Featured Stories


Rites of spring

SWAG shares tales of what students are experiencing in this semi-sunny season


REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lakeridge High School senior and Student Writers Advisory Group member Kate Kamerman faces a dilemma: take a gap year or go straight to college.
Many adults associate spring with chirping birds and cherry blossom petals fluttering in a gentle wind.

Many teens, on the other hand, are facing major life decisions this time of year, staring down big tests or trying to balance spring sports with a mounting stack of homework.

We asked the Student Writers Advisory Group (SWAG) to talk about the stress and emotions they’re experiencing as the end of school draws closer. Here’s what they had to say:

Springing off to the future

By Kate Kamerman

Spring marks the time for fragrant flowers and sunny days, but it’s also the time when high school seniors are making decisions that carry enough weight to change their lives forever.

Although it is not a permanent decision, choosing how to begin the next chapter of your life seems pretty daunting when you are currently dealing with what color prom dress to wear and how to buy a graduation-cap tassel.

Whether you’re looking at possible colleges or the option of not going to school at all, the next four years often define a substantial part of a young adult’s life. I find myself frozen between two polar-opposite choices that offer pros and cons that essentially cancel each other out. It feels like there is so much pressure to make the right decision, but what if there is not a wrong one?

Already self-diagnosing myself with indecisiveness disorder, I cannot bring myself to make any further moves because I seem to be unnecessarily nervous about just one aspect of my life. Choosing a college for the next four years or traveling for a year and getting a late start is putting an unusual amount of stress on someone who “handles stress well.”

I like to consider myself a wanderer, someone who finds comfort in situations outside of my own comfort zone. In this paradox for my adventures, I find myself torn between the decision of allowing myself to do what I love and see the world, or sticking to the standard of attending more school right after finishing up here.

A considerable number of students are facing a similar situation. What frightens me is that I cannot commit to what I say I really want to do, which is to travel, write, paint and observe the world while I’m living in it. I can’t dive head-first into a world of culture and excitement because I’m afraid of falling behind or losing motivation.

And yet, I know that taking a gap year could only bring positive changes in terms of my outlook on life, people and the world around me while also illuminating the type of nomadic lifestyle I find very appealing. My pros-and-cons list has extended to scraps of paper littered around my room, paper napkins in my car and doodles around the margins of my homework assignments. Yes, these decisions are important, but they have overwhelmed me to the point where every other thought features some sliver of the future.

I’m left smelling the flowers and sitting in the sun, while next to me sits a pile of homework, overdue textbooks and a decision waiting to be made.

Kate Kamerman is a senior at Lakeridge High School.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - Dramatic spring days bring storms and blooms - and a long list of sometimes stressful high school traditions.

MYSORE

Spring: a convergence of old and new

By Meghana Mysore

This is the flower season — the time when the old converges with the new, the sun begins to make its appearance, college-bound seniors look forward to the future, high school students ready themselves for upcoming tests, year-long activities come to an end and everything starts to conclude and take root again.

The way we approach spring, I’ve found, greatly depends upon the stage of life we’re in. For example, my experiences with the season have changed as I’ve progressed through high school.

As a freshman, I awaited the summer with eagerness, wanting desperately to be a sophomore. As a sophomore, I felt more in tune with the tides of high school, and experienced many spring firsts: my first AP test, my first time at the state Speech and Debate tournament, my first feeling that, one day, these firsts would turn into lasts.

Now, as a junior, I hold mixed feelings about the spring. I am eager to be a senior, to jump into an exciting and foreign world, to rejoice in the newness of things once again. At the same time, though, I feel sad to leave the old experiences behind. A few weeks ago, I faced one of my first lasts of high school: filling out a forecasting form for next year. As I wrote my class requests for next year on the form, I realized that it would be my last time doing so.

Next year, I will be in the seniors’ place, looking forward to the simultaneously elusive and exciting prospect of college. But for now, I am a junior. I am studying for too many standardized tests. I am enjoying moments with friends and family and time in Lake Oswego. I am excited to do the things I love, to finish the things I don’t love and to approach a flurry of lasts.

I am watching the flowers take root outside, knowing that spring holds so much more and so much has yet to take root.

Meghana Mysore is a junior at Lake Oswego High School.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - SWAG member Christine Hong (center) has a spring tradition, playing tennis. Her team members include Caroline Molloy (left) and Ariana Manafi.

