The second semester of senior year can be a taxing time for students. At Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, many seniors are deeply involved in afterschool activities, whether they play a varsity sport, act in a PVI Players' production or flaunt their school spirit in the "VI Man" student section. What their peers may not know is that many seniors also devote themselves to extracurricular passions outside of school while still keeping up with difficult course loads.

Senior David Anand spends his free time jamming on a cherry red Pearl drum set. Anand started taking music lessons when he was young, and eventually he began to meet with friends to play.

"I have been in about seven bands over the years," said Anand. "But I finally found a great group of good friends, and we play at bars every couple weekends."

Anand admits getting practice time in is a challenge.

"It took a lot of practice to get where we are now. We used to practice twice a week, but since our bass player went off to college, we mainly practice just before gigs," he said.

In addition to playing in his band and working a part-time job at a movie theater, Anand takes several AP classes. He said that even though there have been a few times where he has put his band first, such as playing until 11p.m. when he had a paper due at midnight, his homework usually gets done and he's been able to maintain his grades.

As they go off to college, Anand said the band hopes to play together on breaks.

"I might start something else on the side in college, but I will always play my music," said Anand.

Senior Helena Klimon has spent nights and weekends over the last six years living and breathing Irish dance.

"Dance is a huge part of my life. My dance friends and teachers are like my family," she said.

Klimon said there is more to Irish dance than the big, curly wigs and crazy, sparkly dresses that traditionally come to mind. "It's an insane amount of work and requires real dedication."

Klimon spends 12 hours each week in dance class, in addition to many more hours spent practicing at home. She also travels to competitions about twice a month throughout the year.

"I love competing and it's one of my favorite things to do," she said. "Last fall, I went to 11 competitions in the space of seven weeks, which was intense, but also very fun."

With four AP classes in her schedule, Klimon admits managing her time isn't easy.

"Most days I go straight to dance and then I don't get home until late, and I still have to do my homework," she said. "It can be exhausting at times, but in the end, my homework gets done, even if I have to stay up late," she said.

Klimon said dancing actually helps to relieve all the stress of school, instead of adding to it.

"When I'm dancing, I forget everything that's bothering me and feel so much better."

Senior Kevin O'Callaghan, prefers to spend his time volunteering as an EMT at the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department. For O'Callaghan, joining was as simple as attending a meeting and filling out an application.

"It was something I had wanted to do while in high school, so I made it happen," he said.

O'Callaghan tries to work at least one shift a week, averaging around 60 hours a month during the past two years.

"We train frequently, but most of my hours come while I'm staffing ambulances and fire engines and waiting to respond to 911 calls," he said. Eventually, O'Callaghan hopes to go through ambulance driver training.

Like Anand and Klimon, O'Callaghan has managed to balance his extracurricular activities with the academic demands of senior year.

"If I have to, I can do homework at the station," he said.

By working his long shifts mainly on weekends, he is able to keep his workload under control. O'Callaghan heads off to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis this fall, so he'll have to stop volunteering then, something he hopes is only temporary.

"As soon as it's practical, I'd like to get back into it," O'Callaghan said.

While battling "senioritis" and making a final push toward graduation, Anand, Klimon and O'Callaghan are just a few examples of students making time to pursue their passions, despite the demands placed on them as students.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016