A typical day for me went something like this: wake up, go to school, do as much homework as possible, go to work at 5pm, do more homework during break, get home at midnight, finish homework and finally go to bed. I realize how hard it is to make it in this world without a good education. I do not want to be a “typical Yemeni.” A typical Yemeni never graduates high school or goes to college. I will break the cycle. I aim to set the bar high for the rest behind me.
“I have witnessed Farouk organizing and working with students to take difficult moral stands in the community. He is thoughtful and determined, and this is why people respect and follow him.”
—Brandy Spong, History Teacher, Envision Academy
Castlemont – CBITS
I know what it feels like not to be able to count on someone at home to help me academically, which is why I feel passionate about being a resource for my siblings. I have developed a fascination for childcare and pediatrics. I am determined to take part in the prevention of illness in my community. Thus I want to start by educating young children about the importance of staying healthy. I want to better myself by pursuing an education, becoming a pediatrician and helping build the future of our community through my work with children.
“In addition to being a top student, Tatiana is a pillar of strength at home. She simply has limitless potential.”
—Nanci Roman, Program Coordinator, College and Career Information Center
There are different types of homeless; not every homeless person lives in shelters. Ever since I can remember I have slept on living room floors and couches in the homes of relatives. In order to escape poverty, I had to finish school and go to college. I know that I can make through college and beyond because I have overcome many hardships. I refuse to let negative issues determine my destiny in life. I am very confident that I will graduate from college and be able to give back to my community, which is part of my purpose in life.
“Victoria has shown that she can work hard through difficult academic situations. She has overcome a broken home and many doubters.”
—Charles Cole, Education Coordinator, Juma Ventures
San Jose State
Before I joined Students Run Oakland, I spent a lot of time in the streets. Even though I do not do drugs, I grew up around gang affiliated people and drugs and felt peer pressured to use them. When I first joined SRO, running five days per week for six months sounded difficult. There were many times when I felt like quitting, but I did not. I did something I thought I would never be able to do, the Los Angeles marathon. This program helped me find my true self. and made me realize how I am capable of doing things I set my mind to.
“Eric is very much rooted in his cultural identity, but unlike his peers, Eric has refused to internalize the stereotypes that Latino males are not academics.”
–Beth Fearon, Math Teacher, MetWest
Skyline High School
St. Mary’s College
For five years I didn’t see my immediate family. I lived with my grandparents and thirty other family members in Dakar, Senegal while my parents worked hard to get me to Oakland. After living in the U. S. for eight years I have maintained our cultural customs. Being so diverse makes me open-minded, well rounded and confident. I am the varsity coxswain of our rowing team. I am also part of the Mentoring in Medicine program. As a first generation college student, my goals include pursuing a career in the medical field.
“Mareme has a wonderful smile. It is part of the reason why people like her so much. For her, the glass is always half-full.”
—-Nancy Stewart, Teacher, Skyline High School
I have often felt like an outsider in the eyes of the people around me. Many youth around me are caught by the amusement of gangs and the distraction of drugs. Because I have seen the wrong turns that led them to a dead end, I did not follow the same pattern. I want to be a youth psychologist and become a motivating force for the future generations in East Oakland. I will help the youth in my community identify the obstacles that disable many of them from achieving success. More than anything, I want to motivate them to take an alternate road.
“Michelle is exceptional. Her ablity to be academically successful fundamentally comes from her clear vision and want of it.”
–Toai Dao, Advanced Biology/Chemistry Teacher, Life Academy
Oakland Military Academy
By the eleventh grade, most of the friends I had known were pregnant, alcoholics, or drug addicts. While they had what they called “fun, I spent my time tackling calculus problems, writing essays and studying, knowing that I had to overcome the destructive environment to ensure a successful future. I had the words “I will succeed” carved deeply into my mind. My eyes were firmly set for a future with a college education and economic stability. “Good things come to hard-working people” is what my parents always told me.
“Juan is a really decent human being. He is one of those people that makes one believe that there is more good than bad in the world.”
