Jeff Farrell: Young people still inspire with heroics, dedication

May. 13, 2013 @ 12:16 PM

It’s always easy to think the youngest generation consists of lazy, spoiled brats who are going to drag us all into the nether regions.

“They wear their clothes different, and not in the way we were different when we were their age. Outrageous! Have they no taste?”

“The music they listen to makes my heart weep and my ears bleed, but in a completely different way from how my parents reacted to my music. How sad!”

Seriously, there’s been a lot of stories about Gen Y, the Millennials or whatever you want to call them being spoiled and entitled and possibly not ready for adulthood.

Aside from the fact that I’m 40 and still not particularly ready, I’ve reflected this week on a couple of young folks who demonstrated that, as always, there’s hope for those young ‘uns yet.

Kayla Blankenship is a Walters State student who was alone in her house, in a tranquil neighborhood even by Sevier County standards, when something horrific happened. Her yard faces Luther Catlett Circle, right where it intersects Perry Catlett Drive.

It’s a T shaped intersection in a small subdivision. Cars rarely speed through. So it had to stun her to see an SUV pass through the intersection without heeding the stop sign, never turn, hop the curb and hurtle into her yard and crash into her family’s koi pond.

She called 911 immediately, and if that was the end of the story, she would have done her job.

But she did more.

She ran outside, jumped into the pond and tried to find the driver. Looked for him all over the car. When she couldn’t find him, she ran to other houses looking for help.

She wasn’t able to save the driver. But that’s not the point.

No one would have blamed her if she stayed inside, not wanting to see what happened to the SUV. No one would have blamed her if she stayed beside the pond. She’s not trained to respond to an emergency.

She did what we all hope we would do in that situation, what we hope someone would do for us if we were stuck in that car, by jumping in and trying to help.

The others I’m thinking of are members of the Pigeon Forge High School chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving.

They helped organize a mock wreck, complete with real police and firefighters —fake blood — to remind their fellow students of the dangers of driving under the influence, or while distracted.

There are lots of groups at every school here that try to get them involved in their community, and I don’t mean to leave them out but to just offer an example: this group of kids took the time to try to offer a jarring reminder to their fellow students of the danger of a few bad decisions.

And keep in mind, this is at an age where bad decisions can make up a large part of the itinerary.

So if you’ve reached the point where you look askance at the way kids are dressing or cover your ears when their music starts to play — if, to them, you are old — just keep in mind there’s a few examples of some who are already leading the way in the right direction.

Just like there were when you were that age.

Jeff Farrell is a reporter for The Mountain Press. Call 428-0748, ext. 216, e-mail to, or on Twitter