I'll admit right off the bat I am biased here, just so all the cards are on the table.
Attending the Spring concert at Elmira High School the other night was, in a word, impressive. It seems like every event we attend the students' skills grow in leaps and bounds, the energy and time they put into practicing evident. The music was fantastic, as always. They've got one hell of a music program at the Elmira schools. Watching a couple of the soloists fidgeting nervously or taking a couple deep breaths before launching into their piece, I was thinking, "You got this, kid," because I know they've worked hard.
And they nailed it, the look on their faces afterwards, the look of maybe relief but more pride than anything, priceless. Same for the whole group after each piece.
Towards the end of the concert, they took a moment to recognize the seniors, who made up a large part of the group, and what they're plans were after graduation. Out of the twenty or so they introduced, every single one of them had plans for college and a career path. Computer security, dentistry, chemistry, theater, mathematics, and even a couple pre-med... every one of those kids has a path they've laid out before themselves to a promising future.
As the introductions wrapped up and the concert proceeded, it bothered me how the public doesn't hear all the positive things going on inside the Elmira schools. Yeah, they had a rough patch a couple years ago with near riots in the hallways and brutal assaults documented on video. Right here on this site, I very bluntly compared the schoolyards to a prison yard at the time. But things turned around pretty quickly. With a strong message and better leadership in some of the buildings, there's been amazing progress. In a world gone mad, they're fighting an uphill battle there in the classrooms, both the teachers and students alike. But they're trying. Those seniors standing up there ready to chase their dreams prove it.
At the very end of the program, the entire group played a rendition of "This Is Me" from the 2017 movie, "The Greatest Showman" to reflect the idea that no matter what, it's okay to be themselves. As they played an instrumental version, the lyrics showed on a screen accompanied by pictures of all the students doing what they enjoy:
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
And I believe they mean it. If this close knits group of 10th, 11th, and 12th graders is representative of the entire student body, there's more good things going on in those hallways than a music program. I'm proud of every single one of them.
Of course I know me saying this means little to many, even less to some. There's always going to be the naysayers who judge the majority by the actions of the errant few who exist everywhere. People like to complain, it's a favorite past time around here apparently. Time for a reality check, people:
There will always be drop outs. There will always be unruly students. There will always be fights.
In any school building in America. Elmira is not some anomaly where such things occur.
So the next time someone out there decides to complain about their taxes wasted on the schools. The next time someone someone starts to type a message on social media about how the students in Elmira are out of control, are a waste of time, all headed for jail... Or call them "all a bunch of hood-rats, welfare trash", here's a message from me:
Stick it in your ass.
Those kids are gonna have it hard enough in this world, the last thing they need is the people of their own trying to beat them down.