2017-06-15 / Editorials

Class of 2017 unafraid to address taboo subjects

Acorn Editorial Board

If there’s one thing that amazes us about many of the young people in this community, it is their resourcefulness in the face of adversity.

The “Conejo Valley bubble” may be real, but the stereotypical portrait of local teens as spoiled, entitled and dependent on Mom and Dad for everything is anything but. We’re reminded of this every graduation season as we hear so many stories of local grads overcoming daunting challenges to achieve their diplomas.

These kids have minds of their own, and they aren’t afraid to use them.

Our problems aren’t real problems, joke our neighbors; they’re “Conejo Valley problems.” Tell that to the thousands of high school seniors who crossed the stage this past week missing a beloved classmate or friend.

No community, including Thousand Oaks, is immune to tragedy. Having money doesn’t magically dissolve the pain felt over the loss of a friend to suicide or overdose. And both tragic scenarios occur time and time again in our supposedly sheltered enclave.

More impressive than their AP test scores, their college-acceptance letters and their astronomically high GPAs (is 4.65 really a thing?), was the work of this year’s seniors to shine a light on mental illness and substance abuse in the community.

When departing Superintendent Ann Bonitatibus’ Greenprint for Learning gave students the chance to weigh in on what they’d like to see change about Conejo Valley Unified, they answered less homework (predictable) and more mental health support (not so much).

At the urging of students, the Thousand Oaks Youth Commission for the first time convened a special committee for the sole purpose of addressing suicide and drug abuse, targeting painkillers and heroin especially. The committee put on several events to educate parents on how serious “Conejo Valley problems” can be.

Unlike some of our district leaders, these students have no intention of burying their heads in the sand when it comes to the very real issues of suicide and drugs. They’re concerned not with how CVUSD looks to the parents of prospective transfers but with what they can do to ensure they don’t have to stare at another empty desk or reflect again what more they could have done.

We hate to mark this joyous week with such a somber tone, but if our graduating seniors have the courage to discuss uncomfortable topics at uncomfortable times, we should do the same.

The inspiring stories shared at commencements are a reminder that every graduate is to be treasured, regardless of their accomplishments. Rich, poor, black, white or brown, rest assured they’ve all faced tribulations, and just being there to receive their diplomas should be cause for celebration.

Let us not forget the lessons the Class of 2017 tried to teach us.

The Conejo Valley is an incredible place to grow up, but sometimes the pressure to succeed, to fit in, to keep up with the Joneses, can become too much to bear. Parents: Never stop checking in with your kids, never become unattached, never assume they’re doing “just fine.”

We may live in a slice of heaven, but we must never stop addressing our demons.

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