By: Ethan Hsiao
Stress Free Teens recently concluded its second and final round of Science Olympiad Preparatory Camp, amassing a grand total of $3,200 in COVID-19 relief funds for West Valley Community Services, a program that offers critical support for low-income and vulnerable families. With help from dozens of camp attendees, six amazing teacher volunteers, and countless donations, our astounding efforts were able to culminate into real, lasting change. But, it’s important to note that this change takes more forms than just monetary value and communal organization. In fact, the change is helping both sides of the camp: charity and students.
When the majority of teens think about learning, they immediately find themselves conjuring up the unwavering image of long hours, unbearable episodes of stress, and unending homework about who knows what. The social strains and the anxiety-inducing atmosphere of school often come to mind with ease, while the prospect of its benefits appear almost ludicrous. The truth is that education doesn’t deserve nearly as much negativity as it gets, especially with respect to mental health. If anything, our recent June and July camp sessions are evidence that there’s actually a number of benefits associated with learning—all it takes is a closer look.
According to a 2018 study, learning can help improve and maintain overall well-being, boosting confidence and cultivating the ability to cope with stress (1). Scientists also hypothesize that the goal setting aspect of education plays a key role in mental health by empowering feelings of accomplishment and achievement (2). That feeling of contentment and pride after conquering a certain circuitry dilemma (one of many science topics learned by students): that’s what our camp was all about. Rather than seeing education as a burden, teens can actually get excited which, in turn, promotes greater health. For one camper, this couldn’t be any truer: “We enjoyed learning about anatomy and physiology,” he said.
Still, it doesn’t stop there.
Whether it be discovering the inner workings of the human body, exploring the vast macrocosm of the universe, or combining experimental design with physics, the building of mental fortitude can result in life satisfaction and optimism throughout an entire person’s life (3). Those who choose to learn often interact with a wide range of people, cultivating connections and skills that carry well into adulthood (4). At our camp, teens were able to meet like-minded peers and immerse themselves with the science community. That bond will never fail to inspire these learners, offering a sense of hope and purpose, two powerful drives in healthy mental well-being (4).
“I have a hard time getting my child interested in something, but this camp proved to be an exception,” said the parent of one camp participant, proof that learning can have a motivational effect on teens. Even the workload and challenge can offer some virtue, helping to establish a sense of self-worth through routine practice (4). Truly, learning can be—and, in the case of our new pupils, is—a moving force, immeasurable through numbers alone. Best expressed by a single young mind, “I hope to attend again in the future.”
Likewise, we hope the future (and our future endeavours) catch your attention. The Science Olympiad Preparatory Camp has offered the financial means for a community and the boundless resource of education for a number of students. When you consider the possibilities, Stress Free Teens’s impact becomes exponential, beyond just the dollar sign.
1) “Keep on Learning for Wellbeing: Mental Health Strategies.” Living Well, 13 Sept. 2019, livingwell.org.au/well-being/five-ways-to-mental-wellbeing/keep-on-learning/.
2) “Adult Education, Mental Health and Mental Wellbeing.” Taylor & Francis, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02601370.2019.1533064?src=recsys.
3) Rebecca Judd May 22nd, and Rebecca Judd. “Can Learning Help with Mental Health Conditions? - Class Central.” Class Central's MOOCReport, 3 Oct. 2018, www.classcentral.com/report/can-learning-help-mental-health-conditions/.
4) Smith, Diana. “How Learning and Working Help Improve Your Mental Health.” Thrive Global, 26 Aug. 2019, thriveglobal.com/stories/how-learning-and-working-help-improve-your-mental-health/.