Sports are worth your time

By Christine Hong

Lake Oswego High School starts at 7:30 a.m., so the average student wakes up and begins his or her day at around 6 a.m., if not earlier. After school, which ends at 2:40 p.m., the people who participate in track, tennis, baseball or other spring sports stay after school for practice, leaving less time to finish homework and accomplish other extracurricular activities. It is expected for students to be academically and athletically successful, and failing to meet these expectations means consequences, such as dropping grades, but that does not lessen students’ interest in doing spring sports. 

As a tennis player, I’m familiar with an athlete’s crammed calendar and regular exposure to the elements. Yet, although athletes fight against allergies, busy schedules, extracurricular activities and the rain, the liveliness of spring sports complete the high school experience. Meeting and making new friends, working as a team, becoming a family and being active might be a commitment, but it is worthwhile.

Christine Hong is a junior at Lake Oswego High School.

BISHOP

Prepping for prom

By Mikhaila Bishop

Not everyone loves prom. They’d rather avoid the parent picture posse, the hot and sweaty dances and the time-honored tradition of spending hundreds of dollars on a dress you probably won’t wear again. A good prom, though, overlooks all these faults and focuses on what’s important: having a great time.Prom is a way to celebrate an end and a beginning. As the biggest dance of the year, it pays a large tribute to the graduating class and the up-and-coming class that follows. The excitement over dresses and the debate between tuxes and suits is akin to finding a Halloween costume or getting fireworks for the Fourth of July. Finding the best prom date, restaurant and method of transportation can be stressful, but that one awesome night makes it all pay off.Many people in high school, however, miss out on this night for numerous reasons. Although they’re given two or (occasionally) three chances to go, the stigma against prom is still strong in today’s schools. Whether people are attempting to avoid school social events or believe the stereotypes about prom, the reasons for not going to prom are usually informed by social stigmas.But prom is an amazing and fun experience! I was lucky enough to go last year as a sophomore with two of my best friends, and this year, I’ll be going with my boyfriend of seven months. I bought my dress at Janelle James, my favorite dress boutique, but also got a free dress at the Abby’s Closet event in the Portland Convention Center, an amazing program and a well-executed event.

Prom is on April 25, and I and many of my friends are so excited to go and have fun and dance and eat good food and spend time with the people in our lives who we care about. If you think you can’t dance, come to have fun. If you think you don’t have many friends, spend quality time with the ones you have. If you don’t have the time or money or resources to make it happen, something will be there to help you. Prom is an undeniable rite of spring. I know so many adults who regret not going to their high school prom. And why didn’t they go? They didn’t go because they believed the stereotypes that still plague this high school tradition. They missed out on an incredible and unforgettable experience.

Mikhaila Bishop is a junior at Wilsonville High School.

SPEAR

The season of indecision

By Anna Spear

People ask me on a regular basis where I want to go to college, or what I want to be when I grow up, or other questions about my future. Since I am 15 years old, you might think I have plans and answers for those questions. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The truth is, I have absolutely no idea what I want to become or where I want to go to college. I am decidedly indecisive.

High school is supposed to be a time when kids figure themselves out. I find it difficult to plan my life in high school when I have yet to figure myself out.

With spring comes class forecasting for next year. High school students sit down with a school counselor and plan their class schedules for the next year. This may seem like an extremely simple task to most, but to me, the decisions are difficult.

I feel that when I plan my classes for next year, I am essentially planning my classes for all of high school. I have to make sure to take the classes needed as prerequisites for future courses. I have to take the classes that look good on college resumes. I have to choose electives that I hope I will be interested in, although I won’t really know until I’m actually sitting in the class.

I find this all quite stressful. I try my best to choose the right classes, and I am so lucky to have two older brothers who have already been through high school and can help me.

However, these decisions pale in comparison to the ones I will have to make eventually — deciding where to go to college and what I want to be when I grow. I find it nearly unbelievable that I will be applying for college in less than two years. Forecasting, no matter how small of a step, is helping me to plan my high school experience and, eventually, my life.

Anna Spear is a freshman at West Linn High School.

SPEER

Why spring break matters

By Anna Speer

Students spent spring break in varying ways: Some went to the mountains, while others relaxed at home. Almost all can agree that spring break was a nice vacation from reality, but we often underestimate how important breaks really are.

In the classroom, breaks are generally frowned upon; they are seen as an excuse to avoid work. However, taking an occasional break can be one of the best things you can do to stimulate your brain. A study from the University of Illinois tested 84 participants and their ability to complete a computerized task, one group having no breaks and another group with breaks in between tests.

The data showed that in the no-break group, most participants’ performance declined significantly over the course of the experiment. But those in the group that was given breaks showed no performance drop over time.

