2014 College Track Graduation and Awards
At College Track, we believe that we can help transform communities by providing students with two things: the tools to succeed and the belief that they can.
Welcome and thank you for joining us for College Track’s 13th annual Bay Area graduation to celebrate and commemorate the graduating college and high school classes of 2014. This year’s 149 high school graduates submitted over 2,000 college applications and over 90% of them have been accepted to 4-year college. Our 30 college graduates represent over 20 colleges, including Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Howard University.
ABOUT COLLEGE TRACK College Track is a national college completion non-profit that empowers students from underserved communities to graduate from college. From the summer before 9th grade through college graduation, our 10-year program removes the barriers that prevent students from earning their college degree by providing them with comprehensive academic support, leadership training, financial and college advising, and scholarships. Our students learn the skills necessary to succeed in college and beyond. Over the past 16 years, College Track students have excelled. More than 90% of our students are admitted to four-year colleges and our students graduate from college at a rate that is 2.5 times higher than the national average for lowincome students. In the 2013-2014 academic year, more than1,600 students participated in College Track programs across six sites in East Palo Alto, Oakland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Colorado. In the simplest terms, College Track helps high school students get into and graduate from college. And yet, the magnitude of what our students accomplish extends far beyond earning a degree. College Track alumni leave their campuses, not just as graduates, but as the new standard for their friends, families, and neighborhoods. In making college a reality for one, we make it an expectation for all.
It is because of College Track that not only will I be graduating and earning a Bachelors Degree at the University of San Francisco; College Track’s continuous support truly keeps me motivated to succeed and give back to the community when I graduate in May 2016. — Christina Seruge (San Francisco, 2012) University of San Francisco
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2014 COLLEGE TRACK GRADUATION AND AWARDS CEREMONY May 16, 2014 | Hosted By Electronic Arts
PROCESSIONAL MASTERS OF CEREMONY Laura Tovar, College Track East Palo Alto, 2008; University of California, Santa Cruz, 2012 Marshall Lott, Chief Advocate for College Completion, College Track WELCOME Andrew Wilson, CEO, Electronic Arts David Silver, CEO, College Track ANNOUNCEMENT OF OUTSTANDING STUDENTS AND STUDENT OF THE YEAR David Silver, CEO, College Track HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT PERFORMANCE Song: Leslie Cisnero, East Palo Alto, Class of 2014 PRESENTATION OF HERO AWARD Sharifa Wilson, Site Director, College Track East Palo Alto Presented by Laura Tovar, College Track East Palo Alto, 2008; University of California, Santa Cruz, 2012 HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE SPEAKER Donzahniya Pitre, College Track Oakland, 2014, Guilford College RECOGNITION OF SCHOLARSHIP PARTNERS Todd Heintz, Business Banking Senior Vice President, Chase David Silver, CEO, College Track KEYNOTE ADDRESS Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam and founder of Phat Farm, Argyleculture, American Classics Introduction by Emanuel Hillman, College Track San Francisco, Class of 2014 COLLEGE GRADUATE SPEAKER Morris Callegari, College Track Oakland, 2009; University of California, Riverside, 2014 PRESENTATION OF COLLEGE GRADUATION CERTIFICATES Cristel de Rouvray, Vice President of College Completion Sergio Gonzalez, College Success Fellow, College Track East Palo Alto, 2004 Johanna Calvillo, College Success Fellow, College Track East Palo Alto, 2007 INTRODUCTION OF COLLEGE TRACK PROGRAM STAFF Jeannie Johnson, Vice President of Programs, College Track PRESENTATION OF HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION CERTIFICATES Jenny Medina, College Completion Director, College Track East Palo Alto Omar Butler, Site Director, College Track San Francisco Shria Tomlinson, Site Director, College Track Oakland PRESENTATION OF COLLEGE SWEATSHIRTS GRADUATING CLASS PHOTOS
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2014 COLLEGE TRACK GRADUATION AND KEYNOTE SPEAKER Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam and founder of Phat Farm, Argyleculture, American Classics Forbes Magazine recently named Russell Simmons one of “Hollywood’s Most Influential Celebrities.” USA Today named Russell one of the “Top 25 Most Influential People of the Past 25 Years,” calling him a “hip-hop pioneer” for his groundbreaking vision that has influenced music, fashion, finance, the jewelry industry, television and film, as well as the face of modern philanthropy. Russell is recognized globally for his influence and entrepreneurial approach to both business and philanthropy. In addition to creating Def Jam Recordings (1984), industry changing brands including Phat Farm (1992), Baby Phat (2001), and Argylculture, and founding UniRush (2003), an organization that provides access to basic financial services for over 48 million americans. He also published the New York Times best sellers, Do You! 12 Laws to Access the Power in You to Achieve Happiness & Success and Super Rich: A guide to Having it All. Additionally, Russell founded GlobalGrind.com, the leading online destination for celebrity entertainment, music, culture, and politics for a new, post-racial America. With many decades of successes behind him, Russell recently announced the launch of three new ventures: his original content YouTube channel, All Def Digital, a destination for cutting-edge urban music, comedy and spoken word programming, All Def Music, a next generation music label in partnership with Universal Music Group and created to sign, develop and promote artists on YouTube, and the recently formed NARRATIVE, a marketing, entertainment and technology agency focused on developing cross-platform, story-led experiences and solutions for brands. Giving back is of primary importance to him in all aspects of life, and as Chairman and CEO of Rush Communications, he has consistently leveraged his influence in the recording industry, fashion, television, financial services, and jewelry sectors to give back. A devoted yogi, Russell also leads the non-profit division of his empire, Rush Community Affairs, and its ongoing commitment to empowering at-risk youth through education, the arts, social engagement, and promoting racial harmony and strengthening inter-group relations. Russell, a native New Yorker, attended City College of New York. His latest book, Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple, was recently named a New York Times bestseller. Russell has two daughters, Ming Lee and Aoki Lee.
