High School Chemistry

“High School Chemistry,” New Era, Apr. 2009, 18–23

High School Chemistry

Young adults who have been in your shoes share their formulas for survival and success.

High school can be both a rewarding and challenging time. Although the main purpose is to get an education, you often must deal with other things in the process. Social pressures, friends, extracurricular activities, church, and work can also affect your experience. So how do you make it through? Here is advice from young adults who graduated from high school in the last few years:

Missy Wood

Age: 19

School: Lathrop High School

Location: Fairbanks, Alaska

Year graduated: 2007

Favorite subjects: math, English, ceramics

Least favorite subjects: history, science

Activities: diving, gymnastics, track, cheerleading, orchestra

Choosing Friends

“Friends make all the difference. I was the only member of the Church of all my friends, and that was really hard. Friends having the same standards as you makes a world of difference. Also, if most of your friends are nonmembers, don’t be afraid to invite them to Church activities. You never know, they could have a good time.”

Being Yourself

“Don’t be scared to be yourself just because other people might think that you’re different. Also learn how to remove yourself from bad situations. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in even if you are the only person because you will be a good example to other people, and you won’t have any regrets when you’re older.”

Scott McDermott

Age: 22

School: Walnut High School

Location: Walnut, California

Year graduated: 2004

Favorite subjects: English, Spanish, math, music

Least favorite subjects: none

Activities: choir, drama, soccer

The Purpose of Learning

“A lot of my purpose in going to school was to get good grades as opposed to enjoying the learning process and enjoying all the things that I was learning. I was focused too much on the grades and not enough on the knowledge I was gaining. Enjoy learning and work for the pure expansion of your mind as opposed to working just to get good grades.

“The Lord blessed us with our minds. We have a great capacity to learn and grow. It’s important to learn always, not just when we go to school, and to keep our minds working.”

Going to Seminary

“I loved starting the day with seminary. It invited the Spirit so I could have the Spirit with me throughout the day. When you go to school, you learn lots of secular things. Balancing that with seminary helps to increase your spiritual knowledge. Seminary also helped me when I went on my mission because lots of the things I learned in seminary, like scripture mastery verses, were very useful as a missionary.”

Lindsey Shurtliff

Age: 20

School: Westfield High School

Location: Houston, Texas

Year graduated: 2006

Favorite subjects: music, history

Least favorite subject: science

Activities: tennis, choir

Importance of Education

“Intelligence is one of the only things we can take out of this world. So that’s something we should pay attention to. We need to learn how to learn because that’s what life is about. Everything you do in life from learning how to take care of kids, learning how to fix a problem in your house, or learning how to deal with people—everything is about learning.”

Discovering Yourself

“Find out who you are and find out what you love to do. Do a little bit of everything until you find something that you love. If you can figure that out in high school and start cultivating it, you’ll be a lot happier in life. It’s okay if you change it later, but find out who you are and do what you love to do.”

Garrett Howell

Age: 22

School: Skyline High School

Location: Idaho Falls, Idaho

Year graduated: 2004

Favorite subjects: history and science

Least favorite subject: English

Activities: American football, working

Learning from High School

“I learned from my high school experience that many of the things you think are important in high school aren’t. What everyone thinks of you isn’t that important and neither are all of the activities at school. But what you learn from your classes and interacting with other people is important.”

Surviving Hard Classes

“A lot of times when people don’t like a class or it is hard, they will either half try or not do it at all. The best approach is to give a real effort, do all of the work, and you will get through the class.”

Importance of Education

“All I have to do is compare the jobs I could get now to the jobs that I hope to have, and the difference is education. It’s the difference between doing menial labor as opposed to having a well-paying job or career.”

Marianne Shepherd

Age: 23

School: Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School

Location: London, Ontario, Canada

Year graduated: 2002

Favorite subjects: drama, art, music, French, Spanish

Least favorite subject: math

Activities: choir, orchestra, theater, art, audiovisual

High School Isn’t Everything

“A lot of times people think high school is all that shapes you. You have to belong to a group. We had lots of groups in high school that were just so absorbed in themselves. I realized that high school is not the end. It is not completely what shapes you. There’s so much more to be concerned about than just being a part of a group, just being popular, or just having a ton of friends.”

Getting through Hard Classes

“Enjoy the people you’re taking the class with. I sat beside somebody who made me laugh. So when we would have periods where we would be working on assignments, she would lift my spirits. Find some friends who are good at the subject who can help you. I sometimes learned more from my fellow classmates than I did from the teachers because my friends coud explain things at my level.”

Going to Seminary

“It just gives you a better perspective on the day when you start it out with spiritual things like seminary. If you have a hard time at school, you can just remember that it is secondary to what you learned in seminary. The gospel is what’s important.”

James Havican

Age: 22

School: Tartan High School

Location: Oakdale, Minnesota

Year graduated: 2004

Favorite subjects: math and science

Least favorite subjects: English and art

Activities: track and field, American football

Importance of Education

“Education makes you more refined and a more respectable person. In my mission, there were a lot of people who were uneducated. Because of their lack of education they didn’t live well economically. Most didn’t really have moral values and they didn’t respect people as much or receive as much respect from people. Education plays a big role in many things.”

Balancing School and Other Activities

“You just have to be dedicated, and budget your time well. You have a certain amount of time for your activities and practices, so when you get done with that, start on your homework right away. Even though you want to go out and play with friends, if you really want to do well, you have to get your work done first.”

Tanner Tupou

Age: 20

School: Leumeah High School

Location: Sydney, Australia

Year graduated: 2005

Favorite subjects: English and modern history

Least favorite subject: math

Activities: none

The Gospel Helps with School

“High school opened my eyes to see a lot of things. I learned that school didn’t have to be as hard as I made it. I always tried to separate Church from school and friends. I felt that I held a heavy burden in being an example to all my friends, who were nonmembers. I felt that I was forever being analyzed. Then I learned that I could use the things I got taught at home and by my Church leaders to help me at school. My testimony grew because I knew who I was, and that made it easier. I was the same person at home, at school, and with friends. I found that being a teenager in the gospel is a joyous thing.”

Importance of Education

“With education comes a better understanding. Your mind is more open, and you will be able to make smarter, wiser decisions based on the knowledge that you have gained. Education with assistance from the Holy Ghost will keep you on the strait and narrow path. Education will help you achieve your goals.”

Leslie Wilkins

Age: 22

School: Mesa High School

Location: Mesa, Arizona

Year graduated: 2004

Favorite subjects: English and math

Least favorite subject: none

Activities: Basketball, soccer, badminton, choir

Going to Seminary

“Seminary is a breath of fresh air in your day. If something was going on at school or I was having a bad day, as soon as I walked into the seminary building, peace would fill my heart. It is also an opportunity to learn from the scriptures.”

Reaching Your Potential

“Learning, growing, knowing, and studying are so important for who we are and what we believe in. Learning gives us opportunities and the chance to be great, because we are great. We have so much potential, and if we strive and work hard, we can reach that potential.”

Photographs by Mindy Raye Holmes and courtesy of persons pictured, except as noted; left: Matthew Reier; bottom right: © Getty Images

Background and stills © Getty Images; globe © Corbis

Keys and notebook © Getty Images; cap by Randall Pixton; diplomas by Fay Andrus