What I Wish I Knew as a Freshman

Giving Advice to Freshmen to Reduce Anxiety Levels Throughout their High School Experience  

This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.


As soon as we were assigned the catalyst project I knew that I wanted to do something revolving around the severe anxiety of students living in the Silicon Valley. To learn more about the problem I went to a school a couple of miles away in Palo Alto. The school is called Gunn High School and in 2009 there were 5 students who committed suicide in the span of 9 months. There were also an additional 42 Gunn students who were hospitalized or treated for “significant suicide ideation.” With further research I found that the main reason students were so stressed at Gunn was because of the struggle of managing extracurricular activities. They had never learned how to do so and as a result many students felt like they were drowning in tasks they had to do. From 2003 to 2015 there were 229 students who committed suicide in Santa Clara County. In Palo Alto alone the youth suicide rate was 14.1 per 100,000 people.  Even though I do not attend Gunn High School or live in Palo Alto, there is still a significant problem with stress within the schools around me and my own.


The issue I now faced was how to lower anxiety levels with students who attend my school. The suicide rates of Silicon Valley have been too high for too long and it was time to make a change in my community To tackle this problem I sent out two surveys to the students of my school to see how anxiety was affecting them.

In the first survey 34% of students said that anxiety was a very serious problem at our school. With this information I began to think about the students at Gunn and how they were never taught how to manage their stress. This gave me the idea that if students were able to learn how to manage their stress coming into freshman year, the stress levels of students would drastically reduce in the subsequent years of high school. With this idea in mind I sent out another survey to see what the biggest stressors were coming into high school.

The results helped me narrow down the things that people most needed help with going into high school. I then remembered my interview with the Bay Area director of Crisis Text Line, a program that gives help to people struggling with a crisis, Libby Craig. I remembered how she told me that when you are in crisis just talking to someone and hearing their prospective and helpful insight you are able to go from a “hot” moment to a “cool” one. With all my research about anxiety levels in students I set out to find a solution about how to fix this detrimental problem.


To fix the problem I chose to lower anxiety levels of students from the first day they walk on campus. I began to think about what questions freshmen would have and with the information from the survey I created 7 questions. These questions were asked to the seniors who have been through four years of stress at SHP. The video below will be played for the freshmen at their orientation in the fall. By showing the freshmen that high school will not be that bad and giving them advice on how to manage their stress I hope to lower the anxiety of the class and hopefully teach them that there is always a way to deal with stress.

I hope this tradition carries on beyond my graduation so freshmen can feel at ease and know that the whole SHP community wants to guide them in their journey through high school.


I have talked with the school counselor and I have agreed to make this video both this year and next year for the freshmen to view on orientation day. My senior year I am going to try to get someone to take over this project so it will be carried on even when my time at SHP is done.


Share this project
  1. April 27, 2017 by Isabel

    That’s great that you can now show this video to incoming freshmen during freshmen orientation day! it will probably really help the students adjust and feel less intimidated by the new high school, and leave a lasting impression. Good job!

  2. April 27, 2017 by Scarlet

    It’s great that you’ve taken an active step. It’s also really great that you are actually helping the in-coming freshman students. Great job!

  3. April 27, 2017 by Ibrahim A

    I love this idea and I think I can do wonders, nevertheless most of the problems happen later on in peoples high school career how should they deal with that?

    • May 01, 2017 by Brooke

      I think that by having a strong base from freshmen year of stress management skills and study skills will help throughout the next four years of high school. However, if you do not have this it can be very helpful to talk to your teachers about how to deal with an upcoming project’s due dates or study for a test.

  4. April 28, 2017 by Genevieve G

    I love that you actually made a video! Great work. It’s cool that this might make a difference, congrats!

    • May 01, 2017 by Brooke

      Thank you very much!

  5. April 28, 2017 by Kamran from Costa Rica

    I love this project. Being in my first year of high school, I was very intimidated when I walked through the doors. I knew that this was going to be a lot different from middle school and that dealing with so many things at once really brings a lots stress to me. I never really how to relive and manage my stress, but I after I read this it really helped.

    • May 01, 2017 by Brooke

      I totally relate to how you felt. Glad I could help you! 🙂

  6. April 28, 2017 by Daniella

    I was shocked when I read about how many people were worried in freshmen year about making friends. Hopefully people will start working with your solution!

  7. April 28, 2017 by Joao

    I am a Freshman right now and I hope the advices work. Thank you

  8. April 29, 2017 by Tishya R

    This is such an interesting project! I think your motive is awesome, and it’s great that you care so much about making other students’ high school lives as comfortable as possible.

  9. April 29, 2017 by Nikki N

    Brooke, I love this idea so much! So many people suffer from anxiety at my school too, and I think it is such a great thing that you are helping the freshmen because high school can be scary at first, and the difference you will make in raising awareness will probably be so comforting!

    • May 01, 2017 by Brooke

      Thank you! 🙂

  10. April 29, 2017 by Lucy G

    This is such a cool idea and It is great that you are working so hard on all of it and to ensure someone can step in to continue the great work you’ve done for freshmen! So many kids suffer from Anxiety at my school and I know the first couple of weeks at my school can be extremely intimidating and make you feel completely overshadowed. I think your solution is a great plan and will really make a difference for incoming freshmen.

  11. April 29, 2017 by Omar Z

    I’m a junior now, and this year I realized that I made a lot of stupid mistakes in freshman year, and the first one is slacking off my academic duties because I thought that colleges don’t look at them. I think Your project is relevant to every highschool student, especially to the freshmen who can learn from our experience.

  12. April 30, 2017 by Arden S

    Hi Brooke, this is so awesome and I totally wish someone had done this for my class freshman year. I think it’ll have a huge impact on freshman at your school and it’s personal because all of the kids interviewed actually go to your school! Awesome job!!

  13. April 30, 2017 by Kristin L

    I love this!! I think it’s amazing that you’re showing this video to freshmen on the first day. When I needed advice I would have to make friends with kids older than me, and sometimes it was too late. great job!

  14. May 01, 2017 by Kyla Plutte

    I really like this project! I wish something like this had been available to me when I was a freshman! I wonder if something like this could be adopted at schools around the country to help make the transition into high school easier for even more students!

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