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College-going Culture and its Impacts on Mental Health

Lizbeth Ramos, Kalie Lopez, Kiara Buenaventura

Fernando Lopez

San Fernando Senior High School


Table of Contents

Abstract ………………………………………………………………………………….............. 3


Community or School Context……………………………………………………………4

Research Question………………………………………………………………………...4

Relevant Literature………………..……………………………….………………………5




Conclusion and Recommendations………………………………………………………...…….17




This research paper describes and addresses the pressures that college-going students undergo

and how it heavily impacts their mental health. Our Research consisted of online research data

we gathered from scholarly articles and other similar research, surveys given to students and

interviews given to teachers at San Fernando High School. The surveys gave the students

perception and proved our hypothesis which was; if students are pressured to pursue higher

education, then it will leave to the deterioration of their mental health. The interviews gave

another perspective on the issue. And the online data served to deepen our research and compare

what other people have done correlated with this issue. At the end with our final results, we

composed them together and got our conclusion and gave our recommendations.

College-going Culture and its Impacts on Mental Health


Community and/or School Context

In our research, we are focusing on the student’s mental health of San Fernando High

School. The school educates over two thousand students, with a student to teacher ratio of 22:1

and a gender ratio being 50:50. Minority enrollment in San Fernando is as high as 98 percent: 96

being Hispanic, 1 being Asian, 1 being black, 2 being white, .5 being American Indian/Alaskan

Native, and 1 being mixed raced. Moreover, 90% of the students are “economically

disadvantaged” for 75% qualify for free lunch programs and the other 15% qualifying for

reduced-price lunch programs. Not to mention, 35 percent of the students participate in advanced

placement courses with a participant passing rate of 60 percent and an exam pass rate of 38

percent. Our school ranks #2422 nationally, #472 in California high schools, and it is marked as

a Silver High School.

According to the large number of students that attend SFHS, we, in particular, focused on

those students that plan on attaining a higher education after high school. SFHS has programs

that help out and persuade students to go to college. For example, programs like Upward Bound,

PUENTE, Project Grad, and UCLA EAOP. Fortunately, for many years it has improved the

college-going rate of tens of thousands of students.

Research Question

Our main topic for this research was how the college-going culture pressure affects

students mental health. Meaning what mental health issues like stress, anxiety, eating disorders,

or depression do students go through. Moreover, we chose this topic because we are quite aware

that many students struggle with their school academics and that develops mental health issues.

However, what caught our attention was the fact that many adults may know what students are

going through, but they don’t do anything, or they don’t know how to approach it. We were

passionate about this issue because it was a problem we were personally dealing with while we

already had some background data we went more into depth with this research by taking action

when we gathered our evidence. With that in mind, we decided that we wanted to set a goal of

giving our recommendations for this problem and making it less severe since it is an issue us

students go through on a daily.

When deciding what our research question was we chose to exclude social life outside

and inside school meaning, we didn’t include interactions with people (friends or social media)

and solely focused on academics and how they were causing/ contributing to students mental

health. We pinpointed our research on students who wanted to or were planning on going to

college to make our study more adequate.

​Relevant Literature

For one of our resources, we investigated upon a newsletter called Center For Change,

titled “Eating Disorders, School, and Academic Achievement: A Formula for Failure,” written

by T.O. Harper, Ph.D. and Randy K Handman, Ph.D. In his article, we learned the literal

meaning of an eating disorder in which is the build-up of “distorted thoughts and beliefs.”

Eating disorders can be by negativity. Someone who has an eating disorder can falsify messages

meant to inform, console, educate or even advise, promoting further reliance upon one’s eating

disorder. This disorder can lead to withdrawal from social events or gathering; one can alienate

themselves from society, friends, or even family. Eating disorders can derive from low

self-esteem and their inability to perform. Harper and Handman had also spoken upon ways as to

confronting someone suffering from this disorder. One has first to understand what is happening

to the individual, then go on to provide them with opportunities to acknowledge their disease and

counteract these beliefs they had built over time.

