AFH Photo // Cuong Huynh
High school can be one of the most challenging times for teens. And it’s not like they give you a survival guide in your agenda book.

So, teens are pretty much on their own.

Sixteen-year-old Randy Mejia, from Mattapan, says it’s important to find a group that will have your back.

“Friends that will not switch up,” says Mejia.

Kimahri Testamark, 14, from Brighton, says teens should stay focused and not be distracted by nonsense.

“You have to take notes in class and not involve yourself in drama,” says Testamark.

For Marvin Simon, 14, it’s prime to be involved and not procrastinate.

“Get all the credit you need to pass every class,” says Simon, who goes to school in East  Boston. “If you’re confused, ask your teachers for help.”
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AFH Photo // Kiara Maher
Cindy Nguyen, a junior at Boston Latin Academy, is anxious to be in the midst of class friends again -- but not to feeling the get-out-of-bed doldrums.

“It seems like sometimes the summer vacation makes the beginning of the school year worse because you are still in the mindset of vacation and you’re still lazy to do anything,” she says.

The beginning of a new school year is similar to the arrival of a new calendar year -- a mix of dread and delight.

“I look forward to starting a new year,” says Rachel Gies, a junior at Boston Latin School. “The workload is always very small. You usually just fill out forms and go over the syllabi from all your teachers.”

Arianna Robbins, 15, from Jamaica Plain, explains the settling-in of the school year from both vantage points.

“I mainly look forward to learning  something new,” says Robbins, “however [not]  the large homework load.”
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AFH Photo // Bill Le
Eighteen-year-old Daniqua Douglas, from Dorchester Academy, knows that one sure sign school is in full swing across the country is the rampant dress-code discrimination in the hallways.

“It’s unjust,” says Douglas. “If a girl can walk around a school full of half-naked boys, then boys should definitely be able to control themselves if girls show a little bit, too.”

Teens say males can walk around with baggy, saggy jeans.

Yet, in some schools, girls aren’t allowed to wear leggings because it reveals too much shape. Some can’t come to school in spaghetti-strapped tank tops. Or shorts that don’t go down to their extended fingertips.

Mirenely Mejia, 16, from Roxbury, says she understands where some of the school officials are coming from.

“Sometimes the more we show,” says Mejia “the more the boys are tempted.”

But, teens say, sometimes the restrictions can be taken too far and the rationale too flimsy -- that boys will be distracted.

For instance, at one Kentucky high school, according to news accounts, a female student was reprimanded for wearing an outfit that exposed her -- gasp! -- collarbone.

But, some say, male self-control -- not female style -- should be the issue.

“We shouldn’t be dressing a certain way,”  says Viena Arias, 17, from Boston Community  Leadership Academy, “so that boys can know  how to act.”
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AFH Photo // Miguel Fitzpatrick
The sixth period bell rings as students file into the study room at Boston Latin Academy.

Characteristically, Devon Harris walks in, headphones blasting. He begins thinking about what homework assignments he has to complete. His goal, he says, is to simply finish them off.

“I’m thinking, ‘I’ve just got to pass and then I’ll be good for the year,’ ” says Harris, 16.

At times during their academic lives, teens say they have to get by, in a way, by getting by.

“One-hundred percent? Not every day,” says Joshua Lewis, 16, from BLA.

Sixteen-year-old Sherrice Marfo, from Hyde Park, says she is putting in the effort.

But she knows she has to do more, and lessen her distractions, to reach her goal of becoming a dermatologist.

“I have to better my GPA in order to get where I want to be,” she says.
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AFH Photo // Gabriela Cartagena
For 16-year-old Ambria Coakley, from Boston Latin Academy, dancing has always been a significant element of her life.

“I get to express myself without having to speak,” says Coakley. “It’s like my second language.”

Like other teens, Coakley laments that while the role of academic success is given great urgency in school, there are fewer avenues for young people to display their artistic skills there.

“It’s extremely limited, and is sad,” Coakley says.

Mykala Robateau-Goods, 16, from the John D. O’Bryant School of Math & Science, says her school has some opportunities available, yet many seek to go outside the building to exhibit their talents.

“They are able to show off their work,” she says.

Jacarrea Garraway, 18, from Dorchester, was involved in playwriting at Boston Latin Academy before she graduated.

She says public school kids aren’t given enough boosting of their artistic prowess in school, and often have to explore their own undertakings.

“There wasn’t exactly a big push on having  student-written plays performed,” says  Garraway, adding that she is scheduled to  attend college in New York to study film and  television.
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