Challenge Success team members discuss finding balance during students’ busy lives

Students share their thoughts through ‘I Wish…’ Project.

Balance is possible, but students need to work on it daily, according to the Challenge Success school program team.

“Balance is not something you get once and you have it forever, but it’s something that you’re going to be constantly negotiating, constantly re-shifting, constantly finding again,” said school program manager Laura Easley in a recent online presentation titled “The Well-Balanced Student,” which was available for local residents’ viewing in coordination with MI Parent Edge.

The nonprofit Challenge Success, which is affiliated with the Stanford University Graduate School of Education, implements research-based solutions to get kids more engaged with learning, said Douglas Tsoi, parent and faculty educator. Its mission is also focused on promoting student well-being.

Easley said that a solid education goes beyond what’s happening in the classroom.

“We believe at Challenge Success, change just can’t come from just one group, one stakeholder trying to make change, it has to come from the entire school community working together,” she said.

Tying into the presentation is the “I Wish…” Project, which is presented by MI Parent Edge in partnership with KMIH 88.9 The Bridge. Mercer Island High School students were asked to share their thoughts they wish their parents, teachers and friends knew about.

Some of the anonymous messages were:

“I wish my parents knew how important spending time with friends and socializing is to balance school stress”; “I wish my peers knew how other people can see things differently”; “I wish my parents knew how hard I am trying, and how hard it is to always be my best”; and “I wish my peers knew about how it feels to be left out.”

“Our hope with this program is to hear student voices. We want them to be really honest about what they’re feeling, whether it’s around the pressure to succeed, whether it’s about how they adjusted to the hybrid and virtual learning last year — a variety of things,” said MI Parent Edge’s Michelle Ritter, adding that those voices can generate a discussion about how to best support the students.

Outside of the classroom, Tsoi said that self-directed playtime is critically important to engage in every day. Downtime, which can allow moderate doses of screen time and self-directed relaxation like reading and listening to music, is encouraged for rest and rejuvenation.

“That downtime where they’re doing nothing is actually really necessary,” he said. “They’ve had a really, really busy day filled with all sorts of activities and interactions, and sometimes they just need to do nothing.”

As for media usage, parents should set ground rules and limits and preview/co-view content. Challenge Success’ research shows that too much media can inhibit sleep, play, language development, social development/empathy and family bonding.

Also on the home front, families should ideally spend time together for 25 minutes a day, five days a week.

For resources that were covered in the presentation, visit and


* “Girls with Bright Futures” book discussion at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 26. In partnership with Island Books, authors Tracy Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman will delve into their fictional story of “college admissions mania on steroids.”

* “Signs of Suicide: Youth Suicide Prevention for Parents” at 7 p.m. on April 5. This event is for parents/adults only and will be presented in partnership with Mercer Island Youth and Family Services and the Islander Middle School counseling team.

To register, visit