High school pres­sures cited by run­away

The search is on for Mira Hu, 16, who was spot­ted leav­ing San Marino High be­fore her SAT test Satur­day.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Frank Shy­ong and Sarah Parvini

On Satur­day morn­ing, Mira Hu’s par­ents dropped her off at Ar­ca­dia High School to take the SAT. Then she dis­ap­peared.

A few hours later, po­lice say, Mira, 16, texted her brother with an ex­pla­na­tion. She was run­ning away from home, over­whelmed by the pres­sures of the test and classes at San Marino High School.

A class­mate saw the ris­ing se­nior leav­ing the testing site be­fore the test be­gan, ac­cord­ing to posts on her brother An­thony’s Face­book pro­file. “The proc­tor says she was ab­sent,” the brother wrote.

Sur­veil­lance video footage later showed the 5foot-3, 95-pound girl board­ing a Grey­hound bus headed for San Fran­cisco, said Sgt. Tim Teb­betts of the San Marino Po­lice Depart­ment.

Mira’s fam­ily hired a pri­vate de­tec­tive and wrote a mes­sage to their daugh­ter on a web­site they cre­ated: “We love you Mira,” it says. “Please come home.”

Mira’s par­ents have de­clined to com­ment. But the idea that aca­demic stress might lead a stu­dent to take des­per­ate steps is hardly sur­pris­ing in the San Gabriel Val­ley.

San Marino High school is one of the most com­pet­i­tive in the state. U.S. News & World Re­port ranks it among the top 300 in the na­tion.

In the class of 2014, 90 of 279 stu­dents sur­veyed had a GPA of 4.0 or higher, ac­cord­ing to the school’s web­site. The class’ av­er­age SAT

score was 1880 out of 2400. One year, four stu­dents got per­fect scores.

“Most of the stu­dents are tak­ing five AP classes,” said Ma­rina Hashimoto, who grad­u­ated from the school this year. “The tests are hard. There’s a lot of Asians, and they’re all re­ally smart.”

Stu­dents say they have to com­pete to par­tic­i­pate in any­thing that looks good on a col­lege ap­pli­ca­tion — such as the six-week sum­mer classes that aim to give stu­dents a head start on the next se­mes­ter. Many stu­dents at­tend in­ten­sive af­ter­school pro­grams at the tu­tor­ing busi­nesses that clus­ter in the neigh­bor­hoods around the school.

With so much of stu­dent life fo­cused on col­lege ad­mis­sions, test scores can be­come gos­sip fod­der, stu­dents say. Each year, when the Col­lege Board re­leases SAT scores on­line, throngs of stu­dents gather around smartphones in the school quad and an­nounce their scores as they click on them, said grad­u­at­ing se­nior Ja­son Hao, 18.

“When some­one gets a high score, they’re go­ing to tell ev­ery­one,” Hao said.

San Marino High of­fi­cials de­clined to com­ment on Mira’s dis­ap­pear­ance or the school’s com­pet­i­tive cul­ture, but stu­dents said that this time of year can be par­tic­u­larly stress­ful: three days of fi­nal ex­ams, fol­lowed by the SAT, the start of sum­mer school and the mail­ing of fi­nal re­port cards.

“We don’t have time to re­lax,” Hashimoto said.

She added that Mira, who par­tic­i­pated in de­bate and vol­un­teered, was friendly and nice to ev­ery­one. She was shocked by the news that Mira had run away.

“She was re­ally smart. I’m sur­prised she was over­whelmed by school,” Hashimoto said. “I think she took a lot of hard classes.”

Billy Wu, 15, said par­ents at San Marino High some­times have painfully high stan­dards for their chil­dren. Billy and Mira both took de­bate last year, and Billy said she was “very com­pet­i­tive.”

“When she lost a round, it would im­pact her,” Billy said. “I feel like it af­fected her a lot.”

Mira at­tended an in­ter­na­tional school in China be­fore start­ing at San Marino in 2012, and she ex­pressed un­hap­pi­ness in Face­book posts af­ter she en­rolled at San Marino High. She wrote of miss­ing her school and friends in China, and at one point an­nounced, jok­ingly, that she was trans­fer­ring back to her school in China.

“Life is not filled with ups and downs,” Mira wrote. “There are only downs.”

Po­lice are still search­ing for Mira, last seen car­ry­ing a large navy blue back­pack wear­ing black jeans and a black jacket. They be­lieve she could be trav­el­ing to North­ern Cal­i­for­nia to visit UC Berke­ley, the col­lege she hopes to at­tend.

Mira’s fam­ily has launched a web­site to help gather in­for­ma­tion about her where­abouts at www.helpfind­mira.com. Her brother reached her brief ly on Face­book last night, Teb­betts said.

“He saw her on­line and sent her Face­book chats un­til she fi­nally re­sponded with “’I’m safe,’” Teb­betts said.

Those with in­for­ma­tion about her where­abouts are asked to call San Marino po­lice at (626) 300-0720.

Ar­ca­dia Po­lice De­par tment

MIRA HU boarded a Grey­hound bus headed for San Fran­cisco, San Marino po­lice say.

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