Where the Class of 2011 Is Going

Portraits of Mission High School graduates.
Where the Class of 2011 Is Going

If one picture is worth 1000 words, these portraits of graduating Mission High School seniors are a book filled with plot twists. Take Jakob,* for instance. This spring the Mission High wrestling star received acceptance letters to 13 colleges—but since Jakob is an undocumented student from Panama, he doesn't qualify for most financial aid benefits. He thought he'd go to a community college for a few years to save money—until he got a letter offering a full scholarship to Santa Clara University. "I feel like I am living in a dream," he said at the prom. "There are so many people who are not blood-related who helped me."

Last week 178 Mission High seniors threw their graduation caps in the air, and their prospects are bright. Of this graduating class, 84 percent are entering universities and community colleges. UC Berkeley alone will gain eight Mission High graduates in the fall. Statistics like Mission High's are good news for universities that find it difficult (or don't try hard enough) to attract diverse students from low-income backgrounds. Nationally, only 40 percent of low-income students enter four-year colleges today, and about eight percent graduate. Will those numbers improve if more schools take a page from Mission High's playbook? Perhaps.

Photographer Winni Wintermeyer and I caught up with a few Mission High graduates recently to talk about their future plans.

*Editors' Note: This education dispatch is part of an ongoing series reported from Mission High School, where education writer Kristina Rizga is embedded for the year. Email her at krizga@motherjones.com. Read more: "will.i.am's Advice for Graduates." Plus: Sign up for our weekly "In the Mix" newsletter to get all of the latest education dispatches.