What defines us?

What factors contribute to a student’s identity?
What defines us?
Defining ourselves

At the core of the identity of a high school student lies their values and goals. Every single student will possess an individualized definition of identity. How a person may act will most likely reflect their values. How someone may spend their time also reflects their values. One’s actions offer a bookmark to the page in every individual’s personal dictionary. This leaves young adults in question, as they are still searching for their page.

What does not define us?

While high school is a time that feels as though one’s identity is molding, the definition of one’s self is still changing. Failure is a large part of the human experience. Whilst some may fail more than others, everyone shares the opportunity to grow and learn; or to not. While failure does not define someone, their reaction moving forward does. Students must balance their overall involvement with the social expectations of moving on to adulthood.

Stereotypes are being talked about more and more in the modern age. These labels are just preconceived expectations based on some specific characteristic. Only ourselves can define us. The responsibility to hold true to one’s own definition proves difficult amongst a sea of other pages in the

Definition by Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Designed by Amanda Clubb.
Definition by Merriam-Webster dictionary. Designed by Amanda Clubb.

Choice is one of the most important pillars of individualism in American society. Every single person can choose who they want to be. Despite influential factors like family and society, everyone ultimately chooses their path. People possess the ability to redefine themselves every day.

Self-imposed guidelines for how one lives his or her life are really what sets a person apart from the rest. These are one’s core goals and values; they are what attributes to one’s true definition of self. Aspiring to be the best basketball player of all time, to be the first in your family to go to college or to get out of bed the next morning are all goals that drive a person.


Balance is one of, if not, the biggest struggles when it comes to high school students being who they wish to be. Balancing life and school is where one’s identity takes control. Setting priorities is needed when students are juggling school, sports and jobs. Many sacrifice sleep or the quality of their mental health. There are pros and cons to every involvement a student must balance.

Senior Jacob Ginskey is involved in football, basketball and track as well as clubs such as NHS, DECA, SHOC and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Ginskey said, “Extracurriculars and sports kind of, not define who I am, but kind of add to who I am and help me be the person I am.” He believes that his core values stem from his family and how he was raised. Ginskey said, “Growing up, I’ve learned all the values I have from my family.” He utilizes his passion and goals to be involved and pursue what he values.

Definition by Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Designed by Amanda Clubb.
Definition by Merriam-Webster dictionary. Designed by Amanda Clubb.
Societal expectations

Societal pressures and expectations are one of the unifying factors of the high school experience. Whether it be to get good grades in order to pursue a collegiate career, or to sit still and behave in class, students experience some sort of behavioral influence. The social scene at school is one of the largest outside factors dictating an individual’s actions and goals. Teachers also can be one of the most influential factors in a student’s life. Connection to a teacher can often create interest in certain subjects. Students often base their career decisions off their experiences in the classroom. OHS has seen this as students define their pathways.

OHS Dean of Students, Mr. Doug Wanous, takes great pride in being a positive influence on students. Mr. Wanous said, “My personal goals have always been to identify my gifts and then make sure I give them out.”

He loves to attend Owatonna sports and performances. Mr. Wanous prioritizes the students in Owatonna. He also promotes the idea of being a good human. Mr. Wanous said, “I think society does and I think that in order to maintain an effective school
environment there’s a certain level of expectation placed on students. I expect everybody to be good people. You know, really what they do defines who they are, it’s not just busy work it’s about the character of who they are.”

Definition by Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Designed by Amanda Clubb.
Definition by Merriam-Webster dictionary. Designed by Amanda Clubb.

American culture emphasizes individualism as an essential building block to society. But in order for one to climb the ranks in mankind, one has to compete with their peers. The product of such competition is a drive to improve, causing the overall productivity of the student body to improve.

However, at what cost?

Competition is one of the driving factors that continues to keep pressure on students. Students fight for the top rank in their class when it comes to grades. Students fight other schools in sports to be the best, and possibly make sports their career. Some just want the job opportunity to make more money than the person sitting next to them.

Individualism has its pros and cons, providing students the ability to define themselves. It helps people stand out from the crowd, and create themselves rather than being told who to be. Unfortunately, this can create an issue as people become tunnel-visioned on the competition against others.

Extracurricular activities are a huge part of student life in high school. Many students involve themselves in the arts, sports or clubs. It is not uncommon for one to associate themselves with those of like interests, and for them keep it as a priority amongst. Although balance is a key part of student life, the pressure to do well in all aspects of life remains constant.

How one acts is the definition of their character.
Students are driven by competition, as well as
personal motives. A student’s drive is what will help them win the race against their competitors. Sometimes, a race is not about beating the world record, it is about achieving a personal record.

This article was originally published in the January Print Editon.