Student Hall of Fame
Challenging school policy is hard enough for adults. Students are at an even greater disadvantage. Not only do they risk alienating the very people who determine their futures, but they also risk alienating their peers, many of whom mistakenly believe that starting school any later (however late that may be) will mean too little time for homework, extracurriculars, and after-school jobs (as well as freedom that comes from 2 p.m. dismissals).
Despite these challenges, many students around the country are working for more reasonable school start times. Some have written blogs for their school or community newspapers, some have started Facebook pages promoting a later start time, some have even formed clubs at their schools to work for change.
We want to recognize some of these local heroes who are leading the charge to work for the education, safety, and health of their classmates.
Ameen Al-Dalli, a senior (2015-16) at Langley High School in McLean, Virginia, joined the push for healthy start times in Fairfax in 2013 together with SLEEP (Start School Later for Excellence in Education Proposal), a partner of Start School Later. An athlete in several sports, musician and a Model UN team member, he has testified before the Board of Supervisors and the school board. He was interviewed and featured in SLEEPLESS IN AMERICA, the National Geographic special about sleep that captured footage of a typical morning at his house, including a very early walk to the bus stop. He also was shadowed at Langley during a typical day that included a long after-school sports practice after a night of little sleep. Ameen was able to enjoy the fruits of his efforts in his senior year when his school system implemented later high school start times.
Maia Spoto, a student at Langley High School in Fairfax County, Virginia, became an official advocate of healthy school start times as a seventh grader, when she first testified before county school board on the issue. She then went on to share her story with the Fairfax Board of Supervisors and a National Geographic film crew, who included her clip in their special, SLEEPLESS IN AMERICA.
Josh Leong of McLean, VA, A student scholar, musician, athlete and award winning filmmaker, began helping SLEEP educate the Fairfax County community on the benefits of healthy high school start times as a middle school student. Josh has edited and produced video footage of politicians, doctors, and teachers advocating for later high school start times. He was happy to be able to benefit from the implementation of later start times as he entered his sophomore year at McLean High School in September 2015.
Preeth Vijay, a junior at Pennsylvania's Holy Ghost Preparatory (2015-16) who published a powerful editorial making the case for later start times and identifying the politics obstructing them in a local paper.
Damian Ubriaco, a freshman Saratoga Springs High School (2015-16), who wrote a moving and well-argued editorial in the Saratogian News making the case for later school start times.
Ben Press of James Madison High School in McLean, VA played an integral role in successful efforts to delay high school bell times later in Fairfax County (VA) Public Schools (FCPS). Not only did Ben draw on his personal experiences as a sleep-deprived teen, but he learned the scientific basis for why the right kind of sleep is important for teens and incorporated it into his communications with other students, teachers, school administrators, and the public. Ben testified before the FCPS school board about later high school start times and kept the subject front and center as a member of the FCPS School Health Advisory Committee. Chosen as student representative to the school board for 2015-16, Ben's ability to motivate other students to become involved was especially critical during the community engagement portion of the campaign.
Harris LaTeef, the student representative to the Fairfax County School Board from 2014-15, advocated strongly in favor of shifting high school start times to after 8:00 a.m. and encouraged other board members to vote in favor of change. He served as a liaison, representing the student voice as he worked closely with other stakeholder leaders to ensure that student health and well-being would be a top priority for decision-makers.
Eryn Cooper, joined the push for healthy start times when she was in elementary school, signing the SLEEP petition and testifying before the school board at a key meeting. In high school, she became the official voice of Students for SLEEP on Twitter and completed a two-year capstone project about the need for later high school start times. She has testified before the Fairfax County, VA Board of Supervisors and school board, and has been interviewed by print and television reporters, including an NBC news team that repeatedly used footage from a typical school day “morning” with her family to help Fairfax schools move toward healthy start times. Eryn was one of the students featured in SLEEPLESS IN AMERICA, the National Geographic special about sleep. She graduated from Oakton High School at 2015 and hopes to continue her efforts to increase awareness about the value of sleep during college. SLEEP (Start School Later for Excellence in Education Proposal), founded in Fairfax, Virginia, in 2004, and is a partner of Start School Later.
Holly Lang, a high school senior and ex-officio member of the Cheektowaga (NY) Central School Board, Holly has been working to raise awareness about and advocate for changing the brutal 7:22 a.m. at her school. She not only has pitched a time change to school leaders, but took on a challenge by school trustees to survey students and continues the good fight despite pushback from school leaders and peers alike.
Nichole Khoury, a sophomore at Buckingham Charter Magnet High School in Vacaville, CA, who wrote a prize-winning editorial in her community newspaper arguing that the time has come to delay high school start times.
Christina Revilla and Elizabeth McGrath, Weymouth (MA) High School students (Class of 2015) are leading a campaign to change bell times based on their yearlong Capstone Project researching school science books, news reports and online medical studies about teen sleep deprivation.
Zack Dietz, a junior at Northampton (MA) High School (Class of 2016) who wrote a perceptive editorial critiquing the school system's claim that the only way to achieve later, healthier school hours would be to give up arts, athletics, and Advanced Placement courses.
Clayton Cavanaugh, a junior at Muskego (WI) High School (Class of 2016) is leading the charge to move high school start times from 7:25 to 9 a.m., testifying at the school board and arranging meetings with the mayor, superintendent, and other local leaders, as well as surveying teachers about their thoughts on the topic.
