First Graduating Class Reflects on Experiences: #WhyKLS

Khan Lab School
January 7, 2021 / 5 mins read

Over our Winter Break, the KLS Class of 2021 took over our school's social media channels with a series exploring their experiences thus far. Each graduating senior was asked to answer the same question: Why KLS?

Before we left for break, and as our students were busily completing college applications, our students shared their responses. Read each of their responses below.

Bella T.

"I've been asked the question 'Why KLS?' too many times to count within the past 7 years that I've been attending#KhanLabSchool, and I swear my answer changes every time. The only real explanation I have for this is that the older and more mature I become, the more I can reflect on experiences, and the more I learn about myself.

So, why did I choose to attend, and why do I still attend, KLS?

In the beginning, I didn't choose to, and the idea of switching school mid-year and leaving all my friends as a 10 year old was scary—but when my dad mentioned there were "no tests and no grades," I thought I would give it a chance. Some reasons why I still attend KLS to this day is the fact that I learned about passions that I had that I wouldn't even know existed if I went to any other school. At KLS, I was able, for the first time, to explore my creative side beyond just doodling. The freedom to create a passion project around whatever I wanted was frightening, but after trying anything and everything I could, I quickly learned what art forms I like and don't like. That's when I decided to pursue art and, more specifically, graffiti.

Along with nurturing my creativity, KLS was able to support me through my highs and lows academically. Being a student with ADHD, I struggled a lot with focus and completing assignments on time, but with strong student-teacher bonds and the ability to communicate my needs with my teachers, I was able to work through solutions.

At KLS I have made lifelong friendships and irreplaceable connections, and I couldn't imagine myself at any other school."—Bella T. '21

Abhi V.

"I chose KLS, and would choose KLS again, because of the people. KLS is a tight-knit community, and the students and faculty are incredibly kind and supportive of one another. I have met some of my closest friends at KLS, and have learned and grown so much during my time here." —Abhi V. '21

Caleb C.

"Instead of teaching me to take a test or to do homework,#KhanLabSchoolhas taught me to learn, grow, and master the topics that I am passionate about. I've become ready for a real life work environment, not just some random test." —Caleb C. '21

Jane B.

"Seven years ago, I walked through the double doors and into Khan Lab School for the first time. I was one of 28 students who had decided to leave behind the school I was familiar with and jump into the funky, start-uppy, weirdness that was baby KLS. None of us were sure what we were getting into.

I feel so grateful to have grown with our community. I've been overwhelmingly supported by my teachers and peers and pushed to challenge myself. Our community is so willing to accept every student and excited to help each other grow. If I'm struggling with a Math concept, there's always someone there to help. If I want someone to review an essay of mine, I'll never have to look far.

I'm so lucky to have found KLS so long ago, and I can assure you that if I could, I'd choose KLS all over again."—Jane B. '21

Dilan K.

“When thinking of what makes KLS unique, many people tend to look towards our mastery-based grading system. While this part is very unique and innovative, I think KLS is actually defined by the community.

The teachers are so supportive of the students and constantly ask for student input on how to make everyone's lives better. In community meetings held every week, the entire Upper School meets together to discuss a topic (it can be something personal, a problem that is addressed, or even some guest speakers sharing about their experience). I remember I was asked to present about my summer internship in the first few weeks of the new school year. I was nervous, of course, because I would be presenting in front of the entire Upper School, including the teachers.

After I presented, I was expecting to sit back down, but a hand in the audience was raised; I called on the student and they asked a specific question about my experience during the summer. I answered and another 3 hands popped up—it went on for about 7 minutes until I answered all of the questions.

What I realized was that every person was paying attention and actually wanted to learn. KLS is distinct from other schools because the community not only encourages students to want to be here, but everyone here wants to be here, too.”—Dilan K. ‘21

Laker N.

“At KLS, if you want to do something, you can do it. You learn to take your education into your own hands by brainstorming a path then finding a creative way to implement it. For me, this meant finding a way to continue learning Math after I finished Calculus in my first year in the high school, because KLS didn't offer anything higher than Calculus at the time.

The path I forged was to do rigorous independent studies of materials available on MIT OpenCourseWare. A mentor helped to guide me, and a KLS faculty member helped to oversee them and ultimately write the progress report entries. The glamorous part is the result, but what was invisible, and what was special about KLS, was the willingness of our Head of School to even let me do the experiment.

KLS is also quite similar to the college experience, to an extent. Classes try to foster discussion and debate, for example, through breakout rooms in Zoom, or back when we were in-person, through small group discussions. We also have the concept of Goal Time, which is open space on a student's schedule meant for them to use as they wish. The heightened independence students feel at Khan Lab School reinforces that the student takes charge of their own education here. It is on the student to take advantage of the resources this community provides.

In a way, it's a lesson for life. The opportunities are there if we only reach out to grab them.”—Laker N. ‘21

Anjeli M.

“Some of my favorite memories at KLS are duringRoboticscompetitions. Sitting up there on the bleachers with the rest of the team, watching our 3 months of hard work culminate into this amazingly capable robot, and I feel as close as ever to all my peers.

I love how small the school and community is at KLS, because everyone is close and supportive of each other. This also means that all of my teachers know me fairly well, leading to more accurate and personal academic evaluations of my work. In addition to this, I love how academics are self-paced with support. This has given me the opportunity to progress rapidly in subjects that I'm passionate about, which keeps school interesting.

I'm always excited for a new school day at KLS.”—Anjeli M. ‘21

Parth I.

“Initially, I made the decision to come to KLS due to the allure of no homework. While that ended up not being exactly the case, there are several other aspects of KLS that have kept me here.

The biggest reason is the tight community at KLS. There is a healthy amount of competition at KLS, with each of us trying to complete a Math problem faster than the other. At the same time, there is a huge element of cooperation in our friendly competitions, comparing intermediary numbers, and checking each other's work.

All of this would not be possible if not for the customizable curriculum at KLS. While keeping on pace with all the subjects, KLS has allowed me to explore my interest much deeper, going ahead in Computer Science and Math.

For me, KLS is a place that keeps me interested, allowing me to learn to manage my own time, while also striving for perfection in all the subjects I take.”— Parth I. ‘21

Nick V.

"When I learned about Khan Lab School and the chance to pursue my academic interests, I jumped at the opportunity! KLS had such an energetic and fresh take on education; I felt empowered to pursue my passions in conjunction with learning to a depth that I could not find anywhere else.

This has most prominently played-out in my experience with engineering, as I have incorporated my internship in the@nasaamesResearch Center Intelligent Robotics Group into my Math and Computer Science education. Since then, I have furthered my comprehension to a point where I deeply understand the nuances and applications of topics not typically in a high school curriculum—for example, gradient descent and optimization. I've even integrated writing techniques from KLS into the publication I co-authored at the IEEE 2020 Aerospace Conference!

KLS's approach has altogether complemented my own aspirations of self-paced learning with support, enabling me to march quickly and confidently forward in subjects I am very comfortable with, like the aforementioned Math and Computer Science, while also working towards a deeper comprehension of others.

I am immensely grateful for the opportunities and adventures I have experienced and will never forget due to this school! Thank you, KLS!"—Nick V. '21

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