Back to Class

While my school days are well behind me, this time of the year always leaves me with feelings of hope and trepidation.

As the Free Lance took a tour of San Benito High School with Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum earlier this week, I saw students arrive in front of the sprawling campus with eager smiles and wearing brand new clothes that appeared charmingly too tight and uncomfortable.

I remember those high school days like they were yesterday. Waking up at the crack of dawn to style my hair and apply my make-up, I would also plan my outfits well in advance. Now it feels like a minor miracle when I use the blow dryer.

Students may devote a lot of care and attention to superficial things–it’s their right–and this generation is definitely inundated with more marketing ploys and online skullduggery than ever before, but this is also the time when young people are at their most giving.

While the latest YouTube personality and social media craze attempts to steal all their attention, young people are still going out there to make the world they will inherit a better place.

Over the years while covering this region, from Santa Cruz and Watsonville to Gilroy and now Hollister, I’ve met young people who want to make a positive mark in their community.

I’ve met students who during their downtime are making public art, tutoring even younger kids, cleaning up beaches, producing documentary films, developing mobile applications that will help their community and promoting positive messages through performance art.

During these impressionable days young people learn their values.

While they may take a wrong turn now and then, it is up to the adults around them to step up and help keep them on track. Counselors, teachers, parents, relatives, administrators, case managers and after-school program leaders all have their role to play in shaping young minds and instilling in them values that will make them compassionate, critical thinkers.

Sadly, we have seen bullying remain a persistent issue at school. Sometimes it seems like adults have given up their moral authority and are too afraid to call out bad behavior. We do our young people a disservice by failing to do so.

As the new school year begins, let us raise the bar and reach out to the young people in our midst and teach them positive things. They are the future, after all.

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