by George J Elbaum
San Mateo High School (SMHS) is a National Blue Ribbon comprehensive 4-year high school with a beautiful campus which opened in 1927 (see photo below). Its attendance is 1670 students of high diversity: 44% Hispanic, 27% Asian, 19% White, and 10% other, and 28% are considered as low-income. The school has a high academic record, with its students’ SAT college readiness rating of 76% vs. 48% state average, and 61% of its students meeting UC/CSU entrance requirements vs. 50% state average. As a result, SMHS was ranked the 50th best high school in California by Niche, the 216th best public high school in the country by Newsweek in 2015, and in 2013 the 376th nationally by The Washington Post‘s ranking of “America’s Most Challenging High Schools.”[ Less recent but no less admirable, the school earned a Guinness World Record in 2005 for collecting 372,000 pounds of food from the local community for its annual canned food drive. The collected food was donated to America’s Second Harvest and Samaritan House, which provides it to needy families throughout San Mateo and Santa Clara counties during the holiday season.
My presentation to approximately 100 9th graders who are now reading Eli Weisel’s Night was organized by history teachers Stephanie Wozniak and Aura Smithers, with support of Alicia Gorgani and attended by Cindy Braganza. Afterwards, a brief conversation with a granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, and especially the tears in her eyes, will remain indelible in my memory. I was also very pleasantly surprised when given a wonderfully-personal (airplane, sugar cubes, baseball story) “thank you” card drawn and signed by 8 students who attended my talk last March when they attended Bowditch Middle School in Foster City, CA. Arrangements for my talk were made by Penny Savryn, Program Coordinator, JFCS Holocaust Center.