Gunn graduates told it’s OK to buck the status quo

Seniors throw their caps into the air at the Gunn High School graduation in 2019. Post photo by Emily Mibach.

Daily Post Staff Writer

It’s no secret that students at Gunn High School are in a four-year competition to get into the best college — however, the speakers at last night’s (May 31) graduation reminded the 472 grads that it is OK to take a different path.

“There is a stigma that if you don’t go straight to a four-year school you’re doomed,” said student speaker Cleo Goodwin. “But to those going to a junior college, or taking a gap year, job well done.”

“You are just as qualified as the next person, and there is nothing wrong with breaking the social norms of Palo Alto to go down your own path, you are not less than the rest,” Goodwin said before wishing luck to those going to a four-year college, saying she hopes the schools are not as scary.

Goodwin also congratulated the seven African American students (herself included) and the 25 or so Latino students graduating in the class, pointing out that minority students have the highest high school drop out rates.

However, it wouldn’t be a Silicon Valley graduation without some sort of technology mention — for Gunn’s graduation last night, it came after the celebratory cap toss, one graduation cap stayed in the air — someone had attached a drone to their cap.
Both principal and a guest speaker, NBC Bay Area anchor Janelle Wang, reminded students it’s alright to not go straight into school, or start off in college knowing exactly what they want to do.

Gunn High School graduates walk to the stage to receive their diplomas. Post photo by Emily Mibach.
Gunn High School graduates walk to the stage to receive their diplomas. Post photo by Emily Mibach.

Both Gunn graduates, Wang and Laurence said they changed their majors three times in college, and as Laurence put it, “embrace the crooked path, that’s what makes life interesting.”

Back where she started

“As a 17-year-old Gunn senior, I never in a million years would have thought I’d be back here as a principal,” Laurence said. “My road here has taken many twists and turns, each of us follows our own path and it does not have to be a straight line, we get to choose.”

“Big dreams don’t come easy, but they do come true,” Wang said. “Take time to explore, find what you’re passionate about and go for it.”

Continuing the theme of going against the status quo, student Vishu Sikka shared his story of having a disability where doctors told his parents it was unlikely he would be able to participate in sports, graduate from high school or go to college.

“(They said) his disability would limit his ability to learn anything but what they did not take into account was this boy’s desire to learn and ability to persevere,” Sikka said.

Sikka now speaks three languages, can swim and will be going to college.

Planning the next step

Taking the crooked path seemed like appropriate advice for some of the graduating seniors, who are still trying to figure out exactly what they want to study, or do, after college.

Janet Wang, who is going to UC-Santa Barbara, said she’s still trying to figure out what exactly her major will be, likely within the social sciences. Wang was on the Gunn newspaper for all four years, and said many of her highlights came from participating in production nights as a way to really connect with her peers.

While Kaelyn McFarlane-Connelly knows that she will be studying chemistry at the University of Rochester.