Aim High students and teachers crossed the intersection of Guerrero and 18th Street amidst honking horns and cheering pedestrians. “Together we can!” students chanted, “Together we will!” This summer, our Mission campus organized a march around the neighborhood to protest rising housing prices that have displaced hundreds of families throughout the Bay Area. The march was the culminating activity for Cultural Day, an Aim High tradition when sites celebrate other cultures and explore the local community. The Mission staff and site directors Jessie Escobar and Kate Baker chose to spend Cultural Day examining issues facing their own community. Students and teachers started the day by discussing social justice, watching videos about gentrification, and learning about non-violent protest. Representatives of the grassroots organizations Poder and the East Bay Immigrant Youth Coalitionhelped lead the conversation and educate students about community organizing. Though social justice is an important component of the Aim High curriculum and community, this was the first time that Mission designated an entire Cultural Day to the exploration of social justice in the community. “We decided to focus on social justice because of what we’ve experienced in our own neighborhood,” said Jessie, a Mission District native and Aim High graduate. Students kicked off the march by gathering on the front stairs of Mission High School. They held handmade signs, wore matching Aim High tee shirts, and marched down 18th Street to Valencia. Isaiah, a rising sixth grader, was eager to get moving and put all that he learned into action. “We see gentrification all the time. It makes us sad, and we want to make a difference,” he said. In total, more than 100 students and teachers marched. “Everyone here has personally been affected by gentrification, or knows someone who has,” said Jessie. “We are creating a space space where students can engage in a conversation that is relevant to them, and teaching them how they can respond.”
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