College Track has provided me with skills such as financial literacy and degree requirements to navigate college better. Through College Success I have gained a mentor that helps me stay focused and makes me feel supported with issues concerning school and life. — Jenesh Dobie (San Francisco, 2012) Portland State University
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2014 COLLEGE GRADUATES Karina Ambriz University of California, Davis Communications and Spanish David Ardayfio San Francisco State University Health Education Eddie Will Ashley University of California, Riverside Environmental Science, minor in Economics Victoria Barnes University of California, Riverside Business Ana Belem Castellanos Cancino University of California, Berkeley Latin American Literature Jaiâ€™La Bell University of San Francisco Nursing Jaâ€™mia Bell Texas Southern University Biology and Chemistry Francisco Betancourt University of California, Berkeley Human Biology & Health Sciences Morris Callegari University of California, Riverside Art, minor in Creative Writing Christina Earl-Rockefeller California State University, Sacramento International Business and Journalism
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Tevah El Emmet George Mason University Advertising, minor in Entrepreneurship Mele Latu Johnson & Wales University (Miami) Business Administration and Criminal Justice Cindy Lei San Francisco State University Accounting Michelle Martinez University of California, Merced Management and Economics, minor in Spanish Ane Okusi San Francisco State University Industrial Design
Julisa Nicole Russell Art Institute of California, San Francisco Chipemba (CJ) Salimu San Francisco State University Psychology Hana Shehadeh San Francisco State University International Business Administration Vanessa Smith California State University, San Diego Political Science and Spanish Wendy Tran University of California, San Diego Human Development Michelle Trejo Stanford University Political Science
Ella Pak University of California, San Diego Communication, minor in Business and Photography
Noemi Villegas University of California, Berkeley Sociology, minor in Public Policy
Imani Pierce San Francisco State University Teaching
Jarvis Walker II Clark Atlanta University Business Administration
Brenda Rangel California State University, East Bay Political Science, Pre-Law Option
Tanisha West Manhattanville College Sociology, minor in Creative Writing
Siboney Renteria Niagara University Criminal Justice
Frederik Zavala University of California, Davis Community and Regional Development
Zenan Robinson University of California, Davis Technocultural Studies, minor in Film
2014 GRADUATE SCHOOL STUDENTS This year, eight College Track alumni enrolled in graduate school and in 2014 two will complete their graduate degrees! Congratulations! Kyra Brown Howard University Master’s of Divinity, with an emphasis in Social Justice
Ayinde Tate University of Pennsylvania Master’s of Education, School Counseling & Mental Health Counseling
Coming from a neighborhood tainted by many socio-economic disadvantages, education has not been valued in my community. College Track is changing that. College Track is not only a college preparatory program targeted at making college a feasible opportunity for underprivileged students, but a movement shaping historically-disadvantaged neighborhoods. — Zaria Clemmons College Track San Francisco, 2014
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2014 EAST PALO ALTO HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES Gerber Aguilar California State University, Chico
Azucena Gonzalez University of California, Santa Cruz
Lizbeth Martinez San Francisco State University
Jenipher Arias Chavez California State University, East Bay
Brigitte Gutierrez Foothill Community College
Jakayla McDowell University of Redlands
Marcelious Baldain Sonoma State University
Guadalupe Jasmin Gutierrez University of California, Santa Barbara
Rosamia Morales Valdez California State University, Northridge
Maurice Mannuel Baldain Sonoma State University
Ana Hurtado University of California, Riverside
Shayal Narayan University of California, Santa Cruz
Rubi M. Calderon San Francisco State University
Alan Ibarra California State University, Chico
Jorge A. Peraza-Vasquez San Francisco State University
Gloria Casta単eda Yale University
Alondra Jaime University of California, Santa Cruz
Mayra Perez Sonoma State University
Berenice Chavez California State University, East Bay
Anthony Johnson Foothill Community College
Kristin Ramos-Trujillo California State University, Chico
Leslie Cisneros California State University, East Bay
Easter Kena San Francisco State University
Maria Rodriguez Notre Dame de Namur
Maria Correa California State University, East Bay
Marlene Landiz University of California, Santa Cruz
Christopher Sandoval University of California, Santa Cruz
Ketzalzin Cruz University of California, Los Angeles
Viridiana Leon Foothill Community College
Maria Sandoval University of California, Berkeley
Tania Cruz Diaz University of California, Davis
Edgar Lira California State University, Chico
Paul Santiago Chavez University of California, Merced
Blanca Diaz Stanford University
Edwin Lombera University of California, Merced
Lizet Segura Notre Dame de Namur
Lorena Diaz California State University, East Bay
Ivette Maribel Lopez Sonoma State University
Niara Spencer Hampton College
Serly M. Echeverria Sonoma State University
Sarai Lucas University of California, Santa Barbara
Monica Valdivias University of California, Berkeley
Janice Garcia Knox College
Uriel Lujan California College of the Arts
Rosa Vargas University of California, Santa Cruz
Ruth Gomez Loyola Marymount University
Karen Martinez University of California, Riverside
Cynthia Zapata University of California, Merced
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2014 OAKLAND HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES Daniel Alvarado California State University, East Bay
Emerald Jones California State University, East Bay
Vanessa Ortega University of California, Santa Cruz
Cristian Arauz Pacific Union College
Ilimuela Katoa San Francisco State University
Ahtziri Peña University of California, Davis
Teralynn Barganey Humboldt State University
Weixiong (Harend) Liu University of San Francisco
Donzahniya Pitre Guilford College
Olivia M. Butler Tulane University
Adrian Lopez-Ceja Merritt College
Astrid Regalado San Francisco State University
Cristopher Castillo University of California, Santa Cruz
Amanda Ma University of California, Berkeley
Andrew Rozelle San José State University
Jiamin (Jenny) Chen California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo
Edgar Martinez University of California, Santa Cruz
Tina Saechao California State University, East Bay
Aranta Martinez-Moreno University of California, Berkeley
Christine Tadena San Francisco State University
Mikail Meador California State University, Sacramento
Sefora Temesgen San Francisco State University
Itzel Rojas Mendoza San Francisco State University
Cesar Urquiza University of California, Santa Cruz
Evelyn Merino-Renderos Humboldt State University
Alondra E. Vazquez University of California, Santa Cruz
Tyrone Moore-Perez Carleton College
Cindy Weng Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Stephanie Morales University of California, Merced
Steven R. Williams Diablo Valley Community College
Edgar Moreno California State University, Chico
Michael Wong University of Pennsylvania
Sarah Neshat Northeastern University
Betel Yimer University of California, Santa Cruz
Crystal Lee Cheng California State University, Sacramento Lucia Curiel California State University, Long Beach Itzamar Carmona Felipe University of California, Santa Cruz Timothy Ford San Francisco State University Natali Zamora Galindo University of California, Santa Cruz Savannah Gamble Sonoma State University Dalia Jazmin Hernandez California State University, East Bay Tiffany Huang University of California, Irvine Keith Hunter California State University, Chico
Tanny Okusi San José State University Bianca Olmedo San Francisco State University
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2014 SAN FRANCISCO HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATES Nehad Abdelwahhab San Francisco State University
Emanuel Hillman San Francisco State University
Grace Nevarez San Francisco State University
Theresa Atanoa University of California, Santa Cruz
Jenny Ho University of California, Davis
Azucena Nunez University of California, Santa Cruz
Veronika Brown Skyline College
Kaiâ€™Ree Howard Tulane University
Kenneth Ouyang University of California, Santa Cruz
Victoria Bryant Fisk University
Wei Jie Feng University of California, Davis
Erika Palomo-Maravilla Holy Names University
Michelle Cai University of California, Davis
Alanna Johnson San Francisco State University
Randy Parada University of California, Santa Cruz
Jocelyn Castaneda California State University, East Bay
Joshay Jones California State University, Long Beach
Deja D. Pelle California State University, Los Angeles
Adrian Castano Sonoma State University
Amy Lee University of California, Davis
Fernando Portillo University of California, Santa Cruz
Jaela Caston Westmont College
Vanessa Li University of California, Berkeley
Danny Ramos Dominican University
Zaria Clemmons Agnes Scott College
Amy Liang Mills College
Christopher Seruge San Francisco State University
Zenay Clemmons Agnes Scott College
Esalyna Liang University of California, Davis
Courtney Smith San Francisco State University
Vincent Do Denison College
Cindy Lin University of California, San Diego
Nicole Smovzh University of California, Santa Barbara
Halimah Dos San Francisco State University
Tyler Ling University of Pennsylvania
Lexus Thomas-Trail Tulane University
Joseph Dudley Sonoma State University
Susan (Shu Qing) Liu University of California, Riverside
Dimitri Tran San Francisco State University
Kevin Gil San Francisco State University
Jemerson Macalino University of California, Santa Cruz
Jonathan Wang University of Southern California
Shirley Guan University of California, Berkeley
Daijahnique Madlock Concordia College
Angela (Yong Yin) Wu University of California, Davis
