Ethan, High School Student, CA

I think the purpose of schooling is to help kids, like you and I, to figure out our true meaning in life.  Through trying new things, and experiencing new people, you’ll definitely fail, you know?  But you need to just get back up, and keep going.  Just have fun, and enjoy it.

Ethan is a student at Palo Alto High School (Paly). He was interviewed by his peer and one of our student Catalysts--Catey--for the RE-ENVISIONED collective visioning project at Paly in Spring 2017. Check out other #SchoolSpotlight interviews for Paly by searching #PeopleofPaly.


What are your hopes for your life?  What would make a “good” successful life?  

Good question.  What are my hopes for my life?  I don’t know.  To go to college, achieve big things, make money, and help the world.

Nice. So if you did all that would you consider yourself to have had a “good” successful life?

If I did all that I would consider myself to have achieved my goals in life — and get a wife, that’s it.

Would you care more about being successful or happy?

I feel like for me, happiness comes with success.  They’re together, they’re a package.  So I feel like if I succeed I will be happy, because I’ll know I had worked and earned it.  And as long as it is not given to me, I feel like I’ll be happy and successful.

And how would you define success?

I mean I’m 18 right now, and so I don’t really know what success means, but I guess we’ll see.  It’s different for everyone.


Is there anything you worry about getting in the way of achieving a good life?  Anything that keeps you up at night?  

*laughs* So deep!  Well, life’s gonna be up and down so you’ve just gotta take it how it is and just roll with it I guess.  And then, nothing will bring you down too much.


Ideally, what role do you think schooling, high school or specifically PALY, should play in achieving that ideal good life?

I mean, school’s important, but at the end of the day, it’s not everything.  It’s four years out of your 100-year-old life.  It’s kind of irrelevant, to be honest, after, but it’s still a good experience to have.


Do you think school, or more specifically PALY,  plays the role it should for you?

Paly is so different from other high schools.  We’re so blessed to be able to be part of this.  We have a super unique experience that no other kids get.  I think it is really good for us.  We’re very hands-on and work-focused.


Do you think people (your friends, parents, teachers) agree with you on each of those levels?

I feel like parents would say that school is a lot more important than it is, but really, high school is just to get you to college.  Nothing more.  I mean, have fun while you’re at it, but at the end of the day you’re here to get into college, and I think college is a lot more important than high school.

Would you say your friends agree with that?

I think so.

What about your teachers?

I guess.


Do you think your parents/friends/teachers agree with you on what a good life is?

Success and happiness is different for everyone, but I feel like there are a lot of parallels between people.  So, I would say that my peers and family do agree with me.

Do you think they agree with you on the worries of having a good life?

Once again, everyone has their own worries.  You can’t disagree with me, because they are my own worries.


What role should Paly play on the road to college?

Paly’s already doing a pretty good job.  I had a pretty stress-free college application process, partially because I started in the beginning of summer . . .  The summer after junior year, definitely get going on it , get that done and you’ll feel so much better about it.  Honestly, this year has been so much easier than junior year.


How do you think the experience of school shapes your answers to these questions?

Well, if I didn’t go to school I would be very socially awkward and non-talkative.

So if you didn’t go to school and I asked you “What would make you happy in life?” would you say something different?

I think so.  I mean, experiences at school are very important, especially socially.  These are your friends, these are the people you are around every single day, and it has a big effect on you.


What do you think the purpose of schooling is for individuals and society, broadly?

Do you want me to get super deep? (Yes.)  I think the purpose of schooling is to help kids, like you and I, to figure out our true meaning in life.  Through trying new things, and experiencing new people, you’ll definitely fail, you know?  But you need to just get back up, and keep going.  Just have fun, and enjoy it.


What have been some of your most empowering educational experiences? This doesn’t have to be in school - it can be something you have done outside of school.  

I just come to school and work my a** off . . . There’s nothing in particular.  I enjoy all my classes, and I enjoy being here, that’s all I got.  It’s not like I hate coming to school.

Do you have a particular moment that made you feel like you’ve grown?

My peers have helped me grow a lot, for sure.  That’s something that I’m grateful for, here at Paly.  There’s a lot of diversity and a lot of people that you can be friends with.


Is there a specific class you really enjoy? Tell me about your favorite teacher? Why are they your favorite?

My favorite teacher is Miss Avadhani, the science teacher.  She’s my favorite because she plugged me with an ‘A,’ when I totally deserved a ‘B,’ and I very much appreciated that.  It made my GPA pretty solid.


If you had to choose one thing about your high experience to change what would it be and why?  

I’d say, go out and party.  Just kidding . . . It would be, meet as many people as you can.  For me, personally, freshmen and sophomore year, I was with my own group, doing my own thing.  I never experienced a whole lot of people.  In junior and senior year, I really tried to branch out, and that was super fun and exciting.  So definitely do that.


Is there anything else related to your school experience you would like to share?  

Have fun.  It’s gonna end.  Enjoy it.  Make the most out of it.  I’m a senior, I’m ready to get out of here.