At best, school can be a wonderful opportunity to build lifelong friendships. At worst, it can be a trap full of peers trying to get you to do things that are not in your best interest. It can be exhausting saying no to the pressures we face. But caving in is never the answer. It may not seem like it, but some of the choices we make now will be choices that we will have to live with or deal with for the rest of our lives.

Students at William Blount Ninth Grade Academy can relate to the stress created by this type of pressure and understand the consequences of not saying no. It’s a tricky road to navigate, and it isn’t always clear what is okay and what is not okay to participate in. After all, it is high school. We’re young. What’s the harm? Students at the Academy are here to tell you exactly what you’re agreeing to. All comments were submitted anonymously.

“I guess I started vaping, like last year. I got it from one of my friends and just never stopped. I know that it’s bad and that I shouldn’t, but I can’t stop. It’s not cheap either.”

“In high school, I feel pressured a lot to gossip about people. I usually feel like if I stand up for people being gossiped about I’ll be the uptight friend in the group. So most of the time I contribute to the conversation and gossip because I think it’s harmless. Next time, I’ll try to stand up for whoever it is about because I know how it feels to be gossiped about, and no one should have to deal with that.”

“I used to throw up after I ate. It was disgusting, and I felt terrible the whole time. I just felt like I needed to be skinny, and I didn’t really think about the consequences. It made me dizzy and tired. I just always felt super out of it. Eventually I stopped, but it took a long time. If I could change what I did, I would. It’s not something I like to think about and something no one should ever do.”

“There was this one time when I was with a bunch of friends, and they were like, drinking and stuff, and I said I didn’t want to, but I still stayed with them. If I could go back and change something, it would definitely be to take myself away from the situation instead of staying so I don’t get pressured into doing those things.”

It’s clear that students are under pressure in more ways than one. If you feel pressure to do something that isn’t in your best interest, realize that you are not alone, and you have options. Rely on friends and family who can help you work through challenges and make good choices. Saying no doesn’t make you anything except a strong person that can resist the temptations that the world throws at you.

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