Moreover, after gathering background information on eating disorders, we then learned

its effects on a student’s performance in their education. According to Harper and Handman,

people who want to pursue higher education with an eating disorder, traditionally have periods of

inactivity, hospital visits, and setbacks in academic requirements for college. They say that is a

problem should not arise if these people are “placed in the proper educational environment

designed to address both the severe eating disorder and to foster continued education

advancement.” When one undergoes the impacts of an eating disorder, the sufferer’s academic

life starts to become progressively worse; the sufferer starts to withdraw from social gatherings.

As well as lose interest in subjects and extracurricular activities, and the ability to focus on

important projects, paper, and tests. They also become more emotionally hypersensitive to their

surroundings and what others may say or think about them. One interviewee, who is a high

school junior, has reinforced this data by saying that they were not able to focus on their

academics. “My concentration level was terrible, and I could never read book assignments

without my thoughts wandering. I was always too tired to stay awake, and more often than not

my head was on the desktop sleeping. All of my energy went towards my eating disorder. It was

my first priority. My concentration level decreased, I skipped classes, isolated myself from

friends, and didn’t care about grades, I went from A’s and B’s to D's and F’s”. As of the data

they had collected, approximately 1500 high school students in the state of Utah and Nevada

have taken surveys about “eating” addressing eating disorder thoughts and behaviors. About six

to thirteen percent have developed a diagnosable eating disorder, and thirty to thirty-five percent

are at risk of developing an eating disorder. To conclude, Harper and Handman have stated that

with their findings, “there is a growing need for effective education and awareness programs on

eating disorders in high school settings.”

Comparatively to mental health issues, anxiety levels in students have also shown to

increase over the last decade according to Psychological. Today researchers have proven that

students have anxiety levels of psychiatric patients of the early 50s. Correspondingly, researchers

have calculated that about 40 percent of the general population, rounding to about 3 billion

people, has had a history of anxiety. In her article, Elizabeth Scott in “Social Causes of School

Anxiety” also talks about the factors contributing to the rise in student’s anxiety levels. Scott

states that a mismatch between student and teacher can develop long-lasting negative feelings

about school and their own ability to perform adequately.

Moreover, as kids become young adults, extracurricular activities become more

demanding. As college standards today become highly competitive, parents are booking their

child’s day to day schedule with ample extracurricular activities. Today, it is difficult for

college-bound students not to overschedule themselves. Overworking oneself can also lead to

alienating oneself from close relations such as their family. Overstraining oneself is impactful to

the child’s learning for the lack of meaningful discussions, such as casual day recaps, can be

detrimental to individuals dealing with anxiety. The paucity of unavailability of the child can

lead to distant relationships, which are factors that help students cope with their mental health

issues. As our society becomes more advanced, college admission standards become increasingly

competitive, making it difficult for college-bound students to avoid over-scheduling themselves.

There is also more pressure for kids to learn more and more at a young age. For example,

kindergarten was then a place where students first learn letters, numbers and the fundamentals.

As test scores become heavily weighted, schools and teachers are under enormous pressure to

produce high test scores; this pressure can be passed on to the students causing severe anxiety. A

study shows that higher levels of stress can hinder performance on exams.

Despite sleep deprivation not being a mental health issue, being sleep deprived severely

impacts students negatively as well as cause mental health issues to arise. With the abundant

amount of homework, extracurricular activities, and other responsibilities teens undergo on their

day to day; they often get less sleep than required. Operating under a sleep deficit doesn’t just

cause one to become groggy, getting less than eight hours of sleep leads to poor cognitive

functioning, lack of coordination, and other adverse effects. Lack of sleep makes it difficult for

students to concentrate and learn effectively; underperforming can lead to students feeling stress.

Studies have even shown people who get less than the required hours of sleep feel stress than

people who do. “Sleep deprivation in teenagers is an epidemic here in the US, with up to ninety

percent of teenagers not getting enough sleep on school nights.” A significant factor that

contributes to this severity is the regular schedule of students going to bed late and getting up


In her article “Survey Reveals Just How Stressed Your High Schooler ” by Samantha

Zabell, they focus on another study conducted by Frontiers in Psychology that surveyed 128

juniors. They found that most students had more than 3 hours of homework a day causing a lack

of energy along with a lack of sleep. They mentioned that most of this pressure came from

parents wanting their child to go to college, and since tuition is expensive they wanted a

“tangible result.” To cope with this, some students used “harmless” mechanisms such as music,

video games, and sports along with this two-thirds of the 128 students surveyed reported coping

with stress through substance abuse mainly being alcohol and marijuana. Thirty-eight percent

admitted to getting drunk and 34 percent to getting high in the last 30 days. These results again

proving the problem is happening in high school.

