AV High senior
is wise beyond
WRITTEN BY Julie Drake
Hasan Gaines took his first airplane ride in December when he flew to Texas for the National Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, Conference.
The 18-year-old Antelope Valley High School senior was there to talk about AVID, a college-readiness program that targets low-income, motivated students who have potential but who previously may have performed at an average level.
Hasan is a member of AV High’s African American Male Initiative, which works to help improve the academic achievement and increase college enrollment of African-American males.
The AAMI, as it is called, is part of the AVID program.
“It taught me to be more organized,” Hasan said of AVID. “It forces me to stay organized. I’m not that good at being organized. I really like it, it’s a cool class.”
Hasan served on a panel of AVID students at the national conference. They talked about how the AVID program helped them.
“He represented wonderfully. His speech was eloquent because he’s passionate about the program. ... He was a really good speaker, he stood out,” said teacher Chris DeLoach, AV High’s co-coordinator for the African American Male Initiative.
Hasan enjoyed the plane ride so much, he hopes to fly more frequently and visit schools to speak with young men like himself one day, to let them know how important education is.
Hasan looks forward to college. He hopes to attend one of the historically black colleges and universities in the South, a nod to the Southern roots on his mother Deborah Watts’ side of the family.
“But if I get accepted to any Cal schools, and whichever one offered me funding to attend, I’ll go,” Hasan said.
Regardless of any scholarships, the teen added he plans to get a job when he gets to college, “instead of just sitting around.”
Hasan was born in Inglewood and moved to the Antelope Valley when he was 8. He is one of six siblings with two older brothers and two older sisters and a younger sister in elementary school.
He was part of the last graduating class at Park View Middle School four years ago before the school was closed temporarily.
“I actually did a speech for them, too. It was awesome, my mom, she was very happy,” Hasan said.
Hasan didn’t take school seriously when he was at Park View, so he was given an individualized education plan, or IEP, which are typically given to special needs students, including children who have difficulty learning.
“After that I started getting 3.0s and higher because I didn’t want to be in IEP classes,” Hasan said.
He earned recognition as Park View’s “Most Improved” student. A crucial element in Hasan’s development was the school’s staff, which he acknowledged in his speech.
“I told them about how everybody really cared for me because they didn’t let me fall into a slump. Like, they opened my eyes to see where education can take me, so I really love Park View,” Hasan said. “I just needed that push.”
Hasan joined the African American Male Initiative at AV High. He said former coordinator Jeff Patterson visited Park View on a recruiting trip for the program. Patterson’s talk stuck with him.
“My freshman year, I fell back into the ‘not caring’ with school. But then the AAMI, they brought me, and I was just seeing all these smart young gentlemen and everything. I was like, ‘That needs to be me. I need to dress up and everything.’”
Students in the program wear suits every Monday. Hassan wore his sharp gray suit for this interview.
By his sophomore year, Hasan started to take school serious, showing up to AAMI meetings. His junior year, the graduating seniors appointed Hasan to the leadership council.
“It kept me focused,” Hasan said. “When I was falling, I had my brothers and everything come to me and say, ‘You need to do this and this, and let us help you study for this test.’”
When Hasan went to Texas, he asked each of the AAMI members to write a letter about the program. He read the letters on the airplane ride and recounted them on the panel.
“Me staying focused on education, I see the outcome of it, and I love the outcome of it,” Hasan said.
Hasan’s individualized education plan followed him to high school. He worked extra hard to be clear of it and is no longer bound by it.
Jodie Radford, AV High’s interim principal, said Hasan has taken responsibility for his own education and is wise beyond his years. She added his early struggles have helped to build and strengthen his character.
“I feel like he knows his limits,” Radford said, adding that Hasan has struggled in his Advanced Placement classes but that hasn’t stopped him. “He’s going to be successful because of that adversity he’s facing now.”
DeLoach, who also serves as coordinator for special education at AV High, said it’s not common for students to work their way out of an individualized education plan.
“Say you if had 20 students, you may get one who does work himself out in a semester or a year, so it’s not very common. Students are just regular people who kind of fall to the least resistance, and the least resistance is to just stay where you are,” DeLoach said.
Hasan’s father, who’s been in prison since Hasan was a baby, also might get to see his son graduate if he’s released on time.
Hasan said he looks at Patterson as a father figure and DeLoach as a big brother, “who’s there to tell me what’s right from wrong.”
After struggling in school and taking lower level courses his first two years of high school, Hasan is now taking AP courses, including calculus AB and English AB. He also took AP world history and enrolled in Chinese for his foreign language.
Hasan is a gifted, all-star athlete who plays basketball and participates in track and field for AV High. He has a collection of medals and awards from playing basketball and track and field. He has Golden League patches to honor his achievements in track.
He also played football his freshman year and again in his senior year as a cornerback on the AV High’s defensive squad.
Hasan’s goal is for his mother to see him graduate from college. So far, only one sibling has graduated from high school.
“I just can’t wait to see her face when I graduate from high school and college,” Hasan said.