A small but dedicated group of students and teachers walked around Dolores Park Saturday morning to raise money for a Mission High teacher who passed away on the first day of school nearly two years ago. Kathleen Cecil used to lap the park every day before school, encouraging fellow teachers to come with her and “de-stress.”
After she died of a brain aneurysm in 2010 while teaching a morning class, many at Mission High grieved for the much-loved teacher, who had been there for 12 years. They held a memorial, where many in the school community spoke. But the teachers and her family wanted to come up with a long-lasting way to remember and honor her. An essay contest resulting in scholarships toward college seemed like the best choice.
“It’s a way to keep her memory alive at Mission,” said her husband, Tom Wishing.
Last year, based on donations, they were able to give out three $1,000 scholarships to students.
“For a student who might go to City College, it’s the difference between them being able to buy books or not,” Wishing said.
This year they didn’t have as many donations, and with Cecil’s last class at Mission High graduating, the school wanted to make sure some could have the chance at a scholarship. They decided to try a walk-a-thon, to honor one of Cecil’s favorite daily routines and raise money for what they hope will be four $1,500 scholarships. Some sponsors gave the walkers a certain amount of money per lap, others gave flat donations.
Mission High seniors Dereje Dilnesaw and Aracely Perez were out walking to raise money. They both were in Cecil’s English class a few years ago.
“I had Ms. Cecil for 10th grade and she helped me a lot, and this is a way for me to help,” said Dilnesaw, sporting a T-shirt with Mission High “Pride” on the back. “It’s a way to be a part of the community, too.”
Dilnesaw has plans to go to San Jose State in the fall and is entering the essay contest for scholarships.
The three essays revolve around issues that were most important to Ms. Cecil — art, music, social justice, and standing up for yourself.
“She would be proud to know so many people are going on to four-year universities,” fellow teacher Derrlyn Tom said. “For her it wasn’t about somebody’s GPA, it was about learning. It wasn’t about their immigration status, it was about their growth. Whether they go to an Ivy League school or a vocational school, she encouraged them to think about what their passions were.”