thank you for saving me that day from the awkward silence. You cared about my involvement in your class and always made sure that I was doing okay throughout the program. I don’t know that you could ever know how much that meant to me. It really made a difference and I want to thank you.10957729733_877389393dI learned how to type in Computer class with Paula and attended my first Giants game in Candlestick Park.  Even though my English was still limited, I managed to make friends at Aim High.  When the summer was over, I went back to Visitacion Valley with a sense of encouragement.  My English had improved and my teachers noticed the difference.  I raised my GPA enormously that year.   I returned to Aim High the next two summers, eager to show off my English speaking ability.  I was excited to be part of the program once again.   In retrospect, I realize that it was really the Aim High magic that motivated my return – the community created by the staff that makes students feel that they are cared for and that they matter.  I returned to Aim High four years later as a TA, teaching 9th grade algebra. It was my way of wanting to give back and still be apart of the community that meant so much to me. I even let my students dress me up in the newspaper fashion show.        

Every day, Aim High starts with a circle.  That circle made me feel like I was part of something special.  In a learning community, everyone matters and no child should be left behind, no matter how limited their English is.  I am blessed to be standing here, with the opportunity to appreciate those who have helped me along the way.  I hope that I have made you all proud.  First and foremost, I would like to thank my parents for everything they have done for me – Cam on Ba va Ma da hy sinh de cho con duong ngay hom nay—and to Aim High for believing in my potential, including me in the community, and encouraging me to dream bigger.  And last but not least, to all of you, thank you for funding a program that gives students with economically disadvantaged backgrounds, limited English, and limited access to educational opportunities, the chance to dream bigger.  My story is an Aim High story. It wouldn’t possible without you.  Thank you for the chance to dream bigger. “

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