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‘Iolani’s extensive presentation of innovative and character-building opportunities caters to the aspirations of any experimental student. By the time pupils reach Upper School, they are faced with a sea of options regarding their academic and athletic futures. Offering over 165 academic and extracurricular courses, more than 50 individual athletic opportunities, and over 85 summer experiences in the Upper School alone, ‘Iolani’s varied curriculum can satisfy students with a diverse range of interests. However, the tide consistently seems to change when external influence compromises such freedom of decision. As students receive input from their peers, they are often thrust into a narrow canal of one minded thinking. Friends are constantly sharing advice with each other when it comes time to set up their schedules for an upcoming year, but how much do the mere suggestions they give and receive other really affect their individual confidence in their own choices?
Simply put, this issue is known as peer pressure. It is natural for any adolescent to feel insecure when standing out from the general crowd, and so it should come as no surprise that the vast majority of teenage students nationwide shape their lives to fit a common standard. However, even students who simply adhere to the beliefs and decisions of their friends are victims of peer pressure.
Society is often divided into two groups of people: followers and leaders. The common belief is that people are classified as leaders if they have the confidence to make pertinent decisions on their own, whereas followers simply provide leaders with the support they need to fuel their beliefs. This stereotype does not necessarily apply, however, to student life. Even if it goes undetected, all students are susceptible to some form of peer influence every day. Students who wear a mask of confidence secretly want to fit in just as much as any of their peers, and often one single “leader” does not begin a new trend or idea without unanimous agreement from other trusted individuals.
Surely, with as much variety as ‘Iolani presents in academics and athletics, students would have no trouble obtaining unique identities. This is true to an extent. Eighth grader Jonah Yoshida ’21, who is currently enrolled in an 11th grade level mathematics course notes how he had to step far out of his comfort zone in order to thrive in a class filled with students three years his senior.
“At first it was really tough,” said Yoshida. “Without another student in my grade, I felt so out of place. Luckily, everyone was really welcoming and willing to help me, so I soon became comfortable.”
In denying the urge to fit in with his peers, Yoshida managed to work at a level of mathematics that was much more suitable for him than any eighth grade course. Some students , unfortunately, have not been so compelled to break the influence of majority. Aaron Kwok ‘21 recalls how he turned down an opportunity to join the intermediate diving team after receiving no support from his friends.
“When I first brought up the idea of trying a water sport, I thought I could easily find some people to do it with me.” Kwok soon found that none of his friends shared such common interest. “When they all made it clear to me that I was alone in this, I got really nervous. I just can’t be comfortable going into a situation without somebody to relate to. My friends started pushing me to try a running sport instead, and I got cold feet.” Kwok decided joined the Boy’s Cross Country team despite his interests being elsewhere. “It was a huge mistake. I need to make decisions for myself and not let others’ opinions get in the way.”