My name is Gavin Jones, and I’m a Class of 2005 graduate of Palisades High School. I’ve read a lot about the college admissions scandal, which plagued the nation (and specifically, our area). In fact, a recent podcast called “Gangster Capitalism” made me feel compelled to write this to our local area’s high school students and their parents so that each generation can stop this hyper-competitive toxic culture of college admissions that plagues my hometown city.

Seeing how wealthy parents in areas like ours will do whatever it takes to get their kid into a school they didn’t earn their way into just for a bumper sticker or prestige is what’s really wrong with the current state of our community and country.

When I was growing up in the Palisades, I remember parents and people in the community looking down upon kids like myself for going to a public school or at kids who didn’t get into the Ivy Leagues or USC, and College Centers falsely saying people couldn’t get into a good college without a 3.5.

In fact, even as the former editor-in-chief of Palisades High School’s 3,000-plus student school and captain of the four-time varsity swim team, my (then) dream school of USC didn’t accept me.

So, it disturbs me to watch parents (even worse, celebrities with influence) in our area pay a man $500k to purposely cheat for their kids on the SAT and stage fake varsity crew pictures to rig their way into USC’s rowing team without any merit.

The more disturbing aspect is seeing parents like this pleading “not guilty” and the media making parents AND their 18-year-old adult children look like victims … when they are actually the perpetrators.

Overall, I feel inclined to inform 2019 graduates of nearby high schools, and the future class of 2020 applying for college, to do what YOU want to do in life. Do not do things for social status or your parent’s bumper sticker, or try to win by cheating on a test or cheating the system to get ahead.

It may get you in the door by “failing upwards,” but you’ll never feel worthy or reach the highest levels of success without SOME personal failure in life. Failure creates character … not getting what you sometimes want often actually leads you down a better path.

College is a wonderful thing, and students should pursue higher education if they can. Going to Syracuse University was one of the most rewarding aspects of my life, which built my foundation. However, if you’re going to college for a piece of paper (aka a degree) and not to learn the material, then you’re losing in the game of life.

Gavin Jones