Above, Stephen Sills reunites with Chief Academic Officer Frances Gipson, his former principal at El Sereno Middle School.
This is part of a series of stories about outstanding graduates of the Class of 2018. It is excerpted from an autobiographical essay.
By Stephen Sills
Wilson High School
Class of 2018
I was born in San Diego, and moved as a child to Steamboat Springs, Colo., where I attended a small Christian elementary school. When I was about 8 years old, the stock market crashed, and my family almost lost everything. Virtually overnight, we moved from the Rocky Mountains to Portland, Ore. My parents wanted me to learn Mandarin, and they enrolled me in an immersion school. They staked most of what we had to pay for school.
Over the next four years, we moved a total of 16 times. I was held back a grade, and for the remainder of my years in elementary school, I couldn’t help but feel awkward, given my size and age. I had to always watch my strength when playing with others, and I was bullied by some of the other students because of my timid nature. It was experiences like this that made me who I am today, giving me the resilience to succeed even when I couldn’t have more against me, and to accept my faults and learn from them the best I can. But for a time, all I saw in myself was failures and mistakes.
When I left elementary at fifth grade, I was enrolled in an online school and completed assignments from my laptop. I spent my days alone in my room with no one to talk to, no contact with friends, even with my own family. By then, I had lost all motivation to do well in school. I invested my time in things that would only grant me temporary happiness, video games as well as books. And every night before I went to bed, I would lie, telling myself that I would do better and complete my assignments the day after.
I had spent so much time in seclusion that I had forgotten what it really meant to be loved by another, and in that moment, I felt that love again. But how could this be? My parents had invested so much in me, and I had thrown much of that away. Yet, they were still here, and their love had never gone anywhere. It was I, rather, that had pushed myself away.
I could not remain the way I was, I had to do something with what I had been given. The next year, we moved to Los Angeles. I graduated from El Sereno Middle School and was one of two students awarded the Principal’s Scholarship, an honor for earning a 4.0 GPA. Afterwards, I went up to the principal, telling her there had been some misunderstanding, I had received a G.P.A. of 1.5 just the year before. She laughed. The traces of the past were gone, replaced by joy, happiness, courage and the will-power to find my own future.
As a boy, I had read a quote by C.S. Lewis: “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” At the time I didn’t think much of it. I couldn’t relate to such an outrageously optimistic quote, even if it was from a beloved author of mine. Then I learned how it was penned by C.S. Lewis to comfort an old and dying friend, fearful of the darkness that lied before her. Death is not the end, C.S. Lewis reminds her. Rather, death is the epithet of greater things to come.
Now, I stand as the salutatorian of my class, leadership representative, presidents of both the Debate and Bible clubs, and a potential graduate of the Stanford Class of 2022. And all of this resulted when five years ago, I experienced true love for the first time. I acknowledge the role that my troubles and past hardships have played in the realization of my future, and am comforted when I remember them.
C.S. Lewis was right after all.
Aspiring chef Franki Bellhouse-Garcia, a senior at Banning High School, won nearly $130,000 in scholarships, and will attend the prestigious Johnson and Wales University in Florida.read more
Alexa Guzman and Ling Lee bring expertise and selfless commitment to their respective jobs as Classified employees.read more
The LASPD Explorer program inspired Valley Alternative Magnet student Joseph Gonzalez to overcome hardships and win a full-tuition scholarship to UCLAread more
Paraprofessionals Anthony Vu from Mulholland Middle School and Angelica Arreola-Razo from Hale Charter Academy have won accolades for their work with special-needs students.read more
Class of 2018 Spotlight: Whitman Continuation High students show pride in their school – and their success
Students at Walt Whitman Continuation High School share their experiences of getting on track to graduate, finding success in school and in life.read more
Underneath the sunny countenance of Café LA Ray is Dawn Soto, a Food Services Division specialist, who sees each day as an opportunity to make a difference in the health and well-being of students.
The Widney Career Preparatory and Transition Center hones students’ artistic talents while fostering resilience, social skills and self-confidence.read more
Chan Ly is propelling the District from the paper to the digital age as a dot-net developer in the Information Technology Division.read more
UCLA high school volunteer wins state Science Fair – UCLA/Institute of the Environment and Sustainability
School nurses are essential in meeting students’ health needs – California Educator
Honoring ArTES teacher Nicole Mathis-Berman – Honored.org
Q&A with Interim Superintendent Vivian Ekchian – The Pearl Post (Daniel Pearl Communications Magnet)
Military veterans recruited for teaching positions – KABC-Channel 7
CSTA and Code.org announce the 2017 Champions for Computer Science – Medium magazine
How L.A. Unified Cultivates Districtwide Digital Citizenship – Common Sense Education
Around the world, and earning all A’s – The Newport (R.I.) Daily News
LAUSD, IBU and DAS Collaborate to Create the New Merchant Mariner Apprenticeship Program – Apprenticeship/California Department of Industrial Relations
Opinion: Students accepted through preferred gender pronouns – Los Angeles Times Insider
These 10 L.A. high schools are the best at getting their graduates to college – Los Angeles Times
LAUSD Making a Comeback with Instructional Technology – Converge Magazine
Dr. Frances Gipson honored as Top 30 Award recipient – Converge Magazine
New EdD in Educational Leadership graduate Michelle King named National Superintendent of the Year – USC Rossier School of Education
Pin Up, Don’t Shut Up – Public High School Art for the Scapegoats of Humanity – Random Lengths Magazine
East Bay Softball Inks Catcher Desiree Jimmy – Cal State East Bay Pioneers Athletics
California Teacher of the Year from North Hills to throw first pitch at Dodger Stadium – Los Angeles Daily News
Cleveland High band program marches on after years with no teacher, little money – Los Angeles Daily News
LAPD officers spread holiday cheer at Van Nuys elementary school – Los Angeles Daily News
Burrowing Owl delights students, staff at urban school – SoCalWild.com
Dorsey students complete College Board pilot class. – L.A. Sentinel
Girls Academic Leadership Academy: A unique opportunity.– Jewish Journal
West Valley Occupational Center celebrates 50 years. – Los Angeles Daily News
Linked Learning the focus of innovative high school. – Education Writers of America
Music, arts programs at LA schools increasing after years of decline. – Los Angeles Daily News
Coeur d’Alene Elementary: One school’s journey towards instructional excellence. – Cotsen Foundation
Student identity through the arts. Huffington Post
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