My personal Aim High journey started out on that first day like a lot of kids. Imagine…it’s a balmy 52 in the Ingleside neighborhood of San Francisco and I’ve got the hood up and the hat down and I cannot believe that I’m going back to summer school already. And after that first day, you realize it’s not like any school you’ve ever been to. After that first day, the shy kid slowly loses the hood. Then later on that week, he might start to…just ever so slightly…just raise his hand to answer a question in class, then by the end of those 5 short weeks you can’t pull him off the stage at the lipsync and hugging every single staff member for celebration night seems completely normal. Over the last few years I’ve had a lot of different opportunities to look back at my elementary and middle school experience through the lens of various education classes with professors at Occidental College, as well as the credentialing classes that I am currently enrolled in. The conclusion that I keep coming to is that my academic success in high school and college was not an accident. These are the two reasons why: first, the middle school teachers that I had at Roosevelt had extremely high expectations for me and my classmates. The second reason, which played just as big a role as those 9 months at Roosevelt, were the motivation and engagement that Aim High faculty brought to the classroom every day over the summer. Each and every class period, Incredibly creative and talented Aim High teachers brought projects to the table that would force you to think critically. In my teacher credentialing program, I have to read a lot of theory…and it is currently a big point in teacher education – at the cutting edge of pedagogy – to foster and maintain the idea of the student as a critical thinker and problem solver. Not someone who will grind out algorithms and computation, but someone who, when faced with a difficult problem, will think critically and draw from past experience to come up with new and creative solutions to a problem. And that was the culture promoted by each teacher, intern, and ta that I had at Aim High. People who took me away from the rigid framework of the school year and introduced those tough problems and projects. Here is a short list of just a few of the projects that I worked on in my eleven years as a student and teacher at Aim High: Alternate energy solutions to damming the Biobio River in southern Chile, solving a crime scene in all 4 academic classes to find the location of a lost Site Director, designing and budgeting for my own charter school, measuring every student in my math class and using the data to build the average 7th grader, building drag race cars out of nothing more than index cards, straws, skewers and rubber bands, and constructing and monitoring my own personal 4 liter biosphere. While it might be an obvious outcome now, my decision to pursue a career in teaching was not an especially clear choice when the real world started creeping up on me. Really, the moment I started reflecting on myself as a teacher was during my attempts crank out a genuine statement of purpose during my last spring at Occidental…and I just kept coming back to Aim High. It seemed as though each AH memory carried over into a new career path opportunity. My current path was really born out of the writing process – my writing and academic advisors couldn’t get me to shut up about the three summers I spent at Aim High. Wanting to become a teacher is more than just the good feelings from Aim High. It’s more than just wanting to be a role model, like the role models that I was lucky to have… rather, I want to be one of those teachers that promotes a culture of critical thinking. I want my classroom to be a place where students are agents of their education, not just products of it. And that attitude comes directly from my experience at Aim High. I’m just one of 6000 students to pass through the program. Just one of 250 teachers to work in the program last summer alone. Thinking about Aim High in that way and the impact that it can have on our community is truly something special to think about. Cameron began as a student at Aim High in 1999 and has returned as a teacher every year since. He graduated in 2009 from Occidental College in Pasadena, CA, and is now pursuing a California Teaching Credential through the Bay Area Teacher Training Institute. He shared this reflection as a featured speaker at an Aim High lunch event on February 17, 2010.