“The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or, perchance, a palace or temple on the earth, and, at length, the middle-aged man concludes to build a woodshed with them.”
— Henry David Thoreau
Anyone remember the old saying, “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV?” After this week, the more appropriate thing may be to say, “I’m a brilliant young person, despite how I’m portrayed on or what message I receive from TV.”
On average, a teen will watch 28 hours of television per week, adding up to almost 15,000 hours a year. That's more hours than they go to school, which is about 11,000 hours a year.
Coupled with reality shows like Teen Mom [whatever version it’s up to at this point] or most anything on MTV and a handful of other networks, it does little for my generation’s view of the up and comers.
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t lost touch with the current trends or the next new thing out there, though my three children would disagree – even the nearly 6 year old.
I can’t help it that my speed is more Mumford and Sons than Nicki Manaj. On a side note, I did Google “Nicki Manaj” but only for the correct spelling more for professional necessity than ignorance. A couple of her songs do, in fact, reside in my iPod – for research purposes, of course.
In reality, someone named Kardashian or Cyrus possesses more role-model status these days than say a Dickinson or a Keller or a Bronte. For the young men, more are familiar with Ryan Lochte or Chris Brown than John F. Kennedy or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., for instance.
Then three monumental things happened this week that completely changed my mind when it comes to teenagers, at least in our community.
The first came when I was honored to be a part of the selection committee for the Governor’s Star awards. The culmination came Tuesday at a banquet held in the nominees’ honor. I scanned the crowd largely to find one youth in particular, because I wanted to make sure I pronounced her name correctly when I introduced her. Chol (Chul) Rambang (pronounced like it’s spelled) came through the door just as the festivities kicked off with her father.
I already have my eye on the Rambang family for an upcoming story, so I don’t want to give too much away, but Chol, her mother, father and six siblings escaped a civil war in Sudan to make their home in Lebanon.
She, like the other teenagers nominated for the Governor’s Star award in Wilson County, are incredible. They give so much of themselves. I wasn’t lying when I told the crowd how fortunate I would be if just one of them was a mentor to my children.
The next day, I was invited to speak to the journalism class at Wilson Central High School. What an impressive group of young men and women stared back at me from the podium as we chatted up Supreme Court decisions and the types of careers found in newspapers.
On Thursday, Dorie Mitchell with Leadership Wilson had emailed me an invite to talk to members of the Youth Leadership class, who had requested to meet with a journalist for career day.
The people from several varied career paths were paired with those students who had an interest in one particular career or another.
Truth be told, I expected I would be grouped with a couple of Lebanon High School students, Dalton Teel and Kennedy Pope, who I met a few weeks earlier during a talk with their journalism class. Nope. Either they had hoodwinked me or I successfully talked them out of a career in journalism.
That was just a joke, guys.
Pope was off talking about fashion or something of the sort, but Teel was the real surprise. When everyone was introduced to one another, Teel explains he’s interested in a career as a farm lobbyist. What?
The two students, however, who were interested in at least some aspect of my job were impressive, to say the least. Miranda Royse, a junior at Wilson Central, plans on skipping her senior year to graduate early and get a jump on college at Tennessee Tech University. It’s because she made a 30 on her ACT.
She wants to be a travel writer, which was funny because so do I. Hopefully when I grow up…
In any case, I see absolutely nothing standing in her way.
Jon Whitener, a junior at McClain Christian Academy, was the other student with an interest in journalism. His dream job would be as a sportscaster. I never was pretty enough to be on the dangerous end of a camera, but this guy has the know-how and the charisma to make it happen.
I know it’s become a cliché, but our future does look bright, and I’m certainly more inclined to believe we will be in good hands.
So what I see from this group of talented teenagers, I say they may not play doctors on TV, but they most assuredly will be most anything they want to be in just a few short years. Even if that career is farm lobbyist.
Jared Felkins is The Democrat’s director of content. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins.