Occasionally, I’ll wistfully wonder why my parents uprooted our family from my hometown of San Francisco to, of all places, Palo Alto. I did not understand why they insisted I attend Gunn, as opposed to attending Monta Vista or Cu- pertino High School. Both boast high academic standards, diverse and high-ranked extracurricular programs, success-focused environments—and most importantly, little stigma of stress and suicide.\
Yet with my senior year in sight, I find I’m only glad to be a Titan.
Firstly, no one can deny that Palo Alto’s wealth and Gunn’s prestige provide its students with unique opportunities. The general affluence of the area, founded on a technological industry built by our parents’ hard work, undeniably benefits us stu- dents. The average American high school student is not able to spend thousands on trips for youth community service or Model United Nations; our extensive college tours are luxuries to all but the wealthy young adults who currently attend our dream universities—soon to be visiting alumni, successful because of their incredible work ethics. As a Titan, I’ve had experiences most San Franciscan teenagers could never have afforded or been exposed to.
But even by simply attending school, funded by the taxes of townspeople who greatly value education, we receive a singular academic head start. And the taxpayers’ money is far from wasted. For example, Gunn leaves its students with more knowledge and interest in national politics or big-picture social issues than the average high school student possesses—though we may not know it until we step out of our oft-called Palo Alto “bubble.” Additionally, we students reap the rewards of the infamously competi- tive Gunn atmosphere. Titans are consistently motivated and consistently successful, carrying the get-ahead attitude into our ambitious professional lives.
Yet many ask if that competitiveness is truly an advantage of attending Gunn. Many dread the deadly stress that supposedly haunts our school.
Encountering tragedy, especially suicide, is inevitable in life; according to the Center for Disease Control, an American dies by suicide every 12.8 minutes. At Gunn, the grief simply hit us early. We Titans leave undeniably changed.
This year, many of us were exposed to emotions our parents may have yet to experience. We watched how shock and grief affected our friends and close adults. We had difficult conversations with unfamiliar counselors and harried administrators. We wrote letters, conducted surveys and spoke at school board meetings. Most importantly, we learned how to take care of ourselves during a terrible time in our lives—and how to emerge, stronger, on the other side.
Individuals rarely finish high school the same person they were when they entered. I believe that Gunn has directed my course in as positive a way that it could. I will forever have not only competitive ambitions and a drive to achieve my own goals but also the wisdom to reconsider my priorities in the pursuit of my immaterial happiness. If anything, Gunn has helped me grow up—through trial and error, I have matured to the benefit of those around me now, my friends to come and my future self.