Lynn Ward (Class of 2010) was invited to speak on behalf of the Life Learning Academy at the The Sohn San Francisco Conference. Proceeds from this financial conference support Bay Area organizations improving educational opportunities for underserved youth. This year, Life Learning Academy was honored to be a beneficiary and presenter.
Lynn did a tremendous job connecting with the audience and telling the story of her life and the role Life Learning Academy played in her transformation. Here is a transcript of her speech.
“Good afternoon and thank you so much for having me.
“I was raised in the Potrero Hill Housing projects by my grandmother. The youngest of 5 sisters, all of us born from drug-addicted, mentally ill parents. I found comfort in books early on and excelled academically. Earning scholarships to private schools, Synergy and The Urban School. I worked hard, started for varsity basketball, had lots of friends.
“All was seemingly good on the surface, but still I lived in the hood and my home life was chaotic. My environment at home was making it hard to succeed, and my neighborhood was filled with enticing trappings of the street lifestyle.
“In my junior year of high school, I was incarcerated with a group of girls for robbery. This was the culmination of a long-time struggle between two diverging paths available to me: school or the streets.
“I had a choice to make, and I was having a hard time choosing. I had a hard time believing in myself, that I could live a different life than the one I was born in to. So there I was, facing serious charges and kicked out of high school. I needed to change my life, and my best friend’s dad, Eugene Clendinen, asked me if I was ready to change, and that I had to make a phone call.
“That phone call was to Teri, the principal of Life Learning Academy. I interviewed with her and after that I knew that my life was not a game. That changing my life was serious business to her. And to the community at the school.
“I knew this because Teri told me herself that she would be on me like white on rice. And she was. So was my college counselor, Marilyn, and the vice principal, Craig. I knew the school’s number and Teri’s cell phone number by heart because if I was late or missed school they were calling.
“For a kid like me that was what I needed. I needed caring, consistent adults in my business. Who took notice when I missed class, fed me breakfast in the morning, provided me with resources to earn money, and the environment to self-reflect.
“I needed real conversations about the real struggles I faced and opportunities for future success.
“Without Life Learning Academy I would not be where I am at today. I am currently in my last semester of grad school, at Cal State long Beach studying Political Science. I am a mentor. I volunteer. I have great relationships. I travel. I like to do yoga. I live a positive life.
“Life Learning Academy helped give me the building blocks to build my life to be something better than I ever thought I could have. As a youth, they believed in me more than I believed in myself and that is the magic of this school.