Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Zach Sippy, June 12, 2017

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:00 - Introduction and family background

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Partial Transcript: Hello. My name is Raiffa Syamil and I am a student here at the University of Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses his name, birthday, and the towns where he has lived: Huntington, Long Island, New York; San Mateo, California; and Lexington, Kentucky. He also discusses his family's background information including his father, Rabbi Wirtschafter, mother, Shana Sippy, and sister, Emmanuel Wirtschafter Sippy. He describes the Jewish community in the places he has lived. He specifically describes Temple Adath Israel in Lexington, Kentucky.

Keywords: David Wirtschafter; Emmanuel Wirtschafter Sippy; Huntington, Long Island, New York; Lexington, Kentucky; Rabbis; Reform rabbis; San Mateo, California; Shana Sippy; Sippy; Temple Adath Israel; Zachariah Wirtschafter Sippy

Subjects: Families.; Family histories.; Genealogy; Huntington (N.Y.); Jewish families.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Long Island (N.Y.); San Mateo (Calif.)

00:02:18 - Growing up in Minnesota, California, and Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: And I understand that your family recently moved from Minnesota to Lexington.

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses growing up in California, Minnesota (where he attended Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School), and Kentucky. Sippy moved across the country to Lexington, Kentucky because of his father's career as a rabbi. Sippy's family moved to Lexington in 2015, where he attended Henry Clay High School.

Keywords: Bay Area, Long Island, New York; Burlingame, California; Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School; Lexington, Kentucky; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Orange County, California; Peninsula Temple Sholom; Rabbis; Southwest High School

Subjects: Burlingame (Calif.); Childhood; Education; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Long Island (N.Y.); Minneapolis (Minn.); Orange County (Calif.)

00:05:33 - Sippy and his family's religious background

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Partial Transcript: So with your dad being the rabbi, and being, like, uh, in that kind of stuff, like, throughout your childhood, Jewish tradition was a pretty big part of your life.

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses his mother and father's religious backgrounds, his family's ancestry, and Jewish tradition in his life. Sippy's mother, Shana Sippy, is the daughter of a Hindu Indian immigrant and a New Jersey Jew. Sippy's father, Rabbi Wirtschafter, grew up in Lexington, Kentucky and is the current rabbi at Temple Adath Israel (as of 2018).

Keywords: Beth El Synagogue; Christianity; Conservative Judaism; Hindu; Indian; Mosques; Reform Judaism; Religion; Sikh; South-Asian religion; Synagogues; Traditions

Subjects: Families.; Family histories.; Genealogy; Jewish families.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Religion

00:08:52 - Celebrating Jewish holidays

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Partial Transcript: So how were holidays celebrated, and, like, with whom?

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses how his family celebrates Jewish holidays and how transitioning between different cities impacted his experiences regarding these holidays. Sippy also describes how his father's role in the community impacts his family's celebration of every Jewish holiday. His family uses holidays as an opportunity to interact with the Jewish community.

Keywords: Passover; Purim; Rosh Hashanah; Shavuot; Yom Kippur

Subjects: Families.; Holidays.; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Religion

00:14:56 - Impact of his Jewishness on his social life

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Partial Transcript: Um, so how has being Jewish impacted how, like, you make friends and interact, like, socially in school, and--or, like, extracurricular events?

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses how his Jewish identity impacts his extracurricular activities and social life as a high school student. Since the Jewish community is much smaller in Lexington than other places he has lived, his temple doesn't hold Saturday morning services. This allows Sippy the freedom to join extracurricular activities that are held on the weekend. Although Sippy's family practices Shabbat, Sippy has chosen to join extracurricular activities such as Lincoln-Douglas Debate Team (which is held on Saturday).

Keywords: Debate teams; Extracurricular activities; Immigrant culture; Jewish identity; Secular world; Shabbat

Subjects: Families.; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Religion; Worship (Judaism)

00:19:06 - Ancestral origins and connections to Judaism

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Partial Transcript: And, like, you talked about this a little bit already, but, like, I understand that your grandparents and your parents have a unique heritage and history, and, like, the two sides of your family have very different experiences.

