With the selectivity of American universities soaring in the last few years, students are under tremendous amounts of stress daily. It is almost impossible to have leisure time, and numbers––grade point averages (GPA), the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or the American College Testing (ACT) and other scores ––are overtaking students’ lives. To fix this problem, Stanford University created the Challenge Success program, a community where members seek to broaden the definition of “success” beyond students’ current conception of its meaning.
Many students around the United States believe that being admitted to a highly prestigious university portrays success; it gives them hope for a brighter future. However, Challenge Success “challenges” this notion. The program believes that success is measured throughout one’s lifetime, not through the GPA that is received after a semester. Arnold O. Beckman High School decided to partake in this journey by recruiting numerous students and teachers to form the Beckman Challenge Success Team.
“At Beckman, there are significant amounts of competition and high stress levels among students,” said Senior Erin Kwon, who has been a part of the Challenge Success program at Beckman since 2018. She also takes various Advanced Placement (AP) courses and participates in extracurricular activities such as orchestra, clubs, the Associated Student Body (ASB) and more. “We work to improve academic stress and minimize this prevalent competition all over campus among students.”
Indeed, the Beckman Challenge Success team has already started to pave the way for decreasing stress in students’ academic lives. Passing periods between classes have been lengthened to eight minutes rather than five, and students can enjoy late-start Wednesdays every week this year–school starts over an hour earlier than usual for all students.
“The late-start Wednesdays definitely allow me to sleep in for a few more hours, and even though this may not seem like much, I am able to focus so much more in classes and be more engaged during lessons,” said Tyler Kuk, a current junior who participates in the school’s marching band and Beckman’s Junior Varsity Volleyball team. “With the extra minutes during passing periods, I am able to talk to my teachers and ask them questions, quickly finish up the work that I was doing before the bell rang and just overall be more relaxed when I walk to my classes.”
The Beckman Challenge Success Team consists of a combination of students, faculty and parents. Two seniors, Erin Kwon and Sydney Cheng, and two juniors, Maddie Hernandez and Daphne Estrella, represent the students’ opinions on campus. Meanwhile, Stephen McGill, Stephen Hochschild and Penn Bushong provide the staff’s views. Lastly, Eric Garcia and Sandy Huebner-Chan, both the parents of Beckman students, present the parents’ perspectives. All of the members of this team work together to better the lives of hard-working students.
From Friday, Oct. 4 to Sunday, Oct. 6, the team traveled to San Francisco to attend the first biannual conference of the year at Stanford University. Participants from high schools all over the West Coast of the United States came together to discuss the issues of success, competition and student stress. Stanford held seminars regarding various topics that each participant could choose to attend. On top of that, informational sessions were held in which speakers–of various professions such as psychiatry or counseling–gave incredible insights about topics of interest like the restorative sleep and mental acuity.
“The conference was very positive. In fact, it was mind-blowing,” said Mr. McGill, the Advanced Placement U.S. History teacher who has been a part of the Challenge Success program since its founding in 2017. “Because we had new additions to the team this school year, it became a completely different experience. The very first conference we attended last year was like an introductory course where we tried to find the roots of the issues of stress at Beckman. However, this time, it was more of a learning experience, developing as a group.”
Throughout the school year, all members will gather to have meetings every month or so to find more ways to initiate changes in Beckman students’ lives. Although stress is an inevitable and essential part of high school, there are ways to minimize it. More importantly, the team works to alter the mindsets of Beckman students. Members want students to acknowledge that each person has a different path to success, and success is not defined solely through what college a student gets into or how great a student’s SAT score is.
“This year, we plan to have meetings often and initiate a student group on campus to incorporate different perspectives,” said Mr. Hochschild, the English 3 Honors teacher who also has been involved since the program’s beginning. “We have also planned activities to get students involved in viewing their daily routines in a different way. Not only that but we also want teachers to reflect on the amount and the type of work they give to students. We definitely want to alter the pre-established culture on campus in a healthier way.”
The Challenge Success team works to its full potential to positively impact any student who is currently trapped in the whirlpool of numbers, letters and the pressures of academic stress. As a member, Kwon feels that the program already sparked changes to her mindset.
“I was one of the students who was very obsessive over grades all throughout my high school career,” said Kwon. “I felt that I needed to meet this expectation, and peer pressure always took over me. Now, however, my mindset has changed. I realized that my standard of ‘good’ should not be based on others’ views of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and that I have a different path that is set for me.”
The Beckman Challenge Success team plans to work to influence this community of students. It hopes to see a change in all of Beckman where students will discover the true meaning of success.