Furthermore, NYU released an article, “ NYU Study Examines Top High School

Students’ Stress and Coping Mechanisms,” that advocates the effects of stress on the youth. This

study focuses on the high levels of stress high school students experience, the long-term effects,

their coping mechanisms, and arising mental health problems. Students, especially those that are

soon off to college, are full of stress because they need to work harder at school. They need to

maintain their grades high, participate in more extracurricular activities and take as many Ap

classes as they can, all just to have a competitive record when applying to college. According to

Noelle Leonard, a senior research scientist at the New York University College of Nursing

(NYUCN), “there is growing awareness that many subgroups of youth experience high levels of

chronic stress, to the extent that it impedes their abilities to succeed academically, compromises

their mental health functioning, and fosters risk behavior.” This is significant because he's saying

that this stress affects the student's way of performing in school, but the stress is coming from

school. They studied a survey, as mentioned above, conducted by Frontiers in Psychology and

they gathered 128 Junior respondents. Researchers had found that 49%, almost half the students,

reported: “to be feeling a great deal of stress on a daily basis and 31 percent reported feeling

somewhat stressed.” They also had found that grades were another factor triggering stress in

preparation for college. Nonetheless, their coping mechanisms is substance use. Many students

use drugs as a stress reliever or their way of managing stress. Although, this affects students

widely, most of them find themselves getting high or drunk because of high stress. One student

stated, “​Marijuana probably was a big anti-stress thing for me last year…just being relaxed for like

an hour or two.” This proves that getting high off substances is the best solution for most students.

For example, some my find themselves exhausted after not sleeping due to finishing homework

so they take drugs to feel awake and have the ability to focus more, the drug most likely would

be ADHD pills. Overall, stress is a huge issue that students undergo and most have a limit of

coping mechanisms left. Nonetheless, this relates to our research because they are studying a

similar issue to ours, however they focus only on stress while we are focusing on multiple.


To collect our data we conducted student surveys and teacher interviews. Lizbeth

analyzed which questions were going to provide us with the necessary information to answer our

research. She then consulted the questions with our history teacher, Fernando Lopez, and gave

her feedback that enhanced the quality of the survey. We documented the responses on Google

Forms because we found this method more effective and time efficient for it provided us with pie

charts and analyzed the responses for us. In addition, we also used Google Sheets to break down

the information to come up with abstract conclusions. In total, we surveyed 131 students from

San Fernando High School: 9 were freshmen (4 females and 5 males), 28 were 10th graders (12

female and 16 male), 81 juniors (60 females and 21 males) and 22 seniors (12 females and 10

males). The majority of the questions were close-ended which provided us with specific answers

to what we wanted to find out. We also included one open-ended question that gave us opinions

from students on as to what they would like to see changed with the educational system. Since

there were other surveys being sent out during the same time period, we made the majority of the

questions close ended because we knew that the people taking our survey would want to finish it

quickly. We were distinct with our questions because we knew what type of information we

needed and the questions we asked provided us with just that.

Furthermore, to get another perspective in this issue besides from students, Kalie set up one on

one interviews with a few teachers. She interviewed our high school English teacher, Robert

Martin, who teaches 10th-grade honors and 11th grade Ap language Composition. As well as,

Fernando Lopez, a history teacher that teaches 10th and the 11th-grade honors world, Ap world,

honors the U.S, and Ap U.S. History. When setting up the questions for the interview, we started

by figuring the background of the classes these teachers taught. And the academic challenges for

each one. From there we asked what they expected from the students and if the students didn’t

meet this criterion what they did to help or if they did anything at all. We asked if they took into

account the other classes. We proceeded to ask if they considered social life because while we

weren’t focusing on social interactions, we wanted to see if they took into account the factors

outside of academics. Finally, we asked if they considered themselves to be of help to students

and if there were any other resources on campus that help students with their mental health

issues. We used this format first to get a truthful foundation then we asked how they approached

it to not only get our data but have them pause and think if they took action. Then we targeted

their awareness and once again focused them if they considered themselves to be of help. Thus

giving us our results and getting them to ponder this issue.



