SF Education Official, Startup CEO Recalls Emergence From Troubled Youth

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — After he lost the first election, Students Rising Above Class of 2003 alumnus Stevon Cook was on the fence about running again for the San Francisco Board of Education.

Then one day, Stevon met with a class of 7th graders. He asked the group, “If you run a citywide election and lose, what do you think you should do?” A girl answered, “You do it again.”

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And that is just what he did. Stevon made the decision to run again and this time, he had the votes he needed.

This January, Stevon will take a seat on the city’s Board of Education. “I’m the first person to come out of Thurgood Marshall (High School) elected to any office in San Francisco,” he said. “I won’t be the last.”

Looking at where he is now, one might not guess that Stevon grew up with the challenges that he did.

When we first met Stevon back in 2003 as a high school senior in Bayview Hunter’s Point, he spoke of growing up and walking outside into a community where all the drug dealers already knew his name because his mom was their “best customer.”

When Stevon was in 5th grade, he and his sister went to live with their grandparents. The transition came with its difficulties: an urge to rebel, a lack of focus on his education. His grandmother did not expect that he would go to college.

His prospects seemed dim until he had an life-changing epiphany: “I need to do better to show others that were unfairly born in the same plight as me that they can become the person society thinks is not possible.”

With the support of his grandmother and high school teachers, Stevon made a major turnaround in his life and in school.  He enrolled in a summer program at Stanford University and became a Students Rising Above scholar.  His troubled childhood was in the past and as Stevon said, “I refuse to let the past 15 years of my life determine the next 60.” Stevon went on to earn his degree at Williams College in Massachusetts.

When we caught up with him in 2015, he had become the CEO of Mission Bit, a small nonprofit startup with big goal: bridging the technological divide by teaching low-income kids how to code. Stevon was determined to provide resources to young people who had the talent and passion, but lacked necessary resources.

He related to these kids. He told them, “if you’re like me and you grew up in San Francisco in public housing before moving on to live with your grandparents, you understand in a visceral way the difference that an education and a job can make for a young person.”

This pursuit to provide a proper education for the youth of San Francisco will continue when he Stevon inaugurated next month.

“I love the man I’ve become and I’m proud of the growth and mistakes I’ve made and how it’s turned out,” he said.

As far as how the next chapter in Stevon’s life will turn out?  He has the next four years to write it. “I’ve always been a dreamer. Hopefully with my work and my examples inspires … I can help cultivate and support somebody to get to where I’ve gotten, but to go way beyond where I’ll ever go.”

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