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Community Voices with Parth Shah: High school’s four-year journey is a great big blank canvas to paint on

Published in the May 25 – June 7, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Parth Shah

Parth Shah

Parth Shah

A couple of weeks ago, Sobrato High School seniors received letters they wrote to themselves in their freshman year. I was one of the unfortunate few whose letter somehow got lost along the four-year journey. So as some people were laughing and crying at their letters, I thought: “What would the freshman year me say to senior me now?” Would he tell me, “Have fun! Meet new people! These might be the best four years of your life!”? Or, I wondered, would he say: “Study hard. Try and get into a good college. You are here to work hard and play hard.”

As the different messages raced into my mind, a larger, eternal thought emerged — life can’t be predicted and followed through pre-existing mindsets. Rather, life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint you can on it.

My freshman year, I began to take the first stroke onto the high school canvas. My first class was World Geography. The teacher, Mr. Bernstein, stood outside the classroom holding index cards with numbers corresponding to the seats we would be sitting in. I was ecstatic that we didn’t get to choose our seats because at that point, I had no friends. As the day went on, I didn’t meet many people, and all I could look forward to was water polo practice. Water polo was the greatest thing I did in high school because it allowed me to meet some of the best people with one of the best coaches. As the year treaded along, I naturally met people, but I was still lost. I missed San Jose and I missed my friends from middle school. The first stroke was merely a scratch into nothingness.

During my sophomore year, I truly began to develop the painting. I joined the Associated Student Body and met my best friends, Annalicia Anaya, Tia Weiss and Arthur Rodriguez, through waking up an hour early to attend zero period leadership. Student council built my confidence to interact with others, and it was through these interactions where people began to seek my help in math. I was always decent at math in elementary and middle school, but I never thought I could expand my knowledge into a tutoring business. At first, I only tutored my friends, but then this became friends of friends and then friends of friends of friends. Tutoring is where my keen liking for mathematics turned into a passion, and it was this passion that truly began to transform the painting.

Like most people, during junior year I had painter’s block. I was stuck. The AP classes were hell. Between tutoring, school and water polo, sleep became my best friend. I remember one day where I barely got any sleep the night before and I just took a calculus test the period before. We had presentations in AP Spanish that day, and of course my name was the first one “randomly” called. I cried, not loudly, but rather a couple of soft, painful tears. Those junior year tears shifted the mood of the painting, but nevertheless gave it meaning.

My senior year was the time to put the finishing touches on the masterpiece. Apply to college. Pray you get in somewhere. Try to put a smile on your face even though you’re stressed. I was fortunate to hear back from colleges early. On Feb. 12 I read the magical words: “Congratulations! I am delighted to offer you admission to the University of California, Berkeley.”

I am extremely happy to be attending U.C. Berkeley in the fall studying electrical engineering and computer science. I was able to see the same happiness on many of my friends as they began to hear from colleges as well.

As high school graduation nears, we begin to let the painting dry, and look in awe at the masterpiece of memories that we have created. High school transformed people for the adult world. It is now time for us to bring about the changes that we want to see in the world. So as I walk across the graduation stage, I can’t help but think what my next masterpiece will be.

Parth Shah is a senior at Sobrato High School. He wrote this column for Morgan Hill Life.