Christian Hernandez San Francisco State University
Paloma Martinez San JosĂŠ State University
Carol Wu University of California, Berkeley
Gwendolyn Hernandez Skyline College
Diego Monroy San Francisco State University
Kelly (Xiaoyan) Zhao University of California, Berkeley
Monica Hill University of California, Santa Cruz
Khaled Morales Mills College
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2014 OUTSTANDING STUDENT AWARDS Each year, an outstanding student is selected from each grade level by program team at College Track sites nationally. The selected students are exemplary leaders at College Track, have strong attendance, and excellent academics. EAST PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA Esmeralda Soto — Freshman Adriana Contreras — Sophomore Alan Martinez — Junior Cynthia Zapata — Senior
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA Brittany Firstley — Freshman Aisha Holmes — Sophomore Alonzo Booth, III — Junior Anastasia Woods — Senior
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA Lewam Gebre — Freshman Perla Peredes — Sophomore Luis Galvan — Junior Natali Zamora — Senior
AURORA, COLORADO Michael Johnson — Sophomore Ore Folarin — Junior First one will be in 2015 — Senior
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA Maria Becerra — Freshman Alejandra Mendez-Ruiz — Sophomore Travis Greer — Junior Zaria Clemmons — Senior
BOYLE HEIGHTS, CALIFORNIA Yolanda Trujillo — Freshman Ruben Estrada — Sophomore First one will be in 2015 — Junior First one will be in 2016 — Senior
2014 STUDENT OF THE YEAR AWARD The recipient of this award has consistently performed at a high level in all program areas. Each student has been at College Track since the 9th grade and has contributed immensely to building a College Track community at the site. This student is nominated and selected by the College Track program team. Rosa Vargas — East Palo Alto Stephanie Morales — Oakland
Theresa Atanoa — San Francisco Merlin George — New Orleans
College Track has been a constant support system throughout my first year (in college), both academically and personally, while I adjusted to being 500 miles away from home. — Erica Zamora (East Palo Alto, 2013) University of San Diego
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GRADUATING CLASS OF 2014 PERSONAL STATEMENTS & COLLEGE APPLICATION ESSAYS On the following pages, you will see samples of personal statements and college application essays written by fifteen 2014 College Track seniors. What you are about to read took tremendous soul searching, hard work, and several revisions. College Track staff and senior advisors who assisted the students are proud of the time and energy these seniors committed to completing these personal statements. These essays were either used for college applications or modified for scholarship applications. The seniors have graciously permitted the use of these essays to allow us to share the experiences that have made them extraordinary individuals.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE KENTE STOLES Tonight, each of the College Track seniors wears a Kente Stole. The Kente Stole symbolizes a rite of passage, in this case, the student graduating from high school and entering college. Three symbolic motifs represent the outcome we hope for our students: the diamond of wealth and riches, the key to knowledge and success, and the stool of leadership and unity.
If it weren’t for College Track, I don’t think I would be applying to any four-year colleges, especially private schools. I have learned how to ask for help when I need it and to never give up on what you really want to do in life. — Jenipher Arias College Track East Palo Alto, 2014
ALAN IBARRA, EAST PALO ALTO CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, CHICO Education has always been valued and put before everything in my house. Both of my parents were born in Mexico and had to abandon their studies at a very young age to help support their families by working. For this same reason they constantly pushed me to challenge myself in school and to strive for a better life. Even when I graduated middle school, they saw it as a big accomplishment because they had never been able to do it themselves. Their constant reminder that a key to a better life is education has been ingrained in my mind. This is why I have grown to push myself and chose to take the most rigorous courses my high school had to offer. Although my school is quite diverse, the ICAP (International College Advancement Program) and International Baccalaureate programs are not. In many of my classes, I was one of only a handful of minority students. When I first began the program, I felt out of place. I was often shy and hesitant to talk, thinking I didn’t have anything good enough to contribute. Along with this, many of my friends did not choose to take the educational path I took and instead became involved with gangs. This did not help my situation because I would often be ridiculed for being “smart.” For a long time this discouraged me, and at some points even made me consider leaving the program. However, the values my parents had instilled in me, motivated me to push forward, and instead of leaving the program, I took on even more advanced classes.
I decided that I was going to make changes and not let others feel bad for being educated, and instead show the benefits of education.
I never blamed my friends for joining gangs. Many smart and innocent kids that live in bad neighborhoods end up joining gangs because of the huge influence the gangs have on the community. I have seen this first hand. This negative influence that almost led me to leaving my advanced classes motivated me to take initiative in my community. I decided that I was going to make changes and not let others feel bad for being educated, and instead show the benefits of education. I began to tutor and mentor younger kids who did not attend the best school or live in the best neighborhood because I have seen what lack of a positive role model can do to kids surrounded by gangs. Being able to help them really helped me, perhaps even more then it helped them. Going to college had always been about myself because I didn’t believe I could make a difference in any life other than my own. But now I realize that education gives you the power to make a difference. This has created a new appreciation for education in me, because now I don’t see it as just an obstacle on the way to success. I see education as a way to inspire and give hope to others.
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ANONYMOUS, OAKLAND I look at the glowing Aztec angel watching over a family, and am astonished that the Aztec angel is me. I stand back to take a better look at the mural, with its brilliant colors, the complex details, and the overall message that paints the struggle of migrant women. It was my first year interning with 67 Sueños (67 Dreams), a non-profit organization that uses art to give voice to undocumented students. My involvement in the creation of the mural about migrant women’s health made me feel welcomed into a new family.
67 Sueños was my support group who valued my ideas and helped me connect to my culture.
The mural was a new experience for me. I hadn’t done much drawing or painting and I didn’t appreciate my culture. I learned how to mix colors to get the perfect shade for the right flower. I learned about more than painting. I learned about palabra (knowledge passed down from elders), and copal (sage burned to bring positive energy), which my ancestors practiced. I learned how to pronounce the word Quetzalcoatl, the winged serpent God. I learned to love my culture with its rich history. 67 Sueños showed me that my people are hardworking, loving people who I should not be ashamed of just because most of them are not here legally in this country. On May 1, 2013 I went to my first march for immigration rights in Oakland, California. As an undocumented student my participation in the march made me feel empowered. I saw people come together from different ethnic backgrounds making the march very powerful. I wouldn’t have participated if it had not been for 67 Sueños. I saw leadership from people who are marginalized, and I realized that they can be leaders. The voices of undocumented youth need to be heard; the people who make decisions don’t always know what’s best for us. 67 Sueños was my support group who valued my ideas and helped me connect to my culture. They gave me the confidence to stand up and give people a voice, I am no longer afraid to speak up or share my opinion with others. Standing in front of the mural I remember the journey that led me to appreciate my culture. In one summer I learned about my indigenous culture and changed my perspective of myself. Painting the mural made me realize the power of migrant women. My involvement in the march made me realize there are a lot of injustices for immigrants but there are ways people can come together and make a difference. I learned that my culture is part of my identity, and I feel very proud to be part of a culture that has struggled but continues fighting and does not let go of its history. I learned to be undocumented and unafraid. At the unveiling of the mural, the elderly women were giving palabra (knowledge) to a young woman holding a butterfly. I saw the elderly women in the mural were soon going to end their journey and I knew mine had just started.
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CHRISTOPHER SERUGE, SAN FRANCISCO SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY I am sitting in my third grade class practicing cursive when I hear, “Christopher, please come with me.” I am then escorted out of the room by a woman I have never spoken with. She is accompanied by a tall man carrying a suitcase. Together, we head down an endless hallway full of school bags and finger-painted murals. We arrive to a room the size of a janitor’s closet, cram inside, and the testing begins. It was not until later that week that my family was brought in and informed that I was dyslexic. Suddenly, my life was spun and flipped around, just like my cursive “H.”
I was ready to show that I wasn’t just a number but rather a student looking for a better outcome.
