By State Sen. Steve Cwodzinski
On March 4, I got the chance to speak with nine classes of students at Eden Prairie High School, and I could not have been more impressed by the young people I spoke with.
Four classes were AP Government, four were AP U.S. History, and one was a class on social justice. The students were attentive and inquisitive and showed how these past two years had affected their lives.
Three things stood out to me that I would like to share.
Firstly, not one student had a phone out during the entire eight hours I was at the high school. It was something I had not seen in such a long time, and it truly did my heart good. Students are eager to learn. They are engaged, they want to get involved, and they know how important these conversations are.
My second observation was that many of the students’ values were rooted in caring for their fellow human beings. Students wanted to ensure that their transgender friends can live with dignity. Students wanted to know what resources were available for classmates struggling with their mental health. Students wanted to protect each other from social injustice.
Above all, they wanted to know what they could do to help! They asked great questions and showed intellectual curiosity that can’t help but give one hope for humanity. Our future is in good hands.
The third thing I noticed was just how stark the differences were between the issues students raised last week and the issues raised before the pandemic hit.
Gun violence prevention, combatting climate change, and equal pay for minors used to be the most common subjects. Far more prevalent now are topics of racial justice, trans rights, reproductive rights, and mental health resources.
The stress I saw on many students’ faces was far more pronounced as well. Though these students are only in high school, they have – like those students in 1941, 1968, or 2001 – seen world-changing events that will affect us all for years to come. Our young people are searching for answers, and we need to help them.
Us adults need to pay attention to the people of future generations. Every legislator should spend time talking to students, as I did last week. We need to spend more time talking with the people we will be handing our planet to after we are gone.
The eagerness and inquisitiveness of our bright young minds can motivate us to be the best public servants we can be. All we need to do is listen to them and show we care.
State Sen. Steve Cwodzinski (DFL-48, Eden Prairie) is a retired teacher. He was first elected to his seat in 2016.