GUEST BLOGGER: Melanie Rogers, Director of Development & Communications, SMART
Jonathan Wang, a SMART Scholar who will attend the University of Southern California this fall, shared his story at a recent SMART goes to College Event, a fundraiser and a celebration of Scholar achievements. “Since, 6th grade, I’ve boarded a bus that transports me from my home in the Bayview, one of the city’s most crime ridden districts, to my schools in Pacific Heights, the city’s most affluent zip code. I’ve found this fifty-minute bus ride to be analogous to my family’s transformative journey with the SMART program.”
Since 1997, SMART has empowered financially-disadvantaged San Francisco students and their families to demand more from their educational communities. SMART offers an eight-year continuum of support to students in the 5th through 12th grades, which includes after-school and summer programming with a strong college-bound culture, a comprehensive academic and social-emotional support through our tutoring and mentoring program, and strong partnerships with the Bay Area’s most exceptional private schools. SMART’s organizational goal is that 100% of our students will attend 4-year colleges equipped with the skills and confidence necessary to succeed. Our vision? That all students, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds, have equal access to quality education, and receive the support needed to reach their full potential. We believe that increased educational opportunities coupled with comprehensive support have the power to transform individual lives, families, and communities.
Jonathan went on to say, “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. 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.”
While SMART’s emphasis is on providing educational access for students and families, we are also committed to harnessing our community of private school partners and supporting in their efforts to deepen their commitment towards diversity and inclusivity. High tuitions, complex admissions and financial aid processes, and rigorous academic curricula prohibit many families from underserved backgrounds from accessing a choice in a private school education. Utilizing 16 years of experience working in this field, SMART has started to offer workshops to schools to help them strategize and better support the common issues and experiences faced by traditionally underrepresented students and families. Together, we aim to encourage educational environments where all children and their families can thrive.
In his speech, Jonathan concluded with, “In my new schools, I found a group of peers that piqued and propagated my intellectual curiosity. Outside of school, I was supported by the SMART community, which was filled with energetic students who came from similar backgrounds to mine, all determined to pursue higher levels of education. With SMART, I finally found the symbolic shuttle to bring me, and my family, from our lives in the Bayview to lives filled with more opportunities.”