Eighth-grade dropout now class of ’06 valedictorian

A San Francisco woman who once dropped out of school because it was so hostile and uncomfortable is now valedictorian of her graduating class at Cañada College.

Andrea Griffin, 29, was an eighth-grader at Aptos Middle School in San Francisco when she stopped attending classes. She already had a reputation for being shy and nerdy. Missing school made it worse.

“They made fun of me in general, and then they made fun of me for not being there,” Griffin said. “School seemed like a hostile environment.”

After that, Griffin stayed home, exploring theater work on the side. She enrolled in an independent-study school at 16, but by 17 she had taken the equivalency exams and obtained her GED.

One day, however, she went with a friend to the Serramonte Center in Daly City so the friend could buy scrubs for her nursing job, and Griffin experienced an unfamiliar feeling: wanting to study.

“I thought, ‘I want to belong to something. I want to wear scrubs,’” Griffin said. She returned to a long-standing desire to work with the elderly and enrolled in a massage program at Sonoma College’s San Francisco campus.

Quickly, her fear and anxiety turned to confidence. She discovered an aptitude for anatomy and biology, and before long, students with graduate degrees were asking Griffin for help. They stated calling her “The Brain.”

Thatreputation has continued at Cañada, where she enrolled two years ago to begin her undergraduate work. Griffin’s love of learning led to a 4.0 grade-point average, and she was chosen from among 10 top students as the class of 2006’s valedictorian.

“She doesn’t realize how gifted she is,” said Cañada College speech instructor Anthony Perez, who is helping Griffin write her valedictory address. “She represents this idea that if you have the desire to learn and become something, you can do it.”

Cañada biology teacher Nathan Staples agreed. “She works her rear end off, but she’s enjoying it.”

After graduation, Griffin will head to San Francisco State’s satellite nursing program, which will include an internship at Sequoia Hospital. She lives in San Francisco’s Ingleside neighborhood with her husband, Steven Wolf.

Cañada College’s graduation ceremony takes place May 26 at 7 p.m. at 4200 Farm Hill Blvd., Redwood City.

bwinegarner@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Giants second baseman Donovan Solano scores on a double in the seventh inning against the Dodgers at Oracle Park on July 29. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
Will the Giants make the playoffs? Kris Bryant may be the answer

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner You’d be hard-pressed to find… Continue reading

Tiffany Carter, owner of Boug Cali West Coast Creole Shack in San Francisco’s La Cocina Marketplace, was dismayed by gentrification she found when she returned to her hometown to start a business. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF Black Wallstreet: Helping residents build wealth, reclaim spaces they’ve had to leave

Tiffany Carter moved back to her hometown of San Francisco five years… Continue reading

A prescribed fire at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was conducted in June 2016 to reduce hazardous fuel loading, increase watershed health, and restore the natural fire cycle in the Redwood Canyon area ecosystem. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Paterson/National Park Service)
Experts, UC scientists discuss wildfires in the state’s riskiest regions

Wildfires are nothing new in California’s history, but the magnitude and frequencies… Continue reading

Fourth-grade students at Lucerne Valley Elementary School don masks and Western wear for a “Walk Through California” history day during in-person instruction. (Courtesy of Krystal Nelson)
Confusion over mask mandate for California schools sparks tension between districts and parents

By Diana Lambert EdSource Shifting rules around mask mandates at schools are… Continue reading

In his extensive filming of The City during the pandemic, Eric Goodfield said he has been “observing how the environment affects the behavior of people.” (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Filmmaker Eric Goodfield fixes lens on SF’s COVID days

140 days of shooting in The City made for ‘greatest adventure’

Most Read