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Opinion

Commentary: Public education gave me skills and memories that I will cherish for a lifetime

 Corona del Mar High School
“The most valuable benefit I gained from attending a public high school was the depth and breadth of the people I met,” says Corona del Mar High graduate Ethan Kharrazi.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

What kind of education would you rather have? A holistic schooling that covers a broad range of subjects and activities? Or a cookie-cutter program that encourages focus on one area of pursuit?

Ultimately, a child’s education is essential in the development of their personality, interests and worldview. Their education will inform the career path they take, as well as their ability to form social relationships both inside and outside of the workplace.

Needless to say, education is important. But the type of education a student receives can lead to very different outcomes. In many ways, a public education, alongside the experiences and interactions that accompany it, is much more impactful than a private education in the development of young adults.

The most valuable benefit I gained from attending a public high school was the depth and breadth of the people I met. It’s much easier for students to build support systems at a public high school.

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The large student body in public schools should be looked at with enormous positivity. It is often said that we learn the most from people who are different than us; the atmosphere at public schools clearly reflects this idea.

In this environment, students are almost forced to search for their “people” and experiment with different opportunities. At private schools, students simply will not interact with the same variety of people that exist in public schools.

Public schools’ emphasis on extracurricular activities and student organizations, rather than primarily on academics and grades, contribute to the close bonds students share with peers and faculty.

In addition, the existence of plentiful extracurricular activities leads to a diversity of thought and interests that simply cannot be seen in private schools. These activities contribute to stronger connections between students, which yields higher social, emotional and academic maturity.

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In high school, I explored a variety of activities — community service, debate, science and more. In each of these clubs, I met my best friends, as well as mentors who I would eventually look up to. Because of these relationships, I became a better collaborator, both inside and outside of the classroom. I essentially created a support system of peers that I could rely on, which was enormously valuable when I encountered challenges.

These benefits all make a public education worth it. College graduates always rave about friends they met during their studies, but the bonds forged in high school are irreplicable because of the nature of their formation.

While public schools may not offer the “personalized” education that private schools promise, they are more effective in preparing students for a higher education. Public schools provide more realistic images of what college, and the workplace, is actually like.

As a current student at the University of Pennsylvania, a mid-sized research institution, I can attest to this fact. My experiences collaborating (not competing) with my peers, being driven to pursue opportunities instead of being handed them on a silver platter, and forging connections with faculty have all facilitated the types of things I do in college now.

In high school, it came down to little things — helping a classmate understand supply and demand, speaking at debates whenever the opportunity came, or even discussing heartbreak with a teacher. However, had it not been for these skills I learned in high school, I would have a much more difficult time in college.

I remember my last day of high school. Standing inside the doorway of my statistics classroom, I somberly waited for the bell that would conclude my tenure in high school. As I walked out of class and toward the parking lot, I felt a waterfall of emotions —emotions that I had learned to experience and understand while in high school.

Right before walking through the front gates, I stopped. I looked back toward the place I had spent most of my time for the past six years. At that moment, I didn’t know where I was going or who I was going to meet—I only thought of the home I was leaving behind.

Except I knew that I wasn’t really leaving it behind, and that my public education gave me skills and memories that I will cherish for a lifetime.

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Corona del Mar High School graduate Ethan Kharrazi is now a student at the University of Pennsylvania.

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