Barbara Bass Bakar, former Chief Executive Officer for several major retail firms, founded the achieve program in 1997. Believing that education is the great equalizer in society and that low-income and minority youth were not being adequately served by the public school system, Mrs. Bakar began the program with four boys at Archbishop Riordan High School in San Francisco, and in 1999 added a girls’ program at Holy Names High School in Oakland. In 2006 achieve began a girls’ program at Mercy High School in San Francisco, which transitioned to Mercy Burlingame in 2020. In 2015, a program was added at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda.
When the program began, Mrs. Bakar initially chose to remain anonymous. However, in the second year she realized that simply providing scholarship money was not producing success. She decided to get personally involved— very involved. She visited students’ homes so that she could better understand their lives outside of school, and met individually with students to learn about their hopes and dreams for the future. She, in essence, became a “second mom” to all of the achieve scholars.
Mrs. Bakar is constantly striving to expand and improve the program. After asking the first achieve graduates what additional services would have improved their academic success, she took their advice and added an after school program. Upon realizing that some achieve graduates were not staying in college or taking too long to graduate, an intensive college counseling component was added to the program. According to Mrs. Bakar, the program continues to be “a work in progress” and she is committed to continue making any changes needed to maximize the success of every student in the program.
After graduation, students remain part of the achieve Program and are invited to attend the annual alumni event. Mrs. Bakar continues to advise and support alumni through letters, e-mails and phone calls.
This program has helped me not only create and achieve goals I would not have fathomed possible for myself, it has also shown me that the limits to my success are as boundless as I desire them to be.
Sofia Ortega-Guerrero '18 - Yale University '22
I came into achieve as a young teenager with dreams. I am leaving achieve as a teenager who knows how to make those dreams a reality.
John Bermudez '16 - Colgate '20
Thanks to the achieve Program, I have been exposed to a myriad of opportunities I would not have had access to anywhere else. My internships at the Exploratorium, UCSF Medical Center, and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital of Oakland Research Institute have been absolutely pivotal in my life.
Natasha Alvarado '18 - University of Chicago '22
The guidance and mentorship of the achieve Program has shaped me into the man I am today — confident in my abilities and ready to tackle the next step in my journey after high school.
Louie Mezie '19 - Lawrence University '23
achieve has shown me that I can be more and I can help other people in my family and community be more, too… achieve has changed my life and I will use the tools given to me to become a driving force in success, change and empowerment.
Brittany DeWeaver '16 - Carleton College '20
Without achieve, Middlebury College would have not been a possibility because I would not have had the knowledge of the college process. Not only did achieve give me the resources to apply to college, but also helped me understand what types of colleges fit me.
Nestor Orozco-Llamas '19 - Middlebury College '23
When I was accepted into the program, my 14-year-old self was not aware of the gifts that would be given to me by achieve in the next four years: knowledge, personal growth, life-changing events, support, and love.
Samantha Alvarado '19 - Southwestern University '23
achieve has taught me that giving back and helping others is something you should do all of your life. It gives you a feeling of happiness when you see others smile and hearing that your actions have benefited the people in your community.
Gaby Nunez '17 - Lawrence University '21
The greatest impact the achieve Program has had on my life is that it has helped me step out of my comfort zone and try new and challenging things that I never thought I would be able to do.
Melissa Cervantes '17 - St. Olaf College '21