By Wendy Tokuda
SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Patrick Armstrong was often homeless and sometimes hungry, as he grew up in San Jose. For a time, his family lived in the barbershop where his parents worked, because they had no place else to live.
Now Armstrong is an attorney in New York and was the keynote speaker at the Students Rising Above Gala this year. There were tears and enough enthusiasm to raise more than a million dollars this year. It was a sell-out crowd, with a Students Rising Above student or two seated at each table. The funds will help 110 high school seniors go to college.
“If there is anything that SRA has taught me it’s that we are not bound by our past. We can do more than our parents did. And we can accomplish more than we think, if we believe in ourselves,” Armstrong said.
He was an SRA alumnus from the class of 2003 and talked about how SRA advisors helped him get through UC Berkeley and NYU law school. Back when he was a teenager, his goal was to help people. Now he’s doing it, at the Justice Center where he works to make legal systems fairer to the poor.
He draws inspiration from his own life, saying, “I began to think, why was it that when my mother and sister were suffering, it hurt me so bad? Even if they were fine, shouldn’t I care that someone else’s mother or little sister is always suffering somewhere in the world. Shouldn’t that be just as motivating?”
Patrick gave his speech at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco. The hotel has hosted SRA’s gala for twelve years now many of the hotel’s staff members have been there for many of them.
SRA executive director Lynne martin says, “It’s like coming home.” The Ritz made a hefty donation to Students Rising Above via their Community Footprint Program.
Students Rising Above revealed the new College2Careers hub at the gala, a portal full of information for low-income, first-generation kids who want to go to college. Students can even talk to an advisor online.
The inspiration for the hub came from the fact that SRA has to turn away hundreds of kids who apply for the program. This is an effort to give them and other low-income kids, the comprehensive college guidance that SRA advisors have.
Ninety percent of SRA’s scholars will finish college, more than twice the national average for low-income, first-generation kids. Most of these scholars live below the federal poverty line, and many don’t have functioning parents. You can help them rise above and not just go to college, but to graduate, by going to http://studentsrisingabove.org