The Push

I know I shouldn’t be too upset, but Sullivan received his first letter of denial today –– and I cannot help but feel for him.

He’d applied for the Leadership group at his middle school, which he would have been a part of for his eighth grade year. Had he been accepted, the opportunity could have really helped him become more civically involved.

After talking it over and letting him read up on what it all entailed, he was starting to get excited for the opportunity, though at first he was apprehensive. That I kind of talked him into learning about it makes me feel like I set my kid up for failure.

So he got the letter and … well, damn … y’know? I want to raise hell, but, I mean, I can’t. There’s no logical, rational reason for me to flip out. I should trust the system  chose the most qualified students.

I know my boy can be goofy. But he’s a good kid –– on the principal’s straight As list, Honor Roll bumper stickers are sent home, early morning assemblies for outstanding students and all that –– and he deserves a chance to build on his book smarts with life/adult human interaction skills. More kids do.

He said they only picked seven. A school of more than 700 students only had room for seven kids in the Leadership class? The city’s Youth Advisory Council has close to 20 teens (only a handful get to go on the trip to Washington D.C.), and those are high school students from the entire district –– four large and one alternative high school.

By pulling a few kids from Leadership groups at every high school, I guess I understand why it’s so competitive for the older kids –– but they give so few a chance in middle school. And every parent who saw one of those letters feels just like I do. All their children deserve a chance.

Getting into these kinds of programs as early as possible can make an incredible difference in a child’s life. Helping them keep their grades up, and motivating them to become involved in the world they inhabit is a great thing. Much better than many of the sports groups. I mean, no offense to athletes, but those folks continue the same competitive cycle their whole lives. And frankly, I don’t want my kid messing around with that.

Keeping up grades all through their academic career shows would-be employers that the kid has an ability to learn. Being involved boosts the chance for interaction with other people. And whether any of us like it, a lot of opportunities depend on who you know. Well, that and motivation. But I digress.

The kids I’ve met through the stories I’ve reported are all super achievers of the most amazing kind. Deepak Vijay, Hillsboro’s Amazing Kid 2016 award winner, for example. And Caryssa Dieni, the girl I’ve been mentoring since January, who wasn’t a part of the groups but made an effort to get a look at what her career interest might be by job shadowing me and making her experience learning about journalism the focus of her senior project. Now she’s graduating this spring and headed to the University of Oregon in  fall –– and she’ll have just turned 17.

Just like it’s necessary for college students to intern and get involved in campus groups before they graduate, kids in middle school are being encouraged to get an extreme head start by joining competitive Leadership/social skill building classes. They might even be at a disadvantage if they don’t.

The push to groom kids for the real world as early as possible in their cognitive development is real. And so is the sting of denial.