Lake Bluff teen earns statewide honor for stress project
Eighteen-year-old Ingrid Lustig received a state honors as a top youth volunteer for creating a peer counseling website at Lake Forest High School. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 5, 2013 11:06AM
LAKE BLUFF — Eighteen-year-old Ingrid Lustig of Lake Bluff just wanted other students to benefit from the strategies she learned to cope with mounting academic and extracurricular pressures. That’s why she created an online peer counseling website called Enjoy the Journey in her sophomore year.
Two years later, the Lake Forest High School senior earned a bronze medal in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards national competition as a noteworthy Illinois youth volunteer of 2013. Eight Illinois teens earned the Distinguished Finalists honor; two received the top state honors. Lustig will receive her medal at a spring service award night at Lake Forest High School.
Q. Where you surprised to be named a finalist in the competition?
A. I didn’t think I would even be considered for the preliminary round. When I was selected from students at my high school who applied, I thought that was as far as it was going to go. To be among the pool of finalists? That was incredible. This is an amazing group. It’s really an honor to be considered.
Q. What prompted you to help students cope with pressure?
A. In my sophomore year, I was taking a couple of AP — Advanced Placement — classes that were really stressing me out and I was involved in theater. We rehearsed every day after school, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. I’d come home, put my books down, grab something to eat and go to dance three nights a week. I would come home at 9 p.m. and start homework. That year I saw “Race to Nowhere” — a documentary describing the overwhelming effects academic stress can have on students. I realized that was just what happened to me. I got so bogged down with all the stress.
Q. How did you change your life?
A. I dropped all my dance classes, which was a big relief. I didn’t have to eat in the car any more. I did a ton of research on different ways to cope with stress and adopted some of them. I tried to relax and decompress. People think you have to get as much on your resume as possible, but things like reading and spending time with your family — things that don’t go on your resume — are equally, if not more, important. And I do a lot of yoga.
Q. How did you create Enjoy the Journey?
A. I talked to school administrators and a couple of social workers at school in the winter of 2011. They said I could form a group and have a place where students who were feeling stressed and needed advice could go — but not take up a lot of their time and add even more stress. I created a website first, www.enjoythejourneylfhs.com. The name emphasizes slowing down and enjoying high school rather than racing blindly through it in a quest for extreme success. Now it’s turned into more of a group, a big movement.
Q. How does Enjoy the Journey help?
A. Students can go on the website. There’s a Q&A box so they can submit questions — anything from “What foods can I eat when I get stressed” to “I’m feeling depressed and it’s really hurting my grades and academics.” We also presented to freshmen and sophomores about different study skills and different ways to be successful in school. During finals we did meditation and yoga.
Q. Has this outreach helped you personally?
A. Enjoy the Journey is one of the biggest joys in my life. I love being able to help other people. It takes focus off of your own stress. If I don’t walk the walk, I can’t talk the talk. It’s definitely made me look at my own journey in a different way.