Kids should be seen, not heard.
Millennials are entitled, and all they care about are themselves.
Young people are lazy and don’t do anything.
You’ve likely heard all of this before. Somewhere along the line it became on trend for
generations to look down on the ones following after them, saddling them with labels like lazy, entitled, spoiled and bratty. The image of a millennial dressed head to toe in expensive athleisure wear, armed with a cup of Starbucks and a plate of avocado on toast while scrolling through Instagram on the latest iPhone comes to mind. Too oblivious to notice what’s around them, and too self-absorbed to really care. But is this true?
To be fair, sometimes it is. To say there are no shallow young people would be a stretch.
But those traits aren’t restricted to an age or a generation. There are certainly people in their 30s, their 40s, and even older, who would rather focus on themselves than on others. But on the flipside, there are young people who don’t fit the stereotypes that have been forced onto them. There are some who, when faced with things they know to be inherently wrong, would rather speak up than stay silent. One example would be the students from Parkland, Florida. By now everyone knows their story. On February 14, 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School joined the list of schools in this country that have been shaken by senseless gun violence. This, unfortunately, felt commonplace. But what wasn’t par for the course was the response of the students affected by this tragedy. They rallied together, starting the #NeverAgain movement, sparking protests and marches around the country. These kids made a platform for themselves, making sure to be inclusive to all those who’ve been affected by gun violence. Even more
impressive is that this activism wasn’t some fad for them, as some adults thought. They’ve stuck with it, pushing hard for real change.
The desire of those students isn’t an anomaly as some may think. Despite the
preconceived notions that some may have about young people, these newest generations are doing all they can to prove people wrong. Even here on campus there are young people who’ve tried to make a difference. Take, for example, Olivia Baker, a sophomore on campus majoring in Education and History. She asserted, “I 110% believe that people can make a difference. I think that a lot of the time youth make more of a difference than adults because we have so many fresh ideas and our passions are so intense.” Baker herself shows this from her own actions, like by helping to run the Out of the Darkness walk, a suicide prevention event. Another organization she’s a part of on campus is called Best Buddies, which helps to create friendships between people with and without disabilities. With all of this, Baker admits that she’s run into some opposition. “I have been told that I do too much. A lot of the time older people laugh and try to
give me smaller jobs, ones that they think I can handle.” But despite this, she still believes in the importance of trying to make a difference. “I personally get something that could be described as a high when I do things that have a positive effect on other people,” Baker explained.
Maddie McDougall, a senior and Education/Art major, explained how she tries to get
involved. “I’ve always participated in community service and programs like Rachel’s Challenge in an attempt to make small changes, in hopes of effecting greater change. In this current presidential era, I’ve called into the offices of my senators and representatives to voice my opinions on issues that I care about. They get thousands of calls a day, but it’s important to remember that every voice matters.” Some might think that, when compared to the noise of so many people with so many opinions, their own voice doesn’t count, especially if they’re young. But McDougall added, “Young people can absolutely make a difference in our society! I personally believe that young people (from small kids to even college students) are the ones with the big ideas, and open minds willing to be optimistic and peaceful.”
Kemba Webson, a junior Education/English major, shares this mindset. She’s a part of
the Office of Multicultural Affairs, an office that is geared towards making the campus a safe and inclusive space for all students. Webson explained that she feels that young people have it in them to make a difference, if they have the right connections. She said, “There have been tons of young people throughout history that start these great movements that inspire others to join them and change the world.” This couldn’t be truer. Think back to the 1960s during the height of the Civil Rights movements. When businesses and restaurants still were segregated, black teenagers from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University staged a sit-in at a lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, facing enraged workers and customers. Soon their
seemingly small act of courage was being mirrored in cities far and wide.
And in 1968, students at Columbia University showed that they could take action too.
The university had made plans to build a gym in a major Harlem park, limiting access for residents. Additionally, students also found out about the university’s contract with a weapons research group from the Vietnam era. They staged a sit in at several buildings, and carried out strikes for a whole semester, causing the university to back pedal on both of those things. There are countless examples of young people proving their grit, from both the past and in this present day and age. Now, this isn’t meant to be a Ted Talk or some rallying cry for people to grab their cardboard signs to storm the streets in protest. This is more of a reminder of an important point: we are all capable of so much more than we think.