As a student here at Palo Alto High School, I occasionally get bored. If this occurs when I am in a public place, surrounded by my peers, I like to play a little game called “Find the Ivy.” This game is quite simple to learn, and a pleasure to play. All a participant must do is attempt to find a student wearing an article of clothing from every single Ivy league institution. On two separate occasions, I have been successful in my quest.
To me, this epitomizes the problem we have at Palo Alto High School and in the Palo Alto Unified School District in general. Students cannot escape the inevitable success of their peers, and are essentially unable to avoid the “Ivy, Stanford or Bust” mentality that is so prominent in our community.
Since a remarkably young age, Palo Alto kids know the good schools from the bad schools. Countless times as an elementary schooler, I would ask my mom “Is that a good school?” Her answers were never forgotten, and I was already beginning to form my schema for what it meant to be successful.
Fast forward to middle school, and the college apparel started to make an appearance. Hand-me-downs from older siblings, parents’ old clothing,and Stanford shirts purchased from a gift shop become a part of the fashion culture. Granted, at this age, Princeton and Harvard were little more than names of faraway places that I rooted against in sports. However, there is no denying that the Crimson sweatshirts took a toll on my unconscious mind.
This continued into high school, and as the classes got harder, the idea of where I would be in four years started to weigh on my mind. Then came the SAT, the ACT, Subject Tests, Advanced Placement Tests, tutoring and college essays. The common app website became the most visited page on my computer. I woke up with ideas for supplemental essays bouncing off the inside of my head. I was so sick of the college process that I ran away from strangers in order to avoid the dreaded question of “Where are you thinking of going to college?”
Finally, the month of May has arrived. Also of significance is the fact almost all Paly students have made their college decision. We are all relatively sure of our paths over the next four years, whether it be a four-year institution, a community college, a gap year or entering the labor force.
All of these paths are equally valid, and each option has occurred because of a very specific set of circumstances in that individual’s life that has led them to this point.
What we do with our next four years is personal. Obviously, many people feel the need to share that information with as many people as possible. What I ask, as a Paly student who is no less proud of what I’ve accomplished that any other student here, is that we make graduation a celebration of the last four years. Not a boast of where we will be for the next four. Let’s appreciate the time we had together as the Class of 2015, not eagerly display our future plans.