Throughout this week, you’ll probably notice dressed-up teens streaming out of auditoriums across The City — caps flying, gowns flapping in the breeze and smiling families traipsing behind them.
I will be among the many proud dads this year as my oldest graduates from one of our San Francisco Unified School District high schools and prepares to head off to college.
In fact, there are thousands of graduates who have made us proud. Many persevered through difficult circumstances in their lives, took advantage of the tremendous resources in our schools and met our tough graduation requirements. Now, they are putting on the cap and gown.
Here are just a few of our grads who shared their stories with me:
Maya Ned, Burton High School
Maya Ned entered the foster care system at age 3. In her first year of high school in a nearby city, she was earning nothing but F’s. She started fights. She was nearly arrested. But then she began attending Burton High here in the SFUSD and she found the school’s Wellness Center. Maya started coming to the center daily to have lunch and just to hang out. And then she started doing better in class.
Maya, who says she almost gave up on school, is now a confident young woman. Soon, she will be headed to Merritt College in Oakland, and later hopes to attend Florida A&M to complete a degree in nursing.
Maya says her priorities are clear: School comes before everything.
Manoj Adhikari, San Francisco International High School
Manoj Adhikari arrived in this country just 2½ years ago from Nepal, with not much of a plan and an accent so thick people could barely understand his English. He enrolled at San Francisco International High, an SFUSD school for newcomer immigrant youths, and within six months, he was feeling confident in his skills and decided he wanted to go to college. Others are confident in his skills, too. Manoj just received the highly competitive Gates Millennium Scholarship. It’s a good-through-graduation full ride through college.
Manoj was accepted to four universities and has chosen Santa Clara University to pursue a degree in either computer science or biology.
“When I get discouraged about obstacles, I just remind myself where I want to go in my life,” Manoj said.
Joyce Gu, Marshall High School
Joyce Gu’s life changed forever the day her remaining at-home parent was arrested, leaving no adult at home to care for her and her siblings. Soon she was placed with an uncle. She recalls feeling lost and angry at what had happened, and she gave up on her future dreams. But at Marshall High School, she found staff and support to help her pull her life together.
She summed it up well: “One day, I realized that … it was up to me to make things better.”
Joyce pursued her interest in health and nutrition, and she shared it with fellow students by starting a gardening club and spearheading a student survey on school food options that helped build a case for school vending machines with healthier options.
Now, she is headed to UC Berkeley with a full scholarship to earn a degree in public health.
This year’s graduating seniors are the first SFUSD class required to complete the entire A-G course sequence needed to go to a California State University or a University of California system school.
The SFUSD is one of only a handful of large urban California school districts to require these more rigorous courses for graduation.
We know how hard our kids worked and also how hard the caring adults in their lives at home and at school worked to help get them to this moment. Please join me in congratulating our grads.