Hope For Tomorrow – this should go viral

Published 12:08 pm Sunday, June 4, 2023

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Over the past few weeks, I have enjoyed some great moments with our graduating seniors in Natchez: participating in the Senior Walk-Through at Cathedral, speaking to the ACCS Class of 2023 at their Graduation Exercise at First Baptist, celebrating the achievements of graduates of Natchez Early College and Co-Lin at an evening event at the Natchez Civic Center, and attending the Baccalaureate and Graduation Ceremonies for Natchez High School. At all of these events, I have left with one great takeaway: Natchez, there is hope for tomorrow! Hundreds of outstanding, upstanding young people have worked to achieve excellence, and their accomplishments should go viral!

Sadly, we live in a time where negative posts on social media, along with “hyped-up” news coverage in the mainstream media, paint an incorrect picture of our society. Negativity and the lightning speed at which it is shared is at an all-time high. We have now gone far past the old adage “if it bleeds it leads”. Today, be it a news story or a crude video shot on a phone by amateurs, the more graphic the better – and with instant communication by way of phones and the internet, posts of random events can go viral in seconds. We have seen this happen twice in our community just over the past month. The result is a distortion of what really is happening in Natchez and a distortion of our youth – just as we are seeing a distortion of what is happening in our society as a whole.

Bad things happen, don’t get me wrong – this has always been the case. But to watch the news, or worse, watch what comes across our phones, one would think the whole world is coming to an end and all hope is lost. I believe, to the contrary, this is far from accurate, and spending time recently with our youth, the hope for tomorrow, has been both refreshing and encouraging!

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Sadly, events like we celebrated last Wednesday night, where graduates of Natchez Early College, one of the top-rated high school programs in the country, are not things that “go viral”. But the impact is far more meaningful than a one-minute “meant-to-shock” video shared on social media. This year, a record number, 52 high school seniors completed the NECA program, receiving college credits along with their high school credits, many of them working and succeeding in spite of economically-challenging conditions. Forty-two of them received their college associate degrees from Co-Lin three weeks before they graduated from high school and will enter college this fall with their freshman and sophomore years already behind them! This is positive news that should be going viral! But sadly, few take time to notice.

There is another old adage, “if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.” I would say that this adage applies more today than ever. People whose fingers burn to “hit share” on the negative while ignoring the positive should be ashamed of themselves. And I praise God that He has raised up so many young people in Natchez who are now prepared to make a difference, despite the pundits around them.

During this special time of year, where the Class of 2023 now sets its sights on the many great opportunities that lie ahead of them, let it be said of us that we celebrate them. Let us celebrate, as is spoken in Jeremiah, the “plans of good, not of evil” that God has for them, to give them “a hope and a future”. Truly, these young adults are the hope of tomorrow. And let our celebration of them be a celebration that goes viral. Because Natchez Deserves More.

Dan M. Gibson is mayor of Natchez.