Sunday, June 17, 2001

Out of the mouths of graduates

This year's seniors respond to our Graduate Snapshot survey

        The “typical” high school graduate is probably not what you think. In fact, many in the Class of 2001 resent the way adults often think all teens are alike.

        “We're not all the same. Just because one person does something, that doesn't mean I would,” said one teen who spoke for many in our second annual Graduation Snapshot — an unscientific survey of seniors' attitudes and opinions.

   “To thine own self be true.”
   — Nikki Snavely, McClain High School, Greenfield, Ohio
“Laugh more, complain less.”
   — Heather Michele Mulliken, McClain High School
   — Jesse Moser, Norwood High School
“Be proud, but deserve it first.”
   — Benita Woodall, Norwood High School
“It took 2,000 years to perfect, that's why we're the class of 2001.”
   — Nikki Lawton, Conner High School, Boone County
“Take me to college!”
   — Ashley Brown, Conner High
“Achievers are those with their eyes open.”
   — Molly Basford, Hillsboro High School
“Life is a journey, not a destination.”
   — Steve Ebel, Milford High School
“Diversity rules!”
   — Mark Borison, Indian Hill High School
“Never stop trying.”
   — Kristy Robinson, Lockland High School
“There's no hope with dope.”
   — Keana Keenan, Lockland High School
“It's better to burn out than to fade away.”
   — Billy Westerman, Holy Cross High School, Independence, Ky.
“Even though it may not seem like it, we do listen to what they say.”
   — Candice Blair, Lockland High School
“We're not all the same. Just because one person does something, that doesn't mean I would.”
   — Sarah Bauman, McClain High School
“That we do what we do because we're searching for a love that hasn't been shown to us.”
   — Charity Ward, Ross High School
“I think they do understand us. We make very little effort to understand them.”
   — Emily Chambers, Norwood High School
“That we have a mind and it needs to be considered.”
   — Jill Kearns, Conner High School
“Letting us make mistakes and learn from them.”
   — Bethany Shepperd, Milford High School
“That we are just doing what they used to do.”
   — Makisha Reed, Highes Center
        So who are these members of the Class of 2001?

        They want to be teachers, nurses, comedians, interior designers, psycoholgists, cosmetologists, missionaries, architects, firemen and cops. Good news: Only three said they want to be lawyers.

        Their heroes are Julia Roberts, James Bond, Bob Dylan, Princess Di, Mother Thersa, John Lennon, James Polk (no kidding), Bill Gates, President Bush, George Bernard Shaw, Metallica andtheir teachers. More good news for jaded adults: Their biggest heroes by far were their moms and dads.

        These graduates are optimistic about the job market. Only 14 percent think it's gloomy, despite a recent economic slump.

        Some wish they could have had better teachers and smaller classes. But as a group they overwhelmingly accept responsibility for their own success or lack of it. Asked how they would improve their school years, 87 percent said they wish they had worked harder, studied more and paid more attention in class.

        Asked “to give one piece of advice to your freshman self,” they said: “Don't date.” “Pay attention in class.” “Take more math.” “Be yourself.” “Don't give in to peer pressure.” “Stay away from drugs.”

        Here's something else encouraging: 73 percent of the seniors who filled out our survey said religion is important in their lives (about the same as last year's result). Some said faith gives them perspective; others said it is essential. “It is who I am,” said Drew Heidel of Saint Xavier High School.

        Some teens reacted to politics like a 9 p.m. Friday curfew. They said they don't trust either party. But most identified themselves as Republicans (62 percent), citing their parents' influence, opposition to abortion and dislike of Bill Clinton. Those who chose the Democratic Party cited their parents' influence, said Democrats care more about people and that Republicans are “the party of the rich.”

        Contrary to what national headlines may suggest, guns are not a big fear among teens. Only 7 percent cited guns as the biggest threat to students. Drugs were first, followed by drinking, sex, car wrecks, guns and excessive homework.

        Their class mottos ranged from “Drugs, sex and rock "n' roll” to “Think hard,” “Don't be afriad to make mistakes” and “Hard work pays off.”

        And they have lots of advice for parents and adults:

        “They don't understand that we need to be treated with respect, and most likely they'll receive it back.” — Jessie Laybourne of Milford High.

        “We aren't stupid and have thoughts, feelings and beliefs of our own and can do without criticism.” — Carrie Bertram of Colerain High.

        “Adults don't understand the complex social web that is spun in high school. They don't understand that if we're not trying to fit in, we still have to fit in. . . Adults don't understand how cruel teenagers can be.” — Emily Lawrey, Milford High.

        “Adults need to be a positive example for their kids and teenagers because their kids are looking to them as their role model.” — Sara Stegman, Finneytown High School.

        As they venture into the world of jobs, college, marriage, families, heartbreaks, victories and defeats, the Class of 2001 wants the rest of us to remember:

        “That we are OK, and we can make good choices if they'll give us a chance.” — Trisha Thornberry of Holy Cross High School.

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