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Citizenship

Back to the 90s! How Saved By the Bell made me a better global Citizen

Video via Youtube

Jimmy Fallon made my year. The Saved By the Bell gang returned on The Tonight Show last week, making every ‘90s kid nostalgic for their youth. (I mean seriously, weren’t the 90s the best? Nirvana, slap bracelets, beanie babies, treasure trolls, Lisa Frank – the list could go on. How I miss those neon-hewed days.)

Saved By the Bell was my TV jam. Admittedly, the American teen-sitcom was more a confectionary comedic escape, but Bayside High had its fair share of earth-shattering events from pill popping to poverty.

hair flip forevvvva | Photo: Giphie

The show had a glorious four-year run in the early 90s, and a more formative influence on my life than I feel comfortable admitting – but I believe in giving credit where credit is due. Kelly taught me to never underestimate the power of a good hair flip. I definitely hawked Jessie’s fiery pro-women comebacks. And my affinity for crop-tops and tube socks found its origin at Bayside High (oh yeah, I am stylin’!).

Fashion tips aside, Saved by the Bell was totally informative. Put on your walkman and take a walk-down-memory lane with me as I revisit some of the internalized truisms of Saved By the Bell. Here's the dillio - the show, like, made me a better Global Citizen.

Saved By the Bell Life Lesson #1: Be a Feminist

Photo: Giphy

Jