By SHALWAH EVANS
The Lookout in San Francisco’s Castro District filled Thursday night with athletic scholars from Mission High School and the 49ers.
Guests fawned over Vernon Davis and Jason Hill and schmoozed with the 49ers cheerleaders all in the interest of raising funds to send the young athletes to summer academic programs.
Students were on hand to talk about their plans for the summer and their experiences in the five-year-old Athletic Scholars Advancement Program started by Judy Grossman with the help of District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty.
Jasenia Quintana-Lopez, a senior who plays volleyball, runs hurdles and volunteers for Special Olympics swimming, also has a 4.0 GPA and will spend the summer taking leadership and law classes at Columbia University in New York.
“I’m really excited about the law class,” she said after posing for photos with 49er cheerleaders “I’ve sat in lectures before, but…it’s Columbia University!”
Quintana-Lopez plans to study medicine and will apply to UC San Diego to be near the beach.
She is among the more than 500 students the scholars program has sent to summer programs since it began in 2004. During the year, students also study at local colleges and receive mentoring, tutoring and college counseling from a team of volunteers.
“With the cuts and everything it’s even more important that our kids have this opportunity,” said Judy Grossman, founder and executive director, who stood in the center of the bar as funders and football players squeezed in nearby.
Grossman started the program at Mission High when she found out that the athletic programs had no money to do even the basic camps. “It’s life changing,” she said adding that they’ve found studying on a college campus during the summer raises student awareness about the real possibility of going to college.
Henry Li, a junior at Mission High, who had escaped some of the crush and noise at the bar to stand near a window, agreed.
“I enjoy the support from the many volunteers that take the time out of their schedules. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them,” said Li, who praised the program and said they recently found him a $10,000 scholarship for college.
Li attended a 3-D design camp at Stanford. A Sunset resident, he thinks he wants to stay close to home and attend one of the University of California schools, like his good friend Doug Gee, who will be a sophomore at UC Berkeley.
Gee, like other students, ended up mingling most with his peers near the buffet table. At one point Vernon Davis, a tight end for the 49ers came up, looked at the table and piled his plate with mozzarella sticks, chicken wings and mini pizzas. “I’m starving,” he said joking about the finger food unlikely to sate his appetite. Later he was in the center of the floor talking to students about their interests.
Gee, who coaches ultimate Frisbee on campus, said he mentors a student from a local middle school—a decision that was inspired by his association with the Mission High Scholar’s program. When he needs advice, he said, he still returns to talk to the volunteers who are at Mission High five days a week.
“They’re always here to talk to me even though I graduated already,” Gee said. “That’s probably the most important thing.”