The No. 1 high school in Detroit and one of the top schools in the state of Michigan is Renaissance High School. Some of the best students in the nation attend RHS and many successful people are alumni. How did they achieve this status? By rigorously working all their years at RHS. However, does rigorous work affect student health?
“Anxiety, stress, and depression are the top concerns we have at Renaissance,” said RHS Principal Verynda Stroughter.
RHS is a top tier high school with high expectations and the students attending have to conform to those expectations. However, not everyone can conform easily, therefore stress, anxiety, and depression becomes an issue as students struggle to stay afloat.
“Students are competitive, and they feel like they are pressured by parents and families to keep a high GPA, test scores, and get into good colleges,” said RHS Assistant Principal Cindy Powell.
What’s interesting is that every student’s mental health issue is different because each student thinks differently about RHS.
Sophomore Anthony Jackson said that during his freshman year of high school, his mental health took a turn for the worse.
“Personally, I’d say it was the stress put on by a lot of teachers who felt they were just being hard on you to nurture you,” Jackson said. “In reality, we’re being treated unfairly and it makes life harder on the students.”
Jackson also stated that his old school was a lot easier because it was OK to fall as long as you always got back up.
“It’s really easy to get caught in the current and left behind fast,” Jackson said.
Lauren Myers is in the beginning of her freshman year at RHS. Like all freshmen, she is getting accustomed to life as an RHS student and she is hopeful about her future.
“My mental health is fairly well but I’m very stressed because I don’t have good time management skills, therefore I’m having a hard time managing the work they give me for homework,” said Myers. “I feel that over the course of time, my time management skills will improve, and I will be able to do more work in a short amount of time.”
Nia Heaston is a junior and a member of RHS Senate who finds attending school, playing sports, and talking to friends an outlet from other issues in her life.
“I wouldn’t say that the school affects my mental health but life in general does, however school is an outlet to get away from my personal issues,” Heaston said.
Stroughter said she recognizes the need for mental health awareness and believes more needs to be done to make mental health issues a priority.
“Over time, we haven’t done the best job of teaching students how to deal with stress and anxiety,” Stroughter said. “We need to prioritize the concern to allow our students a way to deal with stress and anxiety.”
Powell said she cares about the students wellbeing and doesn’t want them to be stressed about school. This is because she deeply understands what the students are being put through nowadays as she is mother of two who are both in high school.
“I would want students to not stress out so much from these things and allow them to grow and develop,” Powell said. “They need to know that they are teens and they won’t be perfect. This is an important time in their lives, but they shouldn’t stress out so much.”
To the students, it seems like the school wants them to work hard, without caring for their time and mental health. However, it’s not the school’s intention to hurt the students, but to help the students because it has worked in the past. It’s all just tough love for the students. However, mental health is only one side of the same coin. How is the physical health of RHS students?
“I helped with the blood drive a few years ago and many students didn’t have enough iron in their system to donate,” RHS health teacher Beth Plumridge said. “That showed me directly, that our students processed diet is already causing health issues at an early age. I fully believe that students would perform better in every aspect of life if their nutritional needs were met.”
Plumridge said students have the biggest issue with nutrition in her opinion. She has witnessed this being a health teacher and she knows it’s due to students’ processed diet. She wants to make a change for the better and she is doing that by teaching students and making them aware of their own health as well as others.