Representatives of Westlake travel to Stanford University in hopes of relieving stress on students

The purpose of Challenge Success is to make high school students feel they are in a less stressful and friendlier place. Over the first weekend of October, a group of students, parents and faculty flew to Stanford University to talk with experts and representatives from other high schools. Challenge Success was brought to Westlake by English teacher Melissa Dupre and student support counselor Katie Bryant.


“[At Stanford,] we all came up with a plan to make high school better,” student representative junior Amanda Goldsmith said. “We focused on three things. Number one was teacher-student care — making sure students know teachers care about them and that they feel that care. Number two, more student GPA awareness. Making sure that students focus on their grades instead of their rankings. Lastly, we made a stress tree at the bottom where we put what was causing stress for kids and at the top we put the outcome. An example would be pressure from parents at the bottom and [the top] would be headaches or lack of sleep.”


Challenge Success hopes to inform the community about how Westlake students are doing and the current research about high school stress. From there they want to start looking at ways to alleviate pressure on students.


“[Westlake] isn’t doing well compared to other schools,” Dupre said. “Students have poor sleep time. There are many students who report high levels of depression and anxiety. Some students report having physical symptoms — headaches, stomachaches, fast beating heart — all caused by stress.”


As Challenge Success moves forward, they plan to include students, parents and teachers alike in the discussions. They want to keep what makes Westlake special while changing what makes it stressful.


“Many adults have no real understanding of students’ experience, though they think they do,” Dupre said. “At Stanford, students brought honesty, realism and a sense of hope. Students kept reminding adults that school is for students. Teachers are fans of students; they really care about how students are doing.”


Amanda and junior Shrey Majmudar, who was also part of the committee who traveled to California, plan on starting a club based off of the knowledge they learned while at Stanford. Their hope is to get students to open up about the stress they are under. They want to remind students that they have a voice in what goes on around the school.


“We don’t want the club just to be about the top 10 percent,” Shrey said. “We want every student to be a part of it.”


“Before Stanford, we didn’t know much,” Amanda said. “Challenge Success has definitely changed the way I look at the school. I’ve learned so much about how the teachers work and how the staff works. Also how Shrey and his friends, being higher achieving students, think about school.”


After Stanford, the Westlake group left with a lot of knowledge and new ideas that they hope to introduce to Westlake. The Stanford experience helped to open their eyes, not only to problems at hand, but also ways to help fix them.