By editorial board • 

Never underestimate ability of youth to weather hardship

High school graduation is one of the largest broadly shared transitions in American society, if not the largest. And it can test the coming generation’s capacity to cope and adjust even under the best of circumstances.

Unfortunately, this year’s wave of ceremonies will be like few others in our almost 250-year history, thanks to more than a year spent under siege to a deadly pandemic. So it promises to prove doubly so.

Yes, we had to usher legions of children into adulthood during the Great Depression, the Spanish flu pandemic, a pair of world wars and other past periods of social and economic disruption. But it’s hard not to harbor some concern about potential lasting effects on both the generation now coming of age and the world it will be inheriting.

As a beacon of faith, hope and inspiration, consider the story of young Mac High valedictorian Hector Guzman Martinez, told in the Stopping By feature found in the June 2 edition. If he can overcome poverty, homelessness and dislocation, compounded by immersion in a new language and culture, surely his classmates can cope with pandemic tribulations paling greatly by comparison.

Guzman Martinez immigrated to the U.S. from Tala, Mexico, with his family, settling first in Los Angeles, then moving on up to Oregon at the age of 10.

The family of eight had been living out of a vehicle, but has since secured a room in a YCAP homeless shelter. He earned enough working as a farm laborer to buy the parts he needed to build his own computer, which saw him through Mac High’s Engineering & Space Academy, competitive Ursa Mechanica robotics team and advanced science and math curriculum.

He speaks Spanish at home, but his English is flawless. He has already taken the STAMP test required for bilingual certification in Oregon.

In the fall, he’ll be enrolling in the engineering program at Oregon State University, where he’s slated to room with Mac High colleague Tyler Hinthorn. He plans to spend the summer laboring in the fields to help add to the scholarship and aid money he’s secured with his straight-A academic performance.

Is his story typical?

Hardly. In fact, it is utterly extraordinary.

However, it speaks to something else that is also extraordinary, yet widely shared — youthful resilience. It’s the natural order of things for youngsters to plunge in with reckless abandon, ready to adapt in whatever manner it might require to find their way in life.

What they don’t yet know frees them of all the fears the rest of us have accumulated from our various setbacks. And that should, in turn, free us of at least one of those fears — the one about how our children are going to overcome the trauma of a debilitating months-long regimen of pandemic restrictions.

Truth be told, we would be wise to invest more worry in our own ability to cope than that of our offspring. This year’s high school graduates have survived a trauma that, however draining to us, promises only to make them stronger going forward.


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