According to the Dyslexia Research Institute, one out of five people are diagnosed with severe to moderate dyslexia. For me, dropping off letters from the ends of words while reading aloud in class was the scariest part. I would wait for kids to start giggling at me for mispronunciation and saying “read” instead of “red.” When I graduated from middle school, I felt my motivation had to come from me alone. Many thought I might have been faking class discussions because I was too lazy to read, but the truth was that I was exhausted from re-reading the same paragraph for the fourth time. I would look around and try to keep up, but I simply could not understand. After middle school, I thought high school might be different. But on my first day when I saw that I was scheduled for a “study skills” class, that is when the battle started. I walked in and felt it: “I’m not supposed to make it through high school. I was placed in a ‘special’ period so that I wouldn’t fail.” My fate was decided by one test. “He can’t take six classes,” I even overheard counselors say. I would have the same test experience every time. I read the questions hoping to recollect class lessons, but my mind goes empty. What feels like moments later the bell rings and most of my test is blank. I pass my test up knowing that the cycle continues tomorrow. After repeated instances, I decided I would not allow my learning difference to dictate my future. After countless arguments with my counselor, we finally came to an agreement: we would replace one of the study skills classes with a general education course. I was ready to show that I wasn’t just a number but rather a student looking for a better outcome. After long hours of studying and tenacity, I am proud to not only graduate in all of my general education classes, but with Honors and Advanced Placement. I am college bound and will one day work in the field of aviation. As I look to life after high school, I am excited to be a role model for other kids like me by opening doors to worlds once restricted by doubt. Even though I am one out of five, I am also part of the proud, determined 58% that will graduate from college.
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ANONYMOUS, SAN FRANCISCO “Please be safe out there, I don’t want to lose you,” my mom says each and every day of my life. The world I come from is a place where people label a “danger zone.” Picture this: a place where there are liquor stores on every corner and gangsters manning the corners like a military post. Where there are pointless deaths and countless robberies. Where thugs defend a part of town they live in and have the willingness to kill for a street that they don’t even own. I come from a place where education is not valued but killing people with guns is; where most times, reaching your dreams consists of being a professional basketball or football player or a rapper. Where the dirty streets are filled with alcoholics, crack addicts, and young men and women who have nothing to do but waste their precious lives away. In the 6th grade on an ordinary Monday, I came face to face with trouble. It was lunchtime and everyone was on the yard eating and enjoying themselves. I was in the lunchroom with my crew of friends eating lunch and minding my own business. Like a small percentage of kids at my school, I completed every assignment, got A’s on every test, and kept a consistent 3.6 GPA and higher. But on that day, trouble found me. An 8th grader approached me and asked me if I wanted to take a pill. I had no idea what it was, and it seemed enticing because he said it would make me the happiest I’ve ever been. I thought about it and I refused his offer. This vision of me being locked up in a prison cell, becoming another statistic of an African-American flashed quickly before my eyes. I realized I didn’t want to be like those around me, confined to the prison of dependency or death. I realized I wanted a better life for myself like my parents and everyone who has supported me to this day.
College is the first step towards achieving the goals I have for myself, and it means everything to me to give back to my neighborhood.
Living in a poverty-stricken area like the Bayview, San Francisco can be extremely detrimental to the individuals who want to get out. I will strive to be successful despite the fact that the society I live in consistently tries to bring me down. I use these hindrances to encourage myself that I can be better than what has been designed to consume me. I use these obstacles to motivate myself to be a role model for those younger than me with similar dreams. I have dreams of becoming a politician so that one day I can participate in the renovation of the education system and prevent violence in my community. College is the first step towards achieving the goals I have for myself, and it means everything to me to give back to my neighborhood. The idea of my community getting destroyed by violence fuels my ambition to want to make a change.
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CINDY WENG, OAKLAND RENSSELAER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE I remember peering around the corner into our family restaurant’s kitchen as a little girl. Seeing the massive woks on the cabinets, I felt minuscule within a world with much to learn and see. Today, I still smell the aroma of star anise and pork as I walk through the front door. I exclaim in Mandarin, “Daddy, what have you made today?” He beams a smile and chuckles as he begins to explain. Cooking provides the ability to bond with my dad while allowing experimentation and risk taking with ingredient blending. It is a bridge between my two worlds: American and Taiwanese. In an English speaking country, my dad speaks through his food. On the other hand, as a child, I hadn’t found my voice. My teacher, Ms. Larson, directed me towards the black, plastic milk bin labeled, “Level 2.” I longed to read Lemony Snicket in “Level 5” with my classmates, but I struggled to comprehend extensive text. However, Ms. Larson told me I had a gift of spoken expression. Growing up, I learned English independently because my mom refused to teach me improper English. Furthermore, my parents spent early mornings shopping at the Chinatown market and came home exhausted at 10 p.m.; my mom lacked the energy to teach me proper English. However, she prided herself in sending me to Chinese School and ensured that I stayed rooted. While there, I discovered the power of speech. My mom and I spent countless hours analyzing Chinese literature and oratorically reciting for speech competitions. Speaking paralleled empowerment. I held long conversations with customers at our family restaurant — immersed in strangers’ stories. I became a hybrid of cultures: speaking Spanish with the restaurant’s dishwashers, practicing the art of Japanese tea ceremonies, and attempting to comprehend Cantonese. I had a superpower — the ability to blend traditions, speak multiple languages, and move fluidly between environments. Still, throughout my middle school career, humanities courses seemed obscure and confusing. Math made sense because it was numbers, like a universal language, but I hadn’t found the “universal language” within humanities. Yet, I loved reading books. I spent winter nights with hot chocolate and a stack of books. However, there was a missing piece; I shared no connection with the characters in the novels.
As I served my local community and abroad, I saw suffering in our world. I loved, lost, laughed, and conversed with the people I served. They formed my community.
As I served my local community and abroad, I saw suffering in our world. I loved, lost, laughed, and conversed with the people I served. They formed my community. From my endeavors, I realized my responsibility to serve others and its sense of fulfillment. With my global knowledge, I understood novels because the pathos became apparent. Humanities helped me better understand the environment and society I was in, and vice versa. Though people seem to separate humanities and mathematics, I’ve come to discover their reliance upon each other. And I aspire to a future consisting of a correspondence between the two. Civil engineering is my way to tackle welfare, health, and safety of people everywhere. “Civil” adapts engineering to those it serves, and always offers something new to learn. It requires my understanding of socioeconomic conditions at hand, while using creativity, math, and science. This is what I love — planning with others, blending cultures, and bettering circumstances — this is my kitchen.
