(Here is my Saipan Tribune column for this week.)
I was invited to participate as a judge at the Hopwood Junior High Science Fair this week. I had never been to Hopwood, but I was impressed.
A junior high is a place of potential and promise. On this day, the cafeteria was teeming with students and their science projects. I was impressed by the care that they had put into their presentations. They reported on the moons of Saturn, global warming, the ebb and flow of the tides. Some used color photos and graphs to illustrate their points. Others cited the scientific literature from which they had gathered their information.
Other students went a step beyond, and conducted scientific experiments. They formulated hypotheses, experiments to test their hypotheses, recorded their methods, collected data and recorded their conclusions. There were experiments to answer questions like, what is required to conduct electricity? Is Outrageous Ooze a solid or a liquid? Can a very small amount of pollution cause a plant to die? Can the heat from the sun cook a hot-dog? How does wind speed affect the waves in the ocean?
One group of students showed amazing computer skills and creativity, forgoing the traditional three-panel cardboard display, to produce a digital film that reported on their subject: volcanoes.
The science fair was a glimpse into the greatness walking the halls at Hopwood. The age is a time of transition between childhood and youth – potent internal changes, self-doubts, questions about meaning and purpose. Those short years are a window of opportunity opening onto the vista of the person to emerge.
There was a light in the eyes of most of the students, but a light which they themselves do not seem to see. Their own vastness, they do not recognize. They are, for the most part, unaware of their own greatness, bound and gagged by an innocent awkwardness. It is at this age, in a search for Nirvana, that kids either recognize their importance to the world, and aspire to all that lies within them, or they slide into a haze of sex and alcohol and reefer and mediocrity.
If I could say anything to all those students I met, I would say, you have greatness within you. You can aspire to anything. See not your limitations, but the vastness of your souls. Dream big, huge, gigantic dreams. Accept no ceilings. Aim for the stars. Whatever obstacles that may stifle your hopes can be overcome. You have God-give talents. Set out to discover them. Dream of solving the world’s problems, because you can. The greatness at the halls of Hopwood is the same as in any school in the world. Believe it. Accept it. Act as if it’s real. It is. The light of the world is within you.