Out of 131 student responses many of the questions given had a variety of different

answers, however, there were a few questions that were answered in the same way. In one

question asked (Do you plan on going to college?) 93.1% of participants do plan on going to

college and 84.7% either strongly agree or agree that thinking about college causes them stress.

Then, 72.5% of them are taking one or more advanced placement classes and 57.1% of

respondents say they are taking an AP class to be more competitive when applying for college.

Hence, the fact that we are only focusing on those students that want to pursue higher education

this information proves that thinking about these type of things develops mental health issues.

Also, we asked questions about what does receiving too much homework leads to and the

numbers ranked highly of what the students reported. So 82.4%, more than half of the

respondents, said that it leads to stress, 71% said loss of sleep, 49.6% said emotional

breakdowns, 48.1% said inability to focus, and 42.7% said anxiety. In the only open response we

included (What can schools do to teach students, but prevent triggering mental health crisis?)

40% suggested “less homework.”

Notably, there were also questions that weren’t chosen by the majority of the

respondents. For example, 4.6% of students say that they get about 2 hours of sleep a day, which

is a detrimental to many students in the near future for it may trigger psychosis. Psychosis is a

symptom that makes people lose touch of reality, many doctors say that young people are very

much vulnerable for reasons they cannot understand. Also, a few students (6.9%) reported that

one of their unhealthy coping mechanisms is substance use like drugs and alcohol. And very few,

to be specific, 17.6% are taking prescribed medication and 13.1% are taking unprescribed

medication for mental health issues like stress, anxiety, depression, and others.

Throughout the interview we saw on how over all teachers, are in fact aware of this issue

when asked are you aware of the mental health problems students are dealing with because of

academics?” they both responded with “yes”. And while they do know about students mental

problems they are encountered with difficulties as to how to approach this issue whether it be the

number of students in their classes, or finding it challenging to connect with the students being as

some students can sometimes be shy or intimidated by the teachers or just needing to give them a

specific workload so that the students can in fact succeed. And in one special case a teacher did

not agree with students having mental problems solely on academics ( which is true) and on how

teenagers do not know what they are truly going through and while this may be the case as teens

ourselves and based on our surveys we found that students are indeed aware that academics are

in fact a huge partaker in their lives. First we asked on the background of what they teach and the

such difficulties of their classes all said that the classes were challenging because of the

structures of their classes. A common factor both had was when it came to helping students if

they were struggling “I have a open door policy where ppl can come in if they need a place to

just vent or express themselves or just like hide from the world that they would do so” along

with making it a habit of asking “how are you doing” (Lopez). Since the teachers we interviewed

were both teaching different subjects ( English, History) we found some points where their

responses were quite different. When asked “ Do you take into account students workload ( this

was asked to see if teachers take into account that the workload plays a heavy role for this issue).

Mr. Martin (english) responded with yes but he needs to cover the material in order for students

to be able to succeed when going to college. While Mr. Lopez (history) mentioned on how

usually his class gets pushed into the back so his workload often times doesn’t matter or is

pushed far back so he does not really take into consideration the workload.


One finding that we found most insightful and revealing was the free response: what can

schools do to teach students, but prevent triggering mental health crisis? This question gave

students the opportunity to say what they wanted to see changed in the educational system. The

answers from each person were some the same and most different. For example, 40% (50

people) of respondents said that a solution would be “less homework” and 10.4% (13 people)

said they wanted some type of support like stress management, meditation groups, or therapy. It

was insightful that many students answered in similar ways, meaning that they all see the same

problems and like homework should be less. Moreover, we then found that 9.6% (12 students)

said communication. They ask for communication because they feel like the teachers should

understand that they have other things on their plate and they can’t handle the workload they are

given. Also, they want to be heard on their opinions, and at times what they are going through so

teachers would comprehend (one on ones with teachers).

The amount of hours students spend on their homework daily was very insightful as well.

