Analy High School senior Max Gorden, left, with his exchange student friend from China, Yichen Wang. Press Democrat photo by Jeff Kan Lee


Analy High School senior Max Gorden admired his parents’ firefighting careers, so he began training to become one.
He thought his fellow students needed a school newspaper, so he revived his school’s dormant one.
He always wanted a brother, so he convinced his parents to host a high school student from China for the year.
And then he thought his fellow students ought to share the cross-cultural experience he was getting, so he forged a relationship between his high school and a Chinese one.
“I often find myself wishing there were more hours in the day to do all this stuff,” Gorden said.
Student body president, first baseman and trombonist, the 18-year-old Sebastopol resident said it’s not a desire to achieve that drives him, it’s curiosity.
“Everything that I do isn’t just to jam-pack my schedule, it’s because I have a passion for it,” Gorden said. “If I don’t love it, I don’t do it.”
Gorden laments there aren’t enough daylight hours to surf with his buddies, an informal surf club of Analy students, before getting to school for early morning jazz band practice. Otherwise, he has few complaints.
“Everything he does surprises me, every day there’s some new interest,” said his mother, Edy Ullman, a retired battalion chief with Cal Fire. “He’s going nonstop all the time, having great ideas and carrying them out.”
His interests are broad, but Gorden says his proudest moments have been to forge better understanding among people.
As the year began, Gorden thought his school needed a newspaper and with support from English teacher Joel Stickel, he revived the Tiger Times.
The paper debuted in October as a four-page tabloid. Five issues later, “we have eight pages in color, a 20-person writing staff, two formatters and a photographer,” said Gorden, its editor-in-chief.
“The stories that I’m most proud of are the stories that come from students who aren’t the most vocal or the most seen students,” he said.
Perhaps his best high school experience so far his been his friendship with Yichen Wang, a 17-year-old high schooler from Shenyang, a city of nearly 8 million people in northeast China.
Wang has lived with the Gordens since August, and the two boys hatched a plan over tacos last September to unite their schools. By Dec. 25, Gorden and Wang were on a plane to Beijing, a two-man delegation to formalize a “sister-school” relationship.
“It’s so important for different cultures to connect and understand more about each other,” Gorden said. “We wanted more connection between our two cultures.”
Read about his experience in China in his own words at

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or