New Aim High CEO to Focus on Fighting Systemic Barriers to Education and Northern California's Growing Teacher Shortage
Julia Chih will take on this role as Aim High co-founder retires after 35 years
Aim High announced today it has selected its next chief executive officer, Julia Chih. Alec Lee, Aim High’s co-founder and executive director, is retiring after 35 years of leadership and commitment to Aim High.
Chih has nearly two decades of experience in education, equity and advocacy-focused roles. She is currently serving as Interim CEO at College Track, an equity-focused education nonprofit. During her time with College Track, Chih built the operational infrastructure that grew the organization from $10 million to $40 million, tripling the number of students served and equipping more students with skills to pursue a college degree.
At Aim High, Chih plans to expand Aim High's reach by offering more middle school students free summer learning experiences that propel them through high school to college, while also deepening Aim High’s work with aspiring and professional educators.
"Aim High inspires me with the promise of what is possible when we equip middle school scholars to build academic confidence, discover a love of learning and develop the skills they need to live a life aligned to their passions,” Chih said.
Aim High's multi-year middle school program is the ideal vehicle to help students recover from summer and pandemic learning loss. A recent Stanford study found that Aim High programs reduce chronic absenteeism by 22 percent and suspension by 37 percent for participants. On average, it also improves students’ English language arts scores by six points. The study estimated that if students across California accessed Aim High programs, 12,403 fewer students would be chronically absent, 9,745 fewer students would be suspended and 13,184 6th and 7th graders would meet important benchmarks per year.
As teachers resign and retire in record numbers, Chih is deeply committed to focusing on Aim High’s teacher workforce as well. She wants to serve even more aspiring teachers, ensuring California has a diverse, talented teaching workforce to serve the state’s children well. In her role as CEO, she will build on Aim High’s success—78% of Aim High-trained teachers remain in the teaching field for at least five years.
Chih's experience as a first-generation college graduate fuels her commitment to equity in education. She has dedicated her career to breaking down hurdles standing in the way of college access and has made creating life-changing opportunities for students her life’s work.
“I learned about taking the PSATs by accident when I overheard my friends talking about it, so I signed up, too. Too much is still determined by zip code, by socioeconomic status and by chance. The status quo is unacceptable,” Chih said. “The systemic injustices that stand in the way of equal opportunities for all fuel my fervent discontent, and it is why I have devoted my career to educational equity.”
Chih holds a Master’s in Public Affairs and Urban and Regional Planning from Princeton University and a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Welfare from the University of California at Berkeley.
Her first day as Aim High’s CEO is January 17.