Personally, I felt much more refreshed after spring break and able to learn. During Mondays and Fridays at school, amid a nearly seven-hour school day — or even longer for students with early bird classes — the only break students are allowed is at lunch. It is true that we are allowed a 15-minute break between morning classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, but I wonder if teachers and students would benefit from a longer time to recharge before another class.

Research consistently shows that downtime improves performance. This is true not just in schools, but also in any workplace. We have a tendency to think that pushing ourselves to our wit’s end will give us better results. But in reality, taking a deserved break more often would make us happier and healthier.

We are all guilty of complaining about having too much to do in too little time. Taking an earned break could be a large step toward improving the management of our time.

Anna Speer is a freshman at West Linn High School.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Anisha Arcot enjoys a spring day in China in front of a sculpture at her school. Arcot is a freshman at West Linn High School spending a semester in Beijing.

Seeing spring in China

By Anisha Arcot

I wake up to the sound of music playing loudly in my room. I open my eyes and know that I should crawl out of bed and get ready for school before my dorm mother shows up to make sure I am awake.

“Mama” will be in my room in 10 minutes, and she will stay there until I am up and about. “Mama” is very committed to making sure I get to school on time. She usually stands by the door and calls out to me — “Anisha, Anisha, ANISHA” — her voice rising with each call. She continues to call until I reply or move a limb.

It used to take me a few moments to figure out where I was as I tried to make sense of the unfamiliar sounds and sights in my room. Now that I have been in China for almost two months, I wake up feeling anchored and sure of where I am. This is my home for now. I am spending the second semester of my freshman year at a public school in Beijing, China.

My day begins early. I have to be in class by 7:30 a.m. I am taking nine courses, and I attend classes till 4:30 p.m., then break for dinner. My evening classes go from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., after which my classmates and I race back to our dorms to get the last bits of homework done and take a quick shower before lights out by 10:30 p.m.

“Mama” really does not like it if we are up even a minute later than that. She is ferocious about the rules, but she is a softie inside. She really cares about all of us and we all know it and take advantage of it. We get Saturdays and Sundays off. However most of us, including myself, have some classes on Sunday nights from 7 to 9:30 p.m.

I am having an adventure, but it is a lot of hard work. Though I am fluent in Chinese, it is difficult to study subjects like biology and trigonometry in Chinese with native speakers. I feel stretched and challenged all the time, but I am also having a ton of fun. One of my electives is a theater course in which we are working on a Chinese musical. I love it.

I have made many friends and met people from all over the world here. My Kazakh friends have taught me some Russian, and my Korean friends are trying to teach me Korean. I am enjoying every single minute of my time here. The good thing about working this hard is that you really enjoy the free time. I am lucky that I can spend my free time exploring Beijing.

I will be home at the end of the semester, and I am looking forward to returning. But at the same time, I know that I will be sad when the time to leave comes. I will miss my friends, my “Mama,” my teachers, my school and this wonderful city I get to call home for a semester.

Anisha Arcot is a freshman at West Linn High School who is spending this semester at a public school in Beijing, China.

DRANEY

The end-of-the-year testing rite

By Jack Draney

Flowers are blooming, the sun is shining and everything is turning green. The world around us is getting ready for summer. Meanwhile, I’m inside, getting ready for tests.

In about 20 days, I’ll be taking my first Advanced Placement (AP) test. This week, I’ll be taking the Smarter Balanced Assessments. Right now, I have to decide when I’m going to retake the SAT, because apparently I’m not a very good writer.

For the next few weeks, I will be studying. I just finished a practice test for Smarter Balanced, which are standardized tests being implemented in Oregon this spring.

Now I get to spend my class time taking the Smarter Balanced exams — even though last year I already exceled in the standardized tests in math and English that these tests replace (Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills).

I asked my English teacher why we had to take these state standardized tests. He explained that they are used to make sure we’re learning the right things in the classroom.

After I finish the Smarter Balanced tests, I can go back to focusing on my upcoming AP tests, which I’ve been studying for all year in my AP classes. I have to take the tests if I want college credit, and my family has to pay $171 for them.

Chemistry is going to be the hardest one. We’re finishing up the last couple of chapters right now in class. After that, we’ll be spending our time reviewing for the three-hour-and-fifteen-minute-long test. In the days after that test, I’ll have AP physics and AP English tests.

After I finish my last AP exam, I won’t have to worry about anything for the last month of school, so this is my home stretch. This is it. I’m almost there.

I just have to push through this last month of averaging four hours of sleep a night, studying during lunch and sitting (sleeping) through lectures on electrochemistry, entropy and gas stoichiometry.

Then, I’m free.

Jack Draney is a junior at West Linn High School.

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