Ode to High School

I have always been obsessed with high school.  In high school, after high school, and now when high school was half a lifetime ago.  There is just something about that window in time that draws me in like a moth to a flame. 

First, there are the shameful TV shows.  I recently watched the entire season of My So Called Life on a wintry weekend.  OK, it was 60 and sunny.  I still have a crush on Jordan Catellano.  (I mean, who doesn’t?!?)  Last year, when I lived with my parents, my mom would roll her eyes at my Saturday morning ritual of coffee, 90210, and One Tree Hill.  You just can’t top Breakfast in Bed on SOAP.  And finally, The O.C.  Season 4 has somehow landed in my Netflix queue.  I should be embarassed.

This week, I spoke about Edge of Seven at two Denver high schools, presenting to six classes.  It was bizarrely wonderful to be back in the halls, filled with lockers, flyers, and angst.  It transported me in time.  Sure, things are different from when I was high school 15 years ago, primarily the technology.  Most teachers have promethean boards, interactive whiteboards, instead of the chalk and stone of decades past.  Classrooms have laptops, projectors, and education seems as dynamic as ever.  And yet, high school is still high school.

There are signs on the walls with campaigs for student office.  Athletes run around in their uniforms talking about the big game.  College is in the air, on sweatshirts, and buzzing from the halls.  Kids hang out in the student parking lot after school figuring out where to go, what to do.  Girls flirt with boys.  Boys flirt with girls.  And while nostalgia washed over me, for the first time it was joined by hope.

I showed our video about our work in Nepal to six classrooms and, after watching the short about students their same age in the Everest Region, asked for their reactions. 

  • “We don’t need to farm before and after school.”
  • “Those girls seems to have a lot more responsibility than we do.”
  • “The children are dirty.”
  • “One girl who looked younger than me was carrying a baby.”
  • “The living environment was so different than our houses.”

I had some great discussions with the students of East and Smoky Hill High School about the differences between a teenager in Nepal and the U.S.  Many of them seemed shocked that girls in rural Nepal get married at 16, live without water or electricity, and fight every day to sit in a school.  The students who asked questions asked more questions and by the end of the class, were asking how they could get more involved.  Their inquisitiveness and optimism moved me. 

It struck me that the key to a movement is awareness.  These students, once exposed to the challenges facing girls in developing countries, wanted to volunteer, fundraise, and ACT.  So, thanks.  Thanks to the high school students for bringing me back and pushing me forward.


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