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My high school is unique. It breeds a caliber of student that is both intellectually hungry and incredibly compassionate. This is, of course, high praise, yet this atmosphere has challenged me to remarkable ends throughout my four years here. My teachers and classmates have pushed me to do my best in all areas of my life – not simply academics. I owe much of who I am to Henry M. Gunn High School, but I also realize that I, too, have made contributions to life at Gunn.
It’s just before first period: the upper-classmen jockey for parking spots, mothers drop off their younger kids out front, and still more students whip up the paths on bikes, their hair poking through the air slits of their helmets. It’s the morning rush, and I soak in the energy that radiates from all corners of the quad. Every morning, walking from my car to my first class, I prepare myself for the day ahead — the tests I’ll take, the questions I’ll ask, and the discussions I’ll have. There is nothing that I look forward to more.
All my life I’ve felt more mature than my age. Since the age of six, I have helped my mother with my older half-sister, who was paralyzed from the chest down in a childhood accident. At a time when most of my friends were experimenting with mom’s makeup and setting up fantasy weddings, I was helping seat my sister in the car, or reaching for places that required the mobility she lacked. I didn’t complain about this — I loved helping her — but it did accelerate my maturation. Even when she moved out of our house and it wasn’t necessary for me to help on a daily basis, I visited as often as I could. Her disability has challenged her both physically and emotionally, and from an early age I was aware that someone close to me was suffering from profound loneliness and despair. That understanding has probably shaped me more than I know. I realize I can only do so much to alleviate her pain, but I know how much being there for her means. This knowledge has instilled in me a sense that I can always do something for other people, and that the mere fact of my presence can often be enough.
Because of my experiences with my sister and my resulting sense of responsibility, I sometimes wonder whether I have done enough for myself. School has always been the gateway to my own aspirations. It is a place where my teachers are mentors and my fellow students are both teachers and collaborators. At school, I am free to explore many different subject areas, excelling at some while struggling with others. I do not get easily discouraged, as some might when perfection eludes them. I know I will always have another opportunity, as my learning will never end.
As I exit the parking lot, I become a part of the rush of students flowing into the school. It’s a rush of friendly faces, many of which I greet with a quick glance, a smile, or a momentary embrace. Nearing the entrance to my classroom, there is a crush of foreign faces speaking in Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Tagalog…there must be close to 30 different languages spoken on campus. Because of these friends, I have experienced events as diverse as Passover Seders and Bonga dances. This is my school, and I am proud to contribute to its diversity. When I graduate in June and take my final walk to my car, I know I will be ready for the next step into college, into Pitzer. I am eager for new steps, new experiences, and a new place that will empower me to learn, and in turn prepare me for the steps to follow. A place with people who will teach me, but also with people who, like my older sister, need me.
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