SHELBY TAKESHITA / PEARL CITY HIGH SCHOOL
Teens sometimes struggle to juggle all the tasks they need to accomplish to become good students. Pearl City seniors Ahromi Wang, left, and Cu Ri Lee display the effects of another marathon study session.
Stressed for success
Driven students juggle heavy workloads to achieve academic dreams
Strung out, harried, frazzled, exhausted, pressured -- these are the common attributes of the typical stressed-out scholar, or SOS, running frantically around Pearl City High School. The Charger SOS is probably representative of every high school student who aspires to attend a good college.
Pearl City High School
Kristin Kaneshiro, Sachi Takita and Ahromi Wang
2100 Ho'okiekie Street, Pearl City 96782
Purple and white
Students seem to be expected to do everything superhumanly possible to get scholarships and college acceptance letters. They must play sports, participate in student government, be active in community service organizations, play in their school's band, belong to the National Honor Society, score high on SATs, take challenging Advanced Placement courses and maintain a high grade point average as a crowning achievement.
With unrelenting pressure from parents, teachers and counselors, and feeling the competitive nudges from classmates, students who have chosen to accept the challenge to be part of the SOS cadre sacrifice much of their personal lives. Since college is no longer considered optional today for a higher quality of life, college admissions teams get to choose the cream of the crop out of an increasing number of applicants.
Senior Cu Ri Lee felt the pressure from her parents early on. "My dad brought home college videos for me in elementary school. Crazy!" Lee says, laughing.
Shaking her head and sighing in mock exasperation, Lee says she is currently enrolled in three Advanced Placement courses while she juggles band, National Honor Society and the PCHS Key Club, for which she is president. She gets about 4 1/2 hours of sleep a night and often has to give up spending weekends with her friends, who are almost all fellow AP students.
Jaren Shigeta, one of Cu Ri's classmates, also feels the heat from his parents. A self-proclaimed "overachiever" since elementary school, he is working hard to get into his dream school, Boston University. He is the PCHS band and National Honor Society president, takes AP English, chemistry, and calculus, and writes for the school newspaper in an after-school class.
"Feel the knots in my back," he says, stretching. "All the little things add up."
Fellow senior Ahromi Wang is an exception.
"My parents believe that I'll push myself," she says, "so I don't feel very much pressure from them. They're silent supporters. I'll know whether my work was all worth it when I graduate from college."
Wang reports getting six hours of sleep every night, and her social life hasn't suffered much either. "I went clubbing last week," she says.
She is one of the few who seems to be able to find the elusive, happy medium between academic and personal life. She juggles four AP courses, Key Club participation, and golf. Her preparation for the new SAT consisted of eating a good breakfast -- no studying -- and she managed to earn a score that would put her in the top 10 percent of the nation.
But for the other SOS cadre who have toiled throughout the years, advice from Lee's mother may put a brighter perspective on their lives. In response to the question on whether colleges' expectations are unreasonable, Suh Hee Lee thinks not.
"I push my daughter so that she will have a bright future," she says, adding that the colleges' expectations are "not unreasonable because society is always changing and our children have to keep up."
BACK TO TOP
Adviser helps students win $1.7M in aid
A millionaire of sorts works at Pearl City High School. Most days he can be found in the College and Career Resource Center, tirelessly giving guidance on everything from joining the military to getting into Stanford University.
All of Mark Oda's dedication has reaped big payoffs. Last year, for the class of 2005, he helped college-bound seniors earn a total of $1,785,000 in scholarship money.
"A million dollars a year is average," he estimates.
Oda, an Aiea High School graduate, earned his bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in counseling at the University of Hawaii. During his own high school career, Oda did not have the help of a post-high school counselor. He recalls that his college admission application process was "anything but satisfying."
"If I were to apply for college today as the senior I was in high school, I probably wouldn't get accepted with my (old) habits, given the new qualifications (for college admission). I just dropped off my application without even seeing a counselor," he said.
Today, colleges have high expectations for students who want admission to competitive schools. Colleges, he explains, have seen an increases in applications through the years. Now, a typical college senior must have a resume full of co-curricular activities, volunteer work, well-written college application essays, various standardized tests, in addition to excellent grades.
Oda not only helps each student with their college and career planning, he also helps coordinate various college, vocational, and military speakers to visit with students. He takes time to listen to each student to recognize each individual's personal talents before advising the student on a career path.
For Oda, "Work is not hard, just challenging. What I do is rewarding because I enjoy working with people. The challenge is getting students into programs they would usually have a hard time getting into."
Oda feels that when going through the college process, the biggest mistake a student can make is not doing enough research regarding the college options.
"It's frustrating when students don't put work into what they want to pursue," Oda says. "They don't take the appropriate courses in high school, they aren't concerned with their current grades, they procrastinate, and they don't take the little steps to reach their goals."
BACK TO TOP
"If you found $50,000 on the sidewalk, what would you do?"
"I'd go shopping."
"I'd give it to the Katrina victims."
"I'd turn in $40,000, and then I would exchange the $10,000 into ones, then take a bath in the money."
"I'd keep an eighth of it and donate the rest to the UNICEF kids."
"I'd give it to my momma."