The Future Through Teen Eyes

Jade Moon
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Wednesday - August 02, 2006
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“It’s just so overwhelming.” Those are the words of a senior at Mililani High - and it’s a sentiment shared by many young people today as they teeter on the brink of adulthood. On this side of the precipice is childhood - for most typical kids, it’s a safe and predictable place to be. But soon they’ll have to jump, and somewhere over the edge lies a big, empty future. It’ll be up to them to fill it up.

The class I addressed was made up of juniors and seniors, and most had no interest at all in a journalism career. What they seemed very interested in was my attitude toward work and life. They paid attention when I talked about passion and commitment. I never know what to expect when I walk into a roomful of kids, but I usually walk out pleased with what I’ve seen. These kids were no exception. They do not conform to the airhead or slacker stereotypes we so often see on TV. That’s good for them and it’s better for us.

And here’s another thing I’ve noticed. Most of these young people are worried. Mostly, they worry about finances. They wonder if they’ll be able to afford a home and a family. They wonder if they’ll have enough money for college. And they wonder if they have what it takes to get a degree.

Ray Sele was pretty honest in his self-assessment: “My biggest concern is money and making it on my own, especially after spending my life being spoiled by my folks.” Ray wants to work as a truck driver, but he’s also young and wants to “live it up as best as I can.”

R.J. Powell wants to join the Navy and see the world before settling down and starting a business. And he’s got a winner’s attitude. “I don’t really care too much about money,” he says, “because money comes and goes. I just want the experience and a career that I can be proud of.”

Lilia Carrillo is worried about money, too, because her dream’s expensive. She wants to be a doctor and knows how difficult that will be. But she says even if that goal eludes her, she’d still want to help people by finding a career that is medical-related.

Helping people - that was a theme for a number of the kids.

Ikaika Rayano wants to be a physical therapist so he can take care of his aging dad.

Elijah Avilla already has a son - and wants his child to “be a better person than I am today.” Avilla, a child with a child, has learned to be philosophical. “I know life has its ups and downs but that’s how it is. There’s always gonna be struggles in your life, but I’m hoping for a great future.”

Some of the more adventurous students have the itch to travel; others want to remain in their safe island cocoon. Not one kid professed a desire to be rich and famous. And only one said anything about the troubles inflicting the world outside of Hawaii. Bryan Tomooka is worried about the war in Iraq and the nuclear threat from Korea. But that isn’t stopping him from wanting to get out and see the world. Like the others, he believes in life’s possibilities, but like his classmates the hope is tempered by the everyday realities they see their parents struggle with every day. They want a piece of paradise. They just know they’ll have to pay for it.

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