Carlos Santana Still Has Love for His Old San Francisco High School

The rocker paid his alma mater a visit to celebrate its extraordinary success.

By Jamilah King Oct 25, 2011

It’s been over four decades since legendary rocker Carlos Santana graduated from San Francisco’s Mission High School. But on Monday, the 10-time Grammy winner went back to perform a free concert at his alma mater to celebrate the school’s recent successes.

The guitarist was born in Mexico but immigrated to San Francisco as a child. He graduated from Mission High back in 1965. A year later, his career as a professional musician took off after Bill Graham selected him to perform at an impromptu show at The Fillmore auditorium.

Monday’s event was organized by Santana’s non-profit organization, the Milagro Foundation. "If you can remember only one thing today, remember this: You are significant. You are meaningful and you matter," Santana told students in the audience.

He was joined by his wife, drummer Cindy Blackman Santana, actor Edward James Olmos, and film producer Peter Bratt. (It’s worth noting that in 2009, Bratt produced the 2009 film "La Mission" starring his brother, Benjamin.)

The San Francisco Chronicle points out that the purpose of the visit was to celebrate the school’s achievements, particularly since its students have often struggled. But in recent years, the school’s largely low-income student of color population has made remarkable strides. More kids are going to college, drop outs are down, and after being shuttered for years, the school’s music program is finally back up and running.

My former colleague Kristina Rizga spent last school year reporting for Mother Jones on Mission High. In an era when even media mogul Rupert Murdoch is talking about education reform, teachers at Mission take the extraordinary step of actually asking students what they think about the achievement gap. Those same teachers go above and beyond to help undocumented high school seniors beat the odds and go to college. And students embrace "anti-racist" geometry lessons

It turns out that all that community-driven hard work matters. "It’s probably the best moment in my life, well, so far," recent graduate Gilberto Mejia, 18, told the Chronicle about the concert. "[Santana’s] such an inspiration. He’s somebody in the world."

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