Alumnus, U.C. Berkeley grad Hammed Suleman encourages students with his own experience
By Allen Payton
University of California system President Janet Napolitano visited Deer Valley High School in Antioch, today and encouraged the students in the standing room only gymnasium, that they can get into a U.C. school if they do the work. Before she spoke, however, Deer Valley High and U.C. Berkeley graduate student Hammed Suleman shared his experience of how he was able to get into “the best school in the world,” as he put it.
“I never thought I was college material or smart enough to get a college education,” Suleman said. “But I knew I could never achieve my goals if I didn’t do the work.”
He was on the track and field team at Deer Valley and became the number one triple jumper in the U.S., resulting in him receiving scholarship offers from colleges across the US.
Suleman chose UC Berkeley.
“It was and still is the number one university in the world,” he stated. “It has had a profound influence on who I am today and who I want to be.”
While at Berkeley Suleman was a track and field champion and earned the Most Academically Improved Student Athlete award in 2014.
Suleman is now completing his masters degree, also at Berkeley.
He then introduced Napolitano, who is also served as Secretary of Homeland Security under President Obama.
“You do the work and take the SAT or ACT and some community service, work and all those things go into your application to the University of California,” she told the students. “That’s your part. Our part is to give you a great college education.”
“You’re at a great stage of your life,” Napolitano continued. “I kinda wish I was back in high school.”
Speaking of a college education, she stated, “It does matter.”
“Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?” Napolitano asked the students. “What do you want to contribute?”
She then quoted President John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
“One-third of our students start at community college and transfer to UC,” Napolitano shared. “Ask yourself what you’re good at; what you think you’ll be good at. Take some classes.”
“I want to leave you here with this message. Only you can answer the question ‘what are you prepared to do?’ Get ready,” she said. “California is the only state with the higher education we have in this state.”
The former two-time governor of Arizona said while serving in that position she wished she could have brought one of the U.C. schools to her state.
“Find some quiet time. Turn off your screens. Turn off your phone,” Napolitano said in encouraging the students to think about their future.
“You won’t get where you want to go without…preparation,” she added. “UC is for you – a place to grow, to learn and leave the nest for the next generation.”
Napolitano then ended with “Thank you. Go Wolverines!” to the roar from the audience.
Before the assembly, Napolitano met and spoke with the school district’s college counselors and students interested in attending a U.C. school.
She was treated to music by the Deer Valley jazz band and a song by Divine Voices.
Principal Ken Gardner welcomed everyone and then handed the event off to teacher Bernard Stephens who served as Master of Ceremonies and had been Suleman’s track and field coach, while he was in high school. Congressman Jerry McNerney was in attendance and offered his thoughts. The students also heard from Eloy Oakley, the Chancellor of the California Community College system.