As my eighth semester at Paly and fifth semester on The Campanile comes to an end, I can’t help but reminisce. Many of us critique aspects of our school that could be changed to improve the student experience but I think the biggest attribute to a positive experience at Paly is one’s attitude and approach to school here.
Paly is difficult. There is a societal pressure to succeed. High school did not “fly by,” as some graduates and seniors may say. I’ve had my fair share of late nights in the Media Arts Center (MAC) and Saturdays at Rinconada Library, but it is because of Paly that I have learned to become a more proactive and resourceful person; I’m grateful for my experience on this campus.
To keep things in perspective, Paly is the fourth best public high school of the 1,774 high schools in California, according to Niche. It is also in the top 50 best college prep public high schools in America out of about 16,300 schools. While we should continually fight to be at the forefront of student resource accessibility and campus improvements, students should also realize that Paly is already privileged.
Academic support is here if you ask for it. It took me three years to understand that. As an underclassmen, I thought that everyone needed to struggle through high school independently. Reflecting on my previous understanding, I now know that Paly is challenging for all and there are people eager to help.
For example, at the beginning of senior year, I was struggling in my math class. When I asked for clarification and help, my math teacher, Scott Friedland, offered to meet with me every week before class to go over any questions I had. He took time out of his own schedule to make sure I understood the material, and as a result, his class is one of my favorites.
Whether it be a history teacher who stayed two hours after school just to chat with me about equity in education, or a guidance counselor who made time to meet me in the first week of school, every staff member has made an impact on my experience at Paly.
For students who aren’t comfortable asking adults for help, Paly runs an organized peer tutoring system in the Academic Resource Center (ARC). This year, I asked for a tutor and within 24 hours was matched with another student.
I get texts two hours prior to every scheduled meeting from the ARC, and my tutor gets community service hours or extra credit in a class of their choosing. It’s a win-win situation that is mutually beneficial but underutilized by students.
Also, the math department specifically hosts after-school math help where a math teacher keeps a room open and answers students’ questions for an hour after school every Monday through Thursday.
Then, when it came time for the college process, I was nervous I would not be able to meet with my College and Career Center (CCC) counselor as frequently as I wanted to due to the number of students each counselor is assigned. But Sandra Cernobori, my college counselor, single-handedly helped me brainstorm, edit and polish at least 20 essays for various colleges.
During Oct., Nov. and Dec., I met with her at least once a week. Without Cernobori, I am not sure I would have completed the applications on time or applied to some of the schools I did, as I felt emotionally supported by her, too. Cernobori, my teacher advisor Adam Yonkers and the ASB student activities director, Matt Hall, all met with me on their own time after school to help me practice for college interviews.
The CCC also compiles a list of scholarships for students, keeps statistics about how welcoming universities are of Paly students and rents out SAT, ACT, subject test and AP practice booklets.
The issue is not that Paly lacks resources or opportunities, rather that students are not being proactive and tackling their challenges head-on by asking for help. Rather than dishing out A’s and hand-holding students through their high school career, a Paly education teaches students grit, resourcefulness and independence. Be vulnerable; let go of your ego and ask for help.
These challenges may be magnified in the midst of finals and AP season, but it’s important to take into perspective how lucky we are. At any time in the day, we can go out onto the quad and join a game of spikeball. Every Friday, we have music on the Quad and it’s sunny almost year-round.
As much as it may feel like it, high school is not forever. You won’t get to say “Sko Vikes” or grab brunch from Town and Country, or get access to state-of-the-art facilities for sports and arts forever. No institution is perfect, but with the right attitude, Paly gets pretty close.