Jeannie Grace Han, 11th Grade in Ridgefield, NJ, USA

When I was younger, the world was full of color. Everything was a disney movie. Everybody was happy around me, with me. My only priorities were if my friends would be out playing with me today, tomorrow, the next day and forever. The season breeze never failed to make me smile. My neighborhood was closer than any bond. From hurricanes to sunny days, we were always together. The Disney movie of my life became more of a Sony film: everything lost its heavy saturation, everyone seemed taller, worn. My friends began to surround themselves with technology, drugs, alcohol, and sex. Everyone seemed to move on so quickly, but my disney mindset never left me. I was afraid of it leaving. 

Then came highschool, where the atmosphere was sterile of everyone’s past. The four years of severe mental and physical rigor slowly peeled away at the shell of our innocences until we were unprotected and vulnerable. Us children then began to feel unexplainably blue. 

Priorities. Growing up was now something that all high school students began to dread. High school taught students how to beat a rigged system, which was impossible in and of itself. Test after test and assignment after another we were all drained of our creativity.  Our unexplainable loneliness grew uncontrollably and exponentially. 

“Live life to the fullest,” everyone says. This overused saying truthfully drives me mad. How are we as youth able to do so when society blockades every pocket of creativity we possess? No time is given to us to think about what our dreams and aspirations would be, no time is given to us to explore, make mistakes, learn from them, and make some more. Time is and should be a priority, but nothing that should be, is. 

So, what can be done? According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 3.1 million students attending any sort of education in the U.S. alone are diagnosed with mild to severe mental illnesses per year, specifically depression. As a teenager myself, adolescents are typically afraid of talking to someone about feeling depressed, it could be assumed that this number would be doubled or even tripled in quantity. 18.8% of students considered suicide, while 8.9% suicides occurred again, in the United States alone. These statistics should be a few of many wake up calls towards the root cause of it all: the education system. Schools NEED to seriously consider the detrimental effects of grades, workload, and pressure. Students learn for 7-9 hours daily, while completing 4-6 hours of homework prior to a school day. Students are not machines. You are not a machine. 

Dear society, students are becoming more and more sick. The pressure feels unbearable, and our purpose is slowly fading. Do better. Society shouldn’t prioritize repression. Although you are so set in stone and have been for centuries, change is never too late. 

Dear student, hang in there. Although it seems like homework is more important than a meal, it truly isn’t. Although grades seem like your second name, it truly isn’t. Although you may feel stupid and useless because of your test scores, you truly aren’t. School does not need to be your mentor. Miscellaneous knowledge stuffed into your brain isn’t expanding your intelligence. Think for yourself, always.