Introducing Aspire’s 2023 R.I.S.E. to Higher winners!
Huge congratulations to our second cohort of R.I.S.E. to Higher scholarship winners!
Anchored in Aspire’s Core Value of Agency + Self-determination, this award is given to outstanding Black seniors who are active members of their campus Black Student Union (BSU), and who are demonstrated agents of change in their community. The R.I.S.E. to Higher scholarship is generously funded by Aspire partners Charles and Karen Couric, to whom we are very grateful.
Read on to learn more about these scholars’ years at Aspire, what they learned from their experience participating in a BSU, and their future plans!
Anaya has been an Aspire scholar for her entire academic career, from kindergarten through 12th grade. After graduating from Aspire Alexander Twilight Secondary Academy (ATSA), she plans to study child development and psychology.
- Her favorite memory at Aspire: All the fun we had in class with my peers and teachers.
- Her advice to younger students: Don’t be too hard on yourself, it’s ok to fail.
- Anaya’s experience in a Black Student Union: While in BSU I have learned a lot about other cultures including my own. I have learned about a lot of struggles that all Black people have faced throughout the years. I enjoyed all the opportunities we had to learn new things regarding BSU and being able to bring together and create a safe space for the Black kids in my school. It really gave us the chance to speak up about things we couldn’t talk about elsewhere because no one else understood.
Damian has been with Aspire since he came to Aspire Golden State Preparatory Academy (GSP) in 8th grade. After graduation, he hopes to study real estate and business.
- His favorite memory at Aspire: The field trips I had with my class and my grade.
- His advice to younger students: Don’t overthink and always ask for help when you need it.
- Damian’s experience in a Black Student Union: I learned what it meant to be in a community full of Black or African American students just like me.
Greg’Zhyaih came to Aspire Golden State Preparatory Academy (GSP) as a freshman. After graduation, she is excited to attend CSU Dominguez Hills to study child development.
- Her favorite memory at Aspire: Going on all the field trips & doing all school activities!
- Her advice to younger students: I would honestly say go for it! Believe in yourself & trust yourself. You can do it.
- Greg’Zhyaih’s experience in a Black Student Union: I love the community we build & the fun activities we created.
Kaaliyah came to Aspire Alexander Twilight Secondary Academy (ATSA) as an 8th grader. After graduation, she looks forward to pursuing a bachelor’s degree in theater and the dramatic arts.
- Her favorite memory at Aspire: When I was on the cheer team, I miss the community building and the opportunity to make new friends and I did. Overall it was an amazing experience.
- Her advice to younger students: Don’t lose focus but still enjoy your time because even when it feels like high school is never ending, once you get close to the end you’ll realize It really just flew by.
- Kaaliyah’s experience in a Black Student Union: I really enjoyed the discussions, I finally felt like I had people that could truly understand and relate to my experiences. BSU helped me realize that I wasn’t alone in my experiences. I have gotten so many opportunities because of it and I learned about things that I never knew there was more to learn about. It has been an experience that I will forever be grateful for because I learned how to better advocate for myself and I will forever carry that with me.
Maiya has been thriving at Aspire since kindergarten! After graduating from Aspire Benjamin Holt College Preparatory Academy (BHA), she looks forward to studying business administration.
- Her favorite memory at Aspire: The days in elementary school where I enjoyed being a kid. Those years were the most memorable. I made some of the best friends that I still have today and it’s cool to see my transition from then to where I am now.
- Her advice to younger students: Take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. Involve yourself in as many things as you can and be comfortable with stepping out of your comfort zone because you never know where it could lead you.
- Maiya’s experience in a Black Student Union: My experience as a member of the Black Student Union at my school was very enjoyable. Being able to come together as a community to have fun while supporting one another was very important to me. Attending the Black College Expo last semester I was able to bond with other members in a new element outside of school. I was able to connect with my peers through similar life experiences and I learned a lot about myself. As I move forward in these next 4 years I hope I can continue to be a part of amazing organizations like the Black Student Union.
Meah came to Aspire Alexander Twilight Secondary Academy (ATSA) in 11th grade, and after graduation, will pursue a degree and career in nursing.
- Her favorite memory at Aspire: I love when I need help I have many resources! I really love just laughing and connecting with my teachers and staff!
- Her advice to younger students: You are who you hang around so choose wisely and make smart moves for yourself!
- Meah’s experience in a Black Student Union: I loved that we are all connected with the same background. We are able to come together as one and really educate people about our troubles we face along with growing a family.
Priya came to Aspire Richmond California College Preparatory Academy (Cal Prep) as a 7th grader. After graduation, she is deciding between majoring in zoology, health science, or nursing.
- Her favorite memory at Aspire: 8th grade promotion.
- Her advice to her younger self/younger students: If I could give one piece of advice to my younger self it would’ve been to never give up on myself, and also to always trust the process and be patient.
- Priya’s experience in a Black Student Union: Black Student Union at my school is a safe space and comfort zone for students. What I like most about Black Student Union would be being able to have a safe space and being around such positive and loving people.
Senoj has spent her entire K-12 academic career learning and growing at Aspire. After graduating from Aspire Benjamin Holt College Preparatory Academy (BHA), she looks forward to majoring in criminal justice.
- Her favorite memory at Aspire: An after school program when I was in elementary school. They provided a lot of activities that I didn’t know would make great life skills and hobbies. For example, self defense, cooking, gardening, science, etc.
- Her advice to her younger self/younger students: Advice I would give to my younger self is to be okay with making mistakes and to learn from them. By growing up in Aspire schools, it made me very sheltered and protected, which I appreciate because it got me to the mindset to be successful and to do something great for my life after high school. Though, I wish I spent more time trying new things instead of keeping the same routine because I didn’t want to deal with negative consequences. I feel that I missed out on some childhood or teenage things when growing up but in the end I accept it because I’m still successful without it.
- Senoj’s experience in a Black Student Union: The thing I like most about BSU at Aspire is how vocal they are about Black excellence, and also how it provides different resources that can be beneficial to our future. I learned about self confidence and about Black activists during my time at BSU. I felt dissociated within my race and not as proud about it, but by joining BSU I am more confident and appreciative about my culture and to be Black.
Tai-Run came to Aspire as a 6th grader. After he graduates from Aspire Vanguard College Preparatory Academy (VCPA), he looks forward to attending college to study kinesiology.
- His favorite memory at Aspire: Meeting everyone and everyone just greeting me with happiness, my 6th grade year.
- His advice to younger students: Never wait until the last minute to finish everything, finish everything on time or early.
- Tai-Run’s experience in a Black Student Union: For me, I loved how it was like a family and everyone was very close with each other. I learned a lot of new things about my history and also how to be a leader.
Veter came to Aspire in 5th grade. After she graduates from Aspire Richmond California College Preparatory Academy (Cal Prep), she will study business.
- Her favorite memory at Aspire: Making memories in class with my classmates.
- Her advice to younger students: Take advantage of being young and live life to the fullest.
- Veter’s experience in a Black Student Union: I love BSU. It’s become a place where I can just relax and be with my fellow Black students. I never truly realized the effect of not being around people who look like me had on my mental health until I was around them. I have learned that you never truly know a person until you know them, what you see in the halls isn’t enough to judge the kind of character they have.