The future leaders of our city, state and country are growing up in Collin County. So what do they think about their own generation and what the future has in store?

The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible–and achieve it, generation after generation. –Pearl S. Buck

It’s easy to dismiss the voices of young people: “They’ve barely experienced life,”; “They’re too young to understand,”; “What could they possibly have to contribute to the conversation?”; “They’ll understand when they’re older.”

But to ignore their hopes, dreams and ideas for the future is a mistake. Someday they will be the leaders of this world, so we sat down with some of the brightest students in Plano to hear their voices.

Max Smith

Photos by Cori Baker

Max Smith is a junior at Plano East Senior High School. He plays in the marching band and jazz band. Aside from music, physics is one of his favorite subjects.

Q: Who is your role model?

A: Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Inc. and SpaceX … because of his will to change the world. Musk persisted even though SpaceX’s first three launches failed, and things weren’t looking good. It is one thing to have a goal, but it is another to not stop until it is achieved. I have been told that entrepreneurs that succeed will find a way to go over, under or around any hurdle in their paths. Elon Musk has demonstrated that level of commitment.

Q: What do you think defines your generation?

A: My generation has been stereotyped as lazy, apathetic and entitled by older generations. Unfortunately, I think that there is some validity to these labels. … I think that the laziness is partially related to our overuse of electronics [like] playing video games and using social media. … Although there are many kids who do this, I don’t think that older generations realize that there are also many kids who lead an active lifestyle.

I think that my generation have been deprived of the high school experience. Instead of taking classes that interest them, many of my peers have only taken courses based on whether they receive a weighted grade, which allows them to have a more competitive grade point average. Kids of my generation are only focused on making themselves more presentable to colleges, rather than focusing on subjects that truly interest them.

Q: What kind of impact has technology had on your life?  

A: Technology has had a major impact on my life. [It] has given me access to a plethora of resources that I can use to help with my school work: using the internet to carry out research for a project; experimenting with online simulations in my science classes; and submitting [school] assignments online.

I believe that technology is great when it comes to things like school or work, but I do not like to use social media. In my opinion, it devalues the face-to-face interactions that we have on a daily basis, and it creates a need for validation among its users, which I believe is the most detrimental aspect. It also allows people to hide behind a screen, allowing them to say or do whatever they want with little consequence.

Ruben Salinas

Ruben Salinas is a senior at Plano West Senior High School. He is a member of Peer Assistance and Leadership (PALS) and works for a commercial real estate development company in his spare time.

Q: Who is your role model?

A: My boss, Leobardo Treviño. He has a history of identifying opportunities for business, taking risks that nobody else is willing to take and capitalizing on them. That is the approach to business that I want to take in my future.

Q: What are some of the most important issues you see today in the U.S.?

A: The biggest issue that I see in my time is the separation between political parties. Bipartisanship seems like a myth, and this separation and disagreement over everything is preventing the country from passing important legislation and moving forward.

Q: What do you think about your generation?

A: I believe my generation has the most brain capacity out of all of the generations that have been alive to this day. Due to our increased use of media, we have unintentionally trained our brains to handle large amounts of information at the same time—far more than any other generation ever has.

If this capacity was applied in the right way, a real difference could be made in the world in things such as advances in technology and the efficiency of business.

Q: What changes would you like to see in the world? Who can make those changes?

A: I would like to see more people helping others for the sake of being good people, not in search of a reward. My generation has the potential to make these changes, as one day we will be role models to the younger generations, and if we set a good example they will follow.

Q: What kind of impact do you want to have on this world and in your community?

A: I want to impact younger generations and ensure that they have the best future possible, regardless of their social situation. Whether it be helping out with money or mentorship, I want to have a positive impact on the up and coming generations.

Sara Porsa

Sara Porsa is a senior at Plano East Senior High School and a member of the varsity volleyball team, as well as of Future Farmers of America (FFA). AP Literature is her favorite subject.

Q: Who is your role model?

A: Growing up, I viewed my older sister as my role model. My sister, Lily, set a good example for me through her academic studies as well as her athletic integrity. Being able to watch her work ethic from a young age to now has influenced me in a positive way.

She taught me to set expectations for myself, and to not only accomplish those goals but to transcend them. Lily not only set this great example for me, but she guided me through the problems I have faced by giving me good advice.

Q: What changes would you like to see in the world? Who can make those changes?

A: A change I would like to see is how people interact with one another. It is prevalent today that people fear or judge what they do not understand. Ignorance causes miscommunication and misjudgment among various groups of people.

The change needs to begin with young generations learning to accept those who differ from their own beliefs, culture and ideas. Although the change will begin with a younger generation, it is taught by the adults in their lives. There needs to be a desire for change, otherwise no one will be concerned enough to alter the disconnect among people within communities.

