This year, I’ve had the opportunity to meet hundreds of students, many of whom are leaders in their school communities.
A few weeks ago, I joined Hatim Mansori, the president of Mission High School’s Black Student Union, when he and classmates visited a local tech company. Students met with Salesforce.com employees and talked with the company’s founder, Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff.
At the San Francisco Unified School District, we aim to connect our students with caring adult mentors who can show them how their learning can be applied in future career options. So imagine my delight when our student leaders and a very important business leader had a chance to connect.
What did Hatim take away from the visit?
“I was surprised to see so many black people were working there,” Hatim said. “We sat down with many of them, and we asked how they got there. I couldn’t believe that some of them used to be professional athletes, and now they work here — I thought you had to choose one kind of profession or another.” Hatim said that it opened his eyes.
“They were in management, in customer service, in computer programming, and one even used to be a teacher who picked up coding doing Hour of Code before becoming a programmer,” he said.
Inspired by story
“When Marc Benioff stopped by to say hello, he talked with us for a while. He said he started earning money when he was 15, cleaning jewelry cases after school,” Hatim said. “He figured out that he was terrible at it, and started looking around for something different to do.”
Benioff told the students he decided to learn how to code – but he was creative about it.
“He knew how to juggle, so he taught himself how to code by developing a program to learn how to juggle. But then he said to himself, ‘Oh, I can make some money at this, I’ll start a company.’ ”
“I was, like, you started a company when you were only 15?”
Hatim continues: “As he was talking, I made a plan in my head to start my own company. I’ve had a dream to do this one day, so why not start now?”
Planning to make mistakes
Here’s where Hatim really nails it: “I figure, the earlier you start, the better because you should make mistakes earlier in life and learn from them.”
Hatim is speaking with a “growth mindset,” and it’s something we encourage at the SFUSD.
He tells me he has already enlisted a friend in the Business and Finance Academy at Lincoln High School to be a business partner. He has signed up for a technology camp this summer. He’s learning how to set up a website. He’s applying for internships. He’s already read Benioff’s biography.
Hatim exemplifies important characteristics that we aim to cultivate in all our SFUSD graduates so they can compete and thrive in the 21st-century world: leadership, empathy and collaboration; career and life skills; and sense of purpose and sense of self.
Richard A. Carranza is the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.