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Stress Weighs Heavily on Darien Teens

The demands of homework, tests, sports, after-school clubs and other activities leave many Darien students such as Perrin Brown feeling stressed. These problems, as outlined in the film " Race to Nowhere ," have sent parents and school administrators talking about how to relieve the pressures put on teens.

"Stress is common in the high school because things always start to get really competitive here, usually around junior year. Between SATs, ACTs and APs, things can get pretty crazy," Brown said. "During the week, I get maybe four hours of sleep. I can never rest, and this makes me irritable. I've seen lots of people become emotionally unstable because of stress."

Fellow student Melanie Tzenova agreed. "Now that I'm a junior I find myself losing sleep and patience with things. Whatever free time I have I spend doing homework or studying for upcoming tests," Tzenova said. "I don't eat well. Usually I eat only two meals a day, but they are huge. I don't even eat breakfast; I'd rather sleep an extra 20 minutes than have breakfast."

Organizations such as the school system, Thriving Youth , the Depot and Parent Awareness have hosted screenings and discussions of the film. Many parents have expressed serious concern about the workload and packed schedules, although no concrete plans have been put into place to alleviate the stress.

Superintendent Stephen Falcone said the administration has engaged in discussions with a number of groups about what could be done. He said the issue is complex and that a knee-jerk reaction such as cutting homework would not necessarily resolve the issue. Instead, the schools are trying to make sure that the work they assign to students helps prepare them for life after high school.

"We want our school work to be applicable to the real world. Instead of asking students to just solve a math problem, we might ask them to solve the Social Security issue with mathematical reasoning," Falcone said. He said the Board of Education will be asking for feedback from students on the topic.

Some students, however, aren't so optimistic that the levels of stress can be controlled. Tzenova said, "It's high school — stress is what it's all about."

You can read more

How are other students in Fairfield County coping with heavy workloads and stiff competition? Click on the headlines below to find out:

Are Fairfield's Students Overworked?

Stamford Teens Balance Academics, Athletics

Westport Teens Find Different Stress Solutions

What do you think should be done to alleviate the stress on Darien students? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or on Facebook and Twitter .

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