Peer pressure: “lessons learned.”

When I was a young teenager, we moved from the town of Hanson, Massachusetts to Bryantville, a small subsection of Pembroke. This move was the fourth in a series during the same period of time; four moves in four years. There would be three more. I had graduated from the eighth grade at the Indian Head School in Hanson, and in September of that year began my freshman year at Silver Lake Regional High School in Kingston, Massachusetts. I was fourteen and the “new kid” once again.

During my freshman year, my science and math classes were among my favorites. I found those two subjects interesting, challenging and even exciting. Math, as I came to realize was and is the language of science, and I enjoyed both. At my young age, I had found my love of learning.

You see, after high school, I had set my sights on attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston (M.I.T.) until I realized that tuition costs were $2,000. a year. I was sure that must have been a mistake, but if true I’d find the money somehow. The prospect of space travel and space exploration was clearly my motivation. I was an “A” student right from the beginning. I would have stayed after school to learn more, but I needed to catch the school bus for home.

I excelled in these classes and my teachers, especially my science teacher, took a genuine interest in me. I was new to the school and wanted to succeed and quite naturally wanted to make friends. A few of my peers had other ideas. I studied and had all the answers, and was, in their view, the teacher’s pet. Without warning, frequent episodes of peer pressure had become a hurtful distraction. I was harassed by some for my academic successes, so I consciously distanced myself from my science teacher, even giving him a hard time in front of the whole class; all this to “improve” my relationship with my peers who weren’t letting up.

My grades in science throughout the year went from an A, to an A-, to a B, and finally to a C, and what was just as disappointing was my relationship with my teacher deteriorated—all because I thought I’d develop more friends and find greater acceptance.

I’ve long forgotten the names of my detractors, but even today carry the disappointment in myself from long ago. I know my science teacher must have wondered why I turned my back on him; his desire was to see me succeed. It was all because I wanted to find greater acceptance among those around me. Teenagers seem to worry more about their clothes and their friends then their grades, which often take a back seat.

So, if this sort of torment should find its way into your high school experience, engage in group activities such as sports which help build friendships and develop self-confidence, and keep smiling and keep succeeding; it’s fleeting and will pass, and realize that most like-minded successful students will eventually seek you out. Develop patience, the main ingredient for sound decision-making.  Your future success begins in high school. Grades count.

In any event, as you prepare for the upcoming school year and beyond, remember that success in life is your responsibility. You owe it to your country and to your family, but most of all, you owe it to yourself.

Wishing you a wonderful and most successful year!

– Don Hussey

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