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DONZAHNIYA PITRE, OAKLAND GUILFORD COLLEGE Restorative justice does just that and is one of the most effective ways to deal with violence. Restorative justice focuses on the rehabilitation of the offender by creating peace between the person who committed the crime and the person who was the victim. It gives the offender a chance to learn from his or her mistake. Creating peace between the victim and the offender is very important because unresolved problems can be very unhealthy for both the victim and the offender. Unresolved problems play a big role in violence because they leave an open wound, restrict an individual’s ability to heal and may result in further violence, resulting in a vicious cycle of violence creating more violence. Thus, rather than addressing violence with more violence (such as prison), restorative justice seeks to address the root causes of violence through peace and understanding. I have personally experienced how people who have been affected by violence have a high chance of contributing to it. Growing up in Oakland, California, I have witnessed a lot of violence in my neighborhood. I have seen individuals and families of both offenders and victims broken apart by violence. I have seen first hand, the difference restorative justice can make. My high school experience was difficult in the beginning due to my being bullied by four girls, which resulted in an altercation. The principal at the time, a firm believer in the power of restorative justice, suggested that the girls and I complete group counseling together. I agreed to this process, and the experience turned out to be life altering. Through counseling, these four girls and I eventually built close friendships with one another. I came to understand the source of their anger and pain and found that some of them dealt with many of the same issues in their lives that I was dealing with, including being sexually assaulted in the past. One of the girls even cried to my mother and apologized for hurting me. She explained that she was dealing with so much pain from her past that she just wanted someone else to hurt. Seeing how internalized oppression can damage someone showed me that people who are suffering need help, not discipline and punishment. Hearing this young woman’s story showed me that people who do not receive help or speak up about things that have happened to them, can become damaged in many ways, which may only manifest themselves later on in life. I now pay closer attention to my peers and use my experience to look more deeply into the reasons people may hurt other people. Through my personal experience with restorative justice, I have come to understand that violence often times has a deeper cause. I want to work to one day see restorative justice used at schools across the country, because I believe it is an effective tool in promoting peace and understanding. I also feel that by using restorative justice, we can provide people with help instead of consequences or punishments that may negatively affect them. My personal experience with restorative justice has led me to focus on the two sides of violence in both my volunteer work and at school. Currently I volunteer at Justice Now, an organization that advocates for women in prison, and I serve as a Peace Ambassador of Oakland through the Urban Peace Movement. At Justice Now, I provide incarcerated women with resources for their legal and/or medical needs. The Urban Peace Movement empowers young people to overcome internalized oppression and work towards justice and social change. I attend “stop the violence events” and I talk to my peers at school and church about spreading urban peace. My experiences at Justice Now and the Peace Ambassadors of Oakland have further shown me the interconnectedness of victim and offender and caused me to want to understand the root causes of violence so that we prevent it. The goal of my senior project is to demonstrate the long-term effects of violence and how a single violent event can cause a bigger cycle of violence. For my senior project I am creating an oral history that focuses on the lives of both people who have contributed to violence and people who were victims of violence. Through my contacts with Justice Now, I am visiting women who are imprisoned and talking to them about the role violence has played in their lives and whether it has ever influenced decisions that they have made. I am also talking to people in my neighborhood who have been victims of violence and/or have loved ones who are in prison.
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PAUL CHAVEZ, EAST PALO ALTO UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, MERCED Determination defines me, not my family’s mental health struggles, surviving without a Social Security number, or growing up very low income with non-English speaking parents. What defines me is my determination to be the first in my family to graduate from high school. There are many chapters to my story; hopefully the story has a fairy tale ending in which my drive and hard work will get me to a college degree and a career. In an earlier chapter, I wake up with eyes swollen, crusted with tears, sneaking out to school early with hardly a face washing to avoid my wildly insane, drug-induced and undiagnosed schizophrenic brother. I still hear his heavy footsteps from the previous day, when he burst through the door with violent gestures and evil crazed looks forcing me to run away to find safety at an overnight home. I felt guilty for abandoning my mother and scared of the consequences of my actions. My family was falling apart, and I had to leave.
I have the power of my family behind me, the future of immigration reform and College Track to be by my side until I graduate. I am determined.
After recovering at an overnight shelter, I began a journey, taking the initiative to take charge of my future. I wanted a different life, so I joined my school’s Health Academy where I could learn more about mental illness, drug addiction and how my family can deal with it on a daily basis. The Health Academy not only taught me about coping skills but opened doors, informing me of other medical fields such as pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology. I discovered what it takes to be a psychiatrist or psychologist who work with schizophrenia and addiction treatment. I grew motivated to prepare for a college degree. But to take the test to become a doctor, one must have a Social Security number, another obstacle that did not stop me from my dreams and goals. My first step was to file for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) offering the possibility of employment after a college degree. The new California Dream Act will allow me financial aid that will put tuition within reach. When I have a college degree, immigration reform will have been implemented and I will be able to help my family, get a driver’s license, and travel back to Peru to meet my sister whom I have not seen since I was four-years old. My father is a dishwasher and both my parents do not speak English, so to find help with homework I go to College Track. They supported me with what it takes to survive the rigorous IB and AP course load that challenges me beyond my comfort zone. I walk out of high school more mature, strong and empowered to take control of my life and future. I have already learned the power of drug rehabilitation, schizophrenia psychiatric therapy and medication, and the strength I get from family support. I set high goals to create a better future for myself. I now understand my brother’s situation and how to respond to it. I will go to college to pursue a career that involves working with families who struggle with mental health and drug abuse. I have the power of my family behind me, the future of immigration reform and College Track to be by my side until I graduate. I am determined. College will prepare me to help others and make their lives better. Although my past has been written, my future is yet to be revealed.
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JONATHAN WANG, SAN FRANCISCO UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA Since 6th grade, I’ve boarded a bus that transports me from my home in Bayview, one of the city’s most crime ridden districts to my school in Pacific Heights, the city’s most affluent zip code. Over the last six years, I found this fifty-minute bus ride to be analogous to my family’s transformative journey. It began in kindergarten when my mom marched ambitiously through the hallways of a reputable public elementary school, determined to obtain a spot for me. When my admission was denied, she broke down into tears. It was another setback after a difficult year between the divorce, the arrival of my sister, and the financial condition my father left us in that finally broke her spirits. Her fear of a future fraught with uncertainty allowed me to understand from an early age that my education would be the solution to our financial instability as well as a coping mechanism for the emotional and physical bruises my father left us.
…as a first generation college student, I plan to maximize the opportunities college offers to research an issue that has been so pertinent to my life.
The following years were filled with the endless divorce proceedings and health issues for my mom, yet she still found time to tutor and read to me, despite her broken English. Her continual efforts allowed me to succeed in class, giving me more time to help with housework. In fourth grade, I learned that my mom was diagnosed with Hepatitis B, a viral disease that no medication could cure. Soon her worsening symptoms ended the days of my mother waking me up for school and were replaced with me begging through her fog of fatigue to take me to school. My perplexity with her condition led to frustration as I kept asking questions with “Why?” and “How?” but received no answers. I was just about ready to accept my situation when I was given an opportunity that would allay many of my mom’s anxieties and my curiosities. Recruiting talented and motivated low-income students, the SMART program offered me the resources to attend some of the best private middle schools in the city. So when I was offered to attend an all-boy school in an affluent neighborhood in San Francisco, I was excited, but also wary. Initially, the prospect of competing against more privileged students who have received a top-tier education was intimidating. However, when I heard about the one-to-one laptop program, I was persuaded, especially since I did not have access to a computer at home. What I found at the new middle school was much more than just the coveted laptop. I found a group of peers that piqued and propagated my intellectual curiosity. I became a part of an intimate community wherein most classmates came from wealthier backgrounds, yet families were not judgmental but rather helped me integrate into the school smoothly. Outside of school, I was supported by the SMART community, which was filled with energetic students who came from similar backgrounds, all determined to pursue higher levels of education. With SMART, I finally found the shuttle to bring my family and me from our lives in the Bayview to lives filled with more opportunity. Through SMART, I captured another opportunity to matriculate into one of the most rigorous private high schools in the city. After experiencing a spectrum of classes, I discovered my passion for biology and genetics. I found myself intellectually and emotionally drawn to classes like molecular microbiology as I learned that the viral illness that has been so poignant in my mom’s life is extremely common in the Asian community. Since then, I’ve been captivated by genetics and the endless possibilities that DNA, the blueprint for all life, brings to finding cures for different illnesses. I believe that college is a stepping stone to uncovering more truths about genetics, and as a first generation college student, I plan to maximize the opportunities college offers to research on an issue that has been so pertinent to my life.
