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Passing the torch to a new generation of college students

(Soapboxes are guest opinions from our readers, and anyone is welcome to write one. Barry Albertson is a member of the Tigard-Tualatin School District board of directors.)

I recently had the opportunity to play a special role as a parent, a father, like many of you have over the past years. I spent spring break with my son, Matthew - just he and I - visiting more than a half dozen colleges and universities back East that he could very well attend this coming September as an incoming freshman. And, since none of these bastions of learning were on their spring break, things were really hopping around the 'old student unions' when we arrived.

Surprisingly, I'd forgotten what college campuses were like, I guess because it's been a while since I was a college student. What I'd forgotten (but quickly remembered) is that there is an excitement, a liveliness, an energy that permeates everything, especially now, when the second semester is half over and the end of the academic school year is close enough to smell. Yes, the academic 'full court press' was on everywhere we visited. And, in some sections of the East Coast, spring was actually poking its head up through the ground, and everyone on campus knew it and were anticipating final exams and summer break.

Matt and I walked all over these campuses, visiting as many requisite venues and people as we could fit in. We met school presidents, administrators, professors and students, all of whom uniformly extolled their schools, and tried to convince my son that it was to their college/university he should come. We saw classrooms and science laboratories where he'll undoubtedly spend a fair amount of his time, and big, inviting libraries, with all of the books, references and 'wires and plugs' anyone could possibly wish for to stay on top of their course work (and where I hope he spends an enormous amount of his time).

Dorms were high on his list, having been away from home and on his own on a few occasions. We saw older, smaller dorm rooms and newer, more spacious dorm suites. And, of course, we ate in the cafeterias to be sure the menus contained all the essential food groups (especially the carbohydrates), and the all-you-can-eat rule was an accepted norm. We walked and walked and saw just about everything there was to see.

As we were trekking across those campuses and in and out of those buildings, everybody seemed to notice us and look us over. And, for a fraction of a second, on that very first campus, I thought they were all looking at me. Not hardly. It was obvious that everyone, at each and every school, was looking at my son, this tall, smiling, great looking kid who was about to take his first step out there, like I did 45 years ago.

I do remember those days and I miss them… not because of the great towns and cities I had a chance to live in, or the courses and classes that I took, or things that I did, or the terrific people I met (many of whom have become lifelong friends), but for the most selfish reason of all - because I was young, like he is now.

My time is winding down, but Matt's and all his classmates' times are just about to get started. I only hope that they work hard and do well, make lots of friends, and that they have as good a time as I had in school.

On Friday, Jan. 20, 1961, Jack Kennedy told the nation, 'The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.' This year, as a father, I'll get to pass a bit of that torch on to my son, as will many of you to your graduating seniors. Unfortunately, there is a bittersweet aspect of having your children grow up, leave home and go off to change the world. But, I'm glad we're passing that torch, because the young women and men at Tigard and Tualatin high schools who are now poised to take that hand-off are more than ready to clean up the mess that my and previous generations have left for them.

And frankly for me, I'll be rooting for them, all of them, and really looking forward to seeing how they do.