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Mayor-Elect London Breed stands with children at her former school, Rosa Parks Elementary School

Q&A with Mayor London Breed


1. What schools did you attend at SFUSD and what year did you graduate?

I attended Raphael Weill Elementary School (now Rosa Parks Elementary), Benjamin Franklin Middle School, and Galileo High School. I graduated from Galileo High School in 1992.

2. Which teachers made the biggest difference in your education, and why?

SFUSD prepared me to attend UC Davis, and later receive my Masters in Public Administration from University of San Francisco. Teachers and counselors supported and encouraged me to pursue things that I never thought were possible for me. I genuinely don’t know if I would have made it to a four-year college, much less City Hall, without their guidance.

My high school French teacher, Madame Z, went above and beyond for me. I was a Junior at Galileo, scheduled to go to the East Coast to visit historically black colleges. One day I came into Madame Z’s class crying and told her I couldn’t go on the trip because there was no money to pay for it. She pulled me aside after class the very next day.

“Pack your bags,” she said.

Madame Z’s friend Karen, a woman who had never even met me, gave my teacher a blank check and said, “London is going on that trip.”

It was my first experience seeing people who looked like me, people who could be my own peers, actually going to college. I walked those campuses and knew success was not impossible, not for them, not for me.

3. What's your favorite memory (or memories) from SFUSD?

In Junior High, I played french horn in the 8th grade advanced band. That year, the 49ers won the Superbowl and Mayor Dianne Feinstein invited the band to play at an event in celebration. Mayor Feinstein and Joe Montana were in attendance and stopped by to say thank you for playing, which was very special to me.

4. How did SFUSD prepare you for becoming Mayor of San Francisco?

I would not be where I am today were it not for the education I received from San Francisco public schools. I grew up in a San Francisco very different from what many have experienced: a place called Plaza East, notoriously one of the most dangerous public housing developments in the City. I was raised by my grandmother, and I grew up in a community ravaged by drugs and violence, held down by unemployment, and held back by neglect. Serving in public office, let alone as Mayor of San Francisco, was something that never occured to me as a possibility.

SFUSD prepared me to attend UC Davis, and later receive my Masters in Public Administration from University of San Francisco.

In addition to the core skills I learned--reading, writing, math--I learned how to think critically and how to approach new problems. As an elected official, the issues I face change every day and the decisions I make can have an impact for years to come. I need to be able to synthesize information from numerous stakeholders, understand the problems we face, and ultimately make a decision that I think is right for the people of San Francisco.

5. What advice do you have for SFUSD students today?

My first piece of advice is to work hard. Your education is the key to your future, what you learn today will provide the foundation for what is to come, whether it is college or career.

My second piece of advice is to apply yourself and try new things. When I was the Executive Director of the African-American Art & Culture Complex, we would offer paid internships to local students, which for many of them was their first paid job. I encourage you to connect with local employers, unions, and industries early on, secure an internship, apprenticeship or mentorship, and learn new things while also exploring if that field is right for you. I’d also encourage students to look into the blue collar jobs of the future; San Francisco will continue to be a center of manufacturing, building, and design.

San Francisco offers a number of job training programs through the Office of Economic and Workforce Development. When I was in High School, I participated in the Mayor’s Youth Employment and Education Program, which provided valuable experience for me at a young age and opened doors for me later in life. I’d encourage you to apply for these opportunities.

Finally, give back to the community. Find something that you enjoy doing, whether it is volunteering at a local charity, serving as a mentor for younger students, or whatever else you find rewarding, and commit to doing it on a consistent basis. You’ll find that helping others can be rewarding in and of itself.