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June 18, 2004

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Publication Date: Friday, June 18, 2004

Leaving Los Altos Leaving Los Altos (June 18, 2004)

By Julie O'Shea

On a brand-new football field, Los Altos High School graduated 308 seniors on June 11.

The completion of the new turf, and the remainder of its construction projects, were among the big stories at the Almond Avenue campus this year.

Students in the Class of 2004 will also remember theirs being the last year with Principal George Perez. Assistant Principal Wynne Satterwhite is replacing Perez when he leaves to become superintendent of a San Jose school district this summer.

The end of the seniors' year was marked with both highs and lows. Nineteen students, including seniors, were caught drinking on school-sponsored trips and suspended.

But victory later smiled upon Allie Miller, who won the high jump competition at the state championships, and the Gay-Straight Alliance club, which successfully earned recognition of a Gay Pride Day from the Los Altos City Council.

The Voice sat down with two excited Los Altos High graduates to find out what life after high school holds in store for them.

Preeti Piplani

When Preeti Piplani was three years old, she wrote to ex-President Bush and told him that she really liked his house and that someday she'd be living there.

"(The year) 2024 is the first time I can run," Piplani, now 17, said. That's the plan, at least for the moment. She said she still hasn't ruled out the possibility of law school either.

Piplani, who identifies as a Democrat, already has experience working as a page on Capitol Hill. This fall she'll be a student at UC Berkeley, which has a top-notch political science program.

"Public service and working in the community is one of the most noble professions," Piplani said. She is fiercely protective of Mountain View and won't rule out running for a spot on her hometown city council some day. Piplani is already well-known in local political circles. She is a founding member of the Youth Advisory Group and is a member of the Friends of Stevens Creek Trail, among other things. This summer, she's working for the Chamber of Commerce.

"I feel like high school has shaped me to be the person I am today," Piplani said. "High school kind of gave me the opportunity to learn who I am."

She credits her teachers for fueling her political-mindedness, learning from her history teacher Dave Squellati about the federal government's Page Program, which landed her in Washington, D.C. last summer. She got a chance to meet members of Congress and shook hands with Sen. Hillary Clinton.

"High school went by really quickly," Piplani said the day before she received her diploma.

She offers this to incoming freshmen: "Find something you're interested in and invest time in it.

"Worry about what's important to you."

Haley Harris

Haley Harris wants Katie Couric's job. She wouldn't mind stealing Oprah's gig either. Harris, this year's homecoming queen, will attend Azusa Pacific University in Southern California in the fall to study broadcast communications and get ready for life in front of the cameras.

"I am ready to experience something else," Harris, 18, said. "It's weird. I never thought I'd be graduating -- it came up really fast."

Asked what she thinks her classmates will most remember about her five years down the road, Harris laughed, "I don't know.

"I feel I've been a well-liked person," she said.

No doubt Harris participated in many activities at school. She was on the volleyball and cross-country teams and was a longtime member of the school's leadership class, which helped plan dances and organized campus activities. ("It was more than just a class. We pretty much ran the school.") Earlier this month, her classmates declared Harris the girl with the "most sex appeal" in the Class of 2004.

"I was kind of just -- 'Whoa! Hi!'" Harris said. "I feel like I'm a humble person.

"I don't want to boast or anything. ... I've always been sort of shy."

Harris, however, says one of her crowning achievements her senior year was being voted homecoming queen, an honor she shares with her mother, Pam.

"I was really proud of that," Harris said. "I would have to say that this year was kind of a golden year for me."

Harris, who is currently looking for summer work, said she wants to get involved and not stay in one clique in college.

"That's what made my experience the best," she said. "It opens a lot of doors for you."

E-mail Julie O'Shea at [email protected]

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