Editor's note: Gillian Styring is a senior at Riverdale High School in Portland, Ore. For more information visit https://teen2teenweb.wordpress.com.

Today’s high school students are exposed to research from a young age. Polls permeate social media and our science classes apply research to the learning process on a daily basis. In fact, at our high school we use Google Forms to collect information and share it almost every week in class. So when I decided to conduct research on a real issue with real people, it didn’t seem daunting. After all, how hard could it be? 

Turns out, it wasn’t as easy as it looked.

Growing up on a farm in Newberg, Ore., I’ve seen birth, life, injury and death. My interest in health has really been lifelong (I’ve wanted to be a surgeon since I was six years old) and has motivated me to participate in sports (soccer and pole vaulting) and lead community health projects (organ donor drives and CPR certification for high school students).

Living near Portland, it’s an everyday occurrence to see homeless people pretty much anywhere around the city and I’ve seen kids who look to be my age among them. This drove me to ask, “How does homelessness affect health, specifically teen health?”

Bam. I had a question. I would research the health of homeless teens and compare it to the health of mainstream teens.

I planned to measure height, weight, blood pressure, resting pulse and body fat. I soon discovered that measuring body fat takes too much time in the field, so I removed that. I also found a blood pressure cuff that simply went on a person’s wrist to minimize physical interaction so someone could self-administer if they didn’t want me to touch them.

Also, I would ask questions about eating habits, drug and alcohol use, crime and their feelings of stress.

Before anything else, I had to know if my respondents were, in fact, living on the streets. One of ...