For years, I have been bragging about FIT students’ talents, their high degree of focus and ambition—their distinctive ability to learn and accomplish so much within their tight curricular boundaries and demanding schedules. In more recent years they’ve given me even more to think about and be grateful for.
It started as they began to take the initiative on issues of sustainability. Not that the college had been immune to our environmental needs—we clearly had been very
active on that front. But our students helped to push it into high profile as they qualified, year after year, for sustainability presentations at the Clinton Global Initiative University. They were the force behind our dye gardens, our compost system and many other environmental initiatives—and continue to be. I had sometimes reflected that since FIT is a career-oriented college, its students are perhaps not as politically active as those in more conventional colleges, but sustainability demonstrated their political passion, savvy and effectiveness.
Civility, too. Our students were loud and clear after hatred and bigotry erupted in Charlottesville, just as they had been in other ugly incidents throughout this country and the world. Issues surrounding immigration—and the repeal of DACA protections—have galvanized our students as well.
And now we have the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The ghastliness of it made me, like so many others, cringe and grieve…made me, like so many others, think of Columbine and Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech….and at least for a moment, consider it hopeless. But then there were our students. Within a very short time, I heard from a student requesting support for FIT’s participation in a nation-wide student movement to conduct a 17-minute student walkout in March to “empower change.” She was not alone and I was proud of her conviction and that of her FIT peers who now believe that they can, indeed, “empower change.”
The voices we hear from those entrusted to lead offer no solution or compromise to curtail violence and bigotry or to control for assaults in places we have always believed to be safe havens. But if our FIT students are the next generation of leaders—as they always have been in so many other ways—I have hope for the future. They will bring new energy to the voting booths…the workplaces…the corner offices…the halls of Congress…in the not-too-distant future. Judging from the present moment, this generation may have reached a tipping point—and they are ready, able and passionate enough to “empower change.”