In pursuing their interests, students find fun in unexpected places.
Every morning, I wake up at 7:30 a.m. (to hit the snooze button). I stumble through the apartment, throwing on clothes and putting edible things in my mouth so I can say I had breakfast. Then, I race to BART, a menace to pedestrians, bikers and random animals as I zoom through the streets with one goal in mind: Must. Get. To. Internship. On. Time.
I work Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
And I'm not alone.
This summer, some high school teenagers (like me) are going to be conspicuously absent from beaches, bowling alleys, and *insert traditional fun place here*.
My friends from the Danville area are now scattered across the Bay Area, helping refugees, doing research at hospitals or attending college classes. We're doing things that interest us. For example, I have an internship at a news service because of my love of international relations and writing.
As an incoming senior at Monte Vista High, Percia Safar, who is interested in public policy, is interning at the International Refugee Committee.
"It's really fun, actually," she said. "There's always something to do and it's never routine."
Bijan Mehryar, an incoming sophomore at Monte Vista, will be taking a course in International Relations at Diablo Valley College. At school, he's on the speech and debate team, and has an avid interest in politics and diplomacy.
"Whenever my family has dinner, CNN is usually on," he said. "My father got his masters in political science with an emphasis on international relations, so he always encouraged me to learn about it."
Bailey Meyers attends class at San Francisco's Academy of Art as an incoming senior at California High. There, she takes a figure drawing class, where students set up easels around a live model and sketch away.
"The class has no more than 20 students, the teacher is great," she told me.
Aside from the fact that our jobs, volunteer positions, and classes are keeping us from the television screen, they're also ... dare I say it? ...fun. They are a different kind of fun from lazing out in the sun, letting it burn away all our teenage worries, but they are fun nonetheless.
I recently ran into one of my friends, Johnston Ye, on BART. He was commuting to the Children's Hospital Oakland, and falling asleep in the seat. It was around 8 a.m., and he didn't look like he'd had time to get a latte or caffeinated equivalent.
"So what are you doing at the hospital?" I asked. I anticipated paperwork, coffee delivery, or some other type of legal slavery.
To my surprise, he answered, "I'm helping them in the lab. We're doing something with proteins." From there, he went on a lengthy ramble about the whole science of it, which I didn't catch. I hadn't really had time for coffee either.
"Do you ... like it?" I asked tentatively.
"Yeah," he nodded immediately. "It's really interesting."
The thing is, my internship is really interesting, too. When I received my internship, I was elated. A large part of me couldn't wait to get started - this was a real-life experience, something I had never been exposed to.
I get to work in a real hive of journalism, sitting alongside editors and reporters with a yellow notepad, on which, during meetings, I furiously jot down notes. I have the wonderful opportunity to write articles and blogs on their Web site. People who are experts in the field read my articles and edit them, giving me advice that I would never, ever get otherwise. I think going to my internship is a lot better than sleeping in.
The proliferation of students ardently pursuing their interests is causing an interesting phenomenon. As more students add to their extracurricular activities, their college applications become stronger. Good grades are reinforced with the students' active role in the community. Their passions shine through.
Unfortunately, faced with the growing number of strong applicants, colleges are getting a lot more selective. Last year, admissions rates were some of the stingiest ever recorded. "The (admissions) process itself was actually the smoothest we've ever had for 10 years. The challenge is in that the quality of the student pool was so robust," said Susie Castillo-Robson, UC Berkeley's associate vice chancellor of admissions and enrollment, in a June 2008 article by UWire titled "UC Berkeley Acceptance Drops to Record Low."
Students are no longer stiffly studying at their desks. They're going out and exploring what they love best, and having a blast.
Maria Shen, reporting on Generation Y, is a senior at Monte Vista High School who loves ice cream on sunny days, books on rainy ones, and music for all those in between. She founded Contra Costa County's Young Bohemians creative writing club and is editor of Voicebox, a literary magazine. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.