Georgia, High School Student, CA

Georgia is a student at Palo Alto High School (Paly). She was interviewed by her peer and one of our student Catalysts--Nadia--for the RE-ENVISIONED collective visioning project at Paly in Spring 2017. Check out other #SchoolSpotlight interviews for Paly by following #PeopleofPaly.

"...just make sure they know that focusing on yourself is more important than pleasing other people, I think that could help a lot with our school."


Okay, then I’d like to start with just asking you, how would you describe yourself? Who are you?

I would describe myself… Physically I would describe myself: short, but not too short, dark brown hair, small eyes… but more internally I would describe myself as a good friend, caring, funny... I don’t know. Guess that’s it.

Do you identify yourself by your activities?

Yeah! I… I like… I think I’m creative, and… like a good team player, I guess, like, being part of a team. I work hard when I am interested in a subject, like, the creative side, and I do work hard in the other subjects, just, probably not as hard. 

You are one of the heads of the makeup crew, right?

Yeah, it’s fun! I like it for the creative and, like, the leadership, and being able to collaborate with other people and stuff.


So now that we’ve established a little bit of who you are, another part of somebody’s identity is oftentimes their goals, their values. So, how would you describe a “good life?”

Happiness, loving and being loved, and… I guess respect? I guess that falls under loving, being loved.

Love would be… not just romantic love, like familial love? Friend love?

Yeah. And, like, loving things you do.

And that’s a two-way street, going from being loved and loving other people or things as well. That’s interesting. Do you think love is what contributes to happiness?

Yeah. Especially, like, loving yourself, and, like, what you do. I think that’s the most important. Also, I think being able to respect other people and having other people respect you


Thanks. So, then how do you think school should support getting a good life?

I think the school supports us in a way that we will go to, like, a college, and we will get a good education, but I don’t think they get it into our minds that education- well, education is important, but… going to Harvard or Stanford is not going to make you have a good life, necessarily. It might make you rich, but it’s not necessarily going to make you have a good life.

So Paly kind of sets up a you, “You WILL succeed, we will make sure you will succeed...”

Yeah, they make you succeed, but they don’t necessarily make you happy.

Yeah, and happiness is what will give you a good life!

Happiness is key!


So then, how do you think school should, if this is what they do, how do you think they should support you having a good life?

I think they should support students… because, sometimes when people go to community college at our school they say that they’re taking a gap year because they’re too ashamed to say that they’re going to community college. And I think if they support them not going to college, 4-year college, or going to school at all, and just make sure they know that focusing on yourself is more important than pleasing other people, I think that could help a lot with our school.

So then schools supporting success...could school, using support of success, could it get to supporting happiness?

"I mean, probably, but our society in the city that we live in is so focused around keeping the reputation up that we have really good students, really good high scores, all the students go to really well-known universities… I think it adds more pressure than it adds, like, knowing that you’re going to be successful makes you happy. And the pressure is not very good."


Yeah. But at the end of the day, do you think school is- Paly in particular- is capable of helping you or other people achieve a good life?

Capable, probably. But I think if they were to change it, it wouldn’t happen in anytime soon.


Okay. On a more positive note, what’s the most important thing you think you’re learning at school?

I think in high school you start to figure out what you want to do, and who you are, and I think that’s important to find out. Like, your friends, find out who’s actually your friend… and find out what you like, like, classes-wise.

Do you have any powerful relationships now with people at school, people in your life there? Have they taught you things?

Yeah. I have a group of friends that I’ve learned a lot from.


That’s great. That’s a great thing to have. Who’s your favorite teacher at Paly?

KWoods. I really like KWoods. She has the respect, mutual respect between her and her students.

She really makes the class feel like a family.

And it feels like, it’s a good place to hang out; I always find myself there after school, even when I don’t have anything to do. And I also like Ms. Kerby, she’s the spectrum teacher. I’ve only joined this year, but she’s very nice. I don’t know.


So maybe not at school, but in your life, can you think of any time that you learned something and you felt really, really good about it afterwards, like you felt super empowered?

Probably, like, the outcome of the women’s marches. Because I only thought it was going to be, like, San Francisco, and DC. But it was all over the world. I think that was very powerful to know that there’s so many people backing us up against this… new President of ours. 

Yeah. How about when you were younger? Before all this… political madness started? Did you learn anything that you were really… you were really impressed with yourself afterwards?

I don’t know if ‘impressed,’ but… My mom was telling me a story about when I was younger, and I would always have female doctors. And then once I got a male doctor, and I asked my mom, like, “boys can be doctors?” And I thought that was really cool because it was, like, completely different from what people would normally think. Like, “Oh, females can be doctors?” But it was the opposite, and I thought that was really cool, that I was raised to know that, like, women can be anything a man can be.

Yeah, that’s a fun story!


Okay, so we talked about getting a good life and how school might be capable of helping you achieve that happiness, love, and respect, but maybe not anytime soon. Do you feel like other people think the same that you do? Like, would other students agree?

I think there are some students, but there’s definitely always going to be people who disagree. But I think there’s a lot of people at school… do believe that there’s, like, a lot of pressure to be the best, and I think… yeah.

I think parents are the ones that contribute the most to the stress and the pressure, because obviously if they moved to Palo Alto for the schools, then they expect a lot from their kids and stuff.I think there’s some teachers who believe that your happiness is more important than what your grade is. But there are some teachers who only rely on your grade.

The district thinks that a good life would be successful. So they’re going for what will make you most successful. And like, the whole GPA thing that happened, they were only doing it because a parent brought it up, that would help their own kid. And I think they caved towards the parent because then they could get voted again.

How about people who aren’t even connected to Paly? Like, people whose kids have outgrown school, or just never had kids, or...

I think outside of Paly they would agree with me more, because it’s looking inward, versus, like, being a part of the community and stuff, so.

Yeah, they have more of a view of the reputation instead of being in the thick of it, kind of feel.