Rarely does a week go by that my social media doesn’t serve me up some crusty comment about the inadequacies of today’s youth. Apparently the built-in face recognition software has sensed wrinkles in my profile picture, activating logarithms which downboot memes complaining about the lack of work ethic, respectfulness, resourcefulness, responsibility, fashion sense, and real music.
Perhaps those rascals that live in my computer like to see steam come out of my ears, and hear me snort and mutter as I fire off an indignant reply about all the awesome kids I know. Works every time.
If you think kids these days don’t have a work ethic, you obviously have not hung out in the Copper Valley and met our awesome youth, who blow me away every day with their smarts, ambition, wisdom, and heart.
Let me tell you about J, who knowingly signed up for a schedule of WISE and family trips several summers ago which led to her inhabiting a tent and sleeping bag for three weeks straight. And never complained once. Instead of just dreaming of becoming a pilot, she has joined the civil air patrol and is well on her way.
I give you H, who wanted to be a backcountry guide, so worked two full time jobs one summer, a restaurant gig which paid the bills, and an internship which opened the door to her dream job. Fast forward several years, she has paid her dues with day hikes, and now spends her summers exploring remote spots throughout the Wrangells.
Or how about L, who had to grow up fast and parent her younger sibling for many years. Now she’s following her own dreams. Best of all, you’d never guess from her upbeat attitude how tough things have been.
I’ve known A since she was in Kindergarten, and after many years as a delightful participant in WISE programs, she’s worked her way to a permanent seasonal job with our partner agency, and a leadership role in our summer activities. This winter she is doing her student teaching, and eventually she’d like to teach here. Lucky kids of the Copper Basin!
Then there is C, who is such an adventure hog she came on Copper River Stewardship Program twice. She’s also active on a statewide level as a conservation advocate, is an honors student and gifted artist, and saves up money for college by working grueling dishwashing shifts.
Lastly, let me tell you about J, who was here changing the oil in the WISE vans on a cold day a few weeks ago. He used to show up at the office the day before big trips, riding on a tiny motorbike. He’d hang around with the interns and help pack, just for the fun of it. On backpacking trips I used to call him “the packhorse” because he was always ready to stuff one more heavy item in his backpack.
Fishing around on the internet, I found this quote: “The world is passing through troublous times. The young people of today think of nothing but themselves….They talk as if they knew everything, and what passes for wisdom with us is foolishness with them.” This is from a sermon preached by Peter the Hermit in the year 1274. In the 8th century BC the Greek poet Hesiod wrote: “I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent of the frivolous youth of today.”
So old curmudgeons complaining about youth is nothing new, and humanity has survived despite the despair that every older generation seems to feel about the youngsters. Certainly if you consume too much news you can feel a lot of despair about all sorts of things, since the news loves to report disaster and dysfunction. But the vast majority of young people I know seem to be thriving in spite of all sorts of obstacles. They deserve our praise and support for all the awesome things they do. And when they screw up, they deserve our wisdom and patience, for we were young once too. We are living in troublous times, but I have no doubt the youth are our hope for the future.
Copper River Stewardship Program youth celebrate reaching a ridgetop on a tough hike. CRSP Photo
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.