Oceana High School. How does one begin to characterize their years at this school? How does one even begin to talk about the years where they grew tremendously in every single aspect in their life — as a student, a leader, a friend, and a person? I don’t really know. So like everything else I’ve done in high school, I seeked out thoughts from my classmates.
Some seniors like Ruba Makrai and Elizabeth Kuan characterize their experience at Oceana as a positive one filled with individual growth. Elizabeth says, “I’d say Oceana taught me that if I really want to do something, and the resources are not readily available, I have to go out on my own and pave my own path.” Similar to Elizabeth, Ruba Makrai, another graduating senior, says “Oceana has helped me grow mentally. I have learned that I am someone who works hard and actually enjoys doing so.”
Other seniors like Sally Lu describe their experience with Oceana differently. Despite the friends she’s made, Sally describes her past four years as OK: “I never had any really bad or good experiences. If anything, maybe a bit disappointing … It wasn’t the ideal high school experience. Hell, the lockers didn’t even work half the time.”
Others like Josh Balingit describe it as simply fun. Early on in his interview, he explains, “At first, I was really nervous, I didn’t know anybody and I kinda stayed that way for a long time, but I have to say it’s been a really fun ride, especially towards the end.” When asked to elaborate on what changed, Josh responds with: “The classes .. they’re just taught by the most amazing people.”
And Josh isn’t alone — despite difference in experience, Elizabeth, Ruba, and Sally all attributed much of their success in high school to the support of their teachers. “Ms. Sotomayor [11th grade Humanities Teacher], in particular, was one the first teachers that really tried to understand me. No other teacher had really reached out to me like that … To know someone was in my corner just made me feel so supported.”
Personally, I resonate with a lot of what was highlighted by these seniors. For the first half of high school, I was really timid and shy and overall, really scared — scared to be judged, scared to speak up, scared to be noticed. As a way to confront these fears, I ran for Freshman Class Vice President and lost to a guy who promised the class a football team. It was disheartening experience and I swore off student government forever. That promise lasted a little less than two years.
But for me, that pivotal moment of high school was in the second semester of my sophomore year — the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States. For starters, it authenticated the concepts that I learned in Humanities. Concepts like identity systems, human rights and other power dynamics became so prevalent in my life and in the people’s lives I care about. Suddenly, Oceana wasn’t a place of useless facts but a place of empowerment. I went on to join a local nonprofit organization to address social and economic injustices in Pacifica and through that, was part of a movement that passed an ordinance in Pacifica to cap the number of predatory-financial business that can open in Pacifica. With the guidance of other teachers and peers, I founded a journalism club at Oceana last year with the purpose of empowering other students by giving them a voice in their community. Then eventually, I came to break my promise about student government — I reapplied at the end of Sophomore year and came to join Academic Council, the leading governing body of Oceana High School where I have voiced numerous issues affecting the student body.
It’d be so much easier to leave the reflection at that — on what I achieved. But in doing so, this reflection would fail to demonstrate the painful struggles that went into everything I came to do. In nearly every achievement, self-doubt existed tenfold. But like every senior I interviewed, my teachers have been my key source of support. To have someone so invested in your well-being, to have someone rooting for you provides a sense of security that I’ve never experience anywhere else than with my teachers here at Oceana.
Oceana High School. It’s a place of empowerment, a place where fun and boring things happen, a place where we’ve grown up and came to be the people we are today. It’s a place of support, love, and security. While I can’t speak for all seniors, attending Oceana was the best decision I ever made.