Hi, my name is Maraleis Sinton. You may know me from math class, the track team or that one theater performance I did freshman year. But regardless of whether you consider yourself to be an acquaintance or one of my closest friends, I’m here to share what I’ve taken away from my time at Palo Alto High School, recognize how I’ve grown in the last four years, appreciate the friendships I’ve created, and most of all, find value in the adversities I’ve faced.

This isn’t a sob story, nor is it me preaching optimism. This is just a part of my story that I hope will resonate with you in one way or another.

I was the theater kid, the runner, the student activist — all activities which might precieve me as a more outgoing, social person. But what you may not know about me is my struggle with social anxiety. In my junior year and even during first semester this year, I often found myself in the library or the Math Resource Center eating lunch with only my homework to keep me company. I was tired, and honestly scared, of having to navigate Paly’s daunting social arena. There were many moments where getting out of bed was difficult and coming to school to face over 2,000 teenagers seemed almost impossible and I constantly felt dissociated from the student community.

There were times when I felt lost. Correction: very lost.


There were times when I felt lost. Correction: very lost.


So how did I overcome my social anxiety? While meeting new people still makes me want to run to the nearest door, I realized that my fears weren’t going to disappear overnight. Instead, I learned that rising above my anxiety would require persistence and, more importantly, my own initiative to step outside of my comfort zone.

Slowly, I learned to creep beyond the walls I had built around myself. I joined the YMCA’s model legislative and court program, Youth and Government, where I learned to value the process of governance and collaborating with others; I started working at Philz Coffee, where I find myself engaging in small talk as one of the main responsibilities of my job; and I began asking friends from class to study with me after school. Here, between the uproar of hundreds of delegates and one too many mint mojito coffees, the feeling of uncertainty that I had familiarized myself with began to dwindle.

From my time in each of these places over the last two years, I’ve connected with fellow high school students across the state, met my best friend and made memories that I will think fondly of as I head off to college.

All this being said, my advice to you is to take advantage of every opportunity that heads your way; challenge yourself because you never know what you’ll learn or who you’ll meet.


Take advantage of every opportunity that heads your way; challenge yourself because you never know what you’ll learn or who you’ll meet.


And so, this fall, when I move in to my dorm room and begin building new friendships, I won’t stand by and just observe. This time, when that feeling — the one telling me to find the nearest exit — rises, I’ll be the one to introduce myself first, ask my roommate to grab a coffee and continue pushing myself further than I once believed I could.