Teens open up: A peek into the busy life of a high school senior
Being a kid these days comes with very grown-up pressure. Balancing sports, school and volunteer work plus competing with kids across the country for limited spots in the college of their dreams.
Life in these shoes is not an easy walk. Seniors at Maryville High School open up about managing their extra-curricular activities with high expectations in the classroom.
"I'm an athletic trainer for the football team, I'm a Girl Scout, I'm active in my youth group," said Regina Wol.
"I play high school soccer, I'm in Young Life, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, I participate in Spanish Honors Society, National Honors Society," added Emma Rice.
"I'm a captain for my rowing team, Model UN, ethics bowl, student counsel, Spanish Honors society, National Honors Society and I'm editor of the year book," said Emily Morgan. "This is our opportunity to build, for most of us the next step is college and as the pool gets more and more competitive we also have to get more and more competitive."
With dreams of college acceptance letters looming over their heads, Testing Solutions owner Jesse Hedrick said this generation faces an increasing emphasis on college level classes and make you or break you testing.
"It's really the greatest competition that they will ever take part in because they are competing with kids from all over the country," said Hedrick.
It doesn't end when the bell rings either. Expectations to be in clubs, sports, and volunteering. Not just be involved, be the best.
"I'm one of the drum majors in the marching band, student counsel and I'm president of national honors society, jazz band, Mu Alpha Theta," said Carter Hatch.
"I'm on the football team that takes up a lot of time, part of Young Life and I'm part of the youth group at my church," said Garrett Everett. "I get home usually after football and if I have youth group or Young Life I usually get home around 9 or 9:30 p.m."
"I'm vice president of student counsel, I'm in Knoxville Youth Symphony, I'm on the climbing team here and involved in my youth group and i'm an Eagle Scout," said Blake Hurst.
"This desire to not disappoint, and to meet expectations and make yourself proud is something I struggle with and think a lot of kids struggle with that as well," said Morgan.
"As we get ready for college that's what people want to see, someone who is well rounded, you care about everything you're involved in," added Rice.
"I've just always been an advocate if I'm going to do something I'm going to do it well. Sometimes you lose an hour of sleep, but that's what the weekends are for," said Hatch.
New research from the American Psychological Association has shown high school students are more stressed than adults. Consultant and psychologist Dr. Andria Yates agreed. She said more teens report having anxiety than ever before.
"Youth today are more stressed out, anxious, feeling prone to worry about their future more so than any other generation that's come before them," said Yates.
"I think it's next to impossible not to feel anxiety in today's climate. Politically there's turmoil, emotionally, we are growing up, we're figuring out who we are and then you add academics, athletics and social media and those feelings of isolation can get to you. It's a very quick turn down that road and you can quickly feel out of control," said Morgan.
"My family, we come from South Sudan so my parents never went through the American school system, they never had structured classes, so they put a lot of pressure on me to succeed even though I'm flying blind not really having this guidance at home. They care and make sure I know it's important but I put a lot of pressure on myself because I have my whole family to carry. I'll be the first female in my family to go to college, let alone graduate high school. So you have the stress of wanting to succeed and the stress of wanting to be better than my parents," said Wol.
Jennifer Abernathy is a counselor at Maryville High School. She says even in the past ten years, she's seen a shift.
"There's a sense that mediocrity is not OK and there's some good in that but at the same time you have to be OK if you're not the best at everything because that's just simply unrealistic," said Abernathy.
Experts like Yates worry overwhelming stress may cause burnout by the time kids get to college.
"Many of them are very stressed, and then it just starts again, it starts again for another four years," she said.
This group of seniors rely on one another to stay positive and manage their stress.
"It's nice to be able to relate to say I've got this going on and they can say I've been there, if you're struggling I know how to help you," said Hurst.
"I think sometimes I let the stress get to me and have to remember I'm still a kid," added Wol.