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses his father and mother's family origins and identity. According to Sippy, half of his father's family are German Jews and arrived in America in the mid-to-late 1800s, where they settled in Tennessee and Virginia. Sippy's grandfather on his mother's side is originally from modern-day Karachi, Pakistan. He also describes how the majority of his family are Eastern European Jews who arrived in America in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Keywords: Eastern European Jews; Economic opportunity; German Jews; Hindu; Indian; Muslims; Pakistan; Pan-Jewish identity; Religious persecution; Self-identity; Settling in the South; South Asian; Third wave of immigration; Traditional Jewish culture

Subjects: Families.; Family histories.; Genealogy; Jewish families.; Judaism.

00:26:08 - Life as a rabbi's son

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Partial Transcript: So I know that we talked a bit about your background growing up.

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses the dynamics and politics of synagogue life. He discusses his particularly unique role as the rabbi's son and the expectations that come along with that role.

Keywords: Active in synagogue; Family; Lexington, Kentucky; Rabbi's children; Rabbi's sons; Synagogue politics; Temple; Youth groups

Subjects: Families.; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Religion

GPS: Temple Adath Israel, 124 North Ashland Avenue, Lexington, KY 40502
Map Coordinates: 38.0356548, -84.4850338
00:30:30 - Interaction with Jewish and non-Jewish peers

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Partial Transcript: So how about your involvement in the Temple, and, um, how--or how, how you interacted with your Jewish and non-Jewish peers?

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses how his role as a Jew has changed from Minneapolis to Lexington. In Minneapolis, most of Sippy's friends were Jewish and he was surrounded by Jewish peers, whereas in Lexington, Sippy describes being the only "Jew in the room" and how he has a more diverse group of friends at Henry Clay High School.

Keywords: Debates; Hebrew; Henry Clay High School; Jewish schools; Lexington, Kentucky; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Ohavay Zion Synagogue; Rabbi's children; Rabbi's sons; Representative of Jews; School community; Temple Adath Israel; Young Democrats

Subjects: Education; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Minneapolis (Minn.)

GPS: Henry Clay High School, Lexington, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.0161777,-84.4711797
00:35:10 - Experiences in Temple Adath Israel in Lexington, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Um, can you tell me a little bit about your involvement in the Temple?

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses his personal experiences attending Temple Adath Israel in Lexington. He describes his immediate involvement with the Temple after moving to Lexington. He has taken an active role in the Temple's youth group as the group's president. He also describes teaching at the religious school.

Keywords: Hebrew education; Jewish education; Jewish youth groups; Reform rabbis; Temple youth groups

Subjects: Education; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Jewish leadership--Kentucky--Lexington; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Religion

00:39:44 - Becoming Bar Mitzvahed--Process and celebration

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Partial Transcript: Um, and then you mentioned earlier that, um, while you were in Minneapolis you were bar mitzvahed.

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses the Bar Mitzvah training and process, coming of age, and the ceremonial aspects of the celebration. Sippy prepared for his Bar Mitzvah in Minneapolis and describes the three-year-long process. Specifically, he describes preparing by attending a Jewish day school, learning the prayers, and studying the Torah.

Keywords: Bar Mitzvahed; Bar Mitzvahs; Beth El Synagogue; Five books of Moses; Morning prayers; Mussaf; Prayers; Shabbat; Shacharit; Torah

Subjects: Education; Jewish children; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Minneapolis (Minn.); Religion

00:44:31 - Differences between Temple Adath Israel and Beth El Synagogue

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Partial Transcript: Um, could you please talk about how your experiences at, um, Temple Adath Israel have differed from your experiences at the temple you attended in Minneapolis?

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses the differences and experiences at Temple Adath Israel in Lexington, Kentucky and Beth El Synagogue in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Specifically, Sippy describes Beth El Synagogue as a massive institution because it was in the Jewish suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Louis Park. He also discusses Beth El Synagogue as a Conservative synagogue, while Temple Adath Israel is more of a Reform temple.

