The “White Genderqueer Activist… with a Big Ego” from Stanford Online

Junior+Jack+Lipson+waits+for+his+sixth-period+AP+Statistics+class+to+begin.+In+eighth+grade%2C+Lipson+mastered+calculus+and+is+now+studying+elementary+analysis+at+University+of+California%2C+Irvine.

Charlotte Cao

Junior Jack Lipson waits for his sixth-period AP Statistics class to begin. In eighth grade, Lipson mastered calculus and is now studying elementary analysis at University of California, Irvine.

Clad in a navy jacket and a black mask, junior Jack Lipson dresses with the practicality of a certain Silicon Valley executive, but without the robotic demeanor. Lipson speaks with an exuberance as he explains his latest research project to us, leaning forward and adjusting his sleeves while lamenting the challenges of mapping lymphocytes in three dimensions.

Before enrolling at Portola High this year, Lipson attended Stanford Online High School, a community he called home since eighth grade. 

When comparing his high school experiences, Lipson notes the ample educational resources students at both high schools have at their disposal. What makes Stanford Online High unique is the initiative students take to realize their passions in a completely online environment.

“Most students at Stanford are really, really strong and motivated, and if they have the money to pay for Stanford, they have the backing and support to go and dive into their other passions,” Lipson said. “A big aspect of Stanford life is the Research Exploratorium, where students basically get to present research that they’ve been working on.”

I’m a rich, white genderqueer activist, a hardworking, personable student with a big ego”

— Jack Lipson

At Stanford Online High, students’ appetites for research are supported by a rich catalogue of advanced courses. During his time attending Stanford Online High, Lipson exhausted College Board’s offerings of science exams.

“Because of Stanford’s philosophy classes and their emphasis on teaching you the fundamentals of science going back to the Islamic era and learning about what science really is at its core in a way other than just the scientific method you learn in elementary school, that was what got me thinking, ‘Okay, this is what science actually is and this is what research is,’” Lipson said.

Lipson explained that sometimes he missed the interpersonal connections and relationships he made with people that are felt in an in-person high school atmosphere. In Stanford Online High, academic life was completely on Zoom and Skype calls. 

“It’s really nice to connect with people in person [at Portola High],” Lipson said. “It definitely has an impact to be able to see them in real life and see really what they’re like. You can hide behind the screen, but it’s much harder to hide in person.”

While the in-person connections in Portola High are refreshing to him after three years of virtual schooling, Lipson is no stranger to a competitive academic culture like Irvine’s.

Probably the biggest driver for me is guilt, and guilt in a lot of ways, but mostly from the same source: I’ve been able to go to Stanford and Pegasus—these private schools—and have this background… because I’ve been very fortunate”

— Jack Lipson

“The Irvine bubble is very real,” Lipson said as we exchanged knowing looks. “And I definitely think it’s competitive, but I also think that it supports that competition. It’s not putting people down, and it’s not elitist. I don’t really think that I’ve ever been in a position where I’ve been going to Phillips Exeter, and I have my school uniform, and I’m beating up the poor kid.”

Yet, our conversation revealed so much more as he clarified the “why” behind it all—his relentless pursuit of knowledge and genuine connections. Behind his self-effacing attitude, he feels a solemn indebtedness to utilize his unique education and privileges to be a resource for others.

“Probably the biggest driver for me is guilt, and guilt in a lot of ways, but mostly from the same source: I’ve been able to go to Stanford and Pegasus—these private schools—and have this background… because I’ve been very fortunate,” Lipson said. “I think it would be irresponsible not to go and try and support other people in their academics or in their lives.”

When asked to sum up his current self, he cracked a smile, taking a reflective pause before admitting, “I’m a rich, white genderqueer activist, a hardworking, personable student with a big ego.”