I got a text from a student last summer [gasp, yes I said a text from a student!] informing me that she had just received a packet from “People to People” to visit Europe next summer and she really wanted to go. She then asked if I would help her raise the money to do so because “she just had to go!” Of course, I replied with a “Yes! That sounds awesome! Can’t wait to hear more!” I would be lying if I wasn’t a little worried that it would be a long shot to raise the funds needed to get her there. The trip cost close to 9,000 dollars and for most people in our community that figure just isn’t conceivable to spend on an educational European tour. Cynthia on the other hand never gave up. She made a decision. She never allowed her circumstances to deter her from her dream. She committed to that dream and as I type this blog she is wandering through the streets of Pompeii and tweeting pictures of her visit to our class hashtag, #SandersTHS, as she does it.
How did she do it?
She got connected. She reached out to her community and they reached back. She worked really hard. She got creative. She never gave up on herself or her people. She came through for herself and in return, her community did the same. From selling homemade tamales, to orchestrating a dunking booth fundraiser where her peers got to dunk their principals, to getting interviewed by al.com. She kept on going and we kept on supporting her because that is what people do for their people. Without those personal connections she created with her school and community it wouldn’t have been possible, but because of those connections it became possible.
Today I received a tweet from Cynthia asking if I had been seeing her pictures and telling me she was having the time of her life and learning so much. I replied with, “Of course! Haven’t you been seeing my Instagram likes and retweets!” Cynthia, and her peers, are from the iCitizen generation. They are connected through far more than just face to face connections. They are local, global and digital citizens connected in every single way; every single day. The fact that Cynthia is as connected to her mobile device as she is to her physical community is not a bad thing; in fact it makes her connections to the world and people in it even more powerful. If we hadn’t created 21st century citizen Twitter accounts and a class hashtag this school year Cynthia wouldn’t be able to share her trip with us. However, because she is digitally connected all those people that donated money, hours, and support to her trip can enjoy it with her and she can stay connected to all the people and places she meets along the way.
Our youth are both/and citizens, not either or. They live in and are going to run a world that is connected locally, globally and yes…digitally. It is our job as educators, parents, and adults to support them in becoming people that are connected to other people in all three of these communities. Being locally connected, while critical, is simply no longer enough. They are already connected to the world through their devices and if we don’t support them in becoming the most prepared citizens in all of their communities they will do it without us.
So, while the choice is yours whether or not you choose to support our youth in becoming the best possible people they can be in all of their worlds, them being connected locally, globally and digitally is not. The purpose for being connected to others hasn’t changed, it’s just that the way we do things is growing, changing, and adapting to the world we live in today. It will always be about people connecting to other people.