PUBLISHER'S NOTEBOOK:Our young people not part of 'me' generation
Friday, April 11, 2014 10:05 AM
As the days count down to graduation, adults tend to focus on what can go wrong for young people as the lessons of drinking and driving will be soon on display through reenactments and other methods at area schools. Those programs are beneficial as they have seemed to cut down on the violent deaths on area roads in the spring around prom and graduation.
However, we also need to remember what local teens do right as they are about to enter the adult world.
A reminder of how the outlook of teens is changing came through from a request by seniors at an area school district that hasn't had senior class trips in the past. Most school districts in the area have a tradition of an extended field trip to a distant location where students form final, lasting memories together.
Lacking a tradition to follow, the seniors at Kingsland invented their own trip. Their destination of Chicago isn't unusual as the nation's third largest city has many educational and cultural activities. However, their itinerary didn't follow the usual format.
Yes, the Sears Tower, Navy Pier and Wrigley Field are among the sites they will be seeing, but the students also decided they want to work at Feed My Starving Children to package food for hungry youngsters while on their farewell fun tour.
Volunteer vacations are gaining in popularity among adults who seek more meaning in their lives while also attempting to gain perspective and a balance to life. However, it isn't something that would be expected from young people closing out their senior year of high school, a time tradition dictates is focused mostly on fun as they count down the days to graduation.
The generation gap so many adults experienced years ago doesn't seem to be such a gap today. Youth aren't looking to separate themselves from the community. They aren't focused solely on partying. This definitely isn't the "me generation."
The evidence isn't just from the choice of one class trip by one school district. For instance, Minnesota has a We Day that has a goal of empowering the younger generation to shift the focus of the world from "me" to "we." Several Chatfield students attended the statewide event, coming back with enthusiasm that led to several volunteer projects, such as collecting food for the hungry during Halloween.
Students at other schools in our area have helped raise money for cancer, sponsored a clothing drive, enriched the lives of residents at area nursing homes and worked at community benefits.
One student organization even started a community blood drive. Not only did they organize it, some of the members also donated blood.
That was made possible when a Blooming Prairie teen pushed legislators to lower the age to donate blood in Minnesota several years ago. As a result of his efforts, a bill was signed into law July 1, 2008, allowing 16-year-olds to donate blood with parental consent.
Since 2008, the number of 16-year-old blood donors across Minnesota has grown steadily. That shows teens are thinking about more than just getting their driver's license when they reach that milestone age of 16.
That early habit carries on through the rest of their teen years and into young adulthood. One Red Cross official in Minnesota estimates that 20 percent of its blood donations come from high school and college students during the academic year.
The newspapers in Bluff Country Newspaper Group have more evidence on that change in thinking as they have had several feature stories about area graduates, such as the Fillmore Central alumnus who took a break from college to volunteer, resulting in an experience that transformed his life, or the Lanesboro alumnus whose friendship with a Kenya woman led to starting a non-profit organization and this summer taking a trip to Africa.
Those are just a couple of the more recent examples of young people volunteering in service to the community. The writers in this group of newspapers never seem to run out of ideas for stories about the ways local youth have reached out to others.
Sure, you're still going to hear about the excesses at spring break, the parties around prom or graduation and the self-absorbed exploits of youth, but there is a definite trend away from "me" - toward an all-inclusive "we" - among our young people.
As Bob Dylan sang back in the '60s, "the times they are a-changin.'