As our nearly 3,000 graduating seniors hand in their term papers, pull on caps and gowns and accept their diplomas, I want to take a moment to share about a few of these remarkable young people.
Tonight I will be handing them the Superintendent’s 21st Century Award, a scholarship that honors outstanding graduates who exemplify an aspect of our district’s Vision 2025 Graduate Profile. Let me tell you a little bit about them.
Amina Aineb: Ready to be your best
Amina shared with me that when she was in third grade, she was painfully shy, so she started writing down stories to express herself. It wasn’t long before she realized that the characters were just like her except for one thing — they were courageous.
Fast forward to high school, she was thrilled to find herself in a close-knit class of writers. There was one problem, though. Part of her grade was to get up on stage and perform her written pieces. She was terrified. But she did it. And she got good at it.
Once she graduates from the Asawa School of the Arts, Amina is headed for Evergreen College. She wants to become both a published writer and a psychologist.
Fela Asewasi: Ready for career and life
It’s hard not to get infected with Fela’s enthusiasm for work and what he’s already learned from his early work experiences. When he first started at Starbucks, he focused on all the things he could buy with his paycheck. Within a year, though, he was a seasoned employee worrying about cost overruns and talking to customers to learn how they manage their finances. Now he has plans to become a store manager by 18.
This Galileo High graduate will attend UC Riverside this fall, with his eyes set on a career as an anesthesiologist or nurse.
Mishal Durrani: Ready to tackle a changing world
Seeking knowledge and education is engraved in her heart, says Mishal. But it’s not been easy as a new immigrant and a Muslim. She said that her family first lived in “pesticide-ridden” housing and this experience motivated her to get an internship with the Department of Public Health. For months, she took calls from San Francisco citizens with health issues related to poor living conditions. She made sure the right people at DPH got the information and saw many problems get resolved.
Now? She’s finishing up her classes at S.F. International High, then is headed to UC Berkeley where she plans to earn a degree in biology and build a career in research.
Nikki Whittaker: Ready to create
Nikki’s family was displaced from their home in the Mission. While they found programs that provided assistance, she wanted to bring her new neighbors into the conversation so she co-founded a program called “Transformative Technology,” to bring people from both sides of gentrification to find solutions together.
Nikki is graduating from June Jordan School for Equity and headed to UCLA. She aspires to be a UN ambassador or immigration lawyer.
Yinia Yanez: Ready to lead
Yinia lost a friend when Amilcar Perez-Lopez was misidentified as someone stealing a bike and was shot six times in the back by police. For her, it was a call to action. She joined several other teens across The City to conduct research and bring citizens and law enforcement together to talk about community safety and police accountability.
Yinia will graduate from Mission High this week. After she completes her degree at University of San Francisco, she plans to teach at SFUSD.
Victor Qiu: Ready to think, learn and grow
Victor dives into the heart of Chinese civilization in his Chinese school studies. He told me that exploring both Chinese and American history has created an appetite to understand the cause and effect of civilizations and the structures they create.
Victor plans to be an intern at a local government agency, then he’s headed to the University of Southern California. He’s planning for a career that includes being a constitutional lawyer, politician and diplomat.
I am so proud to say these young adults are about to graduate from San Francisco’s public schools. If you’re an SFUSD grad — or a proud family member — tell me how you’re ready #SFUSDgrads.
Vincent Matthews is superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.