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Scholarship Breakfast Remarks 2012
Thank you Esther for the introduction. Good morning everyone! I feel so honored to be in the position of addressing you as an example of what your beliefs in funding education achieve. I want to begin by thanking you for allowing me to receive a priceless middle school education and experience that was the foundation for all that I’ve achieved.
GMS came onto my radar around the second half of my 5th grade year thanks to my mom. My mom has always been a cheerleader for education—she understands the value of what receiving a quality education means even though her and my father’s families couldn't offer them the opportunities that were available to me. I have my mother and father to thank for setting me on my trajectory and I have you to thank for helping me to fulfill it. Without your generous donations, my family would never have been able to pay for 3 years of tuition at the Girls’ Middle School.
Now mind you, upon entering GMS, the only things I had heard about the school were from my mom and you know, her being my mom and all, I totally thought she was hyping everything up. I was apprehensive to say the least, about being at GMS. I wanted to stay with all of my other friends from elementary school —I could have cared less about what quality of education I was getting. Looking back on my attitude, I’m actually glad that I entered GMS that way because I was expecting and searching for all the negative things—instead I did not find one bad thing about GMS. EVERYTHING that is GMS, changed my entire attitude and outlook towards education for the better.
Remembering the first day of middle school, -- I desperately wanted to know at least one person in my 6th grade class but I knew that none of the girls had come from my elementary school. I am the oldest child in my family so I didn't even have an older sister to ask my most pressing middle school questions (What is it like? Who are the cool kids? Will you please sit with me on my first day? Are there lockers? Is there a lot of homework?) And, beyond providing answers to all of those questions, now think about the role that an older sibling fulfills. To me, GMS became the older sister that I needed. She quelled my fears, answered my questions, motivated me to do my best, caught me when I fell, comforted me when I was scared and made sure that I was set for life with the most valuable tool: the power and self-confidence to know that if I can dream it, I can achieve it—no matter if life places a mountain in front of me. Trust me, I’ve climbed many of those mountains and I stand here today in one piece thanks to the values and attitude that GMS stands for and that I strive to emulate. After all, don’t we all want to be like our older siblings?
My first GMS class was Humanities with Kat. Right before I opened the door to Kat’s 6th grade humanities class, I distinctively remember saying to myself, “Well, here is where it all starts.” I was late but she warmly received me and directed me to my seat. I took my seat and immediately noticed that there were so few girls (probably 15) and that we were sitting in groups. These two aspects of GMS, integral to the mission, showed me right away that I, little Shantya, was deserving of the utmost attention and that I could excel in cooperative, not competitive, atmosphere with my classmates.
My second immediate observation was that our teacher Kat, was taking the time to learn about each and every one of us by asking us to introduce ourselves and asking if we had any questions about the GMS experience. This was the first experience I had where a teacher of mine actually took the time to really listen to me and made sure that I was ok by answering all of my questions! I surely thought this was a “first day, breaking the ice” event and that a “predictable, normal” school schedule would commence after Kat’s class. But boy, was I wrong…
For those of you that aren’t very familiar with GMS, there is no such thing that constitutes “normal or predictable”. Here are some snapshots to illustrate this: Singing in Esther’s math class to remember the quadratic formula. Renee’s art class where we did graffiti and came up with our tag names. Walter’s library where Walter and his coffee mug took up half the room. Mayan and Aztec history in humanities. Learning HTML and programming Flash videogames in computer sciences. Acting Spanish plays with Veronica. Talking very candidly with Andi in our SEL class about everything from what a period was to how birth control works. Chatting with Vicki at the front desk at all hours of the day about everything and a half. Kat and Monica’s ways of teaching writing that sparked the fire under my passion. Making a jewelry box for my mom in woodworking with Fred. Making journals and boxers to sell with my entrepreneurial group. Building bridges with Laura and learning about biology. And finally, Washington DC in 7th grade and Mexico in 8th grade.
