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Palo Alto student voices of 2011

Local students express their views on parents, school, friends and feelings

Palo Alto Online compiled quotes from some of the local students who expressed themselves in the pages of the Palo Alto Weekly in 2011. Below they talk about friends, parents, school, activities, life goals and more:

"My parents encouraged me to start doing projects, but mainly they helped me learn that science is a lot about persistence," -- Gunn High School senior Andrew Liu, finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search, of his parents, Jan. 13. Liu's science project used computer data analysis to improve understanding of human organ rejection.

"I will go to college because I don't want my mom to be on her knees scrubbing toilets nor my dad to be drilling sheetrock into an old age." -- Nancy Orocio, Sacred Heart School senior named "Youth of the Year" by the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula, Jan. 17. In a speech to families, friends, mentors and donors to the Boys & Girls Club, Orocio recounted her story of immigration and hardship.

"My dad, my father, left me (outside) crying to myself, with thin clothes on and barefoot. But when someone lets drugs take a hold of them, irresponsiblity is inevitable." -- Antonisha Fuller, Menlo-Atherton High School senior and finalist in "Youth of the Year" competition of the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula, Jan. 17.

"We have a lot of people who joined (the Paly Debate Team) to get over their shyness and it really helps you with that. I don't know a debater now who's scared of getting in front of a classroom and talking about anything." --Palo Alto High School sophomore Esha Datta, member of Paly's award-winning debate team, Jan. 28.

"Teach us to value ourselves outside of academics and outside the high-achieving vision of the Palo Alto community,"-- Palo Alto High School junior Al Brooks speaking to school officials at community forum titled "Stand Up For Our Youth" held at St. Mark's Episcopal Church Feb. 13.

"It is easy to attend Paly and assume that every other student is going to an Ivy League school, but the presence of a Rejection Wall proves that this is not the case. Many seniors feel alienated and alone when rejected from their first-choice schools, but the presence of a Rejection Wall unifies the senior class and shows each student that they are not alone in their frustration." -- editorial in Paly's student newspaper, The Campanile, calling for the return to Paly of a campus space where students can post their college rejections, Feb. 25.

"College was kind of like a blind spot for me before I came here. Now it seems more realistic." -- Palo Alto High School senior Elizabeth Aguilar, who works 20 hours a week at Safeway in addition to holding down her courseload, describing the East Palo Alto tutoring agency Foundation for a College Education, which marked its 15th anniversary March 5.

"Not everyone is smart." "Not all Jewish people are rich." -- suggestions from students at JLS Middle School on stereotypes that need to be "dissolved" or "buried" during Not in Our School Week. The week is observed in March or April on secondary school campuses to help students recognize and refute discrimination.

"It felt really bad when this girl was, like, 'You're actually proud to be Asian?' I felt really bad about myself because I felt she was insulting my entire life, culture and heritage." -- Gunn High School student in an exercise during Not in Our School Week asking students to describe times they've felt stereotyped or excluded.

"We're not there to preach to the kids or give them a lecture. We want to excite them and hopefully give them one or two science concepts along the way."-- Gunn High School senior Derek Nielsen, May 10, president of Gunn's student-run Science Alliance, which sends high school science lovers to put on science demonstrations at elementary schools.

"It's not one of the disabilities everyone knows about," -- Mark Smeets, Jordan Middle School student who, along with his friend Peter Lenicheck, offers classroom presentations on what it's like to go to school with the neurological condition known as Tourette Syndrome, May 20.

"If the (college) admissions offices are looking for the true person inside, but at the same time pushing and creating pressure on us to create this false identity, how is this paradox and hypocrisy affecting the future generations of Americans?" -- a Palo Alto High School student on the radio show "Philosophy Talk," recorded at Paly May 20.

"As we spread out (after graduation), we aren't really going anywhere we haven't been before." -- Palo Alto High School graduating senior Quinn Walker, June 8, in a commencement speech referring to the intellectual journeys taken in Paly's classrooms.

"You won't look back at 90 years old and remember that French test you failed. But you will remember that time you stayed up until 3 a.m. watching 'Love Actually' and eating the best red velvet cupcakes of your life." -- Gunn High School graduating senior Reade Levinson in a commencement speech, June 8.

"Do they want us to read less?" -- son of Ravenswood School District parent Dena Bloomquist, June 27, when told of a budget-reduction plan to lay off the district's library staff and replace them with volunteers. In the end the library positions were saved. The district shaved $3.2 million from its $39 million 2011-12 budget by shortening the school year, increasing class size and shuttering two of its eight campuses.

"It's important to be there for your friends, recognize when they're unhappy and don't shun them. Our society needs to be more welcoming and listening as a whole." -- Gunn High School senior Chloe Blanchard, Aug. 26, on some of the lessons drawn after the 2009 death by suicide of her older brother, Jean Paul Blanchard.

"If you need help, they'll be there for you." -- student Faauuga Saofanua, Sept. 30, speaking of the teachers at the Stanford University-sponsored charter school, East Palo Alto Academy. Saofanua, an East Palo Alto resident and basketball player, boosted his GPA from 1.2 at Carlmont High School to 3.7 after transferring to the academy.

"I think the teachers were very understanding -- and to some extent the students were as well." -- Foothill College student Sara Moussavian, Oct. 21, on how she was treated as a student with disabilities at Barron Park Elementary School, Terman Middle School and Gunn High School.

"We've interviewed students of color and we personally experience it. They drop off from kindergarten and there's just nothing being done to help them. These are some of our best friends that we've grown up with since diapers." -- Palo Alto High School senior and National Merit Semifinalist Tremaine Kirkman, speaking to the Board of Education Oct. 25 about his classmates who are not on track to complete college entrance requirements. Kirkman is a founding member of Paly's Student Equity Action Network.

"Our community, Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, Palo Alto and the rest of the Peninsula, is now contaminated with hatred, death -- the total opposite of formal civilization. Due to this, many of our family members have perished. All due to violence, we have all lost at least one person. This needs to stop." -- Melvin Santos, immigrant from El Salvador and eighth-grader at Belle Haven School in Menlo Park, speaking as a finalist in the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula Youth of the Year contest for middle school students, Nov. 8.

"I will carry the moral obligation of the Tibetan people to Oxford." Stanford senior Tenzin Seldon, who grew up in a Tibetan refugee village filled with monks and prayer flags, upon being named among the five Stanford students and alumni to be 2012 Rhodes Scholars, Nov. 24.

"I want to create something interesting and worthwhile that can benefit the lives of everyone in the world." -- Palo Alto High School junior Jeffrey Ling, Dec. 5, $10,000 winner with Gunn High School junior Helen Jiang in the 2011 Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology.

"It made me feel so much happier when I thought it was actually going to help people a lot more than I expected." -- Gunn High School junior Helen Jiang, Dec. 5, winner with Paly junior Jeffrey Ling in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. Jiang and Ling used data analysis to predict likely cases of severe gastrointestinal disease in premature infants.

"It is important to remember that, with a glass-half-full mentality and participation in fulfilling activities, anyone has the potential to be happy." -- Gunn seniors Amrita Moitra and Jean Wang in a Dec. 12 article in the student newspaper "The Oracle" exploring happiness at Gunn.

Chris Kenrick

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by PAFreePress.com
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 31, 2011 at 3:46 pm

It's amazing not a single civil leader or city council member has posted a comment concerning our youth and the vital role they play in society. What they will, do is put on an ostentatious facade and display with the sole purpose of gaining an election.


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