"Supergirls" Becoming More Common

May 15, 2009 12:27:33 AM PDT
The days are starting earlier and ending later for teenagers across the country, who are trying to juggle schoolwork, athletics, and other activities. But what used to be called 'extracurricular' activities are now turning into pre-requisites as college admission rates drop and the competition rises.Karli Komoto arrives to Clovis North when the sun is still coming up. Her 'zero' period Spanish class starts at 6:40 a.m. Then, after school, it's off to dance, sometimes until after 10 p.m. For Karli, dancing is the stress reliever, in a full schedule that also includes an A.P. class, leadership, and pep. "I really just want to challenge myself and I want to look good compared to all the other kids in my class so I can get into a good college," said Komoto.

Taylor Marsoobian is a fellow dancer with a lengthy resume of her own, headed to U.C. Santa Barbara in the fall. She lists several A.P. classes, Associated Student Body, and community service projects as her high school highlights, but her schedule has been packed for years. In 2003, she talked to Action News about her already busy schedule. Now, as a teenager, the stakes are higher. "To do what you want to do in life, you have to do this. It's expected of you kind of. The volunteering, the good grades, its expected," said Marsoobian.

Sunnyside Senior Molly Lao is another super-busy and super-smart teen. She's taken eight A.P. courses, participated in four sports, and is now headed to Brown University to study public health and policy. She's also student body president and a class valedictorian. "Sometimes it does seem a little ridiculous. And then sometimes, I do ask myself, 'why I am doing as much as I am?' But so far in my senior year, it's definitely paid off. I've gotten scholarships," said Lao. In fact, Lao has gotten tens of thousands of dollars in scholarship money and a full ride to Brown.

Whether it's academic courses or athletics, kids are cramming all they can into a single day. It's a trend some experts say is alarming. One psychologist calls the unrealistic expectations forced on teenaged girls "The Triple Bind." Dr. Stephen Hinshaw is chair of the Department of Psychology at U.C. Berkeley. In his book, "The Triple Bind", he says today's teenage girls are in a crisis. "It's a pressure cooker out there for teens and especially girls, and the mental health problems we are seeing I believe are a reflection of this ultra pressure," said Hinshaw.

Dr. Hinshaw says the problem is girls are now expected to conform to normal 'nurturing roles,' while also competing in academics and athletics like men. This, while looking sexy and not letting anyone see them sweat. "It's the pressure to be somebody you may not be, to try to fit too many things in that takes away from your intrinsic motivation," said Hinshaw.

Karli Komoto's dad, Kerry, says he's also concerned about all kids are juggling these days, but he supports Karli in everything she does. "Right now she's definitely putting her whole heart into it and trying to succeed," said Komoto.

While Karli, Taylor, and Molly all admit at least some of their motivation for staying busy with extra curricular activities is to impress colleges, they also say they genuinely *like* doing it all? even if it means the juggling act never ends.

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