Many have made statements like, “Kids aren’t like they used to be.” In many ways this is true. However, at their core, our children are still worthy of our support and investment, our belief in their abilities and our hope for the future.
Nearly all members of the high school class of 2014 were enjoying activities in their kindergarten class on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 – better known as 9/11. Our children are influenced for better or worse by an extreme political divide, a war on terrorism, a new and different type of recession, cyberbullying, smartphones, the influence of social media, the possibility of a new Cold War, and hundreds of television stations and Internet streaming of our favorite TV programs, music and movies.
Yes, children are different, and they should be, given that they have been influenced in different ways by different defining events. They are also still worthy of our support and investment, our belief in their abilities and our hope for the future.
This past year, I witnessed Carroll High School football players initiating and leading fundraisers to support a fellow Columbia City player who was hurt in a game against a different opponent. I witnessed an entire school community supporting the Carroll senior gift effort to help a fellow student achieve a dream.
I witnessed Perry Hill second grade students initiating and leading a fundraiser so others could enjoy a better Christmas. I witnessed many of our elementary students jumping rope to raise money for the American Heart Association while learning about its mission and heart disease prevention habits. I witnessed our students honoring our veterans through ceremonies they led at our schools, and I witnessed other students creating videos that memorialized the moment while honoring World War II veterans who participated in one of the Honor Flight opportunities.
I witnessed students creating award-winning bullying prevention messages. I witnessed Huntertown students participating in a combination field day/Relay for Life event that raised money for cancer research while also learning about cancer prevention actions they can take.
I witnessed many in our school community donating their time and talents, food, clothing, and money to those whose needs at that moment were greater than their own.
And the acts were not just to accomplish some abstract concepts for people they did not know. The acts were accompanied with time to engage in lessons, research, study and cultivate a commitment to understand why the acts were important and how the acts made a difference in the lives of others.
I witnessed many wonderful students with a deep desire to make our world a better place. Our senior class, the ones engaged in kindergarten activities at the moments of 9/11, led by example.
Our students raked leaves and shoveled snow for neighbors. They assisted elderly residents. They volunteered at shelters, hospitals and camps, serving those with greater needs than themselves.
They also came to school each day and did their best to learn and follow the lead of their teachers. They built their knowledge base. They developed their skills. And they applied what they learned to make the lives of others better.
All of the actions I outlined represent a small fraction of what our students actually accomplished. And these were actions that went beyond the small acts of kindness and appreciation that I witnessed each and every day from our students.
Please do not think that just because “kids aren’t the way they used to be,” they failed to learn how to treat others right and do the right thing. They learned and they developed an understanding that no test can measure. They learned that the content of our character and our commitment to using our knowledge and our skills to make a positive difference in the lives of others and our world is really what matters.
We need to believe in the abilities of our children. We need to continue supporting and investing in their development. And above all else, we need to recognize that our children continue to provide hope that our best days are still ahead of us.