Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - June 11, 2010

Miles Mathews

Listening, hearing and finding respect

"Talk to me" was the message on the hundreds of T-shirts hand-stenciled by Gunn senior Miles Mathews and his longtime friend and classmate Sam Zeif in the wake of the third student suicide last September.

"We've always been designing T-shirts, the two of us," Mathews said at the time, explaining that the project to promote peer communication was their way of trying to come to terms with overwhelming tragedy.

Looking back, Mathews said the response to the suicides — "obviously a difficult time for everyone" — turned Gunn into "a much more compassionate and inclusive community, and I think that will continue."

Mathews, a soccer player and senior class president, will travel with friends in Europe this summer and do some camping with his family before heading to the University of California at Berkeley in the fall.

He hopes to keep a hand in graphic design and arts while likely majoring in economics.

"Economics is kind of the base of all the world's issues and problems," he said. "I really like to look at coming up with creative solutions, looking at familiar objects or problems in a creative way."

Mathews said he agrees with the observation that "every generation thinks they're the pivotal generation.

"My generation of students is ready to deal with the problems of the world because we have to. We really need to work hard, accept where we're at in the world right now and work with it."

What he won't miss about high school are "required classes" and — ironically — the tendency of Advanced Placement classes to cover so much that "it forces you not to dive deep but just to memorize facts." (In his senior year alone, Mathews took AP classes in economics, psychology, physics and calculus.)

What he will miss about Gunn is the "passion" of the place, where "people will listen to you if you have something to say.

"I feel the same way about Palo Alto as a whole," he said.

"I couldn't ask for a better place to grow up, to be heard and respected."

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