Students should celebrate Gunn culture

Within seconds of typing “Gunn High School” into Google Search, you’re bound to come across at least one of the following words: “competitive,” “top public school” or “stress.” A couple scrolls further and you’ll likely be bombarded with Gunn’s beyond-average test score statistics, Advanced Placement (AP) enrollment and college admission rates. Based on this alone, Gunn can easily be perceived as a cutthroat breeding ground for overachievers, so it would make sense why many students feel pressured to excel.

What the internet often doesn’t take into account, however, is the complex social and emotional experience on campus that lies beneath the surface-level statistics of academic performance. Moreover, a large majority of the testimonials and news coverage are outdated and, as such, do not reflect Gunn’s reforms in recent years to better support its students. Thus, Gunn students should not feel ashamed of their school’s academically rigorous reputation; rather, they should embrace being part of such a distinguished school.

Contrary to popular belief, school is not just a place for students to focus on academics. Gunn hosts a variety of events throughout the year in which students and staff alike lay aside academics and create lasting memories. The most notable is Homecoming Week, where the high participation rate among all grade levels creates an exciting week of friendly competition and fervent school spirit. Other events to look forward to include weekly sports games, the Turkey Feast in November, Matchomatics in February, a school-wide Elimination game in March and Global Cultures Week in April. These events not only allow students to enjoy their time at school but also to promote tight bonds within the community, as students get to meet new people and work together to win competitions.

Besides school events, Gunn provides students with numerous opportunities to enjoy themselves by pursuing their genuine interests. With over 100 clubs on campus, frequent local job and volunteer openings and various extracurricular programs, students can discover their passions and meet other students who share similar ones. Because of Gunn’s location in Silicon Valley, students get constant exposure to the world’s technological hub. This can be especially valuable to those interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. Despite the heavy emphasis on STEM in the area, however, Gunn still provides abundant support to students interested in the arts and humanities with funding from Palo Alto Partners in Education and a multitude of Visual and Performing Arts electives. Most recently, a new Media Arts Cohort, an integrated curriculum designed for a group of 24 freshmen, is projected to develop next year and would further encourage students to pursue media arts.

Because of its prestige, Gunn is able to attract students from all walks of life both nationally and internationally. In fact, 69.4% of students enrolled last year were racial minorities, according to the 2021–2022 Gunn High School Profile. As a result, equity and inclusion remain a core focus for both funding and education on campus, as is evident through the Student Equity Committee, Black Culture Club and Social Emotional Learning and Functionality (SELF) curriculum. These programs ensure that all students feel respected by reducing racial stereotypes and encouraging empathy. They also allow studentS to gain new insights from their peers while preparing them to interact with people of varying cultural backgrounds in the increasingly diverse workplace. Other skills that students undoubtedly cultivate as a result of being at Gunn include responsibility, creativity, courage and resilience in the face of challenges—all of which are invaluable in life beyond high school.

In the past, concerns surrounding inadequate student support structures prompted an immediate re-evaluation of Gunn’s academic culture. Thus ensued a significant shift in focus to students’ mental well-being, most notably through the introduction of mental health education, stress-reduction programs and the construction of a Wellness Center in 2016. While an abundance of resources are available to those in crisis, the Wellness Center is also open to anyone who just needs some quiet time or wants to make a new friend. This way, Gunn provides an exceptionally strong support system to all its students, whether they are struggling or not.

Gunn may not be perfect, but it is constantly changing for the better and is a great place for students to grow both emotionally and intellectually. As long as they stay open to learning new things and taking a few risks, some of their best memories are likely to take place on these very school grounds.