UPA: Was the Move Worth It?

Should I go to UPA? The simple yet complex question echoed in my mind throughout the entirety of my sixth grade year. 

Torn between a future at UPA and Santa Teresa High School, I made the most detailed pro/con list on the back of my flunked math test. Impulsively, I chose to attend UPA, and I have not regretted my choice since. 

However, the same cannot be said for others. Many of us have met people who have joined UPA and those who have left. It is true that UPA is not the best fit for everyone. And so, curious, I set off in the search to answer the question that had once echoed my mind: Is making the move to UPA worth it? 

Known for being a school with a rigorous curriculum and having the ultimate goal of helping students go to college, UPA has attracted numerous students because of its focus on education. While students have a variety of reasons for joining, several of those are school-related. 

“I came here because UPA offered a better education,” junior Diego Garcia-Carrasco, former student of Piedmont High School, said. “Since it’s a smaller school, you have a more intimate relationship with the teachers. If they notice that you’re struggling, they will do everything they can to try and help you.”

However, UPA still has improvements to make in its education. 

“UPA [has] great teachers that can help us and the teachers do the best they can to help the students in any way,” said junior John Pham, former student of UPA and current student at Yerba Buena High School, “but, there are not many opportunities to get your grade up or to really understand the material after the class is over. Yerba Buena does a lot of tutoring in after school and Saturday school programs that you can take to help better yourself and understand the subjects that you’re learning.”

Students also join due to a connection to UPA, usually through friends or relatives. 

“My parents wanted me to go to because my cousin goes here, and this is a pretty good school,” sophomore Tinsae Woldemichael, former student of Pioneer High School, said.

However, UPA does not only focus on education. UPA offers more than 30 clubs, has multiple tutoring services and programs, spirit events and more. 

“My favorite part of UPA so far is the spirit and the people,” seventh grader Sarika Pandher, former student of Stratford, said. “I really enjoy its spirit. I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it that much because I thought that all schools [lacked] spirit, but then I came to UPA.”

On the other hand, “[UPA’s school spirit] can’t even compare to [Yerba Buena’s spirit],” Pham said. “Yerba Buena’s spirit is insane. I see everyone just cheering for the teams. Everyone [goes] to the basketball games and the volleyball games. Whatever it is, everyone is just so high spirited”

Due to its small size, UPA has a harder time than most large public schools in providing a variety of activities and services. 

Both Garcia-Carrasco and Woldemichael both agreed on the lack of sports UPA has. 

“When I was in Piedmont, I was doing track. And when I came here, I found that it was harder, and there was a more limited range of sports,” Garcia-Carrasco said, “so I haven’t really played a sport since I’ve been here. I like to run track. I know we can’t afford big football teams, but track would be nice or even like a smaller sport.” 

Moreover, because UPA has a small population, there is a lack of meal variety and snack options.

“[Yerba Buena] does not have the best food, but it’s better than what UPA provides because it’s a bigger school, and they [have] to keep up with the appetite,” Pham said. 

But UPA’s small size can also be looked at as an advantage. Students know of each other regardless of grade, and teachers are known by all. 

“I like the fact that even though class sizes have gotten bigger, it still seems like within the classes that I teach that people are close, and even if you’re not in the same friend group and don’t always hang out, you know each other,” current English teacher and former UPA student Kathryn Gong-Guy said. 

So, is transferring to UPA worth it?

I realized my question does not have a simple answer. The parts of UPA that I love might be the aspects that another student dislikes. There are times when every UPA student has wondered about being at a different school, and there are factors and reasons why students transfer or stay at UPA.  

While I find my answer to my question to be a strong yes, it might not be the same answer as another student. Ultimately, the answer is up to the students themselves.