As 62.6 percent say they spend approximately 3-5 hours of homework per week, the overall

average number of hours students spend on doing their homework is 4.6. Multiply that by 5 and

the majority of students in San Fernando High School spend about 23 hours on homework alone.

Not to mentions hours they spend on the weekend which would bump up their average

homework time. As a whole, students devote over 58 hours to their education per week, and

considering all the factors, teens get less than 5 hours of uneducational related activity a day.

This includes everything as to household responsibilities, work, family/friend time, and self-care.

As a result from our data we can relate this subject of matter to our research. Our data explicitly

indicates and proves that students overschedule , overwork, and overstrain themselves.

Another, finding of ours that was revealing was the number of 11th-grade respondents:

58 females and 13 males. We believe that junior year is the grade year that most students are

developing the most mental health issues. Commonly, it is known that 11th grade is the hardest

year in high school since it’s when the colleges have their eyes on you, and more students are

stressed about being seen as more competitive. The data we got is that 55% of the survey takers

were 11th graders and out of that portion 97% do plan on going to college. Also, most of those

11th graders to be exact 84% are taking one or more ap classes, and 58% are taking them to be

“more competitive when applying to college." Furthermore, most reported that when it comes to

homework, 75% feel like they “lose sleep” and the majority 93% report that they feel “stress.”

This finding revealed that juniors indeed have college as a goal and they take most of their

courses to be exemplified as a good student that pushes themselves. Our study determined about

this topic that students are having mental health issues due to school and pushing themselves.

This answers part of our question because from the beginning we stated that our focus is on the

students mental health of SFHS, and these statistics answered what we wanted to know from the

students perspective.

In the interviews a pattern between them arose, both teachers tried their best to guide students in

the right path and created habits into asking students how they were feeling but despite their

efforts, they still saw that students were struggling, but they felt as they couldn’t do anything. In

one case one of the teachers was shocked to find out that the reason for a student doing so poor

in their class was because he was homeless living in poor conditions. The student didn’t tell the

teacher sooner just because he was overwhelmed with all the classes that he had he was stressed

because all of his previously good grades were dropping at a fast rate. One of the teachers added

on how he believed that some teachers simply weren’t capacitated to teach and when a test

comes up student can sometimes feel that since they don’t score well, they aren’t good enough

viewing themselves in a negative way. We found that the teachers can even relate to the students

saying that in the past they’ve felt the same. They said that students are exceeding themselves to

the point they don’t have to energy to do any work but the work remains and with this, the issues

develop. The students feel as if they have to physically drag their bodies throughout the semester

and this leaves them like “empty shells.” The mere fact that the teachers can even relate speaks

for itself in that not only has this been going on for a while but the teachers still don't know how

to fully approach this issue even if they went through the same problem. Another major factor

was that while the teachers see this issue one of them said that the materials have to be covered

and put into use otherwise they fear the student won't “make it” in college or even in their lives.

They mention since our school is composed of first generations meaning since most of our

parents did not go to college we don't have that push at home so everything must be covered at

school and put in practice at home. Again the teachers know of this problem but because of the

factors mentioned they must continue with their standards and regulations since as mentioned

they don’t know the students outside life aside from them being the first generation.

Conclusion and Recommendations

We concluded from our study that the pressures of a college-going culture had been a

major epidemic in adolescents for a long time causing mental health issues to arise in them. We

learned that someway or another mental health affects every single high school student not only

in San Fernando High School but the majority of students worldwide. We may not be able to

completely solve this epidemic, but we must acknowledge this issue being severely detrimental

by the decade, and that there’s something that we have to do to help address this issue and help

students out, including ourselves. We hope that the school’s staff and even the district might take

these recommendations into account.

For our recommendations, we created a two-part resolution because if one fails it has

something to fall back on our first solution is to have a questionnaire created asking the students

how they are feeling concerning the class and if they are struggling, why. The inquiry should

also ask about their workload with other courses as well as that class. It should ask about their

personal life if everything is going well or not. And ask them if they have any recommendations

for the teacher. With this, the instructor then will analyze the questionnaires and see if they can

modify anything or have a talk with the student and see if they can help them. Not only will this

be time-saving but it will work quickly and efficiently with the class.