—Joan Setka, Teacher, Oakland Military Institute
Castlemont – Leadership Prep
I stood in line at the School District’s main building, waiting to tell why my school was worth saving. I was about to stand at a podium, spotlight on me, with a camera in my face, and say what made my school important. I was terrified and uncertain if I was able to do it… I spoke from the heart, a skill my time living with my grandparents helped me develop and my school perfected. If something is important to you, you should keep it close; that’s how I feel about my school and my education.
“Ashley is a leader in the school. She is a great student, and she’s dying to spread her wings and go to college.”
—Josh Alexander, Track and Field Coach, Castlemont
Castlemont- Leadership Prep
My life has been through its ups and downs from the moment my stepfather disappeared. My struggles have shaped me into the person I am today. I joined the varsity basketball team as a freshman. I became a captain my junior year. Basketball offered me three concepts: dedication, self-control, and a sense of compatibility. These were lacking in my life. I have grown to love math and chemistry and I want to work in the medical field. My new life starts the day I cross the stage and my principal hands me my diploma.
“Imari is going to go far in life. She is working so hard to lift herself out of this community that tends to trap its young people.”
—Sarah Nachowitz, Teacher, Leadership Prep
Arise High School
S F State
I was not going to see my father again, for now we were headed to the United States. My mom has always been a motivation for me to succeed and inspires me to keep achieving my ambitious goals. She helped me value education and be aware of my surroundings; help my brothers with their homework and guide them on the right path. It has been hard, particularly when I see my friends with both parents having a good time, knowing I will never be able to do the same. My mom’s role as both parents and her perseverance has led me to believe in my own power.
“While Ana Cristina is one of our school’s strongest students, she is also and exceptional human being. Other students constantly look to her for help, which she is always willing to give.”
—Laura Flaxman, Co-Principal, Arise High School
I’m a young girl from Gabon, located in Central Africa. Like so many immigrants I came to the U. S. in 2007 because of the opportunities. I am much more resilient than I ever thought I was. During the past four years I have made a new home across the world and learned a new language. I do well in school and have all new friends and a new community. Everything is different from what I used to know. I wrote a book about how a poor African family comes together for the education of their child.
“I cannot state enough what a great person Valerie is and how excited I am to see her grow at college. Any college community would be fortunate to have her.”
—Tobias Rugger, Teacher, Oakland International High School
Castlemont – Leadership Prep
San Francisco State
My family and I immigrated to this country in 1993. Living in East Oakland has not disempowered me, it has made me grow as a person and inspired me to educate myself so I can come back and help my community thrive. Although I feel I was not given an equal opportunity in my education due to lack of resources in my school and community, I have learned to be resilient, work extra hard and never give up.. I am proud to say that I am a first generation college student on the road towards becoming an attorney.
“Ana has met every challenge head on with confidence, and has remained dedicated to her educational goals. It has been my utmost honor to have known Ana as a student.”
—Samantha Odom, Counselor, Leadership Prep
Lighthouse Community Charter
I would never complain when my mother couldn’t afford to buy me new clothes. I never questioned my father’s absence, and I never considered that I was unlucky. Though it hurts to think back to when I was a little boy, I find relief thinking about what I have become–an insightful young man who strives to think and see beyond the surface. My mother still can’t afford to buy me new clothes but I have a job tutoring and mentoring youth now. I have not overcome every obstacle yet, but I can guarantee that I am working on it.
“In my twelve years of teaching, I have not met a more reflective, articulate, and compassionate young man. His intellectual ability is matched with an ethos of service.”
—Drea Beale, Humanities Teacher, Lighthouse Community Charter School
Lighthouse Community Charter
My Outward Bound training and Sandia National Labs internship helped me develop my own philosophical ideas of what would create a better world. They guided me toward going “green” and wanting to do something about global warming. They helped me dedicate my life towards success. I want to set an example for other youth in Oakland. My main priorities are to follow my scientific interests and become a scientist. I want to help others also get an education and achieve what they think is success.
“Isidro is a diligent and determined young man who is passionate about making a difference in the world through scientific innovation.”
