Too often, older people decry the irresponsibility of youth. They forget that, not so long ago, they were young themselves and made their own share of mistakes.
About 25 students from Elgin Park Secondary proved recently that such generalizations are incorrect. They and about 45 other students had attended an unauthorized and unsupervised end-of-year party near Harrison Lake, one which provoked a lot of outrage on social media when photos of the mess left behind were posted. The pile of garbage was particularly upsetting, as the area they were camping in is a pristine wilderness area.
Principal Bruce Filsinger was naturally upset when he found out about the incident and the unwelcome publicity. It was tarnishing the name of the graduating class, which has 297 members. Most of them did not attend the party and had nothing to do with the incident.
He called it “entitled and asocial behaviour.”
After being contacted by the Four Wheel Drive Association of B.C. (FWDA), Filsinger let students know that they were welcome to take part in a clean-up organized by the association. Neither he nor the school could force them to do so – it was up to them.
“I think that’s important,” he said. “The students took responsibility for their actions.”
On their own, about two dozen students and one parent went back to the site and worked hard to clean it up. These students, who represent about 30 per cent of those who attended the party, showed that young people can learn from their mistakes. They were ready to own up to what happened and to repair the damage that had been done – both the physical damage and the damage to the reputation of their school and graduating class.
Ever since I worked for an Agassiz newspaper at the dawn of my newspaper career in the late 1970s, I’ve been well aware of the many grad-related parties that occur in the mountains on the north side of the Fraser River. There have been occasional deaths and there have been many injuries. What happens almost all the time is that partiers fail to clean up the mess their event has created.
This kind of disregard for the beautiful natural environment which they have chosen to visit is not something that anyone should be proud of. It also hardens the attitudes of many people toward young people who choose to go camping along Harrison Lake, the Chehalis River, Davis Lake, Stave Lake and the many other wilderness areas that are so close to us.
This is not a good way to begin adult life, by acting irresponsibly. Thankfully, some Elgin Park students understood that and did something positive to repair the damage.
They are to be commended. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that young people with attitudes such as theirs will go on to lead useful and productive adult lives. They will be a credit to whatever organization they represent in the future and they will lead happier and more fulfilled lives.
High school graduation is an important milestone in life. Getting started on the next stage in a responsible manner is an achievement which deserves to be highlighted.
Hopefully, the actions of the 25 or so students will also prove to be an inspiration to other members of their graduating class.
Kim Reeves, president of the FWDA, summed up the actions of the responsible students this way: “They worked really hard, did a fantastic job cleaning up, so kudos to the graduating class.”
Their efforts remind all of us that taking responsibility for our actions is always the right thing to do.
Frank Bucholtz writes weekly for The Leader.