Yarrow Ator: The Truth about Mental Health and Grades


As another school year progresses, more juniors and seniors are either preparing to finalize their captstones, or are feeling accomplished after completing their wearisome projects. Senior Yarrow Ator is likely experiencing the latter.


Ator spent the majority of this past summer compiling data from various sources, studying statistics, and building up her own interpersonal skills. The project was somewhat grueling.


“I was studying the relationship between mental health and academic achievement for students in this district,” said Ator. “Specifically high achieving students.”


The goal was to see if grades really do have anything to do with mental health. In order to find out, Ator, “ did interviews with high achieving students. I did interviews with teachers. I looked at Healthy Kids Colorado survey data, which is that survey we take every two years. And I looked at GPA trends and depression trends. Then I also looked at national research for why the trends that I was seeing existed.”


Next, she “made a couple of graphs based on the Healthy Kids Colorado survey data, and one of them was for the entire state of Colorado, with hopelessness being the independent variable and the percent of students with a GPA of above 3.0 being the dependent variable.”


Ator said, “basically what I found is that the R Squared value, which indicates how much of the dependent variable is dependent on the independent variable, was 0.026, which is very low. That basically means that, for the entire state of Colorado, GPA has pretty much nothing to do with hopelessness.”


“The reason this is valuable is because our school tends to assume that students who have a high GPA aren’t hopeless. So basically what they’re saying, from a statistical standpoint, is that worse grades is more hopelessness and better grades is less hopelessness, and what I’m saying is that there is absolutely no correlation and we can’t be identifying struggling kids off of grades.”


Ator didn’t just go into statistics for our state, though. She also took a special look at the Roaring Fork school district.


“If we look at the district, the hopelessness trendline is actually kinda similar to the GPA trendline.” This means, at least in a general sense, “the better grades you have, the more hopeless you are.”


However, this project wasn’t just about gathering interesting information about our students; It was about making a difference in peoples’ lives.


“I realized that this was the group that needed me to speak for the most because this was the group that was often expected to not need help.”


Ator is currently using her findings to come up with better ways to address mental health in our students, and lists the Aspen Hope Center as one outstanding resource our school already has for struggling students.


While this was only a fraction of the data and conclusions drawn by Ator with her capstone, there is still an opportunity for those interested to take a look at her work.


“If anybody wants to look at [the data] they can reach out to me and I can give them a paper that has all the data, everything on it,” said Ator. You can find her school email at [email protected].

You can also visit Yarrow’s Slideshow or Document if you want access to a more detailed compilation of her findings.