Younger generation not being judged fairly

Published 8:00 am Thursday, July 30, 2015

Don’t believe the doomsayers. Our nation’s future is bright — because today’s amazing youth will become tomorrow’s leaders and will surely create a better world than the one they are inheriting

Lots of pundits, talking heads and skeptics will say that our country is going to H-E-double-hockey-sticks in a hand basket, often attributing this to the millennials and younger generations.

I don’t think these critics could be more wrong.

My job allows me to meet many dynamic young men and women from across Michiana. Each and every time, I walk away impressed with their intelligence, maturity, community spirit, compassion for their fellow man and just overall character.

I think back to when I was a teenager and the difference is like night and day.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of meeting McKenna Smith, a 16-year-old student from Bridgman. McKenna is Miss Southwest Michigan Teen for 2015 and is spending that time focused on her platform of “Confidence Makes EveryBODY Beautiful.”

As McKenna calmly stood in front of the two dozen or so members of the Niles Noon Optimist Club she talked about how she was once very introverted, battling self esteem and body image issues.

Then she participated in the Girls On The Run program.

McKenna shared a story about a day when she and a group of girls were in the school bathroom getting ready for the next class. They heard sobbing coming from around the corner. Huddled in the corner was another student, mascara running, visibly shaking as the tears streamed down her face. All the other girls left, but McKenna stayed.

McKenna went to her classmate, offered a hug and consolation, before ultimately going to the guidance counselor’s office together to talk through the issues.

The two girls remain friends today and McKenna has partnered with Girls On The Run during her time as Miss Southwest Michigan Teen.

“So the confidence that I gained from Girls On The Run allowed me to go over and talk to her. If I hadn’t been through the Girls On The Run program and gained that confidence I would have been like all those other girls, leaving the bathroom, leaving her there to cry. So Girls On The Run not only changed the participants’ life but it can change the bystander or another girl’s life. Girls On The Run is pretty great like that,” McKenna said.

“Some may say having self-confidence is too hard to envision or maintain for themselves. However, if you have a positive attitude and encourage yourself, that will change. They say it takes 21 days to break a bad habit. So a simple 21 days can change your life forever.”

Those are pretty profound words coming from a 16-year-old. Or a 26-year-old. Or even a 46-year-old.

I have also had the opportunity to work with Andrew Merica, a recent Niles High School graduate who is bound for Northwestern in the fall, as a newsroom intern here at Leader Publications.

We haven’t treated Andrew like an intern and he has not acted like one.

His professionalism, positive attitude and overall talent as a reporter have been impressive to say the least. I have hired college graduates who didn’t have half the ability that Andrew has displayed. His work ethic and attitude are as strong as someone from any generation.

So let’s all try not to rush judgment on an entire generation based on stereotypes and a few bad examples.

Our future looks bright with youth like Andrew and McKenna leading the way.


Michael Caldwell is the publisher of Leader Publications LLC. He can be reached at (269) 687-7700 or by email at