PLEASANTON -- When Jessica Fineran was registering for classes, the question among her Amador Valley High School peers was not if she was taking Advanced Placement classes, but "how many?"
"It was just kind of expected," said the 17-year-old senior.
Between the heavy homework loads, extracurricular activities and college applications, today's high school students face a multitude of stresses and competition.
Concerned about how their students were faring in the midst of this environment, the school's Parent Teacher Student Association began working with "Challenge Success," a Stanford University-based program, two years ago.
Last week, the committee extended the efforts to the larger Pleasanton community by launching a book club for parents at the Pleasanton Public Library.
The first book was Madeline Levine's "The Price of Privilege." Levine, a psychologist, is one of the co-founders of Challenge Success, which expanded out of the Stressed Out Students organization.
Tina Nomura, who along with Sherie MacGregor heads the school's Challenge Success parent team, said it was a natural extension to invite the larger community because many parents had been reading the recommended books.
The book club is slated to meet two more times over the school year to discuss "Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic and Miseducated Students" and "The Homework Myth," by Denise Pope and Alfie
This is the first time the library is offering a group specifically for parents, a concept Teen Services Librarian Teresa Parham embraced as she encounters many students strained by school pressure.
"I think it's a really great way to open up this conversation and start looking at how we define success for our kids," she said.
The Challenge Success program — which is also employed at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont -- began with a survey of nearly 2,000 Amador students. The survey information was presented to parents in January along with several anonymous letters that students wrote about how they were feeling.
"They were really clearly saying for a lot of us, "it's too much to handle, and we need coping skills,' " said MacGregor.
For the past two years, Amador Valley has worked with a mentor to guide the school as the team works to fulfill its mission "to establish an environment of dynamic relationships within our community in order to support our students on their journey to define their own success."
For some, that may mean choosing community college over an Ivy League school or signing up for regular versus AP classes or not participating in an overwhelming amount of after-school activities.
"To see any student feeling pressure that they have to do something -- it's heartbreaking," Nomura said.
The students are continuing to weigh heavily in the Challenge Success process. Their feedback contributed to bringing back a later start time on Wednesdays, Principal Jim Hansen said, and he expects the program to spark more ideas.
"It's going to grow, and it's going to continue to have a positive impact," he said.
Parents interested in joining the book club may contact email@example.com. The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 in the Pleasanton Public Library at 400 Old Bernal Ave.
Parents interested in joining the book club may contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 in the Pleasanton Library at 400 Old Bernal Ave.
There will be a screening of the film "Race to Nowhere" at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 in the Valley Community Church at 4455 Del Valle Parkway in Pleasanton. It is open to the public. There is a $10 suggested donation to benefit Amador Valley High Challenge Success.