SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) - Some 85 percent of San Francisco's public school students would be the first in their families to graduate from college, according to this week's Jefferson Award winner. It's a number that inspired her to create a program that's changing lives.
They share some big dreams, as well as big challenges:
"I'm Ivan Barrales, 16-years-old, and want to study sports medicine at Berkeley."
"I'm Yoselin Martinez-Xonthe, 17, and want to study nursing at Dominican University."
"I'm Samrawit Beyene, 15, I want to study medicine at Harvard."
All these students told KPIX 5 they'd be the first in their families to attend college. Ann-Eve Hazen wants to make sure they succeed.
"They have to believe they can do it, not give up," Hazen said.
Her own children were grown when she started the non-profit First Graduate, a college mentoring program in San Francisco. Though she had never worked in education, she knew she had to do something.
"I could see they weren't getting what they needed in school," she remembered. "At one time you know, 50% of kids weren't even graduating from high school. They just failed!"
So Hazen put together a board, raised money, and surrounded herself with education specialists like Tom Ahn, who helped design a program that today supports over 300 students.
"I think 'coaching' is the word that best describes what we do for our students," Ahn explained.
First Graduate takes 40 -50 new students from San Francisco's public middle schools in the summer before they begin 7th grade, and commits to helping them through college.
"People who have a college education are more likely to vote, they are more likely to volunteer, they are more likely to donate to great causes," Ahn said. "They are also more likely to have better health outcomes. Just in those ways alone, educating people helps all of us."
During the school year, students come to the First Graduate facilities in San Francisco's Presidio or the Boys and Girls Club for activities, tutoring, college workshops, and advising.
"It completely changed my life," said Alex Lazo, one of Ann Eve's first graduates. Now he's a tutor with the program.
"Ann-Eve is a pioneer," he said. "She took it upon herself to make education a priority. She's really laying the groundwork for something that can be truly powerful and beautiful."
"I'm just overjoyed when I see these kids," Hazen added. "How their lives have changed and what they have to offer -- it's thrilling."
So for helping make dreams a reality through education, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Ann-Eve Hazen.
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