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KHALED MORALES, SAN FRANCISCO MILLS COLLEGE It was dark and quiet on a Wednesday morning. My dad said, “Ya es hora de levantarse!” (It’s time to wake up!) It was 3:45 a.m. I remember that first day as if it was yesterday; I was so sleepy. And I thought, “Is this what I want for my summer vacation?” But I decided to finish what I started. I believed it would be easy: all I had to do was give food to homeless people and that’s it. But it really wasn’t. The job required more than that; it called for tolerance, charity, and love. The room I was assigned always had the windows open and felt like Antarctica in winter. At 4:00 a.m. my duties started: opening tables, setting up the chairs, wrapping spoons in napkins, setting jars of water on the tables. Everything was made of wood and heavy to move around. The tables were gigantic compared to me. At 6:00 a.m. we had a prayer and blessing for the food. Everyday I met people from different backgrounds and difficulties. Seeing their circumstances, such as not being able to eat all the time, or not having a place to stay, helped me be grateful in life. For example, I met this light skinned, thin, blonde girl who lives on the streets and doesn’t have anything to eat. I heard she is on the streets because of drugs; her boyfriend’s influence turned her life upside down. Suddenly, I realized anyone could be in her shoes because we, as humans, make mistakes, but we don’t always see the solution to our problems. I felt helpless because I couldn’t do anything to get her off the streets, but I could be a role model for her, serving the food she needs and being a warm, friendly person for her to interact with. I also remember an African American man making his way to the front of the line with a black jacket, khaki pants, and that “cranky face” that I only see on my mom’s face when I’ve done something wrong. The first thought I had was all the frustration he has due to his economic situation. I felt compassion for him. However, there were others who didn’t complain. I always heard phrases like “Good Morning”, “How you guys doing?” or “God Bless you.” These greetings and smiles made me realize gratitude and love are forces that are stronger than the unstable economy.
The experience of helping in the mornings at St. Anthony’s Church changed me. I was confident that going there would be helpful for the ones in need, but I didn’t know it would help me.
Before this summer, I looked at homeless people with contempt. Now I see human beings who need love, compassion, and support. The experience of helping in the mornings at St. Anthony’s Church changed me. I was confident that going there would be helpful for the ones in need, but I didn’t know it would help me.
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ROSA VARGAS, EAST PALO ALTO UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA CRUZ I usually only see my parents on the weekend. They are hard-working immigrants, who came to the U.S. for the typical reason: a better life for their children. Since before I started high school, they go to work at 4pm and don’t come home until 2 or 3 in the morning, so I play the role of mom to my two younger sisters. I go to College Track after school to work with tutors, usually for my Math or English homework and to prepare for the real world through leadership training and community service. When I come home each night after College Track, I quickly do my chores and prepare dinner for my sisters. There are days when the best I can do is a three-minute microwaved soup. On weeknights, my sisters and I sit alone at our table and share our meal. I have been taught that at home, these are my responsibilities. I wish I had more time at night for schoolwork and other things, but I know priorities at home come first, sometimes I have to take care of my sisters instead of studying for a test.
My dad, who does not know how to read or write, has always stressed the importance of doing well in school and becoming ‘someone.’
My parents cannot help me academically, but they are unconditionally loving and supportive. They give me money for school expenses when they can, but they struggle over rent and medical bills. I feel guilty asking them for money when I know we have a tight budget. I cry at times, because I’ve seen them struggle so much. And although they give us a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs, a separation exists between us. My parents have never attended any of my school meetings, and consequently my teachers have come to know my mom’s sister as my mom. It’s hard not seeing my parents during the week; so I try to speak with them on the weekend about my dreams and goals. They listen, and although they don’t quite understand the process of pursuing a career, they always hold my hand and let me know that they will be there to support me. My dad, who does not know how to read or write, has always stressed the importance of doing well in school and becoming “someone.” Most of my friends are not interested in college and have dismissed high school as a necessary evil. My friends from the neighborhood think that I’m the only one who will go to college. But they have taught me something incredibly valuable. They live their lives with a fearlessness that I admire. They take risks without doubting themselves, and with a quick prayer, they take on challenges. I respect their courage and want to take it with me on my journey through college. I plan to pursue a career in law enforcement because I want to learn the practices of criminal justice, and be part of a system that’s effective in people’s lives. Although I will be far away from the most important people in my life, I’m taking valuable gifts from them without abandoning them, for instance, my parents’ tenacity of lovingness and perseverance and my friends’ fearlessness and courage. These are gifts that I can look back on that will help me withstand hardship and stay determined during and after college.
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ROSAMIA MORALES VALDEZ, EAST PALO ALTO CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, NORTHRIDGE I think back to fourth grade in Room 7 with a history book in front of me and me not understanding anything in the book. I start reminiscing about my grandparents’ house, eating causa rellena and sopa de pollo. Staring down at the book I notice wet spots and I realize I am crying. I just want to go back to Peru, the place where I belonged, where I had all my family, had the best food, and familiar music I could dance to. In 2006, my parents decided it was better for my family to migrate to the United States. Everyday I woke up divided in two different cultures. Before eight a.m., going by my parents’ rules and values, speaking Spanish and following the Peruvian culture. After eight a.m., going by my school’s rules and values, speaking English and following the American culture. When I came to the United States, I was naive about everything. I did not know English. I was not used to this new environment, and I missed home so much. My time in school was when my real experience happened because it’s when the reality of living in the U.S. hit me. I did not understand a single word the teacher was saying. I was so confused, unable to express myself at a time when I needed to the most. Overcoming the obstacles of being in a new country and assimilating to a new culture was really hard. I never thought I would say this, but I am glad my parents decided to immigrate here. I have so much less than I had in Peru in regards to material items and family surrounding me. However, receiving a higher education in Peru is so difficult to obtain because of the corruption. Here in the United States I will be able to become a professional, and work to get my family in a better economic position. I am so proud of my accomplishment of learning English and adapting to this country. Every time I open a book, I now understand the message the author is trying to transmit. I do not need an interpretation anymore. One of the proudest moments of my life was when I passed the California English Language Development Test my sophomore year.
Maturity has taken me on different paths in life like staying focused in school, and made me realize how hard you have to work to make it through life. I am not afraid to work hard to achieve my goals anymore.
My journey and transition from Peru has influenced me to keep going and never give up. I do not want to disappoint my parents or myself, who have sacrificed their lives to give my brother and me a better future, and I want to make those experiences worth it. My experiences have made me so much more mature. When I was eight, I had to take care of my five-year-old brother when my parents worked. Maturity has taken me on different paths in life like staying focused in school, and made me realize how hard you have to work to make it through life. I am not afraid to work hard to achieve my goals anymore.
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STEPHANIE MORALES, OAKLAND UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, MERCED As a Mexican-American coming from a low-income, single parent household, I’m committed to becoming the first in my family to go to college. The men in my family play a dominant role, but despite being given the opportunity to pursue their education, they waste it on alcohol. The men in my family believe the only place for a woman is in the kitchen. Growing up, each day before leaving for school, my mom and my aunt did the laundry and made breakfast for a family of twelve, which prevented them from any serious pursuit of education. As such, my mom only went to school through the eighth grade, while my aunt became the first woman in my family to graduate from high school. My dad never let my mom work. Consequently, when he ran off, my mom had no professional experience; she soon fell into a depression, which left ten-year-old me to care for my three younger siblings. To protect my sisters, I helped prepare dinner, picked them up from school, helped them with their homework and chastised them when they needed it. I even made up games to make sure they stayed on track in school.
Instead of letting my background bring me down, I use it to motivate me to keep moving forward.
