I am a 1956 graduate of San Jacinto High School in Houston, Texas. The school no longer exists; it is now part of the campus of Houston Community College. When I attended San Jac, it was a thriving community of about 1500 students. Most of the teachers were old-timers. There were many clubs for after-school activities and many sports teams. We were known as the Golden Bears. As a senior, I was editor of the yearbook, the El Oroso. When my older sister went to San Jac, she was a “Golden Gaucho,” which was a girls’ marching group. The school was racially segregated, but it had a program for students with disabilities, which was unusual at the time. After the Brown decision was announced, I went to see our principal, Mr. Brandenburger, to ask why our school had not integrated. He told me that if we did that, all the black principals would lose their jobs. He did not mention that we had a very rightwing school board who opposed desegregation. I have many fond memories of San Jacinto. I am on the mailing list for alumni and saw this story by a woman who graduated 12 years after me. I was so moved by her story that I asked her for permission to put it on the blog. There is a message here about public education and its potential to change lives.

What San Jac Means To Me

By Annette Mazur Zinn, ‘68


I know I sometimes sound a little too passionate about San Jac, but there’s a reason for it. My circuitous path to where I now find myself gave me an appreciation for education, my classmates, teachers and others that I am forever grateful for.

As the eldest of 7 siblings, I grew up with a tremendous amount of responsibility. During the day, I was a surrogate Mom and, at night, I made money by cleaning offices and scrubbing bathrooms. My family was homeless most of the time, so attending school was not a priority. But I always wanted to go. I missed a lot of school starting in elementary school. My homeroom teacher at George Washington Junior High told me, “Education is the key to freedom.” At the time I had no clue what that meant, but I never forgot her words.   

Somehow, I finished junior high and made it to Reagan High School. I attended when I could, but I was truant much of the time. I remember hiding from the truant officers because I knew that if I was caught, someone would go to jail. I suspected it would be me! 

The Reagan years were especially hard because of my difficult home life and the stress and embarrassment that resulted. I had impetigo infections on my arms and legs, hair lice, dirty clothes that didn’t fit, and cockroaches sometimes crawled out of my school bag. I finally decided that I couldn’t stay at Reagan. I was too ashamed and embarrassed. Someone told me about San Jacinto High School. 

Somehow, I managed to transfer, even though I didn’t know where the school was or how I would get there. It seemed like a world away. I got on the bus. When I began at San Jac, I didn’t know anyone. I was overwhelmed and afraid I would not last. During one of my truancy periods my counselor said, “If it’s true what you said about your home life, and you don’t move out, you’ll NEVER graduate!” 

Fortunately, a friend offered me a place to stay. I continued working to support my family, but I began doing whatever I could to graduate. No one in my family understood why I needed to finish school. 

Fortunately, for me, the San Jac students were more forgiving than those at Reagan. I kept doing childcare/housework and going to school when I could. I cleaned offices at night and lived with the constant threat that I would not have enough hours to graduate. At the same time, I wanted to be “normal”. I tried to make up for lost experiences and joined as many groups as I could – drama, speech, choir, and library club. Tim Zinn, a San Jac student, helped me tremendously with moral support, bus fare, and even lent me his yearbook so I could collect autographs. I graduated!

In the years that followed I married Tim and graduated from The University of Houston. In 1978, Tim and I separated and I became a single mom. Our daughter, Tara Zinn, was 7 at the time. I knew I had to set the right example for being independent and self-sufficient. Ultimately, I applied to graduate school at The University of Texas School of Public Health (UTSPH). Afterwards, I became an epidemiologist and then took a regulatory position at Intermedics, Inc. where I was responsible for obtaining approvals for cardiac pacemakers worldwide. 

I applied to law school and graduated from South Texas College of Law in 1992. I practiced law for a few years – including business, intellectual property, immigration, personal injury, family, and criminal cases – and even had a murder case! Ultimately, I went back to medical devices at Cyberonics, Inc., where I was responsible for obtaining approvals for neurostimulators worldwide and handling legal matters. I also taught FDA-law for three years at University of Houston and started my Ph. D in health law/policy at UTSPH. In 2008, I began a career as a regulatory adviser for medical product start-up companies and finished my Ph.D. I also began volunteering in educational institutions and mentoring students, including my daughter, who just graduated from South Texas College of Law!

So, to my San Jac family, I owe so much — because of San Jac — I’ve had a rich life of learning and opportunity. I will be passionately and forever grateful!