Jasmine, High School Student, CA

I think school should give students more opportunities to explore their interests.

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


Tell me about yourself! How would your friends describe you? 

The way my friends would describe me is — I like to think I’m socially aware, very much.  I don’t really know what I want to do after school.  This is a rough question because I feel like any time you try to define yourself, there’s going to be bias. That’s why I don’t like those personality tests, because you can never really answer questions about yourself without trying to display the best parts of yourself. So I guess if I was going to go ahead and display the biases, then I like to think that I’m a funny person... :)

Have you and your friends had conversations about what your different personalities are like? What have they said in those conversations?

Really often they tell me that I don’t take things seriously enough, but I think that we talk about a lot of serious topics, and I think that I just try to find the humor in them.  But also, I’m not one of those people who wants to make offensive jokes all the time, or whatever. Not in that way. But yeah, I think that sometimes with really rough topics, I just try and laugh.

And do you think that’s a characteristic of having a good life?

Yeah. Definitely. I— I don’t know. If you can’t laugh, then— it’s my favorite hobby, is laughing.

And how would your family describe you? What is your family like?

My family? My family is weird, but I guess everyone’s family is weird. My sister would not describe me positively, probably. And she doesn't really— it’s so hard to distinguish when she’s actually telling me things and when she’s saying to be hurtful. She thinks I’m weird and my friends are weird, but you know whatever we just have different interests— I think she’s weird. And then, um, my parents think I’m a cool person— they like me, I guess— I don’t know. They like me, I guess. They kind of have to.

And have they ever described you? What have they said?

Well, I don’t know ‘cause they’re parents. It’s always just, like, “Wow, Jasmine! You’re so smart.” They’re, I think, legally required that they tell me I’m smart.


What else do you think makes a good life?

I think what makes a good life is ... this is a tough question! I think generally just being satisfied with your life and what you’ve done and accomplished in the world. It’s different for every person, but, say, if you do work for a nonprofit and you’re happy with the work you’ve done for the nonprofit and the change you’ve made in the world, then you’ve had a good life. And then also, meaningful connections with other people.

You were phrasing things like “You’ve had a good life if you’ve done this” — do you think that having a good life or having a bad life is a thing that’s evaluated at the end of your life?

I was just thinking about this when I was trying to answer. I think that you can be having a good life in the moment but then look back later and say, “I didn’t have a good life.” But I would define having a good life as what you look back on near the end.


How should school support getting a "good life"?

I think school should give students more opportunities to explore their interests, like— I guess they have a lot of art programs. But if you’re really into… I don’t know, I don’t know what I’m thinking of. This school has a lot of stuff for if you want to do journalism, if you want to do art, if you want to do computers, if you want to do sports, but, um, I think they should, maybe for students who want to do nonprofit work, I guess, they should offer more opportunities for that and they should give less homework so students can do more stuff outside of school.


More broadly, do you think there are changes that should be made in terms of school support? Are there changes that should be made?

I think more— they should promote the independent study classes more, because I think they’re very interesting. And the research ones, and— less homework, I guess.


With school being such a large influence on students’ lives, do you think that the people running them have a certain responsibility?

I think that they definitely do. If you’re the principal of a school you’re kind of determining the future for thousands of kids. Or, if you’re a teacher, then the grade you give a student can really affect them later in life. And I do think they have a responsibility, because we’re at such a hard age where we have to decide what we want to do for the rest of our lives, and I think that they should help us find the way.


Do you think people (parents, community, teachers, etc.) agree with you?

I think that they would agree with me that students need to— we need to help students find their way in life. I don’t know if they would necessarily agree with me about more focus on, kind of, extra-curriculars and specific interests because it’s a very academic environment.


And do you think that might be preventing students from getting good lives? Or harming their ability to get good lives?

I’m sure there are some students who aren’t able to do what they want or never— never really found a passion, but I think for the most part, people are able to explore their interests to some point, and then they can pursue that after school.


What do you think is the most important thing you’re learning in school?

I’m in the Social Justice Pathway— I think you are too. A lot of people have talked about how we don't learn much in the Social Justice Pathway academically, but I think the internships are great. I am learning about experience out of school at the HANDA Stanford Center for Human Rights, which is a really interesting place. It’s just a lot of real experience, and I think that’s important. And also, the most important thing I’m learning in school— I guess I’m just learning what I like and don’t like.  I’m taking Environmental Science, and I like that, and we took Humanities, and I really liked that.


You mentioned real experience— what does that look like? What is that teaching you?

It’s just teaching me about the way that the world works in terms of having an internship and going to— and going to— and having deadlines, and doing things without having a grade for it.  The only person I’m disappointing if I fail is myself. You know, they can always get a new intern, or whatever. It’s not like they’re going to give me an F, you know?