New Website Shares Alumni Stories About Life After Palo Alto

Hundreds of former students of Palo Alto schools are coming together virtually on a new website to show teens the varied paths from the Peninsula town.

The new website "Paths from Palo Alto" is a space for alums from Palo Alto schools to share their journeys of success. It's intended for current students trying to make their own journey through life, school and stress.

"We hope they find inspiration in these stories," said Jacqueline Gowen, co-founder of Paths from Palo Alto. Gowen, along with her childhood friend Michal Pasternak, created the website. Both now live in New York, but attended Palo Verde Elementary School, Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School and Gunn High School in Palo Alto.

They launched the site in May after reading a lot about stressed students in their hometown.

"We felt that we probably weren't the only ones who wanted to do something also to kind of alleviate some of the stress," said Michal.

Over 300 alums from all over the world have submitted stories anonymously on the website. Each personal tale shares victories, breakdowns and lessons learned.

The website has been shared throughout the Palo Alto community on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

"I think a really interesting story was when an individual shared he had a 1.5 GPA in high school and now he's a millionaire," said Emily Cao, a 2016 Gunn High School graduate. "It really shows you how high school success doesn't really equate future success. "

Rising Gunn High sophomore Grace Lam learned from one woman's story that success can have multiple definitions.

"She had a perfect high school career, 4.5 GPA, captain of the cheerleading team and afterwards when she got into her career and she became a mother she found that maybe being that perfect person and having success measured by how much money you make is really detrimental to your health," Lam said.

"She changed and decided to pursue something she was really passionate about and focus on her family instead."

Website creators say the stories have resonated with parents just as much as with teens.

"Through these blog posts, we can learn that there are infinite paths toward a successful future," said parent Julie Lythcott-Haims, who is also the author of "How To Raise An Adult." She thinks the stories are exactly what parents need to read.

"We don't let our kids struggle," said Lythcott-Haims. "When we've paved the path, smoothed the path, made sure the path is perfect, our kids have essentially not been permitted to experience struggle and failure."

Yet these stories give teens permission to fail as a route to individual success.

"In the long term, doing things you love as well as doing well in academics is really what's going to define your success in the future," said Lam.

Paths From Palo Alto is hosting a story drive on their Facebook page. Website creators want 500 alums to share new stories with students as a gift to the graduating class of 2016.

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