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This year, we hit an important milestone – over ten years of building a college-going culture here in the Mission District.  March to College 2019 brought together students from all over the Mission District, with one message: Mission students are future college students.

Beginning with a small march in 2008, Mission Graduates has been encouraging students to protest FOR something – the idea that all students have the right to be on the path to college.  The march has taken different forms – a circle around the 16th Street BART station, a walk to City College of San Francisco’s Valencia campus, and now, schools from all over the Mission converging on John O’Connell High School for a College Fair for All.

Why We March: Students growing up in San Francisco’s Mission District hear the message that they should go to college one day – from their families purpose for immigration to school counselors.  But until they believe it, and get excited about a future that includes dorm rooms and lecture halls, it’s hard to understand what they are working towards.

March to College is a unique event that energizes students all over the Mission to see themselves on this path.  And seeing so many of their peers working towards a similar goal from kindergarten to 12th grade helps many students see they not only have teachers who support them, but family, friends, and neighbors there to ensure they succeed.

Reclassification Milestones: On this path to college, Mission Graduates celebrates important milestones for our students and families.  One of these benchmarks is Reclassification. For all students who begin school speaking a different home language, there comes a point where standardized tests help schools decide when students no longer require English language support and can be deemed “English Proficient”.  

While many students are unaware they are receiving additional academic support during their school day, once students reach middle school and high school, they are often enrolled in courses designated for English Language Learners.  This extra support is so important for our students, but it also makes it difficult to stay on track to graduate from high school with four-year university requirements, known as the A-G requirements.

Student Voices on the Megaphone: The march itself is often the most memorable part of the day.  Weeks before, students in our afterschool programs create signs that celebrate their hopes for their future.  With posters decorated with “I am the Future”, “Class of 2032” or “I want to be a doctor”, as well as pennants decorated with their favorite local university and college logos, students came ready to send a message to their community.  

The March is a unique way for students to feel heard and see others acknowledging their voice.  And we hope getting practice standing for something will make it easier for them to translate their voice into student activism in the future.

As they gather with parents and teachers on school blacktops, the excitement grows for students going on this very unique kind of field trip.  And once they hit the streets, they begin to cheer.
“C-O-L-L-E-G-E College is the place for me!” and “What do we want? College. When do we want it? Now!”. And the message that they are not alone on the path to college really sinks in when people on the street stop and cheer them on.  Honking horns show that people around them believe in this dream – that they will go to college one day.

College Fair for All: For students and parents in the Mission District, many know college is an important next step, but without a history of college-going in their families, access to information about college is harder to come by.  

And we also know that getting excited about college at a young age, even if just through stickers and mascots, creates an impression on our students that carries through their academic careers. Seeing themselves as a future college student puts education into context, and gives our community something to work towards collectively.

At the College Fair, students are greeted by cheering staff, excited to share more about college with them. Local universities set up tables to share what it looks like to be a student on their campuses, and guides to applying for and paying for college are available to families. And while brochures about future majors may feel less relevant to our young students, games that include mascots, majors, and graduation caps send the message that college is for all.

We wrap up the day celebrating our students taking the important step of declaring “I am going to college one day” and especially those who are one step closer after passing English Proficiency tests this school year.  With cheering from their parents and teachers, these students are applauded for all of their hard work before the music gets going and the games begin!

To see all of the amazing photos of future college graduates making a statement in their neighborhood, check out our facebook page.

And to ensure ALL students can dream of college futures, join our community of supporters today!

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