From the Publisher’s Desk: Local graduates making a difference

Much has been written about today’s young people, and a lot of it hasn’t been terribly positive. Pampered. Spoiled. Unmotivated. Self-centered. The criticism goes on and on.

But if the alumni who spoke at Mountlake Terrace High School Friday morning are any indication of the next generation, we are in good hands.

I was one of five speakers invited to participate in a TED Talk-style event at Mountlake Terrace High School, organized by long-time journalism teacher Vince DeMiero. The audience included journalism students from the high school and Brier Terrace Middle School, as well as students from other classes, alumni and community members. I was joined by Edmonds School District spokesperson Debbie Jakala, and three alums of MTHS — each of whom had inspiring and fascinating stories to tell about their career paths.

And while these students happened to be from Mountlake Terrace HS, I can say with confidence that I’ve seen the same types of amazing student success stories from all of our local high schools.

Jakala and I were the — ahem — “old-timers” of the group. She has spent 30 years in the journalism and public information field, while I’ve been in similar jobs for 38 years. By comparison, the oldest of the three alumni speakers? Age 31.

Among them were:

Ryan Karnoski, a 2012 grad who is a mental health clinician, and is the lead plaintiff in the Karnoski vs. Trump federal lawsuit, which challenges the constitutionality of the Trump administration’s ban on military service by transgender individuals. The lawsuit was brought in response to President Trump’s ban on transgender military service. Karnoski — who also was active in campaigning against the so-called bathroom bills in the Southern U.S. in 2013 and 2014 — addressed the challenge of being a private person and talking very publicly about being transgender.

Jonathan Gipaya, a 2005 alum who is a destination wedding and concert photographer. Gipaya talked about how he started taking photos with an iPhone and has since developed a photography business that includes trips to photograph couples in a variety of amazing indoor and outdoor locales — from European palaces to mountain tops (including this photo chosen for National Geographic magazine’s 2014 photo contest). His talk was titled “The Importance of Taking Every Opportunity.”

Jesse Hattan, also a 2005 Terrace grad who worked as a plus-size model for Zulily and Nordstrom. She now serves as an ambassador for Non Airbrushed Me and is launching, the world’s first dedicated body positive fitness program for women. Hattan’s talk, “Question Without Fear,” described how she was able to overcome many obstacles — including being homeless on and off throughout high school — to have the confidence to speak her mind. “I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” she said.

Just so you know, the topic of my talk was “Civil Community Discourse — Now More than Ever.” I discussed the important role that journalism can play in restoring civility, and encouraged the students to serve as role models for the profession. That doesn’t mean that you don’t ask tough questions, I advised. But it does mean treating those you interview and write about with respect. I also encouraged them to educate people about the hard work that journalists do. It isn’t an easy job. We make judgment calls every day about fairness, balance and objectivity. We are trained to sort through a variety of legal and ethical minefields as we write about people and events. And yet, many people aren’t aware of those challenges, which contributes to the negativity about journalists today.

I finished with this quote from Michael Orsekes, the senior vice president of news and editorial director of National Public Radio, published shortly after the 2016 Presidential Election:

“Disagreements are OK. If we didn’t have disagreements, we wouldn’t need democracy to sort out our differences,” Orsekes said. “Civility is an essential value. If we can’t speak to each other respectfully, democracy will disappear.”

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My best to you and your family during the holiday season.

–Teresa Wippel, publisher

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