Keywords: Beth El Synagogue; Conservative synagogues; Hillary Clinton; Prayer vs. performance; Rabbi Alexander Davis; Reform synagogues; Temple Adath Israel; Tony Blair

Subjects: Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Minneapolis (Minn.); Religion

00:48:49 - Social and religious opportunities for Jewish youth

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Partial Transcript: So, um, what types of, like, opportunities exist for the youth to get involved at TAI, and like what kinds of things can you recall from, um, synagogues you attend--attended in Minneapolis?

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses the types of opportunities that exist for Jewish youth, including United Synagogue Youth, National Federation of Temple Youth, and Lexington Temple Youth. He describes his participation in United Synagogue Youth in Minneapolis and his involvement in National Federation of Temple Youth in Lexington. Sippy explains how the National Federation of Temple Youth is a Reform movement, while the United Synagogue Youth is Conservative in practice.

Keywords: Jewish community; Jewish youth; Jewish youth groups; Lexington Temple Youth; National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY); United Synagogue Youth (USY); Youth groups

Subjects: Jewish children; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Minneapolis (Minn.); Religion

00:56:00 - Temple and Synagogue in Lexington, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: Um, um, did you ever attend, like, um, services at the Synagogue?

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses the different types of synagogues he has attended, including Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox. Sippy describes Temple Adath Israel as "home base" where his father, Rabbi Wirtschafter, is the lead rabbi. He expresses his appreciation for the different types of synagogues, specifically Ohavay Zion Synagogue and Beth El Synagogue.

Keywords: Conservative; Ohavay Zion Synagogue; Rabbis; Reform synagogues; Temple Adath Israel; Worship styles

Subjects: Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Religion; Worship (Judaism)

GPS: Temple Adath Israel in Lexington, Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.0356548, -84.4850338
00:59:17 - Sippy's experiences with NFTY and Jewish summer camps

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Partial Transcript: Okay. So you talked earlier about some of the regional or, like, national Jewish youth organizations, like NFTY, that you participated in.

Segment Synopsis: Sippy describes his involvement in Jewish organizations such as NFTY, USY, and NCSY. Sippy describes his personal involvement as a camp counselor at a Reform Jewish camp in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Although he did not enjoy overnight summer camps, he has met great friends at these summer camps.

Keywords: California; Camp Shalom; Chapters; Community; Israel; National Conference of Synagogue Youth (NCSY); National Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY); Organizations; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Summer camps; Torah; United Synagogue Youth (USY); Youth groups

Subjects: Jewish children; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Philadelphia (Pa.); Religion

01:05:34 - Jewish day schools and public education

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Partial Transcript: So now that we've talked about your family and your Jewish upbringing, upbringing, I'd like to talk with you more about your experiences in school.

Segment Synopsis: Sippy compares the schools he has attended in terms of diversity. When he attended Jewish day schools, he felt like he was in a bubble, but when he began going to public schools he was exposed to students with more diverse backgrounds. In 2015, he began attending Henry Clay High School in Lexington, Kentucky, where he was one of a handful of Jewish students.

Keywords: California; Diversity; Friends; Graduates; Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School; Henry Clay High School; Homogenous; Jewish day schools; Minneapolis Jewish Day School; Morasha; Morasha Jewish Day School; Public schools; Rancho Santa Margarita, California; St. Louis Park, Minnesota; Teachers; Transitions

Subjects: Education; Jewish children; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Lexington (Ky.); Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.); St. Louis Park (Minn.)

GPS: Morasha Jewish Day School in Rancho Santa Margarita, California
Map Coordinates: 33.6365623,-117.6018926
01:11:30 - Political activism--Passion for politics

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Partial Transcript: And at Henry Clay and in the Lexington community you seem to be very involved and outspoken about issues surrounding diversity in school and student involvement.

Segment Synopsis: Sippy expresses his passion for politics, which started at a young age. He describes his father as an outspoken rabbi and his mother as a professor who is dedicated to social activism. His political activism began during the 2004 presidential election when he began working in a partisan manner for the Democratic Party. Since moving to Kentucky, he has began working with groups including the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, a significant education non-profit in Kentucky.

