A friend indeed: YourTurn contest winners say peer pressure can be positive

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I had always prided myself on having good moral values, being an individual and not conforming to something I didn't approve of. At the thought of losing that, I began to panic.

Can peer pressure be positive?

Writers of the three winning essays in ThreeSixty Journalism’s YourTurn contest all experienced the benefits of peer pressure.

Positive messages in a song she heard led the first writer to regret something she’d done the night before and seek help from her mom.

The second writer found that a pact with friends helps keep her from trying alcohol as many of their peers have. And the third writer, Margeaux Dittrich, learned that it’s sometimes important to resist her classmates and stand up for what’s right.

Congratulations to the winners of our winter YourTurn contest!

First Place

Name withheld by request
Southwest High School, Minneapolis

In high school, kids develop the belief that they are on top of the world, unstoppable. I mean, youth are the future, right?

But with this belief comes the notion that we can do literally anything we want. To a certain extent, this should be true. Parents, teachers, and counselors are there to tell us “Dream big! Go for your goals! Never give up.”

What they don’t know is that some partying, drinking and smoking is included on that list of hopes and dreams. At least for those four rowdy years of high school where, let’s face it, almost everyone is doing it. If they aren’t doing one thing, they are doing another. We are skilled at the art of justifying what is illegal, and to some extent we think nothing can stop us. And nothing does.

My story is a short one, but it extends over a long period of time. My story is about the friend that got me, IS getting me, through the pressure, the drama and the illegal substances. My friend does not have one name or gender or certain color of skin. What my friend does have is many genres, many rhythms, many words.

Music is my friend. The day I realized this was about a month ago as I drove myself to work. It was the day after I had caved in for the third time in my life. In the scheme of things, three nights of not caring was not that extreme. What was bad, however, was the guilt that came along with it.

All was well the next morning as I got in the car, until my iPod turned on and the noise filled me. I felt it in my ears, my mind, my lungs. The song playing was “I Gave You All” by Mumford and Sons, a favorite band of mine. As I listened to the lyrics, really listened, a feeling of regret and guilt overwhelmed me.

I had always prided myself on having good moral values, being an individual and not conforming to something I didn’t approve of. At the thought of losing that, I began to panic. I pulled my car over, took out my phone, and texted my mom-“Mom, I made some bad decisions last night that I cannot erase. What I can do is be honest with you, so can we talk when I get home tonight?”

My mom replied that yes, of course we could talk and that she loved me. I always knew she would love me no matter what, but I needed to hear her say it. She is, after all, the reason for my good insight and morals. It just took some good music for me to realize all this.

Second place

Name withheld by request

My best friends and I thought we would be together forever. Growing up, the seven of us were always having sleepovers and hanging out in between classes; high school seemed a thousand years away. In sixth grade, I learned I would be going to a different junior high than the rest of my friends.

I was horrified. I could not imagine what it would be like to go through the halls and not have my friends there beside me. I put up such a fight against my parents, screaming and crying in effort to keep from switching schools. “It’s not fair,” I argued. “Nobody else is switching schools.” My parents listened respectfully but remained firm with their decision: I would be attending seventh grade at a private school.

As much as I resisted switching schools, I soon adapted to my new environment. Before I knew it, I was entering high school for my freshman year. I had made many new friends, but I still kept in touch with two of my old best friends. We would meet up every weekend and I would hear stories about our old friends who had started drinking or doing drugs. We three made a promise not to follow their actions; “They’re just so different when they’re drunk,” my friend would say.

That promise saved us many times. Staying sober and clean just seemed like the right thing to do, and it was much easier knowing that my two best friends across the city were doing the same. According to the 2010 Minnesota Student Survey, 31 percent of high school freshman reported drinking alcohol within the past year. I’m proud to say I wasn’t one of them.

Third place

Margeaux Dittrich
Orono High School

In the fall of eighth grade, a new language was added to the language department at Orono. A Mandarin Chinese teacher would become the newest member of the language department.

On the first day of eighth grade, I walked into the classroom, eager to learn a second language. Little did I know that the journey would be much rockier than I anticipated. As we introduced ourselves to the new teacher, I sensed some of my classmates taking advantage of her because she was not a native speaker.

Although she spoke English well, she had misused slang terms. I was reluctant to tell her the meanings of the words because my peers did not approve. I was often looked at as a “fun-wrecker” because I didn’t want to put up with my classmates’ immaturity.

Throughout all of eighth grade and into high school, the same students continued with their obnoxious behavior, making it very challenging to learn. In the eyes of my classmates, Chinese was just an hour to goof around and get away with things forbidden by every other teacher.
Several times I tried getting my peers to stop, but they would not listen.

One of my closest friends in the class told me to stay out of it because it wasn’t that big of a deal. This comment shocked me because my friend, who calls herself an individual who never cares what others think, is turning her back on what she knows is right because she wants to go along with the crowd.

It’s okay to watch the crowd, as long as you know when it is worth following and when it is worth staying true to yourself.