Senioritis — or more literally, the disease of the senior — has become a famously overused phrase to describe the slump many seniors fall into in their final semester of high school. The lack of motivation often manifests in cut classes, late night online activity and unfinished work. Some seniors complain through Facebook statuses and Tweets about being sick of school. And for the most part, the figurative checklist has been checked off: SATs, college applications and grades (as long as you maintain a decent grade average).

But for others, second semester signals a new start: a time to explore new interests, dig into past activities and find passions in places they had never imagined. From crafts to cardio, these seniors have found enterprising ways to beat this epidemic.

Micayla Brewster: Crafts to D-I-Y for

Although she’s been doing creative projects since last year, Micayla Brewster created her first D-I-Y (short for Do-It-Yourself) blog on January 1st  and has been posting new crafts with personalized directions ever since.

Brewster was inspired to create this blog by friends who often asked her how she made cute items like bows and cinched headbands. Inspiration for the actual crafts have come from various online sources, such as Instagram and Pinterest, a popular website that allows users to — among other functions — “pin” photos of products and must-haves.

Micayla Brewster features an example of a hex nut bracelet on her new D-I-Y craft blog.

“Whenever I find something on Pinterest or see something online that I like, I’ll see if I can make it by knitting it or by making it out of different materials just because it’s cheaper,” she says. “For example, I was watching the X-Factor and someone was wearing a really cute bow, so I thought of a way to knit something like it.”

Although she didn’t have a particularly stressful first semester, with college applications over, Brewster believes that second semester gives seniors much more time and opportunity to do activities outside of school.

“Now I also have a lot of things lined up [for the blog] that I want to do and also for my college dorm room that I want to make decorations for,” she says.

Instructions on how to make things that range from hairbows to British flag pillows, can be found on her blog. But for those who aren’t as handy, Brewster has been making and selling different crafts per request.

One of the projects featured on Micayla Brewster’s D-I-Y craft blog includes a knitted quilt pillow.

In addition to pursuing such projects in her free time, Brewster has been involved with other creative mediums, such as singing on her church worship team and acting in plays both at Paly and outside of school. She hopes to take her yarn and knitting skills to service opportunities and the ministry in the future.

Visit her blog at:

Lindsay Sapigao: A Superwoman of Service

In addition to babysitting and leading a middle school youth group bible study at church, Lindsay Sapigao has taken on another duty: organizing an upcoming major fundraiser hosted by Hope’s Corner. The program, supported by Los Altos and Trinity United Methodist churches, hopes to provide as much local assistance, comfort and basic necessities to people in need.

“We’re hosting a BBQ lunch in the beginning of summer,” Sapigao says, where kids can play games and receive backpacks with back-to-school supplies. Parents will then receive groceries and gift cards to places like Safeway to take care of food over the summer. For the past two seasons, Hope’s Corner has hosted a Christmas party for kids and their families as well.

“I’m so happy my youth group is involved with putting it on,” she says. “This event is so important to me because when I was a kid, I received Christmas gifts from a similar program.”

For fundraising, Sapigao has helped set up a “matching situation” in her church youth group. This way, upperclassmen in the group can match the amount of money underclassmen raise, while church counselors match what the high school group raises in total.

Sapigao encourages second semesters to spend time second semester to find something meaningful to do and get involved. Her own inspiration stems from the people around her.

“A lot of it has to do with the fact that I grew up in the church,” she says. “Throughout my life, I’ve been surrounded by people who volunteer their time. I’m so blessed.”

Chika Kasahara: Staying Fit and Motivated

Before January, cross-country and track runner Chika Kasahara would never have imagined loving kickboxing.

After her mom encouraged her to try the sport, Kasahara found kickboxing surprisingly enjoyable and has been going to the Palo Alto-based Studio Kicks regularly this semester.

“During finals, I got pretty out of shape from all the stress-eating and the cold,” she says. “Now I make myself go kickboxing, run, and do other things like yoga and hot pilates.” Hot pilates, a form of Bikraim Yoga, involves core and flexibility workouts in intense heat — sometimes as high as 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Kasahara emphasizes the importance of staying fit and healthy, which she believes strongly correlates with motivation and focus.

“I think I’ve had ‘senioritis’ since junior year, but I have been doing better this year and staying on top of my work now that I am healthy,” she says.

The actual academic load, Kasahara says, hasn’t changed — only the general “atmosphere.”

“I wouldn’t say that my classes are easier this semester, but I think my classmates around me are pretty relaxed, which makes feel relaxed,” she says.

To any seniors out there struggling to keep up with school, she encourages them to make schedules and goals on a daily or weekly basis with a positive twist: reward yourself if you achieve them.

“They don’t have to be big rewards,” Kasahara says, using her own example of buying a favorite body wash as a treat. “I started off with giving myself a reward after three days and then five, and you just keep randomly increasing the time.”

 Alvin Kim: Expanding Education Beyond Borders

Upon finishing his first semester finals, Alvin Kim flew off to Thailand as a part of Seeds of Empowerment, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing projects that empower underserved communities worldwide. According to the group’s official website, such projects use “cutting-edge technology” in the hopes of improving worldwide access to education.

Kim, who has volunteered with Seeds since freshman year, initially hesitated on going due to approaching college application deadlines. He finally decided the 10-day opportunity, a trip intended to convince the Thai government of the program’s value and investment, was too valuable to give up.

“We promoted a new style of learning called S.M.I.L.E. (Stanford Mobile Inquiry-Based Learning Environment),” Kim says, which focuses on encouraging students to create their own questions, ask each other and then learn from answering them.

His favorite moments came from working with various first graders, who played around with tablets to learn math.

“I’d never seen young kids so interested in doing math before,” he says. “It was a really gratifying experience for me to see how the kids were so interested in learning, even if it was simple addition.”

Such experiences from traveling and working with Seeds has further spurred Kim’s interest in education, though this interest lies in more of a “technology-based engineering path” than in the typical teacher-student classroom setting.

Although he admits second semester has not been any easier — in fact, he’s had more work due to extracurricular activities — Kim plans on running Seeds workshops of his own and continuing to volunteer.

“Second semester gives you the chance to show what activities you truly like,” he says, commenting on how some people drop several activities after finishing college applications. “And while that doesn’t always result in less work, it does show people’s true sides and goals.”

Alexander Jenson: Goodbye America… Hello, Nicaragua!

While other seniors labor away at school, Alexander Jenson interns at a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Matagalpa, Nicaragua.

“Junior year wasn’t the best thing that could have happened to me, so I was looking for other options for my senior year,” says Jenson, who decided to therefore take nine classes first semester and graduate early.  “I had already been to over 40 countries, so I knew that travel was something I enjoyed.”

Alexander Jenson poses for a picture with a class of local kids in Matagalpa, Nicaragua, where he is spending his gap semester.

Via the program Amigos, Jenson will be spending the next semester in Nicaragua as a part of an NGO called Medicos del Mundo.

Medicos focuses on educating people about domestic violence and spreading the word on LGBTQ (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Questioning) rights.

In addition to interning about 20 hours a week, Jenson will be tackling his Community Based Initiative, a personally designed and completed project that addresses an area of concern in his new community.

To the second semester seniors still at school, Jenson offers a simple but sweet piece of advice: Enjoy yourselves and the things you do.

“Memories take priority over anxiety,” he says. “I went to Nicaragua partly because I felt like I was wasting away my youth, so I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere.”