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Gilda with Superintendent Vincent Matthews, Principal Julie Kessler, a classmate, and district leaders

English Learner student reaches success at SFUSD, heads to UC Berkeley


Four years ago, Gilda, a recent graduate of San Francisco International High School*, moved to the U.S. from Guatemala. When she started as a freshman, she had only completed sixth grade in Guatemala and had to catch up after missing six years of classes.

While there were many challenges, Gilda kept herself motivated with the thought that she had to make the most of the opportunity given to her. One of the biggest barriers she faced was learning English. To overcome it, she spent her first year staying at school after classes studying and getting help from tutors.

Gilda also improved her language abilities outside of school by participating in the Youth Warriors Program, where she was the only English learner. By rising to the challenge, she grew more confident in speaking English, sharing her opinions and taking the lead.

Gilda will be the first person in her family to attend college and is headed to the University of California at Berkeley this fall.

“It has not been easy, but with persistence, discipline and hard work, I am moving forward in my education,” she said. “I was mature enough to understand that my commitment to school, and to myself, would compensate for the years of school that I missed. Missing school led me to understand the tremendous value of education.”

* San Francisco International High School is a specialized high school designed to help recent immigrant students who have attended school in the United States for four years or less.