Amy Fan, Bellaire High School, Class of 2016, for getting her essay "Yawn: A Student's Perspective on Not Getting Enough Sleep," published by Dear HISD, an organization run by students for students as a bridge between students and administrators for the Houston Independent School District
Fritz Schemel, of Staples High School in Westport, CT, who wrote a well-researched and compelling editorial about the need to start school later.
Jonathan Mak, a senior at Gretchen Whitney High School in Cerritos, CA, is a sleep education advocate and researcher on healthy sleep for teenagers, as well as the founder of the advocacy organization Sleeping 4 Success.
Meghan Brewer of Altamont, NY, who wrote a letter to her local paper enlightening her community and school leaders about efforts to start school later around the country - and showing why it's both important and possible to change school hours.
Attleboro (MA) High School student Erin Lemieux, who wrote a concise, compelling editorial supporting sensible and healthy school hours - and sleep! - for Massachusetts high schoolers.
Worthington (OH) High School juniors Andrew Foster and Zach Walton who presented the case for later school start times to the Worthington Board of Education after a government class research project convinced them to work for change.
Leah Hanrahan, and 11th grader at New Jersey's Point Pleasant Boro High, who wrote a compelling opinion piece for the Asbury Park Press explaining why requiring teenagers to be in class at 7 or 8 am is both unhealthy and counterproductive.
Alexandra Curtis, a high school freshman at Pennsylvania's Southern Lehigh High School, made a well-researched presentation to her school board about why moving the 7:40 a.m. start time to 8:45 a.m. would benefit student health and learning.
John Auerbach, a middle school student in Newtown, CT, not only wrote a well-researched and carefully argued report on why current school start times deprive students of sleep but has started a petition, sleep survey, and Start School Later Club to help address this problem.
Maddy King, a junior at Fairfax County, VA’s James Madison High School, wrote what a now viral letter to her high school principal, exposing long-suppressed issues that hurt conscientious, average students -including extremely early school start times that deprive them of critical sleep.
Patrick Crowley, a Newsday Opinion Intern and a high school student on Long Island, wrote a clear and compelling article for Newsday arguing that a later start to the school day would help students focus.
Freda Zhao, a student at the Western Academy of Beijing and an intern at beijingkid, wrote a well-researched piece for beijingkids, where she was interning, arguing that Beijing high schools - which start in the 8 o'clock hour - should start later to fit the teen biological clock.
Hannah Fobert, 12, of Salem, OR, who wrote a clear, well-argued, and well-researched letter-to-the-editor on the need to start school later.
Jilly Dos Santos, a sophomore at Rock Bridge High School in Columbia, MO, who created and leads a group called "Students' Say" with both a Facebook and Twitter presence - and a petition - who successfully fought a plan to move the 7:50 a.m. high school start times up to 7:20 a.m. to save on bus costs.
Fatima Shareef, a senior at Edsel High School who wrote a well-referenced editorial discussing the sleep time needed for students aged 11-22 and presenting compelling arguments about why current start times at Dearborn's high schools undermine student success.
Andrew Joyce, a Plympton, MA high school senior who wrote a poignant and well-researched letter to a local paper asking that the school system review the sleep study committee whose work was rejected by the community years earlier.
Leonie Kroeger, a German exchange student at Kleins Collins High School in Spring, TX, who has written two well-researched and argued blogs on teen sleep deprivation and school start times the high school's online newspaper: Students Benefit from Later Start,
Zack Becker. When Zack’s high school moved its start time up from 8 a.m. to 7:35 a.m. so that middle schools could start later, Zack started a Facebook group to fight the change. He planned to take the issue to the school board, but only 15 students agreed to join him. He was recently profiled in the Maryland Heights (MO) Patch.
Jason Luque founded and leads a “Sleep Club” at California's Temecula Valley High School.
Jess Barlow. Citing research from sleep science, Jess created a petition in Amherst, NH to start both the local middle and high school at 8:30 a.m. for the sake of learning, safety, and health.
Matthew Swanson of Burlington, MA wrote a blog (Guest Post: The Necessity of a Later School Start
Time), as well as numerous well-researched and well-reasoned responses, in The Lounge: Student’s
Katie Carlson, who wrote an Opinion piece (Later start time would improve student performance)
for her school newspaper.
Mary Siebert, an 8th grader in Stevens Point, WI, wrote an eloquent letter to the Stevens Point
Journal arguing that later school start time helps pupils.
Sienna Lee wrote an article for her school paper in New Hope, PA entitled “Why high school students need a later arrival time.”
Devin Neal wrote an article (More Sleep=Better Grades?) on the school start time controversy for The Defensor, the school paper for Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School in Virginia Beach, VA.
Victoria Bracher wrote a column (Start time unrealistic) for her school paper in Kent,
Jack Petrides, a high school freshman at Northampton High School in Northampton, MA, wrote a letter to the Daily Hampshire Gazette's editor explaining why an "early-to-bed" approach won't work for teens.
Britni Berg, a high school student and aspiring journalist from Northbrook, IL, wrote a column on the so-called "race to nowhere" for her local Patch paper. "When students start substituting energy drinks for their eight hours sleep," she writes, "is it time to say, enough is enough?"
Zach Speed, a staff writer for his school's online newspaper in Westport, CT, wrote an opinion piece called "The Wrong Side of the Bed" in which he argues that high school students can't possibly get even close to the amount of needed sleep given current school start times.
If you know other students who deserve recognition for their efforts to promote sane, humane
school start times, please tell us their stories.