What was it like being a teen in 2021? Students offer stress-relief tips, hopes for future

Five students at University High School in Tolleson talk about what it means to be a young person learning and growing during a pandemic.

By Yana Kunichoff | Arizona Republic

It’s a busy day on the campus of University High School in Tolleson. 

Midyear finals are the next day, and cramming mode is activated: Every classroom in the small school is filled with the frantic energy of students huddling around textbooks or sketching out problems on white boards trying to understand last-minute math questions. 

Related: Thank a principal. The pandemic may have been much worse without them.

Return to office paused (again) as COVID rages: Will we ever go back?

University High School, a small school nestled within the larger Tolleson Union High School, promises a rigorous academic environment for its students, many of whom come from working class or immigrant backgrounds. About 63% of the school’s 438 students are Latino, while 14% are Asian and 9% are Black, according to the Arizona School Report Card.

This year, University High was the only high school in Arizona honored by the U.S. Department of Education as a 2021 National Blue Ribbon school. 

For the students, who are juggling high academic expectations and extracurricular activities, their experience of school in this moment is mixed in with navigating a first return to in-person school after many months online, how to relax before finals, and hopes for a future that is both bright and uncertain. 

The Arizona Republic sat down with five University High students to talk about what makes their school special, but also what it means to be a young person learning and growing during a pandemic.

On stress relief tips 

“To be completely honest, I play video games, as that relieves my stress. … I don’t stress that much about what to do tomorrow.”

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