Since May, we have been hosting conversations for youth pursuing their studies in an institution for higher learning. For many young people we engage, tertiary or post-secondary education remains an improbability, and for those who have secured a course of study, dropping out is not uncommon. Hence, we have been inviting tertiary students in our membership to come together as a mutual support group to share resources, encourage each other, and serve as role models for children in their neighbourhoods.
My colleagues have named the endeavour IGNITE! and as I watched a recording of their latest conversation, I thought IGNITE! was most apt, as the young people were fired up in wanting to succeed.
6 youths took turns to speak about their course of study proudly and honestly. The first was studying Digital Game Art and Design, and she admitted that she had stumbled onto the course but has since learnt to appreciate and deliver work that requires an immense attention to detail. She displayed the characters she had created and explained the different steps it took to bring it to animated “life.” However, she often feels that her skills are “not good enough” but she has learnt to move pass these feelings by positioning herself as a learner, and boldly asking those whose work she admired, “Can you teach me how you did that?”
The next young lady spoke passionately about Mechatronics Engineering, a course that introduces mechanical and electronic engineering, as well as robotics. She was all smiles as she showed pictures of her winning designs and expressed that she struggled with theory which she found rather dry. Nonetheless, she has learnt to persevere by reminding herself of the 3D printing, 3D modelling and other hands-on work she enjoys.
Similarly, 3 others who shared about Broadcast Media, Physiotherapy and Business Studies were just as passionate but one who was doing Aerospace Engineering revealed that he only took up the course because he did not know what else to do. He slogged through ITE, is grateful that he made it to polytechnic and looks forward to starting work and making a living. He told the others that unlike them, there was no room for creativity as he had to follow systems and manuals to the letter so as not to compromise safety.
My colleagues and I were intrigued by the diverse subjects presented, and the level of mastery required suggested that school was an immensely challenging and stressful experience. We were moved by how cheerfully these young people took on the endeavour of being good at something, and it appeared that they have been able to come this far because of small successes they had experienced. Perhaps, it was also gratitude that kept them grounded. When the physiotherapy student expressed that even being able to stand and walk a few steps is a big achievement for many people, and one should never take anything for granted, everyone nodded in agreement.
Wishing you good health and peace of mind.
“Perhaps we’ll never know how far the path can go, how much a human being can truly achieve, until we realize that the ultimate reward is not a gold medal but the path itself.”
― George Leonard, Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfilment