This I Believe

Marcella - Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Entered on March 30, 2007
Age Group: Under 18

The Future in Their Faces

Wandering through the halls of my high school, I feel surrounded by a sampling of human adolescence. Long-haired seniors dawdle between clumps of anxious freshmen. Athletes in fleece and long khaki shorts congregate along the locker rows, laughing with their friends before heading off to their separate classrooms. Some students lollygag, longing to escape the confines of school. Others rush silently toward their next hour. Yet within five minutes, the halls have cleared, and everyone has reached their destination: learning.

Oftentimes, I look around me during the passing time and wonder about these 2,500 other, mostly unfamiliar teenagers. Who are these people? What circumstances have shaped their lives thus far? And, most importantly, what will the future bring for them? I imagine the serious-looking boy in front of me at his Harvard Law School graduation. The preppy girl to my right? She’ll marry young, stay in town, become a dental hygienist. And I hate to say it, but the greasy boy over my left shoulder isn’t headed anywhere productive. A high school diploma, if he’s fortunate, and then an eternity flipping burgers.

It’s easy for me to visualize futures for everyone, to pass judgment on them without knowing them. But I shouldn’t write anyone off. Maybe that greasy boy will become the doctor who invents the cure for pancreatic cancer, or a future president of the United States. Someday, long after America’s current leaders die, today’s current high schoolers will be running the country. Some unity is necessary to accomplish this feat.

All my life, my baby boomer and Gen-X parents and teachers have told my classmates and me, “Your generation is the future. You can change the world, if you only put your mind to it.” Truly, I believe this. Generation Y, though muddled in an age of endless media coverage, of reality TV and text messaging, of instant Internet celebrity, is actually capable of reforming the broken world. Even with infamously short attention spans, Gen-Y can focus enough to halt corruption in politics, defeat the evils in this society, and help to prevent senseless war and genocide. My generation is the future. I see that clearly in the face of each person I encounter in the hall.