Zoe, High School Student, CA
Zoe is a student at Palo Alto High School (Paly). She was interviewed by a peer and one of our student Catalysts--Michaela--for the RE-ENVISIONED collective visioning project at Paly in Spring 2017. Check out other #SchoolSpotlight interviews for Paly by searching #PeopleofPaly in our search bar.
"I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up, but I would like to make a difference in people’s life and be remembered and make a change."
What are your hopes for your life? What would make a “good” successful life?
Well, I think finishing high school and going to a good college. I would really like to explore the world and live in a bunch of new places everywhere. I would like to get married, have a family, have kids. I would like to, career wise, I don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up, but I would like to make a difference in people’s life and be remembered and make a change. Connecting with people would be really cool and getting to meet a lot of different people, and getting to improve the lives of everyone. I think that you need to be surrounded by people who encourage you and help you and make you happy and I think you need to be in an environment that makes you happy like wherever you are. You have to have your own mindset of trying to achieve happiness.
Is there anything you worry about getting in the way of achieving a good life? Anything that keeps you up at night?
Well this is kind of small, but I worry about not getting good grades, and then not getting into a good college. Just focusing on my day to day life, and I feel like in your day to day life [if you are successful] you are successful in the long term. Social relationships with my friends and with my parents [cause stress]. Also for personal satisfaction I just want to have As, that brings my happiness, and part of the reason it brings me happiness is because I know I am setting myself up for a good future and a lot of possibilities.
Ideally, what role do you think schooling, high school or specifically PALY, should play in achieving that ideal good life?
One of the reasons that I decided to leave Casti (private school) and come here is because I think that Paly is almost a mini real world, there are so many people and so many different things that you kind of have to navigate your way and learn who you are and learn who you are and who you want to be friends with, what classes you want to take and how you want to behave in your classes, how you learn. It teaches you about yourself. You have to figure out what your role is, and what role you want to play. At Casti, it was a lot smaller and you’re kind of forced into one direction. There weren’t as many possibilities. If you weren’t getting good grades, they would talk to your parents, and here you have to be self motivated and kind of have to fend for yourself.
Do you think school, or more specifically PALY, plays the role it should for you?
I think so. I think one thing is that grades are really stressful and it kind of takes away from things. I think it would be better, if you had more hours in the day to explore extracurriculars and stuff, while kind of right now I only have like 2 hrs a day not doing homework. A little less stressful [would be better].
Do you think people (your friends, parents, teachers) agree with you on each of those levels?
I think my parents don’t care about the grades as much as I do they think as long as I’m happy. They are like, "there are a million colleges: if you don’t get straight A's, its ok. It’s not the end of the world". But I feel some of my friends are more competitive than I am and that kind of makes me more competitive because I feel like I have to compete with them. I am kind of getting involved with that and I feel my teachers are in the middle, they go either way. They don’t encourage you to be super stressed but they also give you a lot of homework.
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 guess that switching to a new school and switching grades and teachers every year, it teaches you how to be flexible and how to adapt to new situations. In the world you have to be prepared to switch everything, like where you live, going from college to the real world and you have to be prepared to switch a lot of things. [So I think switching from Casti to Paly] helped me work on that. I think one thing that I’ve learned is that I get sucked into everything, like drama and grades, and stuff. But I think if you zoom out a little bit, you see that these minor things are not going to affect your whole life. My friends right now are not going to be the same friends in 2 years. All the things that seem so major are not really that big in the scheme of things.
Tell me about your favorite teacher? Why are they your favorite?
I think one thing is that they not just work on academics, it's also talking to you about how you're’ doing and learning about things outside the classroom, and talking about how things are going. Enthusiasm is probably one of the biggest things and if you are passionate about what your work is and if you care about your students, I think that really shows through. And then the students feel excited to be in your classroom too.
Is there anything else related to your school experience you would like to share?
I think [education in America] could be a lot more equal. It's a little bit unfair. I mean for me it's a given that I’m going to go to college and I’m going to be able to afford it. But, I think for a lot of people they are not in that mindset and they are not expecting to go to college. They are not as motivated because that's not a thing they are used to.
I think it's unfair that some people have more motivation, they are given a situation where it is important to do your homework, where homework is a priority, and my parents care about that, where other people, that’s not a value in their community. They are set up from the start to not do as well. I feel like lower income places should work on valuing good grades, and how they are important.