In Our View: Volunteer Generation

Teen who earned perfect SAT score shows youths' engagement with world

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Once in a while, you run across somebody who helps restore your faith in humanity. A young person who provides reassurance that the nation and the world will be in good hands when today's teenagers are tomorrow's leaders.With that in mind, we were pleased to be introduced to Waverley He through the pages of The Columbian. He, a 16-year-old junior at Mountain View High School, recently earned a perfect score of 2,400 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

While obviously being academically accomplished, He is much more than a top-flight test taker. According to an article by reporter Susan Parrish, she also:

• Has a 4.0 grade-point average while taking a difficult course load that includes Mandarin Chinese.

• Is a member of Mountain View's highly successful Science Bowl team.

• Is an accomplished pianist who has performed at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland and has played violin in the school orchestra.

• Is vice president of the school's Key Club, treasurer of the National Honor Society, and a member of the math club.

• Earned a varsity letter on the swim team.

• And volunteers in the birth center at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, taking photos of newborns and interacting with parents.

Phew! We're exhausted just thinking about that kind of workload. But He -- and other high school students, even those who don't get perfect scores on the SAT -- think nothing of it, particularly the part about community service. According to a national survey by DoSomething.org -- a teen volunteer advocacy group -- about half of American teenagers engage in some sort of volunteer activity.

We can't vouch for the accuracy of the survey, but we believe it's safe to say that young people today are more involved in their communities than previous generations. Part of the reason is that it serves as a résumé builder for college-bound students. But part of it is that teenagers are much more aware of the world around them and much more engaged with that world than they used to be.

Volunteerism is just a small part of He's active life. Yet while not every student can be an accomplished pianist or a 4.0 student, anybody can volunteer in a way that is beneficial to the community.

He is the second Mountain View student in the past several months to achieve a perfect score on the SAT. In February, Rohith Nagari, He's teammate on the Science Bowl team, also scored 2,400.

According to the College Board, which administers the test, more than 1.6 million students in the Class of 2012 took the SAT, and 360 of them achieved a perfect score. The fact that Mountain View had two in the span of a few months is a testament to the staff and administration at the school. More important, it is a testament to Nagari and He and their families.

As with probably every previous generation, it is tempting to focus on the troublemakers or the low achievers among today's teenagers and conclude that they are indicative of people their age. Certainly, there are some troublemakers and criminals among today's teenagers -- just as there always have been. More than 50 years ago, the complaint from the curmudgeon generation was that the music was too loud and the dancing was obscene; now it's that the music is too loud, the dancing is obscene, and the pants are too baggy.

No matter. There are plenty of youngsters who have the talent and the skill and the desire to make the world a better place. Waverley He is just one fine example.