Monday, May 16, 2011

It’s Off to College for More than 80 Percent of Mission High Seniors

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For years, Mission High has been associated with gangs more than grades.


Nowadays, however, improved test scores and high GPAs at the school, which has been underperforming for years, have renewed its reputation. The outcome: More than 80 percent of its graduating seniors have been accepted into two- and four-year colleges, according to Principal Eric Guthertz.

“This is a counterweight to all the negativity surrounding this school about scores and grades. Mission High can support students the way few schools can,” said Amadis Velez, who teaches expository writing.
“There’s a change happening at this school — and it’s being led by students like these.”

Among that 80 percent are students belonging to Mission High’s large immigrant population.

Take Diana*, for example, an undocumented immigrant who came here from Mexico at the age of 18. Family members warned she was too old to start high school, but at the insistence of her co-worker, she soon found her way into the halls of Mission High.

She is now 21, and headed to San Francisco State University with a $15,000 scholarship from 826 Valencia.
Part of successes like Diana’s lies in classes taught by Velez. Out of the 26 students in his class, including Diana, all have been here for less than four years, coming from countries like El Salvador, Yemen, Thailand and Greece; all started out as English-language learners.

Next fall, 22 of these students will attend four-year universities, among them UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and Santa Clara University. Two will be off to City College of San Francisco to study culinary arts and automotive technology. One will return to India for college, and the other has chosen to continue working at a restaurant in the Castro.

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