BY DON NELSON
You need a lot of self-confidence, individually and as a group, to paint a water tower pink. Especially when you know it’s going to stay pink for a while, and it will be startlingly pink from miles away all that time, and you will always be identified with the pink prank.
So one more round of applause for the Liberty Bell High School class of 2013, who somehow coalesced around a simple but bold idea that leaves both an image and a message. You also have to give them credit for managing such a challenging paint job in the dark.
I went to the graduation ceremony last Friday night (June 7) and enjoyed it as a community tradition that brings people together from one end of the valley to the other, as few other events do. The gym was crowded but the feeling was intimate because the seniors all know each other well, and their families and friends are pretty well acquainted also. The valedictorian and salutatorian speeches were clever and fun, while expressing genuine care for the past and future of these graduates. Speakers Mark Wenzel and Mike Wilson picked up the pink theme with their attire choices.
Looking around the gym, I saw a lot of younger kids who will be wearing those green gowns and caps before we know it.
If you’re going to be a young writer, it helps to be a young reader. At last week’s Young Writers’ Conference at Methow Valley Elementary School, there was plenty of evidence that both readin’ and writin’ are priorities.
On Thursday evening (June 6), it was wonderful to watch the kids read for attentive audiences. Some of them were clearly shy and nervous, others more practiced and comfortable. They were all brave to tackle even a couple of minutes of public speaking, which surveys often find is the most fear-inducing thing that adults can do.
On Friday, I was joined by Mike Maltais, the News sports editor, for two one-hour sessions talking about journalism with third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders.
I lugged along several bound volumes of the News, dating back to year one: 1903. We traced one story – creating a route over the North Cascades – through several decades of hyperbolically optimistic and indignantly disappointed newspaper coverage until the highway finally opened in 1972.
I was bit surprised at how fascinated the students were with the old, yellowing newspapers. They were enthralled, paging through the years and pointing out people, institutions and businesses they recognized. One girl, looking at photos of Liberty Bell’s 1990 graduating class, recognized her father. She had never seen the photo before.
I began to realize that they weren’t looking at just any newspaper. This was the story of their community, told through thousands of stories over 11 decades. It’s their story too, something they can identify with, revisit and add to.
So I guess we made a point about the enduring power of print. But we also talked about the changes wrought by the digital age of communication, and we demonstrated how the flow and feel of information have changed by putting together our own little news story on a very tight deadline, and then posting it to the News website for all the world to read. Past, present and a glimpse of the future.