"Know your worth, and give yourself the opportunities,” says Ms. McGee, a college counselor at Downtown Magnets High School. Ms. McGee oversees the 259 seniors who will be graduating this year. Many have been through grueling adversities. There is Kenji Horgome, who came to Los Angeles from Japan in the fourth grade. He spoke no English and his single mother toiled away as low-wage server at a Korean restaurant. Kiana Portillo moved to Los Angeles in the fifth grade from Honduras. She suffered from financial hardship and an absent father, and on top of that was often teased for her limited English and heavy accent. Then there's Nick Saballos, whose father never finished high school but made ends meet working as a valet parker. These students excelled nonetheless. Saballos has a 4.47 GPA and is passionate about astrophysics. Horgome is a top student and is thinking of joining the military. And Kiana, with a particular love for math, is applying to the University of California. Ms. Gee sees the worth in each of her student's experiences. “I didn’t have that much confidence," said Saballo. "Hearing from Ms. McGee that I can, I’m going to try.”

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