College starts soon. I am one of the people who teach those millennials, GenXers — or whatever we use to pigeonhole people these days.
I teach at three urban campuses – Wayne State, University of Michigan-Dearborn and UM-Flint.
The biggest takeaways I have discovered in six years since I left the “real” world of journalism at The Detroit News?
■ Students get no free handout from parents. Many work two or three part-time jobs. One student was an overnight blackjack dealer at a downtown Detroit casino and staggered right to class, large coffee in hand. Probably a triple espresso. Several waited tables or were bartenders. Some already were young managers at everything from Subway to Best Buy.
■ They know all too well that they are living through some of the most dire times in economic history. Yet they retain the idealism we all held before we became jaded. That idealism is unwavering despite a wave of job rejection letters. Through a potential fog of despair, most see hope of a better world. They volunteer in numbers that would shame many in my Wayne Class of 1973. We were good at protesting, but you did not see many of us helping at a day care center or soup kitchen back then.
■ They want to better themselves. They crave feedback, insight and although they still crave that “A,” they also want to know if they are good enough to make it out there. Or what it takes to get there.
■ They want value for the big money they are putting down for tuition. It was rare that I did not give up my own textbook for a student who was tapped out from the barrage of fees universities slam him or her with.
Pay attention to that, politicians, administration and faculty.
Many times it is tips scraped together through sweat that is paying your wages.
All the experts — and most of us old folks — say that the big decisions are made early in life. We, after all, chose a career and a significant other before we hit 30.
Many of today’s college students are taking it a bit slower, they are bit more thoughtful. Maybe a bit smarter.
My advice is not for them, but for you who have been through the long war called life and maybe forgotten the journey.
Hire them. Support them. Mentor them. And above all else, treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve.
The future is in good hands. Their hands.
Bill McMillan is a retired assistant managing editor at The Detroit News who teaches the next generation of journalists.