Aatash Parikh

Graduate Student @ High Tech High Graduate School of Education

Orenda: New High School Proposal

orenda(n): the invocation of the power of human will to change the world around us. It is set up to be the opposing force to fate or destiny. If powerful forces beyond your control are trying to force you one way, orenda is a kind of voiced summoning of personal strength to change fate.


Orenda is a design for a new high school in the Bay Area of California. It was submitted as an application to the XQ Super School competition in 2016. The core team for this project consisted of me, my colleagues Andrew Liu and Carl Shan, as well my former teacher, Jaime Richards.

The Problem

The inspiration for Orenda stems from the shared experiences of our core team: three of us graduated in the past 5 years from “elite Bay Area public schools”, and our fourth team member is a veteran teacher at one of these schools who has published three books on what Bay Area students are lacking in their education. All of us feel that the all-consuming “college admissions” cultures at these schools came at the cost of deeper learning about our own purposes and about the world. We’ve talked with or surveyed hundreds of students, and many students claim that “competition for elite colleges” is their biggest source of stress.

Our solution

In 2016, our team decided to answer this problem with Orenda High School, a 9-12 public charter high school located in the South Bay Area. It will serve 400 students from neighboring South Bay communities (Cupertino, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Los Gatos, Saratoga). Orenda High School's 's mission is to develop healthy, engaged students that have a deeper sense of purpose.

It does this by providing the opportunities and one-on-one guidance for students to:  

  1. explore, experiment with and pursue their passions;
  2. identify and strengthen real world skills and knowledge to turn their goals into action; and
  3. investigate and champion personally meaningful causes in their community or the world.