I spent this week catching up with a few of my seniors in high school at SMART. Noah just recently got accepted to The American University of Paris, our first student ever to be accepted to a college outside of US. "I want to major in religion and French, two new subjects I learned about in high school. I know, useless majors huh? But they're so interesting."
Phong is already thinking ahead to his application to the London School of Business after he receives his Bachelor's at Stanford. "I know these schools are high reach for me, but I'm so excited. It's my goal, my dream. I can't wait to go to college."
Lily, who wants to become a US Senator someday, is eyeing some amazing schools. Her top choice? "Yale. No, wait. Dartmouth. Maybe Brown? Is it ok if I don't have a top choice? They're all awesome and I'd be lucky to go there."
What's unique about these students is that they are all first-generation college students, with an average family income of $30K a year. When I met them 8 years ago (when they were tiny 5th graders), none of them have ever heard about any of these schools they are applying to this year. Each of these students persevered through some personal challenges growing up - one lost her father to gun violence at a young age, another was raised without any parents, and the last lives in a tiny one-bedroom with five other people in an impoverished and violent neighborhood.
8% of low-income students graduate from college, and for students whose parents did not attend college, the likelihood of earning a degree drops to 4%. My kids at SMART will be among the 4% but our hope is to increase that percentage, even by a little bit. While I highlight some of the best of the best above, we are proud of SMART's accomplishments this year ensuring 100% of our students have applied to University of California and California State Universities ON TIME as of this writing. In addition, they are applying to some amazing schools - Franklin & Marshall College (PA), Fordham University (NY), Bowdoin College (ME), NYU, Carnegie Mellon University (PA), University of Chicago (IL), and more in addition to a vast array of schools all around California.
During this holiday season of giving, I ask you to please help us achieve our goal of sending 100% of our students to a 4 year college of their choice. Every year, we are working with over 150 students and families in San Francisco and providing them with access to exceptional schools, as well as academic tutoring, mentoring, family education series, after-school and summer programming and much much more. My incredible staff and over 80 volunteer tutors and mentors work tirelessly to ensure each of our students' successes, and we cannot do it without your generosity and support. As our Board generously funds 100% of our administrative and overhead costs, your donation will go directly in supporting each of the students that I mentioned and more.
I leave you with a quote from a recent SMART college graduate.
“As early as elementary school, I expressed a desire for a successful future and an opportunity to improve the conditions of my family and my community. I grew up in an immigrant family in San Francisco’s Mission District. My parents were supportive and hoped for the best for me, but they lacked the resources I needed to reach my full potential. SMART stepped in to fill that gap. SMART nurtured my appreciation for education, set high expectations for me and provided me with the tools I needed to succeed. In 2007, I became the first in my family to graduate from high school, and in 2012, I graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Political Science. Graduating from college was a huge achievement for me and for my family. I owe my success in part to my determination and skill, but also largely to the support that I received from SMART.”
Thank you and wishing you and yours a warm and wonderful holiday season.