El Camino High School campus

SSFUSD’s Ethnic Studies Program was the Product of Foresight

Years before California Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 101, which requires that all high school students complete an ethnic studies course in order to obtain a diploma starting in the 2029-30 school year, South San Francisco Unified School District (SSFUSD) understood that ethnic studies could help keep students engaged inside and outside the classroom.
Such prescience arose from a recognition that South City was changing. 
Economic development initiatives in recent years had turned the former “industrial city” into a new hub for biotechnology at the same time that demographic changes had led to South San Francisco’s transformation from a traditional, blue-collar town to a largely Hispanic one. 
“We saw and felt the needs of the community changing,” said SSFUSD Superintendent Dr. Shawnterra Moore, “so we decided to change with it.”
From this understanding arose a vision to remake SSFUSD’s place in the community.
It started with a renewed focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and a partnership with Genentech, one of the flagship biotech companies headquartered in South San Francisco. 
“We wanted to prepare students for careers in the life sciences industry,” said Dr. Moore, “and we also wanted them to have the ability to engage with and embrace different ideas and perspectives.”
This led the school board and SSFUSD’s educational leaders to establish an ethnic studies program at its high schools in 2016. 
“We felt that we needed to make the curriculum more interesting for our students and more relevant to our community,” said SSFUSD School Board President Daina Lujan.
It was a pioneering move at the time, but today it means that SSFUSD is prepared to meet the state’s new ethnic studies requirement.
While many schools and school districts across California must now create new curricula to meet the requirements of AB 101, SSFUSD will continue to churn out high school graduates without missing a beat.
“The ethnic studies program at El Camino High and South San Francisco High allows students to explore their place in American history and helps them gain a better understanding of the world and their own life experiences,” said Dr. Moore.