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Welcome to Life According To:, a new series featuring students in their own words, unfiltered. Interviewed and photographed by members of KQED’s 2016-17 Youth Advisory Board, these mini profiles get personal, political and passionate.

Enjoy the first installment featuring four student profiles from across the Bay Area.

Life According To: Rebecca Lu, 12th Grade, Millbrae

Rebecca Luu

Sometimes people do not truly understand who I am. People get mixed communications when they talk to me. I am identified as an introvert, but I like to be social, talking and meeting new people. I feel like it helps me find who I want to become. I am passionate about art and I like to show others this, like a young independent woman, ready to embrace what she is given. I want to find who I am! I haven't experienced half the things in life! I wanna be independent and on my own. There are ups and downs and I know that is gonna happen of course. I want to be the change that others see and look up to.


I want to be happy in life, but also want to survive in the economy we see today. I don't want regrets. I want to be content. If I fail, who will I lean on? People grow, but I want to grow upwards. To not succeed is my greatest fear.

Rebecca 2

Growing up as an Asian girl in the bay, I am exposed to diversity, but I still feel like I need to conform to American standards. Sometimes I feel too Asian in the American community. Sometimes I feel too American in my home background. Most Asian parents don't understand that we want to Americanize because we want to get accepted and I don't think that we should want to be accepted. We should just be seen us ourselves.

Rebecca 3

We have so much access to communication and news, like talking to people on the other side of the world and it's so much easier now. Technology is advancing and it is providing a wide range of opportunities. You can find hobbies, new friends, jobs, and internships. This has grown social justice! The feminism movement! I like where this is going.

We have a small say in politics. You have to be 18 to vote. It is hard to get a job in this field. We can get internships, but our voices aren't ranked as high as adults and it's harming to us. We have a voice! We have a say! We should always have a say! We understand the issues, yet we are neglected. We are not children! We want to be engaged! I think adults see teens as still developing, but I do not see it that way. There should always be trust. Trust is needed to grow! Yes, there are failures, but that is acceptable. We are trying to get where we want to go and trust in us gets us there.

Interview and Photos by Orion Huang, 12th Grade, Millbrae

Life According To: Jaidan Olivier, 11th Grade, Richmond


The worst thing about being a teenager is stressing over SAT classes and worrying about not getting into the college of your dreams. I worry that I have come to a wall and I can no longer achieve the goals I have set. After high school I hope to be at USC for 4 years then hopefully pursue my lifelong dream to be the CEO of Nike.


My dad inspires me the most because although he hasn't graduated from high school, he tells me how he learned from watching others and today he is extremely successful.

Jaidan Olivier

I wish that adults understood more about how stressed we are although we are so young, we all still have a lot on our plate to determine our future.

Interview and photos 1 and 2 by Asia Williams, 11th Grade, Oakland Third photo by Jaidan Olivier

Life According To: Luke Phelan, 11th Grade, San Francisco

Luke Phelan

When I was in eighth grade I couldn't wait to go to high school. Well, now I'm in high school and I can't wait to go to college. I assume when I go to college, I'll be excited for a job. If I find a job I love, I'd be excited to keep doing that. I think part of it is just keeping moving and finding yourself. Especially since as I get older I specialize a lot more, I've gotten a little more freedom, and that has allowed me to evaluate who I am. And I think in the future I'm just going to get more opportunities like that.

Luke 3

My parents are pretty in tune with how I operate, and I think I'm very lucky in that sense. To have that kind of support from your parents and understanding from your parents, and that kind of open candid honesty, I think that's important for a teen.

Luke 2

I think that sometimes adults see things too black-and-white, in what is uncomfortable for them, and I think there's a lot more gray.

Interview and photos by Cooper Veit, 11th Grade, San Francisco

Life According To: Alexis Aranda, 11th Grade, Oakland


I’m a very active person. I'm always looking at the bright side and always finding happy thoughts in my head and always smiling. I like to be happy and make other people happy so I try to, let’s see, I try to do my best to help other people in ways I can help them. And of course, we live in a world where everything is not perfect and we’re imperfect. And there’s a lot of bad stuff in this world. Like people dying from causes, car crashes, shootings, misunderstandings and arguments around this community. Because of  all the struggles that people are going through, it affects them mentally. And then they try to find a solution, to find help and get away from all their problems so they drink or they smoke.They get high and they’re not really conscious of what they’re doing and they just go crazy.

Alexis Aranda

What I like to do is build stuff with my hands and I like creating. I guess I’m pretty crafty, artistic even. I have random ideas. And right now, since I’m in this program, right? The FabLab, Maker’s Ed. I’m making jewelry with the laser cutter and wood, and right now I’m working on a walking cane for my grandpa. Out of wood.  But yeah, I like to make stuff with my hands. Having the capacity to make something your own is pretty cool. And like, creating something and then after you’re done with your product, looking at it and being like, “Wow. Look, I made this.” You’re proud of what you have made. Basically making whatever I can and giving it to other people, which also makes them happy and if they’re happy, I’m happy too. It also benefits me.

Alexis 3

What I have been learning in school and what I see from my classmates in my school is that society and your surroundings will mostly mold you as a person. So like, what you see here in your community, will mold you as a person. Your surroundings basically, whether they’re good or bad, influence who you are. All this poverty and violence causes people who have struggles to change and do bad things. Where do they get those bad things from? Well, from their peers, from their families, from friends. They see it’s okay and supposedly how it’s helping them. So they do it too. It’s a cycle. Also there’s a lot of homeless people, because they don’t have homes and they are trying to kick us out of our homes because we’re close to the City.

I have heard and I have seen how the district doesn’t really help us. They think we’re somewhat dumb. The teachers say that we’re dumb. On the tests, they put easy questions and they don’t give us as much help as we need. We don’t have a lot of resources that could help students and teachers, who need it to teach us properly. I think if we would have counselors, instead of just one here. It would help the students a lot because right now, from what I have seen, there’s so many students who need help as if they have many problems. And because of those issues, they’re failing class, like they’re not passing them. If we were to have counselors, it would help them a lot because they would address their needs. By yourself, I don’t think you could succeed. And we need a lot of support because our surroundings affect us.


Interview and photos 1 and 2 by Crystal Zepeda, 9th Grade, Oakland Third photo taken by Jennifer Henriquez