On Friday, April 11th, Chief Justice of California Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye spoke to about 1,000 North Bay middle and high school students at a symposium entitled “Imagine Yourself,” which was held at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center. Event organizers, 10,000 Degrees and Sonoma State University’s Center for Ethics, Law, and Society, sought to elevate students’ sights toward higher education and the opportunities it can provide. That goal reflects 10,000 Degrees’ goal of getting underserved students to and through college, which they have been doing at an unprecedented rate since the 80s. The symposium was designed to inspire the assembled students—most of whom were from low-income and racially diverse backgrounds–by giving them a chance to hear from civic leaders who overcame challenges through determination and education.
Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye, born and raised in Sacramento, told students and adult guests—many of whom were Sonoma County Superior Court judges–that she came from a family of farm workers with little education. Her parents encouraged her to go to college, and she became a Sacramento County prosecutor, and then a judge serving at both the trial and appellate levels before being sworn in as Chief Justice on January 3, 2011 by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. She is the first Asian-Filipina American and the second woman to serve as the state’s Chief Justice. Sometimes I say to myself, “My grandmother would kill for the opportunities I had.”
The Chief Justice agreed to speak to the students because, “It is crucial that everyone, regardless of their backgrounds or personal circumstances, be inspired and supported in making that first step on their personal journeys, and that is to become graduates.”
Students and teachers came to the event from Santa Rosa (Amarosa Academy, Lawrence Cook, Herbert Slater, and Hilliard Comstock Middle Schools, St. Rose School, and Montgomery, Elsie Allen, Piner, and Ridgeway High Schools), Windsor (Windsor Middle and High Schools), Sonoma Valley High School, and Novato High School. Transportation support is being provided by Marin Community Foundation, Santa Rosa City Schools, and the Sonoma County Office of Education to enable students to attend.
“Our work at 10,000 Degrees is all about giving students the opportunity to dream and to see themselves on a path to achieving their potential,” says Kim Mazzuca, President and CEO of 10,000 Degrees, who will preside over the day’s program.
Prior to the Chief Justice’s keynote address, students and adults in attendance heard from a panel of the following local leaders:
- Capitol Page High School (1963) and Willamette University (1968) graduate and former United States Congressman Doug Bosco, who is now General Counsel for The Press Democrat and a civil litigator
- Novato High School graduate (2009) Angelica Quirarte, who is an Executive Office Program Fellow at the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento and a 2013 graduate of UC Santa Barbara
- Elsie Allen High School graduate (2011) Jonathan Gomez, a junior attending Sonoma State University who will graduate in 2015
“Sonoma State University is delighted to host the 10,000 Degrees Symposium “Imagine Yourself …,” where students will meet with civic leaders about how to meet challenges and secure success in school, careers, community and life. Developing conviction and strategies of “Si se puede” will put these students on the track to success. I hope that many of them will see Sonoma State University as their next place for their academic endeavors, says Ruben Armiñana, President of Sonoma State University.
“At the end of the day, our goal is for the students there—many of whom are from disadvantaged backgrounds—to hear the adult educators, business and community leaders saying to them, ‘We have been in your shoes, and our paths were challenging and sometimes disappointing, too. We overcame our challenges, and we believe you can, too. We support and believe in you. We know that you can become who you are truly meant to be,’” says Carreño.
One eighth-grader, Elodie McCrea, said she learned how important it is to chase her dreams, even if someone tries to get in her way. “Anything is possible,” Elodie said. “That’s why education is important.”
A high school principal added this about her students’ experience. “They were inspired. They enjoyed each of the speakers and gained insights about themselves. They heard the message loud and clear. I will be following up with our students – to keep their new ideas alive.”
The symposium was followed by a luncheon and Jeffersonian Dialogue called “After the Symposium.” Facilitated by Presiding Judge Ken Gnoss, the luncheon introduced college students to members of the bench, bar and business community, to share their own stories about opportunity, disappointment and the path to success.
The symposium and luncheon were co-presented by 10,000 Degrees and the Center for Ethics, Law, and Society at Sonoma State University, Sonoma County Superior Court, Community Foundation Sonoma County, Marin Community Foundation, Sonoma County Office of Education, Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Santa Rosa City Schools, Los Cien Sonoma County, Sonoma County Alliance, the Sonoma County Bar Association and the John Jordan Foundation.