One way to predict the long-term health of a community is to keep an eye on how local young people are doing.
In a paper published by the National Academy of Medicine a few years ago, George Flores, Mary Lou Goeke and Rigoberto Perez offered this perspective:
“Not only are youth proving to be catalysts and prolific communicators in social movements, but their involvement signals a potential for career choices and civic stewardship that portends improving population health and equity in the years to come.”
That’s doctor talk for kids really are our future. And we have some good news on that front.
Despite the drumbeats of doom from corners of the community covered in cobwebs and prejudiced by the past, many of Yakima’s young people are a promising lot.
If you don’t believe us, maybe you missed Saturday’s story about the off-field heroics of the Yakima Valley College women’s soccer team.
According to YH-R sportswriter Luke Thompson’s report, the team was between sprints during practice a few weeks ago when midfielder Brianna Garfias noticed smoke coming from a house across the street from the college. A child crying in the alley near Nob Hill Boulevard and 16th Avenue and the screams of a distraught mother confirmed something bad was going on.
Thinking quickly, Garfias, a Davis High School grad, told coach Abby Drollinger to call 911. Five firetrucks were on their way immediately, but the team didn’t have time to wait.
Assistant coach Delaney Romero led the charge as the YVC players swarmed the scene, making sure the mother and her three kids were safe and warning neighbors that their homes could be in danger, too. Garfias, along with freshman forward Isella Olivera and East Valley defender Dianno Tello, comforted the mother and her children as their home burned, offering help and reassuring words in Spanish.
Garfias even risked her own safety to rescue the family’s dog, which had gotten stuck under a fence as it tried to escape the fire.
It doesn’t get much more heroic than that.
“It’s like, yeah, we’re YVC soccer, but it’s bigger than that,” Garfias told our reporter. “We’re here for our community, not only for ourselves or our families.”
“It shows,” assistant coach Dylan Barnard added, “that we talk about soccer and we’re worried about what they do on the field, but there’s a much bigger context to everything we do. It’s really nice to know that we have such outstanding citizens on our team that are willing to drop everything and help out those in need.”
Did you catch all that? Kids just past high school talking about how much the community means to them. Coaches referring to players as “citizens.”
We don’t mean to sound naïve or Pollyanna-ish. Far too many young people seem to be lost causes — we see the crime reports, hear the dismaying statistics on everything from dropout rates to unwanted pregnancies. And yes, we all grind our teeth at the supersonic sound systems that roll up next to us at stoplights, making our own cars vibrate and drowning out whatever we’re trying to listen to.
They’re kids. They cut a wide swath. They make mistakes.
But most of them mean well and they learn.
In the case of the YVC women’s soccer team, some of them even teach.