Keywords: Activism; Allies; Anti-Semitism; Education; Holocaust; Inclusion; Kentucky; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Perspectives; Politics; Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence; Republican

Subjects: Anti-Semitism; Antisemitism; Discrimination.; Education; Elections; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Lexington (Ky.); Politics and government

01:15:12 - Experiences at Henry Clay High School

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Partial Transcript: So what has it been like to be a publicly identified Jewish student and a very outspoken activist at Henry Clay High School?

Segment Synopsis: Sippy believes that everyone should speak out against things like homophobia or Islamophobia, not just the person being affected by the hatred. Sippy also discusses an incident he brought to school administrators where a swastika was drawn on the bathroom wall. Sippy felt disappointed he was the first person to say something about the swastika. He felt other students should stand up against anti-Semitism as well.

Keywords: Administration; Anti-Semitism; Education; Henry Clay High School; Holocaust; Homophobia; Ignorance; Islamophobia; Lexington, Kentucky; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Stereotypes; Swastika; Teachers

Subjects: Anti-Semitism; Antisemitism; Discrimination.; Education; Jewish children; Jews--Identity.; Lexington (Ky.); Minneapolis (Minn.)

01:21:34 - The need for a coalition to promote social inclusion

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Partial Transcript: Um, you have to create a culture of, of inclusion and community, um, and recognize the intersectionality in, in, you know, in these shared struggles, and that's what's most important.

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses how the school administration's approach to incidents of racism, anti-Semitism, and other hate is distanced from what the students actually want or need.

Keywords: Acceptance; Community; Dialogue; Homophobia; Inclusion; School administration; Swastika; Xenophobia

Subjects: Anti-Semitism; Antisemitism; Discrimination.; Education; Jewish children; Jews--Identity.; Lexington (Ky.)

01:25:04 - Educating the community--Family roles

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Partial Transcript: Okay. So how is or how has your father been a resource in educating the community about anti-Semitism--anti-Semitism among students and at schools, and even, like, other issues that, um, arise with other, like, religious groups?

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses the role his father has had in creating a coalition to educate the community of Lexington, Kentucky in religious tolerance. Sippy lists the names of religious leaders in Lexington his father has been working with to create religious acceptance. Sippy believes in an inter-faith community.

Keywords: Christians; Coalition; Community; Education; J.R. Zerkowski; Muslims; Nadia Al-Khatab Rasheed; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Reverend Anthony Everett; St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church; Wesley United Methodist

Subjects: Anti-Semitism; Antisemitism; Discrimination.; Education; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Lexington (Ky.); Religion

01:27:37 - Life after high school--Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism

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Partial Transcript: So you'll be going to university soon. How are you going to react to anti-Semitism if it occurs in that environment?

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses the issues he expects to encounter after high school. He specifically touches on the difference between Anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism. On campus, he wants to do his best to speak up for the issues he believes in. He hopes to spend the rest of his life working on building coalitions for social acceptance and inclusion.

Keywords: Acceptance; Anti-Zionist; Campus; Coalition; Inclusion; State of Israel; University; Zionism

Subjects: Anti-Semitism; Antisemitism; Discrimination.; Jews--Identity.; Lexington (Ky.)

01:29:22 - Reactions to the 2016 presidential election

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Partial Transcript: How has your perception of what it's like to be Jewis--Jewish in the U.S. changed, if at all, since the election of Donald Trump this past November?

Segment Synopsis: Sippy believes that Donald Trump is not the problem with America, but a symptom of the problem. He wants this election to be a wake-up call for America to change its ways. He describes the trend of a rise in nationalism and xenophobia in recent years. He desires to challenge these rising trends and hopes there will be a wake-up call for others to join him.

Keywords: California; Donald Trump; Hillary Clinton; Kentucky; Political climate; Presidential elections; South; Symptoms; Voters

Subjects: Anti-Semitism; Antisemitism; Discrimination.; Elections; Jews--Identity.; Politics and government

01:34:28 - Political activism--Sippy's accomplishments

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Partial Transcript: So I want to transition now to talk a little bit about your passion and accomplishments as a political and social activist.

