After graduating from a top Ivy League school — Harvard University — Ian Mirisola has returned to La Cañada Flintridge with a goal of improving his hometown’s public school district. He is running for one of three open seats on the La Cañada school board on Nov. 5.
The 23-year-old attended Palm Crest Elementary School and La Cañada High School. Mirisola sat down with the Valley Sun in his home to chat about his campaign.
Valley Sun: Why did you choose to come back to La Cañada? What are your plans?
Mirisola: I really like this community and I wanted to take a break here before I went to law school.
I’m applying to law schools in November and December. If I get [a seat on the board], it would obviously weigh me more toward staying in California.
What is your motivation for running?
I thought it would be a great way to serve my community. It’s a community that I love. I’ve grown up in it; gone through all the schools. I’ve seen first-hand what the education system is like. I thought, maybe I’ll make a difference on the board.
If elected, is there an issue you’d bring to the board?
There are a few issues that I see as room for improvement for the schools in general.
The college counseling [at the high school] was an issue for me. I would not have been able to go to Harvard if it wasn’t my own will power and resolve to get everything turned in on time.
No matter how much I told [college counselors] that I needed a transcript to be submitted in two weeks, they were like, no, they don’t need that, they don’t do early admission. They were thinking that I didn’t know what I was talking about, that my parents didn’t know what I was talking about. I told them that I needed this transcript to apply for a likely letter, which is what I ended up getting from Harvard. I knew in November of my senior year of high school that I was going to Harvard.
I had to tell them to give me the transcript and then fax it myself from my house. So it was an ordeal.
The push to get everyone in college might be pushing those trying to achieve higher to set their sights lower, in my opinion. In my case, it was an issue.
Do you think college counselors need to offer more support?
I think it’s important to be realistic. But I think if you really want to shoot for it, they should actually help you along. Maybe they could offer to read over your personal statement, things like that. The support was lacking. It fell on [the students] to do it all.
You were on the swim team at La Cañada High. Did you enjoy having an extracurricular activity?
I absolutely did. Starting at 13, I went to morning practices. Before that, it had been five practices a week, six, if you include Saturday mornings. Eventually, I was going to nine or 10 practices a week.
I decided to spend a lot of time really working on my swimming. I had an outlet and it gave me instant access to a bunch of friends who were there with me and doing the same thing I enjoyed. I’m still close with a lot of them.
It was a great experience for me. It made me really confident about what I could do and what I could accomplish.
Do you support a high parcel tax rate?
I support any parcel tax that will get passed. But secondly, it needs to look toward the future. Because with the current rate, we will have a lot of issues and we will have to face a lot of tough decisions. Being on the board, naturally I wouldn’t want to face that many tough decisions. I don’t think our kids would like that either.
The first things to go would be a lot of extracurricular activities. At La Cañada, we’re very fortunate to be able to have so many extracurricular activities. It’s just something you don’t get anywhere else. It’s one of the driving points of a La Cañada education.
If we don’t pass a somewhat high parcel tax, we would have to look at other forms of revenue to get the funding for it. There is a bond measure, there is the leasing of the current properties, and parcel tax. That’s it.
When it comes to La Cañada, you really need to give back to your community to keep it great. And the way to do that is with the parcel tax. People should be jumping at the thought of contributing to their schools, because in doing so, it increases the value of their property and on a financial level, it makes sense.
This interview was edited for space and clarity.