Sometimes, when you turn on the TV or see what’s trending on social media, it can feel like the world is awash in negativity and bad news. Sometimes, it’s easy to wonder what kind of world we’re leaving for the next generation. But whenever I feel that way, I’m reminded of a quote I once read by a journalist named Doug Larson: “Bad news travels fast. Good news takes the scenic route.”
With that in mind, I’ve resolved to spend more time taking the scenic route myself…by always being on the lookout for stories that inspire and news that uplifts. Recently, I came across two such stories that not only prove good news is alive and well but that the “next generation” are doing just fine on their own.
Most people remember what it’s like when you move to a new town or join a new school. The butterflies in your stomach as you wonder if you’ll make friends if people will like you and accept
you. Last year, in Hendersonville, Tennessee, a teen named Sergio Peralta felt those same butterflies as he prepared for his first day in a new school. But in Sergio’s case, his butterflies were
compounded by the fact that his right hand was not fully formed.
For years, Sergio had often felt like hiding his hand from classmates. Now, he was faced with the prospect of a whole new group of kids learning about his condition. Wondering if he would face
incessant questions about it, wondering if he would be teased about it. But when the students in his school’s engineering class met Sergio, they didn’t see his hand as something to point at or laugh at. Instead, they saw him. A new friend to make…and a new friend to help.
So, the engineering class asked if they could do him a favor. For four weeks, with Sergio’s input, they brainstormed, designed, and finally 3D-printed a prosthetic hand for the young man to try. As the school’s principal said, it was “a testament to students who care about each other.”1
And as one of the students said, it was a chance to put what they had learned into practice. “You’re supposed to be engineering, coming up with new ideas, solving issues.” 1
Which is exactly what they did. All his life, Sergio had become adept at doing most things with his left hand. But when he tried on the new prosthetic his classmates built, he was finally able to do one thing he had always wanted with his right: Catch a ball.
Said Sergio: “I didn’t know my classmates, so I got introduced to them by the teacher. And then that’s what I started working on, and I got to be friends with them. Living without a hand for fifteen years and [then] they actually offered me one is pretty cool. No one has ever offered me this. It changed my life.” 1
The engineering students at Hendersonville aren’t the only scientifically minded kids out there. Far from it. Another student in another part of the country was recently honored by Yale…even though
she’s too young to go there!2
Bobbi Wilson is a nine-year-old girl in Caldwell, New Jersey. Known as “Bobbi Wonder” to her friends, this young scientist-in-training resolved to save her community…from a species of invasive bugs known as “lanternflies.” These pests can wreak havoc on farms and native plants, so last year, local officials began educating kids about the bugs to keep them from spreading. Bobbi was one of those children.
Inspired by what she learned, she decided that age was no obstacle to pitching in. So, on her own initiative, Bobbi launched a campaign to rid the town of lanternflies. First, she created her own homemade repellant by mixing dish soap, water, and apple cider vinegar. Next, she informed her neighbors that she would be going up and down the streets, spraying wherever she found the bugs. Finally, she promised her mother she wouldn’t venture far. (And, of course, never talk to strangers.)
Bobbi began vigilantly patrolling the neighborhood. Whenever she sprayed a lanternfly, she would add it to a jar for her own collection. But then she ran into an obstacle: Someone mistook Bobbi for
a vandal and called the police. It was a scary moment for a child still in elementary school, who is also Black, but fortunately, nothing bad happened. Despite the scare, Bobbi persisted in her quest. Soon, word got around. The first calls were from the city council. The next was from the local news. Finally, Bobbi started getting calls from actual scientists…from Yale University! They were so impressed with both her initiative and her solution that they invited Bobbi to tour Yale and meet other female scientists on campus. They also officially added Bobbi’s collection of lanternflies to the university museum.
Now, both scientists and government officials have begun promoting Bobbi’s solution as a way for all citizens to help combat the lanternflies. Best of all, this young scientist will attend a summer research program at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Who knows what solutions she will come up with next!
I loved reading these stories because they show how, all around our country, the next generation is stepping up, pitching in, solving problems, and caring for others. It gives me so much hope for the future. And it reminds me that, despite all the bad news we see on TV, there is plenty of good news going around. Sometimes, it just takes the scenic route
1“Tennessee high school students build robotic hand for classmate,” The Guardian, January 27, 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/usnews/2023/jan/27/tennessee-high-school-students-build-robotic-hand-sergio-peralta
2 “Yale Honors Young Scientist Who Was the Subject of a Police Complaint,” Yale School of Public Health, https://ysph.yale.edu/newsarticle/yale-honors-young-scientist-who-was-subject-of-police-complaint/