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High Life / A WEEKLY FORUM FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS : Brother or Sister Close at Hand : Going to School With a Sibling Can Have Its Advantages, but There Are a Few Drawbacks

January 10, 1991|TRISHA GINSBURG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Trisha Ginsburg is a sophomore at Los Alamitos High School, where she is entertainment editor of the student newspaper

Wouldn't it be great to have a guide to high school? Someone to teach you the tricks of the trade, such as the classes you should enroll in, which teachers you should avoid, who you should hang out with and who you should stay away from . . . maybe even someone who could give you a ride to school.

Many teen-agers need look no further than their own homes for just this guru. This is the same person who can agitate, annoy, harass and hurt you--but ultimately can help you too.

While it may often appear that older brothers and sisters were put on this earth to sometimes make the lives of their younger siblings miserable, these same tormentors can be big assets at such critical times as attending high school.

And it works the other way around too. Such benefits for the older sibling include always having someone to pick on, someone to borrow money from and someone to relay a message home after school.

It sounds like the perfect arrangement all around.

Well, not quite.

Imagine that a bunch of your friends want to ditch school for the day. "Sure," you think, "I'm a senior . . . it's my prerogative." But just before the great escape, little sister discovers the plan and stands ready with a good case of blackmail.

OK, maybe it's not a symbiotic relationship, but as some siblings at Los Alamitos High School have discovered, having brothers and sisters on the same campus offers its good points and bad.

Junior Aaron Garrido, 16, has been the youngest and the oldest sibling at school. When he was a freshman, brother Jason was a junior. Now sister Rachel, 14, is a freshman. "It's better to be the younger one because then you get special treatment," Aaron said.

Yes, an older sibling can serve to cushion the shock that high school brings. Senior Kelly Mitcham, 17, has two younger sisters who also attend Los Alamitos. Kelly makes it her responsibility to look after them. "My younger sister sometimes has problems with kids in her class," Kelly said. "I feel like I want to go find those people and strangle them!"

Although freshman Jennifer Sorenson, 14, is popular, she's glad that senior sister Tammy, 17, is on hand. "I know most of the people she knows, so when I got here I didn't have to worry about meeting new people," Jennifer said.

Freshman Samantha Jennings, 14, said having senior sister Valerie, 17, at school is helpful. "I was nervous at first, but it's better having her here," Samantha said. "She has introduced me to a lot of people."

What happens, however, when friendly concern becomes overbearing?

Said Jennifer Sorenson: "She (Tammy) is so overprotective of me. If I'm in a fight with someone, she'll totally get into it, even if I don't ask her to. I wish she would stay out of it sometimes."

But it's often hard not to stick up for little sister or brother.

"I worry about who he associates with," senior Lara Thompson, 17, said of sophomore brother J.K., 15. "Sometimes, when he talks about some of the things going on, maybe on weekends, I worry."

Junior Jennifer Garrett, 16, said of twin sister Kristen, who is 23 minutes the elder: "If I want to ditch, she lectures me and tells me I shouldn't. If I do something bad, she tells on me. But whenever I need her, she's there."

Aaron Garrido finds it difficult going to school with younger sister Rachel because "guys my age like her. It makes me a lot more protective."

When classmate Travis Griffith, 16, joked that he and Rachel were dating, Garrido warned, "You touch her, you die."

Valerie Jennings has the same concern for sister Samantha. "I'm glad I'm going to be gone next year, because there's going to be a lot more guys around her and it would bug me," said Valerie, who will graduate in June.

Twins Jennifer and Kristen Garrett are competitive in sports as well as in the classroom. Both played junior varsity tennis last fall, and now Jennifer is on the JV basketball team while Kristen plays for the varsity. "We do compete in a lot of things," Kristen said.

Freshman Katie Mitcham, 14, agreed: "People are always saying, 'Oh, you're so and so's little sister.' They do well in school, so I'm kinda forced to do well also."

Katie's sisters--junior Corrie, 16, and senior Kelly, 17--are in the same Spanish and math classes. "It's hard, but we've always been competitive," Corrie said.

For most, however, the shared experience is pleasant.

"The benefits outweigh the drawbacks," said Corrie Mitcham, who offered this advice: "Don't take advantage of your brothers or sisters. Tell them your feelings and they'll be your best friends."

Said Lara Thompson: "Personally, I think he (J.K.) likes having an older sister here. And I like being able to say, 'There's my brother!' "

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