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Seniors experience high stress as they face impending life change
To help pay for his car and school expenses, and to save money for college, Thompson works over 30 hours
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Date published: 4/4/2004
By KRISTIN DAVIS
THE ALARM CLOCK shatters sleep at 5:51 each morning, signaling nine more minutes of peace for 17-year-old Brandon Thompson.
He hits the snooze button just once before crawling out of bed and into the shower for the start of a 17-hour day.
It's senior year and the stakes are high, perhaps higher than they've ever been. There is no slacking off or slowing down for Thompson, whose classes include advanced physics and calculus.
He is one of nearly 4,500 high school seniors across the region staring adulthood in the face this spring as graduation day nears.
And that means stress.
High school seniors likely are experiencing the greatest stress of their young lives, says Judith Ladd, supervisor of guidance for Spotsylvania schools.
Will I get into college? Will I get the job I want?
I didn't get into my dream school. Now what?
Will I make new friends? Will I be successful?
This year there's even more anxiety, because for the first time graduation hinges on passing the SOL writing test. Seniors who didn't pass it in 11th grade must do so this year.
Successfully completing high school is just the start for a majority of local teens, who plan to go on to advanced education.
According to the Virginia Department of Education, of those students with plans after high school, 1,867 in Fredericksburg and the counties of Spotsylvania, Stafford, Caroline, King George, Orange and Culpeper set their sights on attending a four-year university last year.
Another 992 planned to attend a two-year college; 500 planned to join the work force; and about 130 wanted to join the military after high school. The rest reported other plans or were undecided.
Just 10 weeks from now, students will have diplomas in hand and mortarboard tassels shifted from left to right--and 13 years of routine will be upended.
"There are feelings of excitement but also of loss because the things they've known will be gone," Ladd says.
An honor student at Courtland High in Spotsylvania, Thompson is on the way to school by 6:55 a.m., driving the burgundy 1994 Volkswagen Jetta he bought himself by working 33 hours a week at Hardee's. He hopes the $4,000 car will last at least another year.
Thompson will study pre-law and public administration at Norfolk State University this fall. College is a first for this family.