Just imagine being in the same room with 10,000 team mates. That's Fresno Unified's Convocation, the back-to-school gathering at the Save Mart Center to kick off the new school year.
On Aug. 10, music and messages filled the two and a half hour program that informed and inspired the thousands of district employees and scores of community members who attended.
Dexter Yang, a McLane High School 2016 valedictorian, and Cecilia Ballesteros, Fresno Unified Administrator of the Year, launched the morning with "I Am Ready" cheers and a sincere thank you to the generous sponsors who made the event possible. Every element of the program showcased students, staff, parents, and community members -- all part of Fresno Unified's I Am Ready project, which tells the stories of people doing their part to help the district reach a 100% graduation rate.
Superintendent Michael Hanson addressed the crowd for almost an hour. Punctuated with rounds of applause, the superintendent told the employees, "This work takes every single one of you. Everyone is essential! When students cross the threshold onto our campuses... they are actually riding a wave of faith and hope that no matter who they are, we are going to do right by them..... that we, all 10,000 of us, we will show them how humanity should be."
He also stressed that the entire Fresno community is critical to making sure students cross the graduation stage.
"At Fresno Unified, we do not operate in isolation, and that should be very good news to all of you. We are in the full embrace of this community," Hanson said.
Hanson then welcomed to the stage Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who spoke as a mayor, as a community member, and most poignantly as a parent. She described witnessing teachers, staff, and coaches going to great lengths to provide opportunities to students.
The closing song, "I'll Stand by You," was performed by students from Roosevelt School of the Arts as community members, volunteers, nonprofit leaders, faith leaders, local officials, and educational partners joined the mayor and superintendent on stage so the thousands of employees could see the support they have from the Fresno community.
Hanson closed with, "When students, parents, and community members stand by us, our goal of graduating 100% of our students can become a reality."