Humans of Harker: Behind the decision

Jason Pan (12) navigates life by thinking of others


Emily Chen

“I’ve always been fascinated by how people think. That plays into debate. That plays into everything I do,” Jason Pan (12) said.

Whether he is discussing international politics in a debate round, dominating the volleyball court or researching neurobiology, Jason Pan (12) is constantly aware of other people’s thoughts and the reasoning behind their decisions. 

Beginning middle school public forum, a team-based debate style has been a central part of Jason’s life. Rather than viewing debate as a way to argue with his opponents, Jason treats every round as an opportunity to learn other’s opinions and to understand why they think in a certain way.  

“Talking with your opponent is more intellectually satisfying than spreading at them. Public forum is also more laid back, not work-wise, but like a conversation,” Jason said. 

Jason also enjoys public forum because of its team-based nature. In sixth grade, he partnered with a friend to take part in competitions. Due to their seamless collaboration, they were successful.

Max Lee (12) attributes Jason’s people skills to his participation in debate.

“It might come from his debate skills, but he is able to read other people really easily. He uses this to help other people with their problems. As a result, a lot of people like him because he is able to make other people feel better,” Max said.

Although he stopped debating at tournaments during senior year because of the large time commitment, Jason began coaching debate in his high school years.

“He wants to help everyone, not just the people he is close to. It shows you he has something in his heart that’s a basic kindness that he shows to everyone,” Max said.

The way that Jason approaches debate is similar to his role in the Harker volleyball team. Although arguments are not common among the team members, he describes himself as a mediator who doesn’t berate or put others down and appreciates volleyball because of his teammates.

“You are only allowed to touch the ball for so long, so everyone has to work together and there has to be a lot of coordination, and I think the complex plays we are able to pull off is what makes it fun to me. There are so many new things to master when it comes to volleyball,” he said.

While Jason does not expect to play competitively, he plans to continue practicing the sport as a hobby in college. In addition to volleyball, Jason also actively participates in dance, which he enjoys due to the constant interaction between people. 

“[Vance Hirota (12)] motivated me to do dance because he thought it would be fun. I also did volleyball with him which I got him to do. I made a deal with him. It was how our volleyball team started. That’s how the people who are now on the team got started,” he said.

Now that he has been part of two dances each year since the beginning of high school, Jason doesn’t regret trying the art.

“Dance is a good way to connect with new and interesting people who have similar passions,” he said.

Jason’s friend Ethan Hu (12) describes his ability to recognize others’ feelings.

“He’s often very understanding when it comes to what other people are going through … I think that that value of him goes underappreciated by other people around him,” Ethan said.

Jason’s interest in understanding how others make decisions introduced him to neurobiology research. He spent time over the summer at a lab manipulating neuron connections in flies in hopes of helping people with brain damage or memory loss. 

“I’ve always been fascinated by how people think. That plays into debate. That plays into everything I do,” he said.