They're on their way to shape the world - this is how the world shaped them first

Posted: Monday, June 10th 2019

For the first time in history, we are celebrating a graduating class almost entirely comprised of students born after the year 2000.

This week, more than 6,000 students graduated from San Diego Unified high schools, ready to take on the next challenge and make their mark on the world around them. But the world they’re entering is a far different one than that of their parents, and has shaped them in a distinctly 21st century way.

The high school seniors who walked across the stage this week likely did so with mobile phones in their pockets, a “modern” innovation that’s been around all their lives. Many selfies were taken and shared via Facebook, which was created when these students were less than five years old.

Remember the RAZR flip phone? It was all the rage - when your 2019 grad was four years old. They might not remember the era of flip phones at all, as the first iPhone dropped when they were just in third grade.

This year’s graduates don’t remember the Y2K scare, as they hadn’t been born yet, and weren’t around to remember the embarrassment of their parents who had needlessly stocked up on several years’ worth of toilet paper.

None of them watched the twin towers fall on September 11th. The Class of 2019 knows the horror of that day not from the live TV scenes ingrained in our memories, but from their history books.

Still, these are students who have known fear, and far too much of it. They were not alive when the Columbine shooting happened in 1999, but they were here for Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Parkland. And they’ve had enough; the Class of 2019 includes thousands of San Diego students who stood up against gun violence, organizing protests, creating public awareness videos, and demanding action from their government.

This activism extended to other issues of national importance as well. This year’s graduates include future political leaders who took a stand against social injustice. They condemned discrimination, taking part in restorative circles and inclusion clubs. They marched with their classmates in the Pride Parade. They declared that their school would be No Place For Hate.™  

They may see the 2016 election and our nation’s polarized state as a new development, perhaps because many weren’t alive for Bush v. Gore and the “hanging chad” recounts. But this class of graduates is more than ready for the responsibility ahead of them.

San Diego Unified’s Class of 2019 is setting new academic records as well. At nearly 68% of the total graduating seniors, 367 more students took AP courses this year than three years ago. This reflects not only an increased availability of rigorous courses in San Diego Unified schools, but also the determination of these students and their eagerness to go above and beyond.

What’s more, this year marks the largest number of graduating seniors who participated in San Diego Unified’s dual enrollment program, which allows high school students to take college-level courses on campus. A record 2,618 students—41.7%--took at least one college-level course before graduating from high school.

Our newly minted graduates also grew up with increasingly cutting-edge classroom technology - from 3-D printers and smart boards to coding and robotics. What once was only the realm of high-caliber newsrooms and Hollywood lots has become commonplace; this year’s graduating students grew up with state-of-the-art television broadcast studios and digital media equipment right here in their schools.

A lot may have changed over the course of these students’ young lives, but undoubtedly much more will change over the next 18 years. The Class of 2019 is ready for the challenges that lie ahead. They’ve created an impressive legacy so far, and they’re just getting started. Now, it’s our responsibility to continue to support them in the next adventures they take on.

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