Aim High’s Annual Gala: The Power of Youth is fast approaching—November 15th is right around the corner—and we can’t wait to celebrate with you! The evening will spotlight some incredible individuals who are making waves in the Aim High community and beyond. Enjoy a sneak peek of four honorees, whose powerful voices are featured below.

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Jesús Galindo, Distinguished Educator

How many years have you been involved with Aim High?
Summer 2019 will be my sixth summer with Aim High!

“In middle school…”
…I learned to challenge the status quo. My middle school teachers, mentors, and friends taught me how to seek change even when it is hard to come by.

What is your fondest childhood memory of summer?
Fourth of July weekends with my family. My uncle and aunt did everything they could to make sure we I had a “normal” 4th of July. My uncle grilled the juiciest hamburgers while my aunt made the freshest nopales. At the beach, we set up lawn chairs, cracked open coca-colas and Dorito Salsa Verde bags, and waited for the fireworks. We got home at 11 PM, and everybody was beyond exhausted. Nevertheless, we all got up at 4 AM and drove back to the beach to pick up trash. Those blistering cold July 5th mornings forged who I am today. On the surface, what we were doing seemed like an act of community service. As I reflect back, we were doing so much more. My aunt and uncle were teaching my cousins and me about the power of giving back to communities we did not belong to. Moreover, they were showing us that community service can be an act of love. And, this took me a while to understand, an act of love can change people’s perceptions about your gente (people).

What’s your favorite C.O.R.E value and why?
Community. Together, even the most marginalized in our nation, can create powerful counter-narratives—the types of counter-narratives that expand the spheres of freedom and justice for everybody in our country.

What is your favorite Aim High moment/memory?
Observing an Issues + Choices class for the first time. I remember sitting in a seventh grade lesson about identity and thinking to myself, “Every student should have access to this type of education.” The students I observed were beginning to develop their critical consciousness. More specifically, they were thinking critically about who they are and their perceptions of their internal and external worlds. I witnessed teachers giving their students the tools they need to combat the oppressive identities that were forced upon them. That moment will forever be engraved in my heart and mind.

What does our gala theme, The Power of Youth, mean to you?
Everything. I teach because I firmly believe that most of our society’s problems will remain unsolved if we do not tap into the power of our youth.


Cindy Hernandez-Rivas, Rising Youth Leader

How many summers have you been involved with Aim High?
Three summers as a student and two summers as an eighth grade science Teaching Intern.

“In middle school…”
I was best friends with the principal because my teachers always sent me out of class; I felt disengaged in schoolwork. It wasn’t until my teachers used project-based learning that I actually wanted to be in the classroom.

What is your fondest childhood memory of summer?
I was always at summer school, so I really just enjoyed being with my mom. We used to drive all the way to visit her family in Memphis.

What is your favorite C.O.R.E. value and why?
[High] Expectations. The silent ‘high’ reflects all the hidden potential that students don’t see in themselves but that Aim High helps them see. [High] Expectations has helped me convert the ‘maybes’ into ‘will dos’. 

What is your favorite Aim High moment/memory?
We had to build a scale model of a castle with tooth picks in math class, but I ran out of tooth picks so I went to the office to ask for more. The lady in the office asked me what I needed them for, and she suggested using popsicles instead. While I was assembling the tooth picks, I accidentally glued my fingers together!

What does our gala theme, The Power of Youth, mean to you?
Youth are often cast aside as being too young or too inexperience, but young people actually have so much potential! And young people can’t use that potential unless we give them opportunities to do so.


Aim High Young Leaders Board, Next Generation Visionaries

Jacqueline Kurzer, Co-President

How many years have you been involved with Aim High?
Since the summer of 2011 as a Teaching Intern, then as a lead teacher, as an academic coach, and now as a founding member of the Aim High Young Leaders Board

“In middle school…”
…I was a total tomboy.

What is your fondest childhood memory of summer?
My fondest childhood memory of summer is my first trip to Disneyland when I was 5 years old. It was the beginning of my lifelong love of all things Disney!

What’s your favorite C.O.R.E. value and why?
Opportunity. Closing the opportunity gap is a defining aspect of Aim High’s work. As an educator and person of color, it is the core value that resonates most with me.

What is your favorite Aim High moment/memory?
Oh man – this is tough!! If I had to pick just one it would be running a “Hustle Hard” elective with Michelle Cody a few years ago. The goal of the class was to realize whatever a student’s dream was. And in six weeks, we accomplished so much together! We recorded songs in a professional studio, held an art show to sell student made pieces, and published student’s writing. It was incredible to see all that students could accomplish when given the resources to actualize their dreams!

What does our gala theme, The Power of Youth, mean to you?
When we invest in our youth, we invest in a better future for everyone. Helping youth realize their promise today helps us realize the promise of a better tomorrow.


Alyssa Simpson, Co-President

How many years have you been involved with Aim High?
Most of my life. My initial involvement was when I was in high school at Lick Wilmerding – I did after school tutoring for Aim High students during the academic year.

“In middle school…”
…I was unsure of myself.”

What is your fondest childhood memory of summer?
Swimming at the pool and eating ice cream.

What’s your favorite C.O.R.E. value and why?
Community. I strongly believe in the concept that ‘it takes a village.’ It takes a village to raise children and to reach opportunities.

What is your favorite Aim High moment/memory?
Running into folks in my community at the Aim High Gala who I didn’t know were part of the Aim High ‘village.’

What does our gala theme, The Power of Youth, mean to you?
There is no time like the present, and there is no excuse not to get involved in my community.


Want to get in on the power of youth? Purchase your ticket or sponsorship here, and join us November 15. 

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