Q: What kind of impact has technology had on your life?  

A: My generation has been very lucky to be born into an era filled with endless possibilities due to the technology we have been provided from a young age. Although the advancement of technology has helped many people in ways such as learning or navigation, it has had a negative impact on the world.

People spend more time focusing on a screen rather than interacting with others or putting their time into something more meaningful. It is vital for people to learn to interact and communicate with others, and although technology speeds up the process of these interactions, it takes away from how social and comfortable people can talk to one another face to face.

Kata Durcanska

Durcanska is a junior at Plano ISD Academy High School and is a part of the FIRST Robotics team and a peer tutor. Math is her favorite subject, and she enjoys learning how to code.

Q: Who is your role model?

A: Malala Yousafzai, a young women’s rights activist is one of my role models. A few years back, I read her autobiography, and I was blown away by her story. When she was 15 years old in Pakistan, she was shot in the head by the Taliban. Now she is 20 years old and a prominent women’s rights and education activist around the globe.

She believes that every child should receive education and fights hard to achieve her goal. Since being shot, she has spoken at the United Nations and received the Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against the suppression of children and the right to education for all children.

Q: What are some of the most important issues you see in this country?

A: One of the major problems that I see is the lack of education. I have been beyond blessed to receive the education that I have, and I am so thankful for it. But I know that there are children around the world, especially girls, who don’t have that option.

One issue that affects the whole world is poverty. I have seen poverty and homelessness with my own eyes, and my heart goes out to the people living in those conditions. I want to help end the cycle of poverty because no child should be born into that.

Q: What do you think about your generation?

A: I think that my generation (Generation Z) is a very diverse group of people who are mostly open-minded and ready to tackle the world’s problems. In general, the youngest generation is always the most open-minded, and I am eager about the fact that we are accepting when it comes to gender and sexuality. We have grown up in a time when sexuality was really getting popular in the media, and I believe that it has helped us see it with open minds.

In addition, I am excited about the fact that more girls are going into STEM fields and pursuing their dreams. As a girl growing up in the public education system, I have always been encouraged to pursue my dream and to not let other people drag me down. It’s motivating to see other girls around me that love engineering and other professions that have always been thought of as “men’s jobs.” I believe that girls from Generation Z will add new ways of thinking about the world’s problems and will help to advance our society even more.

Rishi Malhotra

Rishi Malhotra is a junior at Plano West Senior High School where he is a member of Student Congress. His favorite subject is choir and he enjoys writing songs as an extracurricular activity.

Q: Who are your role models and why? What impact did they make?

A: My main role model is Ellen Degeneres because of how she uses her influence to make a positive world. She realized her full potential and consistently aims at aiding the unfortunate and making the world a happier place with her smile.

Q: What impact will your generation make?

A: I think right now the world is at turning point, in all aspects of our lives including: socially between diverse people; divisions between everyone in the political spectrum; and especially contrasting views on our ever-changing environment. I think our generation will be able to navigate these complex problems, arrive at a solution that appeases everyone, and create a better world for the next generation.  

Q: What are some of the most important issues you see in this country?

A: I think the greatest issue in our country right now is the divide between the citizens. America is the land of the free, the land of immigrants, and the land of prosperity where everyone should feel at home. There is a fundamental problem we need to address together if our own fellow Americans feel unsafe to be themselves, express any of their beliefs, or face inequalities which restrict their rights. These issues start from the ground level, and anything we can do locally to alleviate the root of the problems should be our focus.

Q: What do you think about your generation?

A: We’ve grown up with this age of advanced technology, a time of complex racial issues, and overall a level of increased interpersonal connectedness between people. The self-awareness we all have and our concern for wanting to make life meaningful makes us special. We throw tradition out the window and bring in our own creative ideas.

I think there is this millennial stereotype that we don’t work as hard as the older generations or that we’re all too fragile for the real world. In reality, I think we are the strongest generation because of the constant bombardment we face with trying to be the most outgoing, extroverted yet community-involved amicable people possible, all while trying to take on extensive school work loads and trying to carve ourselves out a niche to call home.

We are a strong generation because we realize the world we are going into isn’t perfect and there are mounting problems we must address together with unthought-of solutions.

Q: What changes would you like to see in the world?

A: I would like to see hallmark political achievements occur, where I can see not only the first woman become president, but the fifth woman become president, where equal rights are granted to the entire spectrum of citizens, where I don’t have to worry about my or my future children’s safety in school.

I would like to see those posters of hate and aggression become celebrations of love and peace. Though it seems quite elusive and distant, I believe that these hallmark historical events are fast approaching because my generation understands that only together can we all succeed.

Cori Baker

Cori Baker is the former creative editor at Local Profile. She is an alumna of Plano Senior High School and graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor's in Journalism and a minor...