Each generation is shaped by the events, developments and trends of the time. Each generation is criticized in one way or another by earlier generations. The Millennials, or Generation Y has been analyzed both positively and negatively in the media this past month.
Generation Y, or the millennial generation refers to the segment of the population born between 1980-2001. These individuals are typically the children of Baby Boomers and older members of Generation X. The Millennials make up a significant population group in the U.S. at nearly 76 million.
Instead of discussing whether Time’s negative criticism about Gen Y is correct, I wish to offer my observations following my recent experience with this population. This past week, I volunteered as the health officer/camp nurse for a church-affiliated camp.
Thirty young adults (ages 19-23), including my daughter, are on staff this summer at this camp. These college students arrive from near and far… Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Nebraska and Switzerland.
Half of these college students attended this same camp at various times in their lives. This core group has developed and maintained their friendships by reconnecting each year at camp.
A few of these students view this experience as an excellent resume opportunity. However, most of them wish to offer another generation of kids the opportunity to feel a connection to the camp and to develop new friendships.
I observed the following qualities in this small group of Millennials…
HARD-WORKING & RESPONSIBLE
These students are summer employees. They do receive room/board and a small weekly stipend. However, these students could have chosen employment elsewhere for more money. Camp hours are long, demanding and tiring. The staff is responsible for supervising and caring for each camper for five days and nights.
These students are creative and talented. They are counselors, lifeguards, program directors, worship leaders, musicians, activity leaders, recreation leaders, kitchen assistants and maintenance workers. In college, they are studying nursing, religion, meteorology, graphic design, teaching, music and business.
We had much rain and heavy storms throughout the week. Late one evening, the camp experienced a power outage and then faced other related problems. Many campers became frightened and homesick. Some of the staff gathered these campers together for singing to soothe anxieties.
During the camp week, these staffers are virtually (no pun intended) unplugged. The camp is fairly isolated and so cell phone reception is poor to nonexistent. Many of the staff purchased wristwatches for use during the camp day. Wireless internet connections are available in a couple designated areas to use in their “spare” (an occasional break and weekends) time. Many write letters to their friends/families and love to receive snail mail.
INCLUSIVE & UNIQUE
These young adults are accepting of each other’s differences. They show hospitality to all regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or political persuasion. These students express themselves with multiple piercings, unique hairstyles, dress and by wearing friendship bracelets.
Rewards are intangible and come in the form of shared hugs, smiles and laughter. One camper who was homesick early in the week told her counselor she was going to be “camp sick” when she returned home. The anticipated “see you next year” from a camper is music to the ears!
I’m not going to extend my observations to include all Millennials. However, I must say that society and the media tend to overgeneralize or stereotype groups of people.
These Millennials, at least for the week of my presence, were NOT “lazy, entitled, selfish or shallow”.