I can honestly say that I remember at least one great memory of every class I had at GMS—a surprising fact to me because most of my friends that received traditional schooling only remember “fun” as being mostly social in nature – their “fun” memories did not take place in the classroom like mine. I remember getting to GMS at 8:10 am and leaving at 4 pm—eager to start my homework because it truly was fun to learn and to be prepared to participate in the next day’s discussion. I can tell you now that I am in college—that has never happened to me since.
These things are not “normal”—kids in “normal” schools aren’t exposed to such wonderful and creative hands-on activities that foster not only an interest in learning, but an appreciation and love of knowledge. I, along with 39 other peers, was fortunate and had the privilege of receiving instruction from teachers who teach because it is their passion and their mission to promote the love of knowledge in each girl. The GMS teachers that I had the honor of interacting with acted more like mentors and older sisters/brothers because they were constantly challenging me to persevere, motivating me to continue when I failed, cheering me on when I succeeded and they were genuinely interested in me as a person—not just as a student. I can’t tell you how much that differentiation in status means to me now—to realize that I was not just a student in middle school but I was a person with feelings and other things going on in her life that didn't have to do with school. My teachers and the entire staff always asked and continue to ask, about my family and my well-being. People that are that involved with your life in those ways and are sincerely and unselfishly happy for you when you succeed are rare in this world. For that I treasure them, keep them close, follow their example and share it with the world.
From the girls that make up the school, to the teachers that go beyond teaching and the staff that makes sure it keeps going: GMS is the brightest diamond in the bunch. My academic course post middle school is due to GMS—I went to (Menlo School) a demanding high school on a full merit scholarship based on my performance at GMS. At Menlo, I was often the only minority taking AP classes and getting A/B grades. The foundation that GMS built over 3 years has never been shattered—only improved upon. After leaving Menlo School, I entered Santa Clara University with a full ride—a blessing to me and my family because there is no way I could have attended SCU without the financial help.
Attending GMS opened my eyes to the countless educational opportunities out there. I began to think of myself in college, and learned that if I worked hard and put my very best effort forward, I, too could attend those “top-notch” schools. I can tell you that from speaking to my childhood friends, not many of them were presented with the same educational outlook, and few have achieved the same kind of academic success—sadly, they’ve had to settle for what was available because they did not have the “older sister” guiding them in those super critical middle school years. Unfortunately, they weren’t pushed to reach their academic potential like I was.
I am very proud to share that I will be graduating from Santa Clara University this year, Class of 2012, with a B.S in Psychology and a minor in Political Science. (pause for applause!). I am the first in my immediate family to graduate from college but I can assure you, that I will not be the last. After years of enduring my big sister advice, my little sister, Dennyce Martinez, who is also a proud GMS alumna, is set to graduate from a rigorous college preparatory high school next year and I know that she will have a huge list of colleges to choose from.
I stand here before you as an example of what your beliefs in funding education can achieve. Girls like me, whose parents want the absolute best education possible because they know it will spark that special something inside of their daughters, but can’t find the financial means to pay for a quality education, will be able to send their daughters to school and empower them to take on the world. I believe in GMS and all that it stands for—because of my current and past circumstances, I have not been able to donate in a financial sense but I donate my time and effort in spreading GMS’ mission and cause and I fully take advantage of all the opportunities that have come my way. I am eternally grateful to the donors, teachers, staff and everyone else who made my education possible—you have all helped and guided me to where I am today, just like a loving older sister would. This scholarship has made it possible for other girls like me to experience the sisterhood of GMS and continue the tradition of empowerment through education and inspiration—I will carry the baton until my sister graduates from college whereby she will inspire and serve as an older sister role-model for another GMS star in the making. We are all one piece of the puzzle and together, we are unstoppable!
Thank you for your being here today to support the Girls’ Middle School’s Scholarship program. Because of you, the cycle of giving and promoting education will reach another happy little girl and allow her to fulfill all that she is capable of, just like it allowed me to do.