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Beating the Odds at Millikan High

Reprinted from Millikan’s
‘Rambler’ Newsletter

By Don Keller, Co-Principal

Geneva Smith, a QUEST (gifted program) senior, will attend Columbia University in New York on a full scholarship.  She came to Millikan from Cubberley K-8 School, and has made a name for herself through her academic excellence, varsity volleyball, California Scholarship Federation, and Best Buddies.  Her GPA is a weighted 3.96, and she will have completed nine Advanced Placement (AP) classes upon graduation. 

Maintaining a high GPA while taking such rigorous courses is even more remarkable in that Geneva holds three jobs and volunteers for the Special Olympics.  But the most remarkable fact about Geneva’s success is that it has been accomplished despite childhood obstacles which may have derailed others.

Geneva was born into foster care.  Her biological mother was incarcerated during her pregnancy and was temporarily released for Geneva’s birth.  Geneva never knew her father.  Fortunately, she acquired Stacey Smith as a foster care provider, and later as her adoptive mother, to guide her and provide her with an environment which was supportive and nurturing.

“I’ve had to overcome a lot to be where I am,” said Geneva, who received therapy to learn to cope with her traumatized childhood while learning to move on with her life.  Now a senior, Geneva feels “well adjusted” and able to successfully move across the country to attend such a prestigious Ivy League university.

Geneva plans to focus on environmental chemistry and history as her majors with hopes of becoming an environmental lobbyist.  She also has an interest in the fashion industry, feeling that it offers a creative outlet which can draw on and reflect culture while allowing her to use her mind.

She credits her QUEST teachers for inspiring her and guiding her along her path to success.  In particular, she credits Tim Mulvehill, her former AP World History teacher, for helping her conquer her challenges.  According to Geneva, Mr. Mulvehill has always offered great moral support and was an inspiration through his “great passion for his subject.” 

She has tied in her environmental interests with her QUEST senior project.  She is constructing a tandem bicycle as an alternative form of transportation not requiring fuel.

Geneva said, “I’ll miss being a Ram, my neighborhood, and Long Beach” and undoubtedly Stacey Smith, who changed her life and guided her to become a top scholarship winner.