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July 21, 2004

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Learning to love 'The Wall' Learning to love 'The Wall' (July 21, 2004)

After initial horror, former Paly principal now supports the wall as 'really good therapy'

The idea of a "Rejection Wall" horrified Principal Sandra Pearson when she first heard of it in early spring.

"I just had a visceral reaction to the negative aspects of this," she said in a phone interview last week. Pearson has stepped down as principal and will be succeeded by former Gunn Principal Scott Laurence.

"I did a very quick about-face when I realized that students would not be required to put their (college rejection) letters up," she said, adding "there would be no harm and it might help people realize we all have failures and rejections."

She also did some groundwork.

"When they were still in the talking phases, I began meeting with parent groups to explain the concept. Once it was explained I didn't get any negative feedback.

"Then I lost track of when it was going to begin, until one day, walking back from lunch, I saw four students reading something on the bulletin board -- I think it was the first or second day of the wall," she recalled.

She asked the students, one of whom was a senior, what they thought.

One junior was very upset at the letters from UCLA, which rejected huge numbers of students who were qualified, Pearson said.

"Then the conversation shifted to the people who had put their letters up, and how much they admired those who did that. They all thought this was a really good idea. They seemed to feel it was such a positive thing overall, and that, well, if so-and-so got rejected - and we know she's good - it must be OK," Pearson said.

"I left feeling this is really good therapy." Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson can be e-mailed at

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