Challenge Success

By Tanya Postian

Have you ever felt as though you’re juggling ten thousand things? You have three tests next week, a soccer game, and four club meetings you must go to? Have you ever felt as though no one understands the stress you’re under? With our high-performance culture at Byram Hills, feeling like you are under a lot of pressure is a feeling that many students can relate to. There are academics, athletics, and extracurriculars that create an overwhelming responsibility for students, who are trying to accomplish everything. Students are under pressure that seems inescapable. Many feel as though they are calling out for help, and no one is hearing their voice.

Well, this December, student voices were heard as they explained the stress they were feeling. For five weeks, Byram Hills acknowledged students’ everyday responsibilities as they reported their experiences in the “I Wish…” campaign. Challenge Success is a program associated with Stanford University, designed to fully understand students’ stressful experiences in high school. They focus on driving students’ attention away from their need for nothing below excellence in their performance at school and help them develop useful skills and characteristics, such as good ethics, resilience, and the desire to learn for the sake of learning.

Byram Hills recently partnered with Challenge Success’ “I Wish…” campaign as a way to further improve their high school environment. The campaign was designed to help high schools’ faculty take a look into their students’ demanding lives and address their needs. The campaign lasted for five weeks; each week, students were able to fill out a survey with a new prompt, which identified and addressed problems that were causing stress. For example, in the first week, students followed the prompt: “I wish my teachers knew…” allowing them to address academic concerns, and in the second week, students completed the prompt: “I wish my parents knew…” giving them a chance to address familial or parental problems. As the campaign’s goal was to recognize students’ stress, it did a great job in acknowledging that every individual undergoes different pressures.

Students have appreciated this chance to express their thoughts, but most do not expect this experiment to alter their environment. An unnamed student who completed the survey says that they were “alarmed at the statistic provided at the beginning of the survey,” which said ‘our current fast-paced, high-pressure culture works against much of what we know about healthy  child development and education,’ and proceeded to write about how this should not be the case. The student says, “I think the efforts the school makes to reduce our stress will be ineffective until colleges and society stop grading people on numbers and I know that isn’t going to happen any time soon.” This student is thankful for the school’s concerns toward the matter; however, they are doubtful that this stressful environment will ever change, which had caused frustration for many Byram Hills’ students.

This student may or may not be proved incorrect in this upcoming month, as we will learn if the school will be making any changes. On Monday, February 7th at 7 pm, Dr. Pope, the founder of the Challenge Success program, will be speaking about the results and conclusions of the data collection done in both BHHS and H.C. Crittenden. The assembly will be geared towards 10th and 11th graders, but anyone who is interested may purchase a ticket. Dr. Pope will be discussing redefining the college selection process and explaining how essential it is to create a healthy and beneficial environment for students constantly under pressure. There is no doubt that the presentation will be engaging and informative, giving students and parents numerous ways to decrease stress in their lives. But will the school really limit the amount of work put on students, or will the interviewed student’s prediction come true?