SULLIVAN WEST — How can humanity insure a brighter future? I know for a portion of the older generations the answer is filed under “not my problem” but as someone hoping to be part …
SULLIVAN WEST — How can humanity insure a brighter future? I know for a portion of the older generations the answer is filed under “not my problem” but as someone hoping to be part of this eventuality, I am slightly more concerned. Sullivan 180, usually associated with improving the county’s health, recently held an MLK Day of Service Youth Summit to try and strengthen the future of our community by supporting and empowering teenagers.
The day was centered around the message of resilience and determination imparted in Dr. King’s blueprint speech, so it seemed fitting as we started with Duncan Kirkwood, a former US Army resilience trainer. In all honesty, I did not have high hopes as the people that typically give talks in schools possess a monotone voice that is better suited to put someone to sleep than to talk about the dangers of peer pressure. However, Duncan was different. He used questions, audience work, and funny anecdotes to get the entire room involved in his presentation. More importantly, the content of his speech addressed a problem that I and a lot of teenagers struggle with, failure. It was somewhat stress relieving to hear from someone who’s current life had blossomed from failure, especially in a society where that particular “f”word is taboo.
As we shifted from failure to future, Dr. Martin Luther King himself made an appearance. Hearing the blueprint speech to which the day was dedicated was interesting because it showed how much and how little the world has changed. Technological advancements enabled our emersion in Dr. King’s message but simultaneously, the content of his speech was just as pertinent today. The skyline of the future is built on an amalgamation of blueprints that we as the next generation will design, without our careful consideration, the world is doomed to collapse.
We heard from more speakers who discussed how passion, planning, and perseverance were building blocks for achieving our goals. During the presentations, I noticed that the entire day was about us as students in a different way than school. While high school is meant to prepare us for the academic rigor of the future, there is a clear focus on the end-of-year assessments. I sometimes wonder when I will be asked to recreate a unit circle or memorize the first 50 elements on the periodic table. While all of the speakers throughout the day had messages and all of the events had structure, they were designed to reshape our thinking, expose us to new ideas, or push us out of our comfort zones.
For instance, when we split up, most tables were quiet and there was a general understanding that everyone wished that they were sitting with their friends. This was, however, the objective. Multiple speakers explained how they found their success through experiences. We were at tables with people that were, in reality, only a half an hour away but that we would probably never have met. They gently nudged us toward experiencing other views. It didn’t end up feeling like a punishment; but an opportunity to get to know different types of people. As we approached the end-of-the day and the presenters gave their final messages, they introduced over a dozen organizations that had been interspersed as our table facilitators. They passed the microphone to students to ask them what they were inspired to pursue; as well as how and when they would walk through the provided “doors of opportunity”; or how they would create their own. As a teenager, there is an inherent desire to change the world. Unfortunately, there are a multitude of problems devolving into varying states of chaos. The reality of student life is nothing like what was promised in High School Musical. Often times, it can be hard to believe that the actions we take can ultimately be of any consequence, especially with a lack of assistance.
More than accruing community service hours or hoodies, the MLK Day of Service Youth Summit provided me with avenues of support and the belief that even as the future can seem insurmountable, if I start with the foundation of a proper blueprint, the possibilities for what I can construct are, truly, limitless.
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