Photo by Lexie Flickinger. Creative Commons

Welcome back! What will you leave behind at school this year? No, I’m not talking about your running shoes or your ID card. What mark will you make on this place where you meet your friends, win your victories, learn your lessons (of all types), and play on the field of emerging womanhood? The answer to this question lies in part in what you’ve inherited. What do you have to work with in the first place?

Heritage refers to something inherited from the past. Your school culture, resources, demographics, and location are all things that you’ve been handed. When you go back to school this year, why not look more closely to see what color the clay is and then figure out how to mold it into something more beautiful? Past + Present. Why? Because you are not a passive player in your own life. Whether you are very shy or crazy social, you have a say in what’s happening around you, and your voice needs to be heard. Your school community needs you. What kind of future do you see for yourself and your classmates? What part of creating that future is up to you alone?

Going back to school is a time of excitement and endless possibilities. All those excellent new school supplies and gleaming gymnasium floors are calling out for more than just your mind or your physical presence. School is helping you sharpen the tools you need in life, but you need to pick up those tools and actually use them. Now.
Past + Present + Future = Now

Heritage month at Germ asks us to reflect on our past, both personal and collective. Really, they are one in the same. All of us individually are contributors to the climate around us. In the back to school context, do we want to live and learn in an open, welcoming, and safe environment? If not, what’s the alternative? Unfortunately, our heritage as a nation has shown us what both the disturbing alternatives can be and what miraculous, transformative changes are possible in the midst of crushing racism, sexism, homophobia, and violence. From the sweet victory of school integration to the devastation of Sandy Hook, each one of us — whether child, teen, or adult — has a role to play and has a responsibility to the health of our environments, especially our school spaces. So, when we hit the books together this fall as a Germ collective, let’s pledge to be the most inclusive and aware of our friends. Let’s pledge to honor our sometimes difficult heritage by living in our present with inclusivity, open eyes, and genuine warmth — all while paving the way for those behind us to be proud to walk in the footprints that we’ve left. Look at what you can do now to shape not only your school’s heritage, but our shared heritage.

Welcome back. You are the change. Lead the way!

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