“Our generation thinks a lot about what we’re going to be facing when we’re adults, and how the world will be then. I know that’s a thought that comes to my mind…” says Rachel Magee, age 11. She’s a sixth-grade student at Newark Center for Creative Learning (NCCL) School, where she and some of her peers are discussing what they envision for the future of Delaware. Children from Indian River High School, Cape Henlopen High School and the Campus Community School (CCS) shared their thoughts, too, discussing pressing issues such as climate change, division over gun laws and a lack of mental health resources.
“I’d like Delaware to be known for their education and as a safe community,” notes Matthew Neunuebel of NCCL School, age 11, fifth grade. “And I would like to see more things that we could do for Black rights…I think if more people did that, that would be great for Delaware, and show that it’s a safe environment.” For many children in the First State, safety and equity are key concerns for the future. Magee agrees that more conversation around racial struggles and racism in Delaware would be beneficial to all.
An emphasis on improving the educational system in Delaware is echoed by other students, such as Chase Ruley of Indian River High School (age 15, 10th grade) who singles out the current methods of education as the most pressing issue facing young people today. Cyrus Spaulding, a 12-year-old sixth-grader from NCCL, says, “I think one of the biggest problems that a lot of children around the country are facing is book banning, because it is usually targeting historical facts about slavery or recent things about the LGBTQ+ community…In a lot of cases, knowledge is power, and when that’s taken away…you take peoples’ power away to make a change and empower themselves.”
Spaulding also discusses gun safety in schools, pointing out that it’s an anxiety for children across the country. “I would really like to see tighter gun restrictions for Delaware, because guns are something that, right now, the U.S. is having a big problem with—in all states.” According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the top killers of kids in the United States—and in Delaware—is homicide by firearms.
Magee and Spaulding both underscore the importance of environmental action in the face of climate change. “I would like for Delaware to have stronger energy efficiency…going to solar panels and stuff…because right now that’s a big problem and it’s going to keep getting worse and worse if we don’t do anything about it,” says Spaulding. Magee agrees, “One thing I would like to see is less use of plastic…I feel like [climate change] is a very big conflict that our generation has to deal with.”
Patrick Raymond Starkey Jr., age 17, an 11th-grader at Indian River High School, says that he hopes that Delaware someday reaches “a point in which our oceans are completely clean” and mentions that larger fines should be implemented for littering.
Drew Barthelmess, a 17-year-old 10th-grader also from Indian River, hopes that Delaware will “still have lots of trees and wildlife in Delaware after all the communities [are] built,” and hopes to limit the amount of development allowed in our state. Olivia Caplan, a 10-year-old fifth-grader from NCCL, hopes to see more electric cars on the roads in the future, and expanded access to healthy foods for all.
Mental health is also a concern for children in Delaware, such as Aubrie Myers, a 17-year-old 11th-grader from Cape Henlopen High School. “In my opinion, the biggest issue teens are facing today are the mental health struggles and stressors that go into planning for their futures…Luckily, I go to a school that provides mental health resources, but I’m sure that’s not the case for every teen.” Suicide and self-harm remain a significant problem among young people, and mental health resources in schools are crucial to keeping kids safe.
Other issues mentioned by students in Delaware: technological overuse in children under 13 (Jillian Coulbourn, age 16, 10th-grader at Indian River), congested traffic, especially in Sussex County (Myers, Coulbourn and Sebastian Munro, age 16, 10th-grader at Indian River), and a rising cost of goods (Julia Caggiano, age 15, 10th-grader at Indian River; Aidan Binko, age 16, 10th-grader at Indian River).
Naomi Boland, a 14-year-old CCS student, will be attending Polytech High School in the fall. “We are getting taught from our parents to have one point of view, instead of listening to everyone else’s point of view and choosing what opinion you agree with most,” Boland points out. “One of my huge hopes for Delaware in the future…it’s a place where everyone listens to each other and hears everyone’s point of view.”