—Joshua Weintraub, College Advisor and Internship Coordinator, Lighthouse
My first 16 years were very difficult. We moved around a lot all across multiple states, often living with other family members. Towards the end of middle school, I decided to take control of my future and take steps toward a meaningful life. Sports, school and college-oriented after-school programs provided me with opportunities to gain confidence. Now that I am on the other side of it, I am particularly interested in political science. I am motivated to learn how government can be more effective in addressing the needs of the urban poor, the people of my community and the poor of other countries.
“Marcus has a great sense of humor. Life has not been easy for this young man yet he finds ways to stay positive and inspires others to do the same.”
—Jessica Worshel, College Track
McClymonds – BEST
Since a young age, I’ve had a passion for art. When I go to college I will study graphic design. I plan on giving back to the community by going to local schools and teaching lessons on graphic design. There are a lot of young artists out there who just need a little spark. The most important thing I’ve learned these past four years is that you can’t be dependent on anyone. It is up to you to make your own decisions. From staying on schedule with classes, to meeting deadlines, this prepares us for college and a career later on.
“Caurell has so much potential that is just starting to surface. He is determined to become a graphic artist and has completed a business plan to pursue this goal.”
—Dr. LuPaulette Taylor, Teacher, BEST
Fremont – CPAA
It was a difficult time for me due to my parent’s unemployment. It caused me to focus on education so I can be successful in life. I had been feeling that school was too hard and wanted to give up. These past four years in high school I learned that I am a student who never gives up. I pushed myself to finish what I had started. My hard work has paid off. Right now I want to a mechanical engineer because I have always wondered how things were made. I know that college will provide me with more options to choose from in my future.
“Tien is well-liked and respected by his peers and faculty. He has a positive and spirited demeanor. He is a role model both in his academic life as well as in our school community”
—Thea Marston, Teacher, College Prep. and Architecture Academy
Fremont – CPAA
“Studio” was too elegant a reference for the cramped prison we called home. When I consider my environment, it is my older sister Fany’s presence that remains constant throughout those memories. Her example proves that education means success and is an antidote to life’s dramas. All of the challenges we have faced together have made me stronger, more persistent. I believe a major in social welfare of psychology would suit me best if my dream is to provide a haven for young people in trouble. I will call it “Fany’s World.”
“Kenia has a graceful sprit and calmly deals with her considerable challenges. She faces adversity by quietly going about taking care of her long term goals.
—Daniel Hurst, Principal, College Prep and Architecture Academy
When you look at me you see a tall dark African American male; a unique individual who has been tested time and time again to abandon his individuality. Stereotypes and biases have tried to shape my personality and force me to conform to society’s norms. A wise man once said, “my greatest accomplishment is being me no matter where I am.” I like to wear business attire, because I like the style, not because its what’s fresh. I get 4.0’s and I’m very serious about my schoolwork, if that makes me a dork or a nerd, so be it. My dreams are my own and no one else’s.
“I have observed a level of maturity in that he is very focused on learning for both the knowledge and as a tool to help him “graduate” from his inner-city environment.”
—Howard Nathel, Students Run Oakland
When you are a teenager you don’t expect to have the responsibilities of helping raise children. Some days I would miss school to care for my younger siblings. I continue to struggle internally because my mom is not present but it is important for me to stay strong so that I will not only receive an education but make sure that my younger siblings will as well. The most important thing that someone can be is a role model. This is the world I come from and it has shaped my dreams and aspirations. It has helped me find my passion for children.
“Marquisha’s greatest asset is her incredible personality. She enters the classroom eager to learn; with a smile that other students simply cannot help but return.”
—Joe Truss, Teacher, Envision Academy
Lighthouse Community Charter
I am tired of losing friends to gang violence. Eric’s death made me realize what I desire for my future. College is the door to my dreams; all I need to do is have the persistence and strength to open it. I want to help my community and make it a safer place. There are no words to explain how much I miss Eric. I’m going to have him in my mind to push me into accomplishing my goals. I don’t want the streets to make me. College is my dream and will make me into the man I want to be.
“I believe that Miguel has something special to offer the world, with his unique mix of deep care for the community, resilience and academic success.”
—Hilary Yamtich, Math Teacher, Lighthouse Community Charter School