Good afternoon and thank you for the honor of being able to join you to celebrate the critically-important work that Aim High has done over the last 3 decades and will, no doubt, continue to in decades to come. Having spent 8 of the last 10 summers working at Aim High’s Excelsior campus, returning each fall to my school-year work at Balboa High School – also in that beautiful San Francisco district – I have been honored to witness and share the experience of children of San Francisco’s working class families, families that face increasingly tense and disruptive times. Needless to say, this fall, the anxiety faced by our community and its beautiful youth bubbled to the surface in ways we had not seen so distinctly before. Students who closely held their families’ immigration stories, those who have believed in the power and promise of diverse communities where their voices would be honored, those who have learned to believe that education could transport them out of dire circumstances – each were faced with an acute fear and disillusionment that we, as educators, work so fiercely each day to challenge. Complacency, thankfully, has not set in – in fact, our students are craving opportunities to engage, to educate, and to empower.
As in so many past summers, but more distinctly and urgently this summer and in summers to come, our Aim High classrooms will be and must be rooted in social justice, in providing young voices the opportunity to be heard and nurtured.Gaela PetersIt is my honor to witness the engagement and empowerment of our two previous speakers, Emily, an accomplished and beloved Aim High Excelsior graduate and Jameel, a vibrant and committed member of Balboa’s Class of 2018. Emily and Jameel represent the very best of our Aim High campuses but, truthfully, they represent the promise of Bay Area youth. There is no doubt that the dynamic and impassioned young leaders they are becoming took shape, in large measure, in their Aim High classrooms. Aim High provides our students with a safe space of personal exploration. It is in an Aim High classroom where our kids can speak their stories, can ask their deeply-rooted questions and find the open ears of compassionate allies with whom they can problem solve and grow. As in so many past summers, but more distinctly and urgently this summer and in summers to come, our Aim High classrooms will be and must be rooted in social justice, in providing young voices the opportunity to be heard and nurtured. In the summer of 2008, when I first entered an Aim High classroom after having spent several years in traditional teaching, I thought to myself, “this is the type of classroom environment that I dreamed about when I declared my education major.” The positivity, collaboration, creative spirit, and academic exploration – a roomful of robust learning and joyful learners is the hallmark of Aim High. At this critical time, it is ever more important for our Aim High campuses to be filled with the joy and motivation that nourish learning and the development of self; the safe spaces that empower and enrich young peoples’ lives and provide them with the voice to share and to learn in community. It is my honor to return in 4 weeks to the work that re-energizes my purpose and my compassionate heart and it is my hope that we will be able to share Aim High’s mission of inclusion for decades to come. To each of you, sincerely, I say Thank You.