Celebrating the simple fact there’s no place like home
This is the time of year when high schools and colleges celebrate homecoming: the chance to return to your alma mater and remember days gone by.
It’s a time for football games and floats, pep rallies and party dresses, teammates and traditions. At many high schools, ceremonies include a whole week of spirit activities: dressing in pajamas, impersonating movie stars, and most importantly swimming in school colors and school pride.
Unfortunately, in spite of all of that scholastic spirit, when high school is over, many students are anxious to see our region in their rear view mirror. They go off to college or the military and don’t come back for years, or maybe ever. Some return when it’s time to have a family, recognizing the things they loved about the area in their own childhood.
But in the meantime, we are left with jobs without people people in addition to people without jobs, while many of our best and brightest make an impact in someone else’s home town. Census results from 2016 and 2010 tell us that our population is decreasing and aging, with fewer young adults here to take over jobs being vacated by retirees.
So we need to find a way to bottle that school spirit and help students see the benefits and opportunities of our region; sport and outdoor recreation can both be among the draws.
The natural beauty of Central Pennsylvania brings visitors here from cities like Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. to hike, bike and just enjoy the outdoors. We need to remind our teens how lucky we are to live where there are lakes, trails and forests in our backyards, literally; while also being just a couple of hours from the excitement of more metropolitan areas.
In some areas, young professional groups form sports leagues, like dodge ball, volleyball, softball or basketball. The friendly competition helps to create a community, while also building business connections for young people starting out in their careers. Other groups plan weekend bike rides, golf or ski outings; we have great places for all of the above right here.
As our high school football fields are packed with proud communities in the coming weeks celebrating their hometown spirit, let’s hope that some of that local pride remains within our young people, so that when it’s time to choose where to live and what to do, they seek out the many opportunities available right here.
Whether they’ll return after college, come back after a military career, or immediately join the local workforce, today’s students, and especially our student-athletes are needed to make our region the best it can be. We need to remind our future community leaders celebrating homecoming, that there really is no place like home.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.