Do you hear the sound of clapping and cheering? This is the last week of school for our San Francisco Unified School District students, and the loudest cheers can be heard from our graduating seniors and their families.

I’m excited for our Class of 2018. More graduates than ever this year have earned college credit courses even before graduating. More graduates than ever have participated in internships and work-based learning opportunities offered in partnership with local businesses. And, more graduates than ever have completed coursework in science, including computer science, and advanced math.

As our young people graduate and move into the next phase of their lives, we want each student in every school to be ready. At the SFUSD we identified six skills and competencies we aspire to develop and support in all of our graduates.

Let me tell you about a few young people graduating this week who, in their own unique ways, embody the competencies we want all our students to possess.

Marvin Pusung-Zita — Ready to Lead
Marvin has shown himself to be a natural leader throughout his time in the SFUSD. When walking the halls of Mission High School, virtually every student stops to say hi to him, and Marvin never hesitates to offer a warm hello back. From serving as captain of Mission’s varsity football team, to his time as U.S. Ambassador at the Model U.N., and educating his peers about sexual harassment, Marvin demonstrates that not only can he take the reins on challenging subjects, but he can do so with the thoughtful consideration one would expect of a leader.

Nayla Belayadi — Ready for Career and Life
Nayla undoubtedly deserves to be applauded for her commitment and determination to finding a way to do it all. She is still a student herself, but she’s already making a difference in the lives of younger students when she teaches at an Islamic school on the weekends. Nayla says it was her own teachers who inspired her to want to teach others. Even though she’s faced challenges, Nayla pushes herself to succeed in ways she could have never imagined.

Melina Diaz — Ready to Create
It can sometimes be hard to measure creativity. But for Melina, her creativity has evolved beyond what she learned in Lincoln High School’s Digital Media Design Academy. When Melina designs a graphic, she doesn’t just pick an image and go with it. Instead, she uses colors and shapes to match the feeling associated with the subject of her design. Melina translates this thoughtfulness by trying to reach her fellow students through graphics she designed that make their days a little brighter. Take a look all around Lincoln, where Melina’s work is prominently shown on walls, sweatshirts and screens, and it will be obvious to see that Melina is already well on her way to being a designer.

Jason Ng — Ready to Tackle a Changing World
Jason doesn’t let a little thing like roadblocks get in his way. Jason recently developed an interest in drones, and even learned that Galileo has its own drones that are available to be used for educational purposes. He also quickly discovered that, partly because this technology is still fairly new, the SFUSD didn’t actually have a drone policy and his school needed one before students could use the drones. But that didn’t stop Jason. He teamed up with the SFUSD’s legal department to write a drone policy for the district. Next year, he’s off to UCLA, and we’ll see what policies he finds lacking there and decides to write.

Alya Truong — Ready to Think, Learn and Grow
Alya takes full advantage of the opportunities presented to her, and, when faced with a challenge, will rise up and meet it. With her mom as her role model, her teachers say Alya is one of the most hard-working students, and has sought out extra curricular activities on top of a full courseload at school. Spend five minutes talking with Alya and you’ll find she’s not only incredibly kind, she’s also all about facing challenges head-on.

Toddiana Jasper — Ready to be Your Best
Toddiana was not always the happy student she is today. When Toddiana started high school, she had just gone through a very challenging life experience and found the pressures overwhelming. It wasn’t until a basketball coach encouraged her to try out for the team that Toddiana began to shift her attitude. It took two tryouts to make the team, but with persistence, she improved her grades and dreamed of going to college. Now, after all her hard work and motivation from her mentors, Toddiana is headed to UC Berkeley.

There are thousands of young people in our midst ready to tackle our changing world. If you see a graduate this week, be sure to congratulate them!

Vincent Matthews is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

Vincent Matthews
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