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses the organizations he is involved in in his political career thus far. He works closely with the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence to elevate the voices of Kentucky youth in regard to education issues. He currently serves as the student director of grassroots engagement for the Student Voice Team at Henry Clay High School. Sippy uses his voice to challenge oppressive educational legislation.

Keywords: Chair of School Governance; Coalitions; Gear Up; Henry Clay School Council; Henry Clay Young Democrats; Kentucky High School Democrats; Side by Side News; Student Voice Team; Teachers; Voices

Subjects: Discrimination.; Education; Lexington (Ky.); Politics and government

01:41:19 - Educating the community--Personal role

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Partial Transcript: So I've read a bit about your father's reaction to your activism in the anti-Semitism that has happened at Henry Clay, and he's very supportive of your ideas and creating a dialogue in the community about anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination and hate other religions have received.

Segment Synopsis: Sippy discusses his family's role in educating the community and how they work together to make this happen. They also work with other leaders in different religious temples. Now that Sippy is older, he is able to have more of a leadership role in Temple Adath Israel and his high school, Henry Clay in Lexington Kentucky.

Keywords: Adrian Wallace; Anthony Everett; Coalitions; Community; David Wirtschafter; Emmanuel Wirtschafter Sippy; Family; Meetings; Nadia Al-Khatab Rasheed; Shana Sippy; Temple Adath Israel

Subjects: Anti-Semitism; Antisemitism; Discrimination.; Education; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Lexington (Ky.); Religion

01:44:45 - Life after high school--Sippy's future

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, we're gonna transition a little bit more into kind of who you, um--your future plans for university and for your life in general.

Segment Synopsis: Sippy is unsure of what his future holds in terms of which college to attend and his plan of study. He is interested in American history, public policy, and international studies. He does hope to be involved in Jewish organizations on campus. He hopes whatever he is doing will make him happy. He does not see success counted in dollar bills, but in the joy you receive from your job.

Keywords: American history; Colleges; Community; Government; International studies; Politics; Public policy; Study

Subjects: College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; Education, Higher; Universities and colleges.

01:49:09 - Dating and socializing

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so we're gonna get a little bit more personal now. So, uh, how has your Jewish faith influenced, like, your dating and your socializing?

Segment Synopsis: Sippy begins with saying that he is more often atheist or agnostic. He sees Judaism as more of a culture. Sippy describes his openness to inter-faith dating and marriage. While Sippy does not want to force his children into Judaism, he hopes that his future children will be exposed to Judaism throughout their childhood.

Keywords: Agnostic; Atheist; Children; Culture; Dating; Exposure; Inter-faith; Kosher; Marriage; Praying; Socializing; Wife

Subjects: Families.; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Religion; Worship (Judaism)

01:53:18 - State of Israel and Jewish identity

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Partial Transcript: So how does the State of Israel connect to your sense of Jewish identity?

Segment Synopsis: Sippy identifies as a Zionist and believes in the need for a State of Israel for Jews in the Holy Land. He sees the complexities of the problem of needing a homeland and knows there is no easy solution in the issue of a sovereign state as their homeland. Sippy has visited Israel. He expected to have an overwhelming emotional experience; however, he did not. Sippy did enjoy his trip and would like to return in the future.

Keywords: Emotions; Family; Holy Land; Homeland; Israel; Israelis; Jerusalem; Palestine; Palestinian; State; Travel; Visits; Zion; Zionism; Zionist

Subjects: Families.; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Religion; Worship (Judaism)

GPS: Israel
Map Coordinates: 31.046, 34.851
01:57:07 - Predicting life ten years from 2017

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Partial Transcript: Okay. Okay, so I just have one last question.

Segment Synopsis: Sippy is not sure of what his future holds, but he hopes to be doing something meaningful. He finds success is not in money, but doing something important. He describes his passion for public policy, American history, and international studies. He hopes to pursue his interests in college.

Keywords: College graduates; Future; Happy; Seventeen; Success; Twenty-seven

Subjects: College students--Attitudes.; College students--Conduct of life.; College students--Social conditions; Education, Higher; Universities and colleges.