JCHS News

Alumna, Maissa Chouraki '05, Open House speech

Maissa Chouraki '05
On my first day of high school, I sat in the Kol Shofar synagogue, up in Tiburon, with 22 other high school freshman, being welcomed as the inaugural class to JCHS. At the time the entire school was housed in three rooms, and a few offices. I was fourteen, nervous, and uncertain about whether I had made the right choice in schools.
Twelve years later I can tell you: I made the right choice.
 
            As to why I made the right choice? There’s a story I want to share, that I think answers that questions: when I was 15, I didn’t think I was particularly intelligent. I didn’t really believe I could do well in school. I didn’t often turn in my homework or try very hard in class, with one exception: chemistry. I’m not sure why, but I liked the subject, so I did my homework. Around October we had a quiz. After the quiz, my teacher, Dr. McClarin, came up to me and told me I had gotten the highest grade in the class. “You know,” she said, “you’re perfectly smart. If you did your homework in the rest of your classes, I think you’d be surprised as to how well you’d do.”
 
So I listened. I listened because she was the kind of teacher who you trusted: because she was smart, kind, and had a knack for making you get excited about the topic. She was the kind of teacher that I think exemplifies the teachers I had back then, and the kind I know continue to teach here. Anyway, it turns out she was right.
 
With one quiz, and a few sentences, she made me believe I was smart. She made me believe I was capable, and she set the expectation that I succeed. It is that confidence that took me through four years at the University of British Columbia, and which has carried me through law school so far. JCHS taught me that if you do the work, you will succeed.
 
During my four years here, I made the kinds of friend you keep for life. I read incredible books, and got to see what happens when you drop sodium in water (it bursts into flame). I learned about geometric proofs, and the civil war. I gained an understanding of Jewish history and traditions and, analyzed disagreements between feuding Rabbis from thousands of years ago (who’s disagreements are not dissimilar than those between judges). I learned to think critically, write analytically, and solve chemical equations. I built the foundations that would lead me through undergrad and to law school.
 
But that’s not the true value of what JCHS gave me. Of course those things are important, and I have no doubt that the education I got here prepared me for undergrad. But that’s not the most important thing I learned here. What JCHS truly gave me, and the reason I can say, without reservation, that I made the right choice in choosing a high school, is the confidence I needed to dream big and turn those dreams into reality. 
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Jewish Community High School of the Bay
1835 Ellis Street, San Francisco, CA 94115
Phone: 415.345.9777
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The Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS) is a unique college preparatory high school committed to integrating deep learning, universal wisdom, and Jewish values. We empower each student to embrace her or his Jewish identity, generate empathy and compassion, delight in lifelong education, and improve the world.