BY RICH PALZEWIC
My faith in the younger generation was recently given a shot of adrenaline in the arm.
Not that I have any doubt about the future leaders of our free world, but it’s nice to see situations where they are in the news for positive things and not negative ones.
I was a spectator at the “Touchdowns for Autism Inclusive Football Clinic” Sept. 8 at Bay Port High School.
Currently in its second year, members of the Bay Port football team partnered with Centerpiece LLC in Suamico to work with autistic kids on their football skills. It was a great chance for the youngsters and parents to interact with their local heroes on the gridiron.
I’ve heard many times in the past – usually from the older crowd – that the current generation doesn’t know what hard work is and they don’t care like they should.
I couldn’t disagree more.
This was a perfect example of how a group of kids can come together to do something positive.
“It’s fun to see the smiles on the kids’ faces,” said senior Jake Plummer, who is also the team’s starting quarterback. “Playing a game that the rest of the guys and I love – it’s just fun to see everyone having a good time. It’s really enjoyable for us.”
Plummer also participates in the Goody Triathlon each spring in Pulaski. The Goody is an event where area high-school kids are paired up with athletes with special needs. They help the participants in the pool, on the bike and with the run.
The Bay Port players and coaches don’t do things like this because they have to, but because they want to help out in any way they can.
Most students today don’t have to walk 3 miles uphill to and from school each day in a blinding snowstorm, but they have a lot more challenges in our society than you or I did.
Maybe today’s generation doesn’t have to go out in the woods and help cut, chop and haul firewood for the colder winter months, but if you’ve never gone into one of the high schools and seen the classes they are taking, it’s a real eye-opener.
I made it through my ENTIRE high school and college career without taking one foreign language or computer class. I didn’t take advanced biology or calculus. I excelled in school, but I’m pretty confident that if I was a student today, I’d have a much more difficult time.
They not only have to deal with peer pressure but also gun violence, sexual harassment, difficult classes, social media, texting and the demands from coaches. It’s much harder to detach yourself from the real world like we could years ago.
I do shake my head when I hear about kids doing something wrong, but then I stop and think: I did naughty things, too. I just happened to live in an era where we didn’t have cell phones, Twitter or Facebook. Thank goodness for that.
I almost burned down the family barn when I was 12 years old because I was playing with matches. Two hours later as I was cutting the lawn (with a push mower I might add), one of my six sisters came running out of the house yelling, “Fire!” Luckily we got it put out, but in the meantime, the fire department was called. Do you think I spoke up? Not a chance, even though I knew 100 percent that I was responsible for that fire. It was ruled “spontaneous combustion” and everyone went about their day.
I never told anyone that secret until 15 years later. By that point, even my mother thought it was funny.
Sadly, that same barn really did burn down a few years ago in a New Year’s Eve fire.
I’m not sure how some of these student-athletes balance playing up to three sports a year and still have time for their homework and other extracurricular activities.
In my interaction with hundreds of high-school-aged kids over the last three years working at The Press, I’ve had the honor of meeting with some of the nicest, most caring individuals I’ve ever met.
Many times when I leave a senior spotlight interview, I’m left saying to myself, “I hope my daughter turns out like her!”
I’ve become close to many kids over the years, even being invited to graduation parties and other events. Maybe someday I’ll be a best man in a wedding or at least get invited to the ceremony – that would be nice.
In ending, let’s give kids a break. Like everyone, they need to be held accountable for their actions. I’m not giving them a free pass in life, but we have all made mistakes and are better for it.
In the meantime, I’m going to study my calculus, try to learn Spanish, figure out what’s wrong with my computer and patiently wait for that wedding invitation.