I’m spending the week in Walla Walla after serving on the interview panel for Whitman College’s top scholarship. A group of us (faculty and alumni) spent a day interviewing 25 young people to choose those we believe will be the best leaders at Whitman and in their future lives. It was an incredible experience. Since, I’ve been meeting with a few seniors to discuss post graduation plans, and talking with my son and his friends. Again…incredible.
But back to the high school students we interviewed. If these young people are any indication of the caliber of today’s high school students, we are definitely in good hands. Although the ladies might be a bit uncomfortable in their business clothes and their hands a bit clammy when we shook them, their passion became definite as soon as they started talking. Just for starters…
- Founded a nonprofit so her high school friends began to understand even small contributions make a difference
- Violinist who put together a quartet to play during meals at a homeless shelter
- Faced with prejudice in her high school, she formed a group to speak out about racism
- Grew up in foster homes not allowed to read many books we’ve all seen on the censor shelves…so she brought them into the house under her clothes
- An active Girl Scout leader grateful for the program that helped her learn and grow
All of this is on top of stellar academics and more high school activities than you can imagine. For many, they’ve been working for years to help support their families who are committed to their vision but just can’t do so financially.
Then there’s the young woman who will graduate in 24 days with a resolute focus on her future in development and nonprofits. She wants to work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and saw her potential in high school when they named her one of their Millennium Scholars.
My son and his friends are talking about films – classic and current – in a way that is really exhilarating…and at the same time exhausting.
If these kids fulfill even half their plans and dreams, we will be in good hands. But it’s also up to each of us as parents, and as adults who care about society, to help ALL kids succeed. In Alaska, there’s a movement to improve graduation rates and I hope it leads to more students like I’ve seen this week. As adults, we have an obligation to help:
- By talking with kids about their hopes and dreams.
- By helping them map their plans and provide them good input on direction.
- By supporting their goals.
- By caring if they succeed, and listening to their plans.
Young people need adult mentors. I can’t think of much else I do that’s as gratifying.
So, it’s been an inspiring week already. Today my reunion weekend begins so I’m hoping for another kind of incredible.