“College counselors chalk the problem up to stress caused by the heavy burdens of schoolwork and competition... But hard work and competition have never broken the spirits of young people, as long as they believe in what they are doing.”
— Dr. William Damon, The Path to Purpose


High school for most now is purposeless and lacks meaning. The three words that 22,000 high school students used most to describe their high school experience: bored, tired, and stressed. At high achieving school districts, this boredom is combined with an intense pressure for academic performance that robs many students of their curiosity. As one “successful” senior told us recently:

“I did what I was supposed to do. I know it sounds bad, but I’m not interested in learning for learning’s sake.”
— A "successful" graduating senior at Palo Alto High School

High school has become a thing to “get through” not a place to start your journey to a purposeful, meaningful life. As another student told us, “I view school as: this will get me into college, and then I can finally do what I want. College is really when you can be passionate about what you want to do.” But high school does not have to be this way. It has the possibility to be meaningful, powerful, and transformative.

How might we create a purpose-fueled experience for high school students? What if students’ top three word choices for high school were: purposeful, meaningful, and engaging?

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