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[whitespace] Monta Vista students enjoy a stress-free Friday

Cupertino--Between the Astro Jump, the 30-foot slide and the free massages, Monta Vista looked more like a carnival than a high school campus on Friday--and that's just the way the Associated Student Body wanted it for the school's first ever Stress-Free Friday.

"I think it's really fun how we get to not think about school for 40 minutes," said sophomore Sarah Blakeburke of the event.

Held during Monta Vista's lunch period, the games, massages, food and music helped students take the time to relax..

And there's little doubt that Monta Vista students need relaxing. At a parent forum held at the school last year, participants identified student stress as one of the most pressing issues the school should confront. The school reacted by holding another meeting devoted to the topic.

"[That meeting] created conflict. A lot of the parents thought the best way to get their student to perform for college was to press them by telling them what they expect so the kids had to live up to the expectations," said Kevin Coolidge, a student facilitator at the forum. Others parents said kids should have more freedom in setting their own goals.

Also, three of Monta Vista's teachers--funded by an Industry Initiative for Science and Math Education fellowship--are studying stress and how it affects students. So far, three surveys on the topic have been conducted to gauge the perceptions of parents, students and teachers.

"[In the parent survey] they admitted they put a lot of pressure on the students," said Mo Lei, one of the teachers who helped with the study.

Based on the student survey, the top three sources of stress are college plans, student expectations and parent expectations.

"As a student, I feel we put a lot of stress upon ourselves in addition to a lot of stress from our parents," Coolidge said. "I tend not to put a lot of stress on myself, and I actually end up performing better that way. But I have friends who just get completely stressed out and they end up doing amazing things under the pressure."

While 70 percent of the students felt the things they do during their high school career are crucial to getting into their top college choices, 64 percent felt that support is not available at school when they feel stressed.

"It's amazing what the students will do," Lei said. "I ask them to draw a quick sketch and they spend hours on it."

To support students, the next step is for teachers to brainstorm ways to help students cope with pressure.

Since 63 percent of students said they had difficulty managing stress because they don't have effective study habits, one place teachers can step in is helping students develop better study habits, Lei said.

Senior Michelle Desmond agreed that her high school can be a tense place. "Monta Vista is really high stress--especially around finals," she said. "Even after finals we're stressed while we wait for final grades to be released."

Finals ended on Jan. 21 and the new semester started on Monday.

As sophomore Grace Nieh climbed out of the Astro Jump, she said the event helped her to relieve some of the pressure.

"It's awesome. I really like this stress-free day. We're under a lot of stress so this is cool. It lets us have fun," she said.

Frankie Reckholder, a certified massage therapist with Oaks Chiropractic Center who donated his time on Friday said he wanted to help out because it was for a good cause.

"It's nice because it's for teenagers," Reckholder said. "It's nice to try to help them find ways to relax. It's a way to help them learn what's available out there to help them lower their stress level."
Michelle Ku

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Web extra to the February 4-10, 1999 issue of Metro.

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