Although my mom receives welfare to help make ends meet, she cannot afford to feed and house all of us. At age twelve, I moved in with my aunt and cared for her baby while she worked the night shift. She paid me and I was able to buy school supplies and clothes. Despite working 24 hours a week, I still dedicated myself to school and graduated from middle school with a 4.0 GPA all three years. To this day, this is my greatest joy. While other girls brag about their newest kicks, I brag about my perfect report card! My living arrangements remained unstable until halfway through my sophomore year in high school because my aunt’s husband used our money to purchase drugs and we were soon evicted. We lived in a series of apartments and rooms, all of us sharing one bedroom. In tenth grade, I moved back into a two-bedroom apartment with my mom and sisters and now we finally have a stable home; it’s heaven! I continued to work 12-18 hours a week for my aunt. During my junior year, my aunt was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I’m devastated; my aunt and her children are the only other family I have in the United States. I helped out by continuing to care for her children but that sometimes prevented me from focusing on my studies. I didn’t concentrate or perform up to my ability or expectations. I managed to get decent grades in most of my classes, but my math grade suffered, and I had to make it up over the summer. Later this year, I plan to make up the second semester of Chemistry. I’m embarrassed by this mishap, but it teaches me that to succeed in college and achieve my dream of becoming a doctor, I must remain resilient and focused. Now as a senior, despite late nights caring for my siblings and cousins, I always get my schoolwork done, and I’m maintaining at least a 4.0 GPA. Instead of letting my background bring me down, I use it to motivate me to keep moving forward. I don’t let my dad’s abandonment make me feel sad; rather, I recognize it as helping me become an independent and responsible woman. Instead of letting my patriarchal family prevent me from becoming a doctor, I remind myself of why I want to go to college and what I hope to achieve. I want to go to college not only to be a role model for my sisters, but also to inspire all the women in my family. I want us to be the generation of women that challenge our family’s male domination and find personal fulfillment through higher education and meaningful careers.
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TIFFANY HUANG, OAKLAND UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE “Why do you have chicken pox on your arms all the time, Tiffany?” I will always remember the probing question that my best friend had asked me on a summer afternoon in third grade. I forced a smile as I crossed my arms to hide away the tiny, red dots. I suffer from keratosis pilaris, an inherited skin disease in which excess keratin fills the pores with red, bumpy textures that are essentially incurable and considered aesthetically displeasing. This affected my self-esteem early on, as I refused to wear shorts even in scorching weather for fear of being judged by my peers. I found out later that my “chicken skin” was chronic, and after a countless number of treatment methods failed to diminish the scars, this simple question had a purpose. It would eventually open doors to my interest in the sciences and help me see that I can still be a confident young woman. Ever since the seventh grade, I have researched my mysterious skin problem. This curiosity gradually became a strong interest as I spent countless hours on Sunday mornings, trying to figure out if healthy food as remedies, such as using lemon, honey, and sugar to exfoliate dead skin cells would help to regenerate new ones. My sister hesitantly allowed me to experiment on her skin with different purifying food combinations. I loved the thrill of trying to improve someone’s skin. Through trial and error, I discovered my passion for science combined with some mathematics. That’s where I found Chemistry! After joining the Health Academy at my high school and completing a rigorous science project on skin with Dermatologist Jessica Wu’s book, “Feed Your Face”, I became aware that I was not alone when it came to keratosis pilaris. Through this project, I learned that five out of every ten Americans suffer from it. I also discovered that it is impossible to alter a phenotype, but being open-minded is what allowed me to remain optimistic about my imperfections. When I first signed up to run cross-country, my sister told me that one of the requirements was to wear shorts for all races. I smiled nonchalantly, “Yes, I know what I’m getting myself into.” Eventually, I was approached by my teammates who were surprisingly interested in my legs; I laughed and explained my condition. If I had decided to quit due to my skin condition, I would not have become team captain or gone to the State Championship three years later. I realized then that keratosis pilaris was no longer affecting me negatively.
I want to educate people on the importance of making healthy decisions and to share what I learned about staying confident in one’s own skin when facing adversity.
As a result of this experience, I plan to pursue a career in dermatology. I want to educate people on the importance of making healthy decisions and to share what I learned about staying confident in one’s own skin when facing adversity. If I could revisit my best friend in third grade, I would tell her that, “If it weren’t for having ‘chicken pox’ all the time, I never would have developed my love of self and a passion for chemistry.”
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ZARIA CLEMMONS, SAN FRANCISCO AGNES SCOTT COLLEGE I come from a place where things are taken and hardly ever given. Where dropouts are more common than graduates. Where living another day is celebratory and making it to 25 years old educated, drug-free and childless is a milestone. Where weary cries go unheard because with resistance comes ridicule and pain. No help. I come from San Francisco’s notorious Bayview Hunters Point, from a single parent, low-income household bustling with a self-driven family determining their own destiny.
I fight for my chance to compete on a level playing field. I fight for my grades to be as remarkable as my story. I fight for the door to success to stay open. I fight for my future.
Jasmine, my oldest sister, didn’t go to college because after high school she got pregnant and watched her dreams slip through her fingers. With just a high school degree and a baby to feed, failure was not an option. I would watch in awe as she buttoned her Old Navy work shirt while burping a rambunctious baby boy. When I was younger, I wanted to be Jasmine, but after I entered middle school, I realized I wanted to be my next older sister, Briana. She was a calm beauty queen that always acted in a relaxed manner — even in her approach to college. After the Jasmine mishap, it was expected that Briana would go to college. She applied to her dream college, an expensive private school, but with my mother having nothing to contribute financially, a private school education was unattainable. She registered for City College and I watched another college dream shattered. I realized then that I wanted to be myself, and I knew I had all the greatness and potential to do so. I was oblivious to the fact that my high school presented great hurdles on the track to college, and was somewhat of a black hole for young African-American students exposing students into traps of violence and drugs. I refuse to engage in either of these behaviors because I have seen firsthand how they tear apart families, futures and communities. My father is a drug addict and his absence demanded that my mom sacrifice her maternal role for night shifts and overtime and half-holidays to support a family that she didn’t create on her own. Watching her fight this ongoing battle, I learned that I too can fight, and I do daily. I fight for my chance to compete on a level playing field. I fight for my grades to be as remarkable as my story. I fight for the door to success to stay open. I fight for my future. Recently, my family moved over 50 miles out of San Francisco where the high school I should be attending is located. In our new neighborhood, high schools lack the college preparatory resources and assistance that a first generation college bound student demands. So, everyday we embark on our commute early at 5 o’clock in the morning. We arrive at school by 8 o’clock and then our actual workday begins. After school, while we are at College Track, my mom waits until 7 o’clock at night to head home. My mother endures an elongated workday to ensure that we have all the resources available to successfully reach college. This is just one of the many sacrifices she has made to build a strong foundation for our college pursuit. I want to go to college so that I can be an inspiration to my nephews and niece, because soon they will face the same pressures that I do. Although the odds are stacked against me, I have my cleats tied tight and I am ready to run the race because I know that I’m not just running for myself. I’m running for the sacrifices and investments made on my behalf and Jasmine and Briana’s lost college dreams too.
