My Turn:Time to thank productive youths

Posted: Wednesday, October 15, 2003

They're everywhere! They're everywhere! High school students, that is. All summer they were working in tourism and other Juneau businesses. They worked at McDonald's, the Fiddlehead, coffee shops and tour boats. They bagged groceries, checked you out and wished you a nice day. Students babysat and took siblings to parks, the swimming pool and beaches. Many were in summer school or taking classes part of the summer to catch up or get ahead in academics. They were seen on the tennis and basketball courts, riding bikes or walking dogs. Now they have completed the first weeks of school and many are participating in team sports, after-school activities and various part-time jobs after school and on the weekend. They are learning to be responsible and productive citizens in Juneau.

Please take the time to say "thank you" when you see a young person going to school or working in Juneau. Let them know you value them as young people who are staying in school and developing a work ethic.

Juneau is fortunate to have so many wonderful young people in the high school and alternative high school. Many of them are patriotic, polite and helpful to others. Two years ago after the Sept. 11 traumatic events it was students who organized and led a touching service in the auditorium. Many of the boys were heard to say "This makes me so angry - I feel like I should enlist in the service." It made me realize that many men and women must have shared those same feelings when learning of the bombing attack on Pearl Harbor. Here we are 60 years later and our students were rising to the occasion emotionally and exhibiting the spirit embodied in John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech of asking what we could do for our country.

Juneau students have ambitions and dreams of a better life, just like the dreams of our parents when they were in school. Our students are culturally diverse and have the opportunity to learn to appreciate each other's differences and see the sameness in each other. If you visit the high schools you'll also see an array of hair color and hair styles: pink, red, green, blue, yellow, black and many crews. Pigtails, cornrows, curls and straight, our students are overcoming hate and practicing tolerance of each other.

If we take the time to recognize a young person and give them a compliment or just a positive hello, it will feel like a blast of helium in a balloon that is striving to rise. They deserve our support and our recognition. Let's help them rise even further during the months ahead.

• Barbara Walker has been an advocate for children in Juneau's courts for 20 years and currently works at Juneau-Douglas High School.

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