Brooke Johnston, senior, runs at a Girls Track and Field meet. Along with track, Brooke is dedicated to other extracurriculars, such as Bear Voices and Cross Country. (Photo by and used with permission of Jeremy Kauffman)
Brooke Johnston, senior, runs at a Girls Track and Field meet. Along with track, Brooke is dedicated to other extracurriculars, such as Bear Voices and Cross Country.

Photo by and used with permission of Jeremy Kauffman

Student races stress to the finish line

September 30, 2022

Academic stress is a problem for many students nationwide. 58% of teens reported their school-related stress levels to be much higher than what they believe to be healthy according to the American Psychological Association (APA). This problem may be elevated by the introduction of higher-level classes to a student’s schedule.

For Brooke Johnston, senior, her advanced academic path started in the second grade when she was put into the math replacement program at her elementary school. According to Johnston, she was “excited” for the “new chapter” the advanced classes provided, and in sixth grade, as she entered Middle School North, she was placed into the High Achieving Learners (HAL) program.

“I really do want to push myself as hard as I can,” Johnston said. “[My academic stress levels] are pretty high. I feel like each assignment takes me longer than it would for most people because I’m a perfectionist and [I’m] very thorough.”

Although Brooke, who has taken 30 advanced classes in her entire academic career, may not have made the choice to start her journey as a “high achieving learner,” Johnston says she chose to continue it by taking honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes in high school. According to Brooke, her “self-motivation” ultimately led her to this decision in her freshman year.

However, advanced classes are not the only factor that contributes to her stress; Johnston is passionate about her extracurricular activities as well, such as Girls Track and Field, Cross country, National Honors Society, Bear Voices, and French Club, which she founded during her junior year. According to Johnston, the build-up of work can lead to increased stress levels.

“In addition to having a lot of homework, if I’m planning a meeting for a French Club or volunteering for NHS, that’s another thing [I have to get done]. Just the sheer amount of things I have to do can be very difficult [to handle],” Johnston said. “But I get so much joy out of these activities that it almost cancels out all the stress.”

As well as the rewarding feeling Johnston gets from her work, she also finds that her family’s unconditional support can help her cope with stress.

“Talking things through is very helpful for me,” Johnston said. “I have amazing parents who are willing to hear everything I want to talk about, so if I’m ever getting overworked, I just take a break from what I’m doing and talk through things.”

Her parents advice to “keep everything in perspective” has helped her through her academic career and the stress it brings so far, and she plans to continue living by it as she continues her academics after high school, according to Johnston.

“[I know] it’s important not to rush something if I’m not sure what I want to do. I think it is good to take that step back and just breathe and live in the moment,” Johnston said. “It can be stressful, but overall, I think my high school experience has been enjoyable and enriching.”

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