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ZENAY CLEMMONS, SAN FRANCISCO AGNES SCOTT COLLEGE I am Zenay Clemmons. I’m a sixteen-year old girl, who grew up in San Francisco’s infamous Bayview Hunter’s Point. Statistics say I should have dropped out of high school or be dead right now, currently I am neither. I am defeating the odds. I grew up in a single parent household with three siblings. I grew up in one of the most poverty stricken neighborhoods in San Francisco. I chose to use this issue as an endeavor to show my work ethic and success rather than succumb to the statistics. As long as I can remember my family has always been my mother, my sisters and me. I didn’t grow up with a father in my life, and I often wondered why. My father would pop in and out of my life. During the countless times where he was “clean” he would come and go. I was fortunate to have some memories of him, but they’re not all sweet. I’ll never forget the day I saw my father taken to jail in front of my own eyes. As a child, seeing my father in that predicament definitely scarred me. He was vulnerable. The big strong man I knew was weak and belittled. That was the day the innocence of my childhood was snatched from my eyes; at the tender age of eight years old. My mother never complained about our situation. She is truly superwoman in a bodily form. My mother took care of all her responsibilities as a woman, whether or not if she wanted to. My mom had aspirations to attend college, but like too many colored women, it was only dream, she could not afford it. Instead she attended vocational school where she studied to be a nurse. In the fall of 2010 in the heart of the recession, my mother was laid off from her job at Kaiser Permanente where she had worked for twenty plus years. This left my family stranded; we lived off of every paycheck. The recession hit my family tremendously hard, our family had to downsize to a life of just getting by. The only thing my mother pressed to us was to value our education and excel in our studies. That was the day I promised myself to take advantage of the resources around me and focus on my grades. I have stayed on honor roll all three years of high school and I finished my sophomore year with a 3.8 GPA. Although a lot of things were going on in my personal life, I never let them affect my academic performance. I used writing and dancing as an outlet for me to release stress from my life. I was introduced to writing in middle school from a nonprofit organization called Street Side Stories, and I’ve been involved ever since. I was introduced to The Village Dancers of Crossroads Dance Company in ninth grade, and I am actively involved with them as we speak. I am very keen on the arts and they help me express myself through movement and literature. As an African American woman, education is hard to attain. I once heard a quote, “Reach for the stars and if you fall, at least you fall amongst the clouds,” well sometimes society has a way of making people “fall amongst the clouds.” Education is power, and power is knowledge, which cannot be taken from you. But as we know education is not always available. The sad reality is that for minorities, college is only a dream. It is simply not affordable. For me I will be different. I will achieve a college education. I know my mother will not be able to pay for college for my twin sister and me. But I will not let that determine my future. I will fill out scholarships and use the resources available to me. For too many underprivileged students education is not an option due to finances. My outcome will be different. I will stand for the many underprivileged children like myself so they too will be able to further their education. I will not fall into society’s temptations and traps. I will be that student who came from a “broken-home” to receive a college degree. I will be the first person in my family to stop the cycle of not getting a college education. I have stood up for my present and future. I say otherwise to the statistics of my neighborhood, I will achieve great things. I am a girl with dreams with endless possibilities. I have aspirations to achieve great things in my life, one of which being education. I will achieve it as well, whether or not society accepts it. Too many people like me have tried, have failed and have acquiesced to their life. I will not stop until I achieve overall success. I am society’s rebel. If I reach for the stars, my determination and efforts will allow me to actually land amongst them.
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Cristel de Rouvray, Vice President of College Completion Marshall Lott, Chief Advocate for College Completion Paul Fields, Director of College Partnerships Lindsay Smith, Advisor Services Manager Sheila Bharucha, Financial Programs Manager Tazha King, College Success Associate Yongjun Heo, Advisor Services Associate Sergio Gonzalez*, College Success Fellow Johanna Calvillo*, College Success Fellow Kurstin Nelms, College Success Fellow
Shria Tomlinson, Site Director Josie Raymond, Academic Affairs Director Miccaela Montague, College Affairs Director Jasmine Martinez, Student Life Director Allyson Lam, Operations Manager Catherine Mencher, Academic Resource Specialist Carolina Hernandez*, Tutor Coordinator Gabriel Cortez, Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator Julia Heidelman, College Affairs Coordinator
SAN FRANCISCO EAST PALO ALTO Sharifa Wilson, Site Director Patrice Berry, Academic Affairs Director Jenny Medina*, College Affairs Director Jesse Norfleet, Student Life Director Danielle Oliver, Operations Manager Elizabeth McGriff, Academic Resource Specialist
Omar Butler, Site Director Lia Izenberg, Academic Affairs Director Jessica Samples, College Affairs Director Miguel Abad, Student Life Director Brittnee Gauthier*, Operations Manager Sean Angst, Academic Resource Specialist Julius Van Hook, College Affairs Manager Jennifer Manglicmot, Tutor Coordinator Laura McKinney, Outreach Coordinator
COLLEGE TRACK NATIONAL David Silver, Chief Executive Officer James Cleveland, Chief Operating Officer Lara Sellers, Vice President of Development Julia Chih, Vice President of Finance Elissa Salas, Vice President of Strategic Growth Jeannie Johnson, Vice President of Programs Linh Huynh, Chief of Staff Camille Merritt, Director of Marketing & Evaluation
Maria Cristina Rangel, Senior Manager of Development Geraldine Sonobe, Director of New Initiatives Stephanie Lin, Director of Program Development Gilbert Duenas, Data and Business Analyst Itzy Gutierrez*, Development & Communications Associate Cynthia Creswell, Bookkeeper Malia Okusi*, Executive Assistant/Office Manager
*College Track Alumnus
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COLLEGE TRACK BOARD OF DIRECTORS Chris Boskin Andy Dreyfus Lynn Feintech Adrian Fenty Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Caroline Hoxby Cynthia Keely Debbra Lindo Jillian Manus Leo Martinez Marc Mazur Mary Pang Laurene Powell Jobs, Board Chair and Co-Founder Jill Rubin David Singer Carlos Watson, Co-Founder Ellen Wright Timothy C. Wu
The culture clash bombarded me as I attempted to balance English at school and Chinese at home. Although English is not my strongest subject, I wanted to challenge myself by joining the Paideia Academy, a rigorous English and social studies program. At first, my grades did not improve as the Academy was more difficult than I thought. To help me adjust, I utilized tutoring services at College Track and gradually improved my grades. The overall experience relieved the tension of navigating both cultures. — Tiffany Huang College Track Oakland, 2014
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SPECIAL THANKS Chase College Track Board College Track Staff Electronic Arts Electronic Arts Outreach Electronic Arts/Visual Team Emerson Collective
Jean B. Tsang Design Oakland Unified School District Organic Events San Francisco Unified School District ScanArt Sequoia Unified School District Andrew Wilson
In addition, College Track deeply appreciates the following organizations for providing scholarships to our college students. Don & Roy Splawn Charitable Foundation Dream.US East Bay College Fund The Gilbert & Jacki Cisneros Foundation Green Family Fund Heising-Simons Foundation i.am.angel Foundation
Maisin Scholars Pacific Education Foundation Quest Foundation Rose Hills Foundation ScholarMatch Students Rising Above Tin Man Fund
HEREâ€™S TO THE
doers achievers go-getters midnight-oil burners inventors innovators engineers builders policy changers lawmakers reformers outside-the-box thinkers status quo challengers glass-ceiling breakers
Congratulations to the students and families of the College Track class of 2014. Chase is proud to be the Lead California Corporate Partner to College Track.
ÂŠ2014 JPMorgan Chase & Co.
28 | College Track 2014 Graduation and Awards
odds defiers expectation exceeders future leaders of California.
www.collegetrack.org College Track East Palo Alto 1877 Bay Road East Palo Alto, CA 94303 t. 650.614.4875 f. 650.614.4879 College Track Oakland 117 Broadway Oakland, CA 94607 t. 510.835.1770 f. 510.835.1775 College Track San Francisco 4301 3rd Street San Francisco, CA 94124 t. 415.206.9995 f. 415.206.9998 Urban League College Track 1030 Lesseps Street, 2nd Floor New Orleans, LA 70117 t. 504.620.2332 f. 504.620.9654 College Track Summit 54 16950 Iliff Avenue, Unit F4 Aurora, CO 80013 t. 720.748.7736 i.am College Track 2130 E. First St. Los Angeles, CA 90033 t. 323.360.0730 College Track National 111 Broadway, Suite 101 Oakland, CA 94607 t. 510.834.3295 f. 510.834.3312