Letter to my Graduating Seniors

So proud of my boys!
Alfonso, Rey, Sean at Sequoia High Schools' Graduation

I’m heading to BUILD’s Second Annual Graduation and First-ever Alumni Homecoming at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont today. I’m super excited because I started working at BUILD when these guys were freshmen. I feel like in many ways I’m graduating right alongside them. Here’s an open letter that I wrote to them:

Dear Graduates,

From the very first day of the BUILD class during your freshman year you all shined and showed amazing potential. Over the last four years, we ushered and guided you through the BUILD program and challenged you in ways that none of your peers were being challenged. Through the challenges of creating a business, building a team, and learning what it takes to really run a business, you exceeded expectations over and over again.

Since then we have had lots of great times—like the amazing college tours to Los Angeles and San Diego, our Business Plan Competition with the Oakland students, and the countless nights in the Incubator with the BUILD family—and also lots of challenging times—like the deaths of loved ones, violence in our community, and other personal struggles—but through it all, we all stuck together and supported each other. When the challenges confronted you, you didn’t give up. You made positive choices, persevered, and defied stereotypes.

When you get to college, know that even though we will no longer be there with you physically, you already have everything you need to be successful. You have always had it. It’s what made you a success at BUILD in the first place. Continue to speak up and advocate for yourselves, and remember to keep that ambitious fire lit inside of you.

Don’t ever forget that you helped to make the BUILD Peninsula site the beautiful, warm, and special place that it is, and you will always have a place here. On behalf of the entire BUILD staff, we hope you come back to visit often or in the very least send us messages on Myspace or Facebook (or the old fashioned email) with tales from college. We are blessed and fortunate that you all chose BUILD as your vehicle to access higher education, which will ultimately give you the tools necessary to excel in education, lead in your communities, and succeed professionally.

Congratulations, graduates, and best wishes!


That’s the percentage of my class of seniors at BUILD who have been accepted to college (and are going to college, God-willing).


And that statistic is not the only phenomenal fact. This remarkable group of high school seniors has gotten into some great schools like UCLA, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, St. Mary’s, Menlo College, SF State, San Jose State, Lehigh University, Augustana College, Bradley University, Northeastern University, UC Berkeley, and Santa Clara University. The last three colleges have even offered our students full-rides.


These are students that four-years ago when we started to work with them were written off by the school system and tracked into remedial and non-college prep courses–because of the color of their skin or because their first language was not English or because they come from low income families, etc. These are the “better-than-their numbers” students who may have low-to-average GPA’s and SAT scores, but who have stories so remarkable that they will excel given any circumstances they face.

Needless to say, I am extremely honored and blessed to have the opportunity to work with my students. I’ve been working with this graduating class for three years now, and I will be the first one to admit that I will cry like a proud parent during their high school graduations–yes, I’m going to all four of them.

So to all of you who are graduating high school this semester and are going off to college, hang in there for the rest of the school year. Don’t get senioritis just yet. Keep giving it 100%.

On May 1st, you will have a very important choice to make. Be thoughtful. Be honest with yourself. And know whatever choice you make is yours and yours alone. Not your family’s. Not your teachers’ or counselors’. This is your future. You’ve made it this far, and I believe you know what will be right for you.

Know that you make at least one person (me, duh) proud, and there likely are many, many more.