On Thursday night I was blessed and privileged to watch my sister Shivani walk across the stage at McClintock High School’s graduation ceremony. I will never forget the memory of her beaming smile from my seat in the bleachers as she received her diploma.
After the new graduates threw their caps into the air at the end of the ceremony, I joined the mob of proud families storming the field to congratulate their children. I will always remember the sight of tearful embraces between loved ones, the sound of congratulations — often in parents’ native languages — and the feeling of overwhelming pride and excitement for my sister’s future.
Shivani will be attending Barrett, the Honors College, at Arizona State University this fall. She earned her share of the more than $80 million in college scholarships students across the district received this year, and I am confident that her high school education has prepared her to succeed in college and her future career.
Education has always been the key to achieving the American Dream. In today’s innovation economy, higher education has become crucial and a high school diploma is now non-negotiable to obtain high-quality jobs.
For that reason I am overjoyed for my sister, but I am also concerned for many of her peers.
For every nine students who wore a cap and gown in the Tempe Union High School District last night there was one young person who did not make it. Only three out of those nine graduates at McClintock, Marcos, and Tempe High Schools are planning to attend university.
I wonder if the 12-year-old students I work with will be among them in five years. I serve as a classroom volunteer teaching students business skills and financial literacy. A few weeks ago I asked my class to raise their hands if they planned to attend and graduate from college. I was pleased to see most of the class respond positively, but I noticed that one of my most enthusiastic and intelligent students sat still.
“I don’t think I will be able to afford college,” Miguel said.
After a moment to recover from my surprise, I told him that if he continues to work hard, his teachers and I would make sure he finds a way to attend college.
The first time I served on a committee to benefit the Tempe Union High School District, Shivani was also 12 years old. My motivation was to make sure Shivani had access to the high-quality education when she became a Charger.
Now that she has graduated, I cannot take my mind off Miguel and the hundreds of young people like him in our schools. Our schools and our educators provide some of the best education in the state, but we must strive for continued progress.
After I graduated from ASU last week, I packed my cap in a box along with a note that read, “To Miguel — Class of 2023.”
Veekas Shrivastava is an entrepreneur and McClintock High School graduate. He is running for the Tempe Union High School District Governing Board.