Our second recommendation is for the school to hire a therapist. Successful author,

registered psychotherapist and psychoanalyst with a B.A and M.S.W from Columbia University,

Diane Barth, has confirmed that psychodynamic psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy,

works. With affluent history of successful patients overcoming their mental health issues, it is

safe say that such methods will work in our school. We plan to have this therapy to be readily

available to anyone, not just students attending SFHS (like the teen clinic is available to anyone

in the community). We also want this to be free, since the school is located in a a low-income

community. All things considered, we also want to motivate students to go see a therapist and

seek help, because the school can hire all the therapists in the world, but if these mental health

issues alienate students or enclose themselves from opening up then these therapists are no use.

Encouraging staff and parents to motivate these kids to find the right help is also another way to

help improve student’s mental health.



Barth, Diane F. “F. Diane Barth L.C.S.W.” ​Psychology Today​, Sussex Publishers,​.

Barth, Diane F. “Does Talk Therapy Really Work?” ​Psychology Today,​ Sussex Publishers, 6

Harper, Paul, and Randy K. Hardman. “Eating Disorders, School, And Academic Achievement:
A Formula For Failure.” ​Center for Change,​ 1 June 2017,

NYU, U. (2015, August 11). NYU Study Examines Top High School Students' Stress and

Coping Mechanisms. Retrieved December 09, 2018, from


Scott, Elizabeth. “Why Do Children Get So Stressed With School?” ​Verywell Family​,
Verywellfamily, ​​.

Zabell, S. (n.d.). Survey Reveals Just How Stressed Your High Schooler Is. Retrieved from


Appendix A:

Survey Questions

Appendix B:

Interview Questions

Interviewee #1

Q1: What classes do you teach?

A: I teach honors U.S. History, AP World History, and AP U.S. History.

Q2: How does AP differentiate from honors?

A: There’s significantly more reading for the ap classes; there’s also significantly more pressure

because there is an exam at the end of the class that they need to prepare for. An exam that we

don’t really know what’s the contents of so I’m trying to guide them towards something that I

haven’t seen before and hopefully, my guidance will help them achieve their goal.

Q3: What are the challenges for regular honors classes?

A:The challenges of regular honors classes especially mine is that I don’t necessarily follow the

traditional history class model were we are going in chronological order were we are studying

wars, just U.S. History in that way. I’ve set up my class in thematic fashion which will allows us

to explore topics in a deeper way but it also gives me the opportunity to assign projects that are

beyond just historical figures which I know might cause some additional stress for some


Q4: How much of homework do you assign a week?

A: For the ap classes it’s about a chapter and notes per week. For my U.S. History class almost

no homework.

Q5: How long do you think it takes students to complete homework you assign to them?

A: Anywhere from 3-4 hours for ap.


Q6: What do you expect out of your students?

A: I hate mediocrity with great disdain, so I expect everyone to bring their best effort at all times

whatever that best effort is on that specific day. I understand that on certain days people are

mentally not in the right place to perform, but I expect them to give me the best self that they

have that day.

Q7: And if they do not meet this criteria is there anything you’d do to help?

A: Due to the sizes of my classes and the amount of the sheer amount of people that I have to

guide. It’s significantly harder this year than in previous years for me to actually check in with

people but I make it a habit to at least ask people how they are doing and whether they answer

that question truthfully or they answer that question at all, but it’s up to each individual.

Q8: At the beginning of the year do you give out a syllabus explaining your expectations or

standards for the year?

A: I usually do, this year for whatever reason it never actually happened but I did explain how

the class was going to work, I explained my expectations for each one of my classes at the very

beginning of the school year so although there was no paper form of my expectations I did go

over it in detail the first week of school.

Q9: Do you take into account your students workload?

A: I try to take into account the workload, it just becomes difficult to actually schedule around

other peoples course load. Especially because my class is not seen as, let's say one of the top

classes it’s usually the math class, the English class, the science class, and then people think that

the history class is just you something that you roll in, you look at words, and then you come out

and you know those words. So it’s usually pushed back to the back burner a lot of times which I

know then students do the same thing so whatever work I assign is usually one of the last things

people do so I try to take into account but not always.

Q10: Do you ever worry about their lives outside of school?

