Today is the last day of Aim High, summer 2012. I’ve been going to Aim High Summer Program for 8 summers in a row. Nearly half my lifetime; and it had SUCH an incredibly big influence on my life and who I am today. That first summer that I filled out the Aim High application form, forced to by my mom because SFUSD didn’t offer summer school anymore, I had no idea what kind of commitment I was getting myself into. I went through my first summer of Aim High quiet and unnoticed, and practically made no friends at all because I was so painfully shy. The next summer, I begged my mom not to make me go back. I had no choice, my mom is a powerful woman and she knows a good program when she sees one. She made me go back to Aim High the second year, the year before my 8th grade summer. That was when things started changing. That summer was when I was going through my awkward puberty stage; I was trying new clothes, starting to flirt with boys, dabbling in make up, and starting to take control of confidence that I had in my academic skills and social skills. I met a group of people that became my Aim High crew of friends, and I felt like I finally belonged. Things were moving so fast for me as I started becoming more social, learned to speak up, and lived in somewhat of a second life away from what I was used to at school. For the first time in my life I felt like a cool kid, and a superstar from my peers and from my teachers who would keep pushing me forward. It was sad and bittersweet to go back to normal school that year because I had had such a surreal experience of growing up at Aim High that summer. During my school year, I continued to become more daring, outgoing, and confident. The next summer, I returned to Aim High eagerly and had one of the best summers with people I loved to be around. When we finally got to graduation, it was one of the saddest moments, having to leave the program. Aim High had taken me, that shy little 6th grade girl who no one knew, and turned her into an outgoing and confident student ready for high school. This program inspired me to reach out of my comfort zone and become proud of who I was and what I could offer to others. It inspired me to jump at the opportunity to apply for a faculty position the next summer and do the same for others that were just like me. My first year of teaching was tough because I was teaching students literally equal to or less than one year younger than me. But as time went by, I learned from other teachers, learned from students, and slowly developed a desire to help my students see what they would gain from trying harder. This summer was my 5th summer teaching, and experienced being lead teacher for two weeks, while my lead teacher was out. These few weeks helped me realize the responsibility of the position and exposed me to my capabilities in a classroom and put on display everything that I had learned over the years as a TA and intern. I realized that I have so much passion; I try to get through to all my students to make them feel like they know the material even when they’re unsure, give them a boost to reach higher even when they’re not motivated, create a safe environment for them to learn, give them knowledge that they missed out on in school, prepare them for curriculum to come in the future, and give them opportunities to go above and beyond what they think they are capable of. Although I’m not pursuing teaching as a career, Aim High has taught so much on how people can make such a positive influence on a student’s life. I have learned so much about lifting others, seeing the good in people, not judging others for what they seem, and the power of encouragement. For these lessons, I cannot thank Aim High enough, for these skills will continue to help me in how I deal with people later on in life and will continue to shape my attitude when I reach for greater achievements and endeavors. So thank you Aim High for the great times, for being such a solid program, for doing such a fantastic job helping the lives of thousands of students and teachers every year, and for giving me something to look forward to each year. I really admire what Aim High does for its students, teaching the motto of reaching for their dreams. This program changes lives – it sure as hell changed mine.