Editorial: In these times, role models are more important than ever

In these times, we see what our community is made of. We need to continue to have our kids’ backs.

This week’s issue of The Beachcomber is once again filled with news about our island’s greatest treasure — its youth.

Throughout the fall of 2021, we’ve been cheered to see our highly vaccinated population of youth ages 12 and older return to participation in a number of activities that are vital to their social and emotional health and well-being.

On Friday, youth theater took to the VHS stage once again, after a much too long pandemic pause. Theater teacher Andy James deserves a standing ovation for welcoming the theater kids back with a production that involved some of Vashon’s most accomplished theater artists, writers and musicians.

The mentorship and involvement of these artists made the production of a program of short plays a true community effort. It also importantly introduced the students to a support network that extends beyond the high school. It said, in a particularly brilliant way, “We’re here for you. We believe in you. We’ve got your back.”

Friday’s performance took place against a backdrop of bad news about a COVID outbreak at the high school, but from the stage, James assured the audience that the high school thespians had all tested negative that day. He also said that out of an abundance of caution, they would perform while masked.

The students’ shining stage presence and raised voices came through loud and clear anyway.

The next day, “The Nutcracker” was also finally performed again by youth dancers at Vashon Center for the Arts — a thrilling moment for so many young dancers and their proud parents and friends.

Next door, at VCA’s Blue Heron Education Center, an exhibit of activist art by high school artists was on view — a stunner of a show, charged with emotion and deep awareness of many complex issues of our time. This exhibit, too, came about because of a Vashon Artists in Schools program that focused on community mentorship and championing youth voices.

Youth sports have been back in the swing of things for a longer period of time, and have also greatly contributed to the well-being of Vashon youth. Throughout the fall, we’ve been thrilled to highlight the amazing accomplishments of local student-athletes on the sports pages of our paper, once again.

So it is a terrible shame that Vashon’s biggest outbreak of COVID-19 yet has been linked to participation in wrestling at the school — a sport that is strictly governed by Department of Health rules (see page 1).

It is far from certain, at this point, how and when this outbreak began. We may never fully know, and in one sense, it doesn’t matter — because all our work must now be on supporting those involved and protecting the wider community and also making sure it doesn’t happen again.

We hope the school district will thoroughly review their sports safety protocols as well, making sure that they are doing everything they can to protect student-athletes.

In light of the seriousness of both the Delta and new Omicron variants, this outbreak counts as bad news for our community, but make no mistake — this wasn’t the fault of local kids.

We hope that if any good comes of this, it will be in continued resilience and awareness in our young people that they can overcome life’s setbacks and emerge from them stronger than ever.

We hope it is also a reminder, to all those adults charged with keeping kids safe, of the true weight of that responsibility.

It is part of our championing of youth to model and encourage them to practice the tried and true means of reducing the spread of COVID-19 — masking, vaccination and distancing when possible.

In times like these, we see what our community is made of. We need to continue to have our kids’ backs.