A: Obviously because every person that comes in, comes in with their own struggles so if we

don’t take into account what they are struggling with then it becomes really difficult for people

to learn especially because of where I taught I’ve always had to take into account people's lives

so whether it was because people were homeless or because people were without their parents

because they were in jail or because of immigration status. I’ve always had to take into account

whatever struggles people are going through in order to accommodate my expectations of them

at that time. So I can’t expect the student who is currently going to court three or four times a

week to keep up with my class, it doesn’t work that way.

Q11: So if a problem does come to your knowledge of a student, you do consider that and you

help them?

A: I try to adjust whatever I’m doing so that it doesn’t create an additional burden. I try to look

for resources that might support them, so I try to look at different ways that I can be more of an

assistants then hindering their ability to actually at some times even survive.

Q12: In your opinion what effect does education have on mental and physical well-being of


A: Both in the high school and the college level, just based on my experience, the experience of

my peers I can tell you that the high pressure of the college-going culture leads to negative

lifestyle choices whether its lack of sleep, poor eating habits, things that completely drain a

person in leaving them almost like empty shells at the end of the semester. I think this idea that

you need to pretty much drag your body into the last day of school really hurts people in the long

run especially their mental health. If you have zero energy but the pressure is still there you start

feeling like you are not necessarily adequate, this idea of adequacy can really impact the way

that you view yourself and the way that mentally you perform. So I do think that this high stakes

extremely pressurized educational environment that we are putting people through can really

have a negative impact on people's lives on the long run

Q13: Are there any resources available in your school to help out students with these mental


A: We have counselors on campus, I know we have additional therapists on campus, we have the

teachers so I know that there are resources on campus to support students but at the end of the

day the student has to opt in you can not force a student to go to therapy they have to opt in to

actually see any of these resources.

Q14: Do you actually think they help?

A: ​ ​I think that one of the things that we need to learn how to develop is coping mechanisms and

at times we don’t have people in our lives who can teach us and we also at times don’t know how

to develop them ourselves. So i think that having additional resources on campus especially

trained professionals who can guide students can really help them develop the skills necessary to

cope with the difficulties in life. Whether it is the stresses or the other things that go on in our

lives that sometimes we don’t know how to handle.

Q15: Do you consider yourself someone students can talk to?

A: I would hope so but at the end of the day its whatever perception people have of those around

them I would hope that I have an open door policy were people can come in and if they need a

place to vent or express themselves or hide in the world they can do so. I don’t know how much

of that would transfer to what students would think.

Interviewee #2

Q1: What classes do you teach?

A: I teach honors 10th grade English and Ap English Language and Composition to 11th graders.

Q2: How does the rigor for AP classes versus honors classes differentiate?

A: I’d say AP English is a college level course and it’s not a class that’s particularly fun to take

like one thing I like teaching 10th grade is that we study a lot of literature and we can really

have a lot of fun with that sort of thing. In AP English it’s all Non-Fiction it’s hard core really

getting into texts and trying to figure out what the authors strategies are.

Q3: Do you think that your non-AP classes are hard as well?

A: I do think that they’re challenging, yeah I try to make them challenging.

Q4: How much homework do you assign a week?

A: For 10th grade I assign 3 hours a week and for AP I assign 5 hours a week.

Q5: What do you expect out of your students?

A: Students who are really serious about going to college and succeeding there I expect for them

to think seriously about where they need to be by the time they graduate so that they have a

better chance of succeeding in college and doing all that they can to get to that point.

Q6: And If they do not meet this criteria is there anything you do to help?

A: Yeah, I try to make myself available to students who need extra help and guidance I’m here at

school everyday at 6am and try to answer my emails which I get at all hours of the day pretty

regularly. I do all I can.

Q7: At the beginning of the year do you give out a syllabus explaining your expectations and


A: There’s a syllabus that I posted for the AP class and for 10th on schoology, I think this year

when we moved to schoology it might have gotten lost in the shuffle but it was part of materials

that i normally give out as part of a summer assignment guide.

Q7: Do you ever get to know your students?

A: Some students I get to know really really well and I think that’s kind of maybe one of the big

drawbacks of being a teacher is you get to know students really well and then the next year

begins and you’re starting from scratch. But a few times in my career I've had students for as

many as three years like 9th, 10th, 11th grade and with those students I’ve developed really

strong relations.

