When the sun comes out, it always shine on Wartburg's Old Main.
When the sun comes out, it always shine on Wartburg’s Old Main.

One of the things I always look forward to is heading back to my alma mater, Wartburg College, to take part in Scholarship Day. The campus holds three of these days between November and February. High school seniors and juniors come to Wartburg to participate in several events and do interviews. The interviews are based on several factors such as activities in and outside of school, leadership, faith, and service, among others.

Lately, there have been criticism about the new generation of young adults (no, I’m not talking about you, Millennials, you’re safe for now) and how they behave, talk, and if they have any drive to be successful.

I interviewed eight students on Sunday that were diverse and different. A faculty/staff member, a current student, and an alumni made up the interview teams, and each interview was held in classrooms throughout the campus.

Hopefully this post will help erase some doubts about the newer generation that are walking into the halls of high school and college.

One student from Colorado described how she, at age 10, and her mother created a foundation to host birthday parties for kids who never had a birthday party. A student from southeast Iowa went to the Iowa State Capitol and advocated to the governor to consider moving the start of the school year to after Labor Day, because students who are in 4-H are involved in farm programs and shows at the Iowa State Fair and it’s an educational opportunity for those students who are considering going into the agriculture industry.

If you don't think that the Iowa State Fair is going to be huge issue when it comes to the start of the school year this legislative session, then you've eaten way too many corn dogs. (Iowa Public Radio)
If you don’t think that the Iowa State Fair is going to be huge issue when it comes to the start of the school year this legislative session, then you’ve eaten way too many corn dogs. (Iowa Public Radio)

A student from eastern Iowa explained how he missed a field goal that would have won the game for his team, but redeemed himself by kicking the game winning field goal in overtime. Rather than celebrate the win, he went back to his school, and kicked field goals until 1:00 am…after a game.

The interview that stood out to me was a senior from the south side of Chicago, who created a high school group to work towards ending gun violence in their neighborhood schools by doing peace movements. The group wanted to film their efforts and show it to other schools. The group went to Kickstarter to start their fund-raising campaign. Over $35,000 later, they made the movie.

The common themes that kept running through my head were: initiative, accountability, self-starter, motivation, creativity, and maturity.

“Why do you want to come to Wartburg?” my interview team asked each student.

“It’s the right fit…”

“It’s a community here, and I already feel at home…”

“You’re not a number, you’re a person here…”

“I want to go to a school where I can be challenged, not just show up for class…”

This post isn’t about Wartburg, though the loyal alum in me would wax poetically about it.

Many of us have been a number, be it at work or school. Several of us have lived or worked at places where we felt isolated and held back from growing in our careers. Some have gone through the sense that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We’ve also have been told that our skills and talents do not fit in places where you can’t flourish. It’s a tragedy when a company or someone who says they want creative and talented people to work for them, only to hire them and do the opposite: dismiss creativity, drive, passion, and cut off their talents at the door.

Andy Stitzer is a late bloomer. It takes time to finally find that place where you can find success in life.
Andy Stitzer is a late bloomer. It takes time to finally find that place where you can find success in life.

I’m raise my hand and say that I’ve experienced those circumstances.  Late-bloomers like me have a longer road to travel to get to that place in our lives where we can be creative, flourish and have passion. The talents that we have are taken for granted because we don’t realize we use them every day.

Sunday afternoon reaffirmed that all is not lost with these kids who are finding their way towards their aspirations and dreams. We (adults) need to let them find their “voices” and use them, not constrain them to where they do become disaffected, disillusioned, and stop believing that they are creative, and their talents and skills are useless.

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