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Kids give me faith in future

July 24, 2010|By MEG PARTINGTON

Kids these days ... have a lot to offer.

I get tired of hearing some people stereotype today's young people as rude, overly tattooed, underdressed underachievers. I prefer to focus my attention --and yours -- on those who can steer our world in a more positive direction.

At The Herald-Mail, we gather information about countless members of the younger-than-21 crowd who have applied their youthful energy and creativity toward the greater good.

Throughout the week, we run stories submitted from the public about young men earning the rank of Eagle Scout, high school and college students making the honor roll and dean's list, and schoolchildren being honored for exhibiting trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship --the pillars of the Character Counts! program. There are stories of young people donating their hair to Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the U.S. and Canada who are suffering from long-term medical hair loss.

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Churches and parochial schools provide us with news to publish about the good deeds their young members are doing locally, nationally and abroad through fundraisers, service projects and mission trips.

Most weeks, we feature Next Generation stories about young people making a difference. Here's a sample of the subjects about whom we've written in recent months:

n Hunter Buterbaugh, 17, of Carroll Valley, Pa., who recently graduated from St. Maria Goretti High School and learned through personal struggles the importance of being kind to others. Upon returning to school with a swollen, shaved head after having his skull crushed in a bicycle crash at age 7, he was teased and bullied. Using Jesus as a role model who persevered through ridicule, he went on to become captain of the swim team at Goretti, was voted homecoming king and is going to Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., in the fall as a pre-med student.

n Lindsey Draheim, 8, who lives east of Hagerstown, started her own Relay for Life team this year called Kids Cancer Fighters.

n Jacob Epstein, 11, of Smithsburg, volunteers with his parents at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Having recently finished graduation season, we featured countless stories of academic and personal success. Valedictorians and class presidents from around the Tri-State area stood poised before their classmates, encouraging them to help make the world a better place.

Take, for example, Daniel Paul Bitner, who delivered the valedictory address at the June 12 graduation ceremony at Greencastle-Antrim (Pa.) High School. His great-grandmother, Mabel Rebecca Kuhn, was head of her high school class 89 years ago.

In his address, Bitner told the audience that much can be learned from those who worked together to overcome the challenges of the Great Depression and two world wars.

"Instead of giving up in the face of extreme circumstances, as an entire generation we must meet the consequences of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a faltering global economy, the effects of natural disasters that cripple and impoverish nations like Haiti, and the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa," Bitner said.

Now there's someone who is willing to lead his peers in the right direction.

Often, the rays of hope I see in today's children gleam not from podiums, but from more down-to-earth sites such as dugouts and classrooms.

After spending several hours over the last few months in the cavelike atmosphere of Little League dugouts with my son's teammates, I've learned a lot about what makes kids tick. There have been some snits and shoving, but there also have been heartening moments.

Take for example one of my son's teammates who I dubbed "Mr. Sunny" for his constant smile and positive attitude. After sharing his enthusiasm about a video-game system he received for his birthday, he added, "Do you know what else I got?" His answer when I bit? "Love!" He then swayed back and forth with his fingers gripping the chain-link fence, and told me that was the best gift of all from his family.

Wow. Is it really that simple to please a child?

I also am privileged to be a substitute teacher in Berkeley County (W.Va.) Schools, where I have learned so much more than I've taught in preschool and elementary school classrooms.

Among the lessons I've taken home with me after a day at the head of a class are that raising your voice doesn't make you more effective, just more loudly ineffective.

Listening, however, is a powerful tool. A few minutes spent kneeling down at a child's eye level and really listening to his woes seems to be the best pain reliever of all.

I have a lot of faith in the future and I hope all of the adults reading this do, too. If you don't, stop grousing and invest in tomorrow by getting to know some of the young people in your community. Perhaps you'll see the same beam of hope I do from my corner of the world.

Meg H. Partington is assistant city editor of The Herald-Mail Co. She can be reached Sunday through Tuesday at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or by e-mail at megp@herald-mail.com">megp@herald-mail.com.

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