In generations past, high school stereotypes have covered jocks, punks, preps and prom queens. Today, those stereotypes remain, with the addition of a reputation for being self-entitled, gossip-ridden, lazy and let's not forget, technology addicted.
I admit it, generally speaking, I find many teens today slightly under motivated and some days I kind of want to slap Facebook for allowing anyone under 18 to even have an account -- but then again, Facebook was essentially started by a teenager, so that over 18 account holder fantasy is just unrealistic isn't it? I know, I'm just showing my age, which at this point isn't even old school, it's just old. I often wonder if teens today put the same amount of time and effort into sports, a hobby or god forbid a job, as they do into video games or texting, we might actually have some bright lights in our future. And to that thought, I say to myself: Be careful what you ask for sister.
I had the honor of watching the Walk the Walk National Championship at the U.S. Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach. Walk the Walk is a high school fashion competition that's best described as "Friday Night Lights" meets "Project Runway." Just when I thought another bad train wreck of a teen melee was about to emerge, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself faced with an electrifying display of passion, determination and hard work on multiple group levels.
Here's the deal: earlier in the year, Hurley challenged 30 schools nationwide to commit to a series of video challenges showcasing everything from "Make a Hurley Commercial" to "Show us What You're All About." Since February, over 750 participating students used social networks and viral marketing to promote their videos, resulting in thousands of people voting to whittle down the entries to six finalists.
The 2010 Hurley Walk the Walk competition, also supported by Converse and SkullCandy, brought six finalists to the Southern California Fashion showdown: Huntington Beach High School, Corona Del Mar High in Newport Beach, 2009 champs Lincoln High from San Diego, Pearl City from Hawaii, Toms River East from New Jersey and Kellam from Virginia Beach.
After surviving a grueling three months of online video challenges, these six schools, considered some of the most fashion-forward in the nation -- gave it their all in front of a screaming crowd estimated at 10,000.
I expected music and visuals and hot summer sunshine, what I didn't expect was to be touched and blown away by the intensity of these student's passion and performances.
Huntington Beach High School, 2009 champs Lincoln High, Pearl City from Hawaii, Toms River East from New Jersey and Kellam from Virginia Beach all brought exhilarating and creative performances to the runway -- rocking out to various songs.
Lincoln High pulled at my heartstrings with their cultural themed, smart and very well thought out performance. They took the crowd around the world in five minutes covering Africa, India, and Latin America. The students also injected a splash of political and environmental awareness into their performance, honoring Hurley's H20 water initiative. Hello extra credit. At various moments in their show, they walked the runway holding large boards featuring startling water statistics: "In Africa, women walk 4 miles to collect water" and "In India, 21% of disease is related to unsafe water." Their parents, principal's fellow students and community should be very proud.
Without doubt, Corona Del Mar gave the most spirited and cohesive performance of the day, which scored them the $25,000 grand prize for their school arts program. Their performance was a representation of what Southern California lifestyle is all about, covering surf, skate, as well as style, culture and color. The show was a full force in your face throw down full of back flips, war dances, Dalek-inspired mirrors and a guy in rollerblades jumping off a quarter-pipe ramp.
CDM may have swooped the prize, but other schools won a few respectable bragging rights: crowd darling Kellam High took home the Men and Women's "Head to Toe" design challenge, where students to created an entire look from head to toe using their own materials and designs. Kellum High students will receive scholarships to Otis College of Art and Design.
Kellam also won the SkullCandy Remix award after turning a headphone into a bright, nautical- themed masterpiece. Not to be outdone, Hawaii's Pearl City took the Converse "Punk Your Chucks" prize, earning $2,000 for their arts program.
While the fashion aspect of the show was interesting and impressive, I was most inspired by the pure passion and commitment the students demonstrated with months of brainstorming, creating, designing, collaborating and hundreds of hours of practice that was required to make this magic happen.
Schools, parents, principals and lawmakers nationwide should take a minute to truly comprehend what it means to give kids an outlet beyond academics to experience the gift of coming together, and collaborating for mutual goals. Projects like Walk the Walk encourage community, patience, problem solving, socialization, leadership and friendship among youth. So, many of theses students who participated had the unique opportunity to become friends with other students in their own schools, who let's face it may never have even spoken to one another.
Arts programs are an integral part of building our children's character; this is not brain surgery folks. And if we're fortunate to nurture a future fashion designer, BMX rider, Pro surfer, skater or musician along the way, good for us.
I definitely believe texting should never be a part of any arts program.
To view photos and runway show video: http://www.usopenofsurfing.com/downloads.cfm.