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January 3, 2012 > Mission: SOS

Mission: SOS

Article and photos by Angie Wang

The leadership board of Mission San Jose High School's (MSJHS) student-run organization Stressed Out Students (SOS), presented an enlightening presentation, December 13, on how intense, high stakes competition affects healthy teen development. Seniors Stephanie Hom and Charlotte Miller, Junior Tanya Raja and Sophomore Anjali Kanthilal were in charge of the event.

The presentation opened with MSJHS's Assistant Principal Zack Larsen who spoke about the typical MSJ student's definition of success. The answer: a high GPA, high SAT scores, and ultimately, acceptance letters from top-tier colleges of their choice. Yet the parents in attendance were hardly surprised; most are aware of the high school's reputation for rigorous courses and high test scores. The topic for discussion was whether or not these expectations get in the way of "real" success, instead defined by a feeling of accomplishment and excelling in what the student loves and chooses to do. Senior Kevin Zhai's video about course rigor and school stress also offered similar ideas from the students and staff at MSJH.

SOS Outreach Coordinator and parent of MSJHS alumni, Martha Kreeger says that "SOS is not about eliminating stress. SOS is dedicated to helping students manage their stress." Her role is to research Fremont Unified School District policy changes and encourage parents, students, staff, and faculty to communicate and exchange ideas. Kreeger spreads awareness for issues that the school board has on the table for discussion so that students and staff alike can contribute to the discussion.

Later, Zack Larsen and MSJHS Counselor Merri Blum joined Tanya Raja and Charlotte Miller to open up a panel discussion for the parents and students in attendance, encouraging them to text in their answers for poll questions regarding their definitions of success, good grades, and the like. Poll results were immediately projected onto the screen while audience members discussed and explained their decisions and answer choices.

SOS's goal for the future is to make students feel like they are in control. Says Kreeger, "We see a lot of distressed students who don't think that they can make a change. If we put power in the hands of students, then we're able to prove that their say does matter. The best thing you can do for a student is to show them that they have control over their own lives."

That's the beauty of an organization like SOS. With students in charge, they are motivated to change their future and mold it into something they are proud of. By allowing students to make their own mistakes and live life for themselves, SOS empowers students who will go on to change their own future and that of others for the better. For more information, visit

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