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RISE Together hosts speaker to address college pressure

Alex Isayama
Career development expert Ana Homayoun speaks at Erasing the Finish Line. “I worry about the pressure kids are feeling to conform to a very narrow definition of success,” Hartung said.

Rise Together Education, a non-profit organization that provides support and financial resources to low-income Palo Alto High School students, hosted The Education’s Fall Event: Erasing the Finish Line featuring author and early career development expert Ana Homayoun and Escondido Principal Leslie Crane on Dec. 6 at the Haymarket Theater.

At the event, Homayoun talked about her new book, “Erasing the Finish Line,” which focuses on explaining learning strategies necessary for ensuring the long-term success of students beyond college.

Homayoun said students who feel pressured to focus on college admissions may overlook the importance of nurturing their intellectual curiosity, a key aspect of early education.

“So much of this hyper-competition and these checkboxes you feel like you’re supposed to do, (cause students) to lose sight of the exploration of figuring out what (is) interesting (to you),” Homayoun said. “Middle school and high school are the key times for exploration.”

Crane talked about the key elements for a successful future: academic success, involvement with school activities and a vibrant social life.

“If you can do all three of those things and keep that balance, you’re going to have a highly successful high school experience,” Crane said.

Parent Julia Hartung who attended the event said she went the event because she is concerned about the expectations and stress society puts on young people.

“I worry about the pressure kids are feeling to conform to a very narrow definition of success,” Hartung said.

Hartung also said she hopes to read Homayoun’s book to learn about the importance of parenting in maximizing a student’s education.

“(Homayoun) was just a breath of fresh air, and I’m excited to read her book and learn more about how to talk to my kids so that it’s not always about the end result, but it’s about their stuff along the way that makes it inherently valuable no matter what the outcome is,” Hartung said.

Homayoun said she wrote the book to help adults better support young people in communities such as Palo Alto that are often characterized as having a pressure-cooker mentality and can be academically intense.

“(College) shouldn’t be for the wealthy, ” Homayoun said. It is key for economic mobility and workforce development. It’s my life’s work to be able to get this to all kids.”

$3,910 of sales and donations from this event went to the Rise Together Education College Scholarship Fund aimed at supporting graduating students from low-income families at Palo Alto High School.

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Alex Isayama
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