Hughson High teens are getting some help to make the most of their high school years. Life of a Husky aims to put performance strategies for top athletes to work for everyday kids.
The Life of a Husky class, made up of student leaders from across campus social groups, spent the fall semester learning the basics. Strong performance depends on healthy eating, plenty of sleep and exercise, managing stress, recognizing the risks of substance abuse, and the importance of ethics and character.
Next, they worked on presentation skills – public speaking, writing scripts and managing meetings.
On Friday, it all came together in a student-led Huskies Unleashed Conference for the school’s 178 freshmen. Seven workshops covered topics the younger students voted to hear about, topics such as team-building, social media, nutrition for big events, and dealing with depression. Former Navy SEALs led team-building exercises in the gym.
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Don’t be afraid to step up. This is where leaders start to rise.
Esme Campos, Hughson High junior
“Our idea was to be unleashed to perform at optimum level,” said Kaci Brazil, who teaches the Life of a Husky class. That includes performance in sports, but also clubs, academics and music. About 85 percent of Hughson students participate in extracurricular activities.
“What’s so beautiful about this is it’s going to seep into every aspect of campus life,” she said. “The hope is you make this the campus norm.”
In the “Be the Light” breakout, teen presenters spoke about the power of positive influences. “Don’t be afraid to step up. This is where leaders start to rise,” junior Esme Campos told freshmen.
Discussion of cyberbullying warned about “the ripple effect” of social media. The story of a woman fired over a tweeted slur prefaced information about employers and colleges checking applicants’ posts. “Even if you have a private account, it’s not private,” cautioned presenter Delaney Serpa.
A student who has struggled with substance abuse and self-injury gave a personal perspective in the mental health session.
Everyone struggles with something. It’s important to know, that struggle does not define you.
Teen presenter in the mental health session
“I was very closed off. Didn’t want to talk to people. They’d think I was crazy,” said the young woman, who asked that her name not be used. With support and counseling, she said, life is better. “Everyone struggles with something. It’s important to know, that struggle does not define you,” she told the teens.
After her talk, she said she decided to come forward because of friends who committed suicide. “It was very hard for me to go through, so if I can help someone not go through that …,” she said.
Today’s teens face different pressures, said John Underwood, whose performance program Life of an Athlete formed the basis of the Life of a Husky program.
“We’re asking this age to be super duper at everything,” Underwood said. “The goal is to help kids get past everything in their way these days. Compared to the high school we knew, it’s a minefield.”
Walking through unscathed takes skills, he stressed, “We want to give people the best information to make the best choices, to live your life in the healthiest way.”
The goal is to help kids get past everything in their way these days. Compared to the high school we knew, it’s a minefield.
John Underwood, whose performance program Life of an Athlete formed the basis of the Life of a Husky program
Underwood gave the day’s keynote address. His and the SEALs’ participation, as well as event T-shirts and a barbecued chicken lunch, were underwritten by a prevention grant, said Jennifer Marsh of Stanislaus County Behavioral Health.
The Hughson program stands out among Underwood’s Life of an Athlete followers. The program is in place at 700 colleges, according to the company, but few high schools. Hughson High has the only class dedicated to spreading the information, an inclusive class representing sports teams, FFA, advanced classes, different clubs, and a potpourri of other campus groups, Brazil said.
The novelty of Hughson’s approach appealed to Underwood, who has asked Brazil and the Hughson High students to present a workshop on high school implementation at the Life of an Athlete annual conference at Lake Placid, N.Y., in July – which means the next class project will be fundraising.