Just when my cynicism sets in, something comes along to shatter it.

Usually that's a good thing. And that certainly was the case this past week as I was fortunate to take part on a panel for the Young Guns, a Mississippi State University-developed leadership program for high school students funded by the Riley Foundation. It is also sponsored by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

The students, who will be high school seniors next year, were comprised of schools from across the state, big and small. Some came from money, some didn't. Some had big families, some were raised by single parents. Some were quiet, some were outspoken.

Despite their many differences, the students gathered at the MSU Riley Center this week to make one of their presentations to a group of local business leaders. Their objective for this session: they had a day and a half to study the topic of teenage pregnancy in the state and formulate a plan of action to address it.

There were eight groups comprised of about 5 students in each group. Each group tried to persuade the panel of their plan of action with a Power Point presentation and 10-minute talk. 

It didn't take long for the impressions to begin. First, not only were they well-spoken and thoughtful, they were intentional and passionate about their beliefs and ideas. They weren't taking the task lightly.

I must admit, I tend to get discouraged when I see some of the trends of laziness and the me-first mentality prevalent in some of today's youth. We have the "trophy generation" that has been rewarded for everything in their life and some don't understand or appreciate hard work. There is no doubt a generation of entitled youth out there today.

But this week renewed my sense of hope. 

One of the groups was so adamant about their plan to correct the state's teen pregnancy rate that I was ready to help them find the funding for their program. This wasn't some presentation they scratched out on a poster-board to complete the assignment. This was an insightful, action-driven plan to attack the problem. It included increased participation from school counselors, an active youth mayor's council, a rigorous school curriculum and a volunteer group with mentors. 

Each student spoke with clarity and conviction. And it was obvious that many of those there would be future leaders in their communities and state. 

Heck, why not let them go ahead and get started. They can begin with the task of working out a funding mechanism for Medicaid, I quietly joked to someone on the panel. As good as they were, I have a feeling they could have done it — even in a day and a half.



Fredie Carmichael is executive editor of The Meridian Star. E-mail him at fcarmichael@themeridianstar.com.

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