Op-Ed’s are a rare thing at our publication, but after witnessing hundreds, if not thousands of youth athletic and scholastic events over the last several years, I feel the need to speak out about our youth.
I hear far too often the negatives: Too much XBOX, too much iPhone screen time, texting, sexting, SnapChat, Twitter, Instagram. Yes, it’s true, those are problems. I’m the father of four boys, three of which are currently teenagers. I get it. Limitations on those activities need to be curbed, and that needs to start in the homes so that schools and teachers can be free to do their jobs. That’s for another article.
I hear far too often that Millenials are difficult to work with. Yes, there’s probably a lot of truth to that, as well. But, they’re young, in their 20s, which I commonly refer to as adult puberty. They’ll feel their way through it, and it’ll be fine. Every generation or group has its weaknesses, but they also have their strengths.
I caution against painting entire generations with a negative broad brush. I cringe when I hear “our future is bleak.”
It’s not. And, I’ll tell you why.
The rising generation is smart, physically fit, and kind.
Let’s start with smart.
They embrace and understand technology. I frequently cover academic events, such as Science Olympiad, DECA, or Robotics competitions. I see the hours of planning, thinking, organizing, and strategizing that goes into winning those events. I admire the courage of Monica Chang, Wilson Ho, or Ashley Teng. I could go on with hundreds of names. I love seeing Tyler Samson and Reed Huckvale solve problems with their robots.
I see the hours of memorization, studying and planning that goes into Camas Theatre productions. I love seeing Clayton Lukens perform on stage, most recently in “Macbeth.” It’s not easy to do. I love seeing the instruction that comes from their teachers, and the extra hours they put in to teach our youth. Let’s celebrate that!
They’re physically fit.
Currently, we cover winter sports — basketball, gymnastics, swimming, and wrestling. A lot of mental preparation goes into each sport, but you also have to be physically fit to excel. A lot of time is spent in the workout room, pumping iron, or hitting the trails to run short and long distances. I see the grace and strength in gymnasts like Lili Ford, Annika Affleck, Lizzy Wing, and Shea McGee.
I see the early morning swimming workouts that Austin Fogel, Chris Xia, Dave Peddie, Jake Deurfeldt, and dozens of others endure at 5:30 am in a chilly pool. They spend a lot of time doing “dry land” workouts in the weight room, gaining muscle and strength. And, I see football players like Jake Blair doing daily workouts to stay on top of his game. State Champion swimmer, Max Dolbinin, is very conscious of what he eats, so he can stay in shape.
And, they’re also kind.
As many know, my heart broke when Alaina Petty, a daughter of a friend, was murdered at her high school in Parkland, FL nearly a year ago. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think of that. There’s not a day goes by that I fear that could happen to any of our beloved children.
My personal reaction to that was to start the #MarchKindness campaign last year, which set a ripple effect across this area that spread into other states. I witnessed children in Washougal organize kindness campaigns, encouraging us to be kinder to each other. I see daily today’s youth coordinating service projects, and leading by being kind. I see Boy Scouts leading by example. I see ASB leaders helping others feel included so that no child sits alone at lunch time.
And, just last night I spent considerable time with Camas High School teacher, Suzie Downs, who advises the CHS DECA Club. Several of her students turned out to meet the Small Business Revolution leaders Julie Gordon, Kelly Cerney, and Amanda Brinkman. They work for Deluxe, and produce the hit web series, “Main Street.”
Those business leaders separated themselves from the crowd and spoke with the DECA kids, who shared their ideas and visions for the future.
”I love what they had to say,” said Gordon. “They have fantastic ideas, and I know we’ll have a bright future because of these kids and those like them.”
As adults, we need to challenge these youth, stretch them, let them fall, give them guidelines, and teach them correct principles and values. When we do that, they thrive.
Teach them correct principles, and then allow them to govern themselves.
From where I stand, the future is bright.