The kids are more than all right


Anyone looking for some great entertainment on a weekend evening could not do much better than taking in the Evanston High School Drama Devils dinner theater on Friday and Saturday, March 1-2. The play, “The Bold, the Young and the Murdered,” is a delightful comedy murder mystery. What really makes this play special, however, are the performances from the talented Evanston teens starring in the production. 

These kids have put their hearts and souls into their characters and the result is an outstanding, and extremely funny, ensemble performance. It’s impossible to single out any of the actors and the characters they portray as more noteworthy because they’re all simply excellent. 

I’ve written before about one of my favorite parts of my job, that of attending a vast array of events showcasing the amazing kids in our community. That was most definitely the case this past weekend when I not only attended the Drama Devils performance, but also had the opportunity to attend the Evanston Youth Club’s inaugural girls’ conference and the Wyoming State Robotics Tournament. 

At the girls’ conference I was able to hang in the back of the room, observe and take photos as young girls chatted, shared and supported one another. The keynote speaker, teen Sydney Lyman, did a superb job, demonstrating the kind of confidence I never dreamed of having when I was 15. 

At the robotics tournament, not only did I have the opportunity to learn about something entirely new to me, but I also got to see our Evanston High School and Davis Middle School students excelling and earning top honors. I will admit I didn’t expect the level of intensity and cheering that went on in the finals of a robotics tournament. 

These events got me thinking about the way our community supports our kids. Many local businesses go above and beyond in supporting and sponsoring youth activities. It seems the entire community turns out for EHS Homecoming and the stands are often packed for EHS football and basketball games. 

What I would like to request of our community is that we collectively step our support up a bit for some of the other events taking place in our schools. 

It would be a refreshing change to have the seats in the EHS auditorium filled for choir, band or strings concerts. It would have been delightful to see that same auditorium at capacity for last fall’s dramatic production of Macbeth. It would even be nice to see some of our sports teams get the same level of attendance as others. 

Near the end of January, I spent a weekend judging the EHS Speech and Debate meet. I had the opportunity to judge seven different event types and came away thoroughly impressed with all the Wyoming teens whose work I had the privilege of viewing. These kids are smart, passionate, confident and immensely talented. 

It’s too bad our local speech and debate team had to do so much scrambling and begging people to help judge. Not only does that make it difficult to host a meet, but if more people in our community had the chance to see these kids for themselves, I have no doubt they would be as impressed as I am. 

Being very involved with youth programs in our community through PTA and youth soccer, I’ve noticed something curious. Helicopter parenting is fairly common. We as parents have the ability to be online daily checking on our kids’ grades and have arguably more access to teachers, coaches, administrators, etc., than ever before. The urge to step in to every little situation that confronts our children can be overwhelming. I myself probably do this more than I should. 

I have to remind myself that part of growing up is learning to handle situations on one’s own. Parents shouldn’t be stepping in to referee every single disagreement or calling teachers every single time our child doesn’t do so well on a test. Too many of us do this too often and I’ve been making a conscious effort to only step in when I’m really concerned. 

Getting back to what I find curious, however, is how so many parents can simultaneously be so involved in their children’s lives but also so removed. The speech and debate team has to spend weeks searching for people to help with a meet, youth athletic programs have to scramble to find coaches and pretty much every parent involved with a PTA or parent group will tell you how hard it is to find people willing to volunteer. 

Far too many parents sit on the sidelines yelling instructions to a 7-year-old kid playing a sport, coaching from the bench, but then insist they’re too busy to actually coach. Too many parents would rather complain about the way an event was staged at their child’s school than actually get involved in planning that event. 

Unfortunately, as is the case with most things, it’s far easier to talk or complain than to actually put themself on the line and take action. 

I guess this is part of what I find most impressive about these kids. They put themselves on the line.

Public speaking is a really common phobia, so seeing teenagers bare their souls in a dramatic reading at a speech meet is inspiring. Hearing their chosen topics, including everything from depression to eating disorders to violence to sexual assault, is both sobering and enlightening. Kids are able to delve into important topics with more maturity and insight than I hear from many adults. 

Seeing our kids put themselves out there in a school play or tackling a solo in a musical performance can be incredibly moving and invigorating. Even watching the middle and elementary school geography and spelling bees can be a treat when I think about how much work and studying kids put in to be able to compete. Some of the talent and guts demonstrated by kids in our community regularly leaves me beaming. 

So, my challenge to you, reader, is to go to a youth event that you haven’t been to before. Go, even if you have nobody in the concert or the production or the competition. Go, and take in what the youth in Evanston are up to. 

When you do, I think you’ll find that — in spite of all the many challenges and issues young people face in our modern world, and in spite of the ways in which I often feel we as adults fail to do right by them — somehow these kids are more than all right. They’re amazing, and we should support them every chance we get.

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