Q8: And if a student is ever doing poorly in your class do you take the time to actually ask what

is wrong, check in on them?

A: As a matter of fact I had such a conversation just today A kid who is failing and I invited him

to spend some time with me during nutrition to see what we could do how I could help him bring

his grade up that’s our thing so again yeah I’d like to think that I am well aware of challenges

that students face at home in the community and stuff like that that not everybody has a perfect

life and can do all of the homework to the best of their abilities all of the time

Q9: So if a student is saying like oh I just got kicked out of my house or oh my parents just

separated you do allow them ?

A: Absolutely and that’s what happen with the student today big time terminal illness affecting

someone very close in his immediate family that should take priority over everything else.

Q10: Besides their personal life Do you think about their work load?

A: Yes I do and I am being asked this question by a student in my AP class and we are about to

watch a documentary about what school is like in Finland and in Finland they give zero

homework and the students do really really well on international tests and stuff like that so I take

that opportunity to explain to my students why I give homework and just long story short my

students come from homes where parents didn’t go to college so when they leave school maybe

the learning especially in English kind of stops and you compare that with the kind of home

where I grew up college educated parents it’s almost like when I got home that’s when schooling

began. My dad would ask what did you read in your English class Shakespeare what do you have

to write about and then the rest of the night you know we’re talking about school so I think

there’s no way students are going to make it just with what they get in my class unfortunately

and I don’t really enjoy giving homework in part because I have to read it all I think there’s no

way students are going to make it just with what they get in my class unfortunately. But I think

that if they’re going to make it then they have to work outside of class to get to where they need

to be.

Q11: In your opinion what effect does education have on the mental health of students?

A: I know that a lot of my students get super stressed and actually a common topic that students

choose to write about for their position paper is about the stress that day and other students feel

and how it’s really debilitating mentally and physically and I really am sympathetic to that it

makes me feel really bad and over the years I haven’t lowered my standards but I’ve definitely

reduce the amount of work like before you couldn’t even pass my class unless you did what is

now equivalent quantity wise to get an a so now I realize not everyone is going to do five hours

of homework a week that’s okay it just means that they’re going to get a lower grade but they are

going to pass so yes I try to take that into consideration.

Q12: So you do think that education is an important factor for students to get ahead in life?

A: Yes, I tell you Kalie and Lizbeth I feel so bad for my students so much I think I had it easy I

never did homework when I was growing up at all and yet I still made it but for the reasons that I

just mentioned and so I feel like your generation of immigrant families you’re the transition

generation you are the generation that has to put in the extra work so that when you are a parent

you got a good job and you’re able to do for your kids what my parents did for me. I’ve already

seeing it with other kids that I’ve taught Now they are parents and they’re super super good

parents. Their kids are lucky because of the sacrifice they made.

Q12: Do you believe there is something wrong with the schooling system?

A:Yes, I do a lot. I think that there is some people who are in the business of teaching who

maybe don’t have the qualifications in terms of content knowledge and in terms of their ability to

establish a rapport with students or they don’t want to put any effort and extra time on behalf of

the students and it's probably corny but I see teaching as a really special thing to do you gotta be

willing to make some sacrifices.

Q13: Do you know of any resources available here to help students with mental health?

A: I am aware of the team health clinic and I’ve had personal experience with students who are

really having a tough time getting the help that they needed from the team clinic and I sing

improvement so I’m happy to teach at a school that has a resource like that available and I’m

also happy that some of my colleagues are really really good in terms of I think even much better

than mine I’m picking up on that like students are having a hard time and they go the extra mile

and helping students out.

Q14: Do you consider yourself a person students can talk to?

A: yes I think that some students feel comfortable talking to me and other students and makes me

feel bad but I think that for whatever reason they don’t and what I mentioned earlier that I’ve had

opportunities to teach some students for more than one year those students get to know me they

realize well he’s not the church that I thought he was and really cares. And I wish that I could

convey to all of my students that yeah I am genuinely sincerely interested in there making it

through this hard thing called K-12 education and if there’s anything I can do to help I would

really like to.


Appendix C:

Survey Responses

Appendix D:

School Mapping