We Got This
Since the beginning of time, adults have looked at the the next generation and worried about the downfall of civilization. To many, young adults never seem to have the maturity, fortitude, and gumption of past generations—just ask anyone older than 30.
As a high school principal, I’m here to tell you our future is in very good hands.
One example took place on March 14 at Ukiah High School. A month after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida our students joined a national effort to organize a vigil against gun violence and in honor of the seventeen lives stolen. UHS student leaders applied what they’d learned from organizing rallies and homecoming events to create a solemn, respectful and poignant remembrance. Hundreds of students participated in utter silence that ended with the punctuating sound of seventeen black balloons popping. The student organizers exercised their First Amendment rights with maturity and mindfulness. Impressively, hundreds of other students passed the vigil respectfully acknowledging their peers who chose to participate. This moment of civility amidst diversity is our democracy defined. In response, some adults insisted this effort must have organized by adults. It was not. It was the work of our future leaders.
A month later I had the honor of attending the Future Farmers of America State Leadership Conference. What a show! More than 8,000 FFA members attended, 18 from Ukiah High School. The event was a microcosm of California, with people from diverse backgrounds sharing their love and knowledge of agriculture. The national FFA president, an African-American young woman raised in our state, encouraged attendees with her message of empowerment. The event featured motivational speakers, musical performances, a career expo and information about college programs. Student projects were presented and judged. A young farmer explained how he strategically grew his goat meat business to earn a six-figure income by reaching out to Latino and Muslim markets. The students were both inspired and inspiring, erasing the image of farmers as a homogenous group and replacing it with one of a vibrant, eclectic and growing collection of young people from all over the state. Everything I saw was student-organized. At Ukiah High, we now have two FFA teachers offering both college-prep, hands-on FFA classes and the demand for these classes continues to grow. The FFA students are organized, hard-working, and dedicated. They are tomorrow’s leaders.
That same week, our Ukiah High School robotics students made the headlines. Our team topped a competitive field of almost 40 teams from approximately 25 schools, earning the right to represent Northern California at the 2018 International SeaPerch Challenge at the University of Massachusetts in early June. The students on the SeaPerch team are not only impressive because of their intellectual achievements, they are impressive because of their commitment to excellence and their resiliency. They’ve spent hundreds of hours problem-solving as they tested their robot, improved it, repaired it, and redesigned it. These are the problem solvers who will use technology to conquer hardships and create opportunity in the future.
In all the successes I’ve described, parents, teachers and other mentors have played supportive roles, but it is the students who are setting their own courses and working hard to deliver results.
As with every generation, there are accomplished students achieving at the highest levels and students struggling to find their way. But as a whole, when this generation says, “We got this,” I believe them.