Kindergarten roundup! It’s the time of year when area elementary schools open their doors to share with parents of preschoolers information about the school’s faculty, programs, opportunities and accomplishments. I recently spoke at one of these programs and shared some RISD insights and personal observations about the public school journey. The audience included more than 30 parents of children in the LHHS Class of 2021. I was struck that many of the parents’ questions and comments for the principal and his staff were the same as we asked almost 20 years ago: Will my child be safe? What is done to meet each child’s needs? How does one person teach 22 kindergarteners in a single room?

I listened and smiled with the experience and wisdom of an empty nester. These families have great days ahead in the classroom, on the playground, in the fine arts, on field trips, at the games, concerts and dances, and in so many places where their public schools will help these children learn and grow. And before you know it, these “children” will become tomorrow’s “youth.”

What about today’s youth? Who are they and how are they doing?  “All I read about is the bad stuff in high schools.” “Are we ‘losing’ our youth?” “Are teenagers getting older but not growing up?” I can proudly tell you that you should be and will be proud of the vast majority of Lake Highlands teenagers. If you don’t believe me, maybe you’ll understand better from the words of one of today’s youth.

LHHS senior Matthew Gaba, a recent recipient of the Exchange Club’s Youth of the Month award, wrote an essay that, I believe, addresses the comments, complaints and stereotypes that many adults have about “’s Youth.” Listen to Matthew:

“I recently went through the college application process. Witnessing some of the brightest and most talented young adults in America on my college visits and meeting with these students, it was impossible for me to buy into the myth of the lazy teenager. All of these students had near-perfect SAT scores, and were undoubtedly involved in a countless range of extracurricular activities. These kids attending college are paving a path for the future. They are investing in education so that our world will be a better place. Maybe one of those teenagers will cure cancer or find the solution to global warming. Will people be calling these kids ‘lazy’ then?

“There are also those young adults who decide to take a different path. Maybe college isn’t for them. I would like to see someone call the young men and women serving our country ‘lazy’ — the ones that sacrifice their lives overseas so that the average American can live without the threat of enemy attack.

“We forget about the girl that is holding down a full-time job as well as attending school so that she can help her mother fend off the bill collectors for one more month, or the boy who takes care of his 10-month-old sister until his dad gets back from the night shift. These kids certainly don’t have much time to commit to studying and extracurricular activities. Does this make them ‘lazy?’ These students may not be attending a prestigious college or serving in the military. However, they are sustaining their families, and America is a better place because of them.

“People do not need to look very far to see all of the ways America’s youth are benefiting our country, if only they would open their eyes.”

Let’s keep our eyes open … from kindergarten to graduation … from childhood to youth … from today to tomorrow.

See you at school.