“When I was in ISS, I was just placed there. No one talked to me about what I did, and why it was wrong. I wish that an administrator would have took the time, to communicate my wrongdoing to me, but that never happened."
"....I want both sides to understand what’s expected of each other"
It’s four in the morning, and throughout the house, the sound of a teenager having a mental breakdown breaks the silence. There are three quizzes to study for, two essays to write, and to top it off, a playing test the young student isn’t prepared for.
Durham School of the Arts is one of the most rigorous high schools in North Carolina and among one of the most high ranking. According to dpsnc.net, as of 2018, it is ranked 13th in North Carolina and 358th in the nation, making it one of the best schools in the U.S. With such a high standard there’s no doubt that there are high expectations, and with such pressure, there’s no question that man mental health of students will start to worsen.
“8.2% of youth (or 1.9 million youth) experienced severe depression. Depressive symptoms result in significant interference in school, home and in relationships. 63.1% of youth with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment. That means that 6 out of 10 young people who have depression and who are most at risk of suicidal thoughts, difficulty in school, and difficulty in relationships with others do not get the treatment needed to support them,” Mentalhealthamerica.net noted.
The overall mental health of the people in the US have been steadily declining over the years, and even though 60% of youth suffer from mental illness, less than half of them receive treatment. Mental illnesses can affect the overall performance of students in schools, how they interact with peers, and their relationships at home.
“I feel like when I don’t live up to standards that are expected in school that my self esteem has been damaged by that. As of now I’ve let it stop affecting me as much, but I used to be really wired all the time to be what people expected of me to be. At this point, I just try to get the A and it is still stressful,” Fiona Van Verth, junior, said.
The high expectations of schools have been proven to damage one's self confidence.
Dosomething.org found that 7 out of 10 teenage girls believe that they are not good enough in many ways including looks, performance in school, and relationships with their parents.
The school system’s way of labeling students with numbers and test grades have trained students to constantly strive for better, believing that the way they currently are is not enough. Students have been taught since a young age that they can do better.
Students are also advised to pursue multiple extracurriculars, such as sports or club. Balancing 7 hours of school, multiple hours of homework every night, adding in sports or a club, time to eat, social time for friends and family, and then adding a solid 8 hours of sleep each night. That can be a very difficult task, teens just don’t have enough time to fit everything in their day.
“An A/B schedule would probably give time for homework and less homework cause there’d be more time to do classwork. I’m actually doing homework right now, that gives you a good idea of how much homework I have! It’s 10pm and I’m still not finished with my homework!” Van Verth said.
With DSA’s population of Hispanic students at 22 percent, events that recognize their distinct culture are increasingly more important in upholding the school’s standards of inclusivity.
On October 27 from 6pm to 9pm Durham comes together in a vibrant celebration of Hispanic heritage and culture in an event known as the Fall Arts Festival. This year’s theme is Legacy and Storytelling, co-directed by Spanish and Art teachers Casey Myers and Amber Santibanez respectively. For weeks these two women have taken on roles beyond their normal teaching. With the combined work of many dedicated Durham student volunteers, they have been able to successfully accomplish the planning and building of the famed Día de los Muertos parade floats.
“The Falls Arts Festival I’ve noticed that over the years has just strengthened our community,” Eleyna Steckly, a sophomore and a junior ambassador for the Visual Arts Committee, said.
Steckly is the director of the bright gold and red Chespirito float which honors the deceased Mexican screenwriter Roberto Gómez Bolaños. Like Steckly’s, all of the floats seen in the parade on October 27th will be commemorating important Hispanic figures from the past to educate the Durham community about important Mexican figures.
“I’m really interested in Spanish culture and I helped out last year and it was a lot of fun so this year I wanted to get more involved,” Ella Kromm, a junior and a member of the Education and Culture Committee, remarked.
Many of the students who show up to the Saturday volunteer sessions aren’t of Hispanic heritage, but, like Kromm, just want to learn about the culture that isn’t otherwise taught in schools.
“I think the Fall Arts Festival will impact Durham because we are opening some people up to a culture they’ve never seen before,” Leslie Barley, a senior and the Ambassador of Marketing and Publications, added.
Barley believes that the festival will have a positive impact on the Durham community by making peers feel sheltered and not shadowed. Inclusion and togetherness will become more important values as Durham continues to grow and become more diverse.
“When I first moved here 6 years ago Downtown Durham was nothing and now I think with Durham Arts Council [and] Durham School of the Arts… they’re bringing culture [and] growth,” Serah, a volunteer from Happy Mess Art Studio (also known as ARTpost), explained.
The Fall Arts Festival’s partnership with organizations like Happy Mess Art Studio and The Scrap Exchange is just one of many ways the event strives to include all of Durham’s unique artists in the celebration.
“The Fall Arts Festival is a great way to bring people together and show them the type of work that artists are doing and encourage other people to be creative” Jennifer Craft, a volunteer from The Scrap Exchange, said.
While DSA is an art school, many of the student volunteers aren’t a part of the visual arts pathway or come from other schools around the city that don’t offer specialized arts. The Festival is an opportunity for many young people to expose themselves to art from other cultures while also having fun improving their own skills.
With a great variety of students, DSA strives to reflect it’s population in the events that the school supports.
“We are a very diverse school and… [The Fall Arts Festival] is just one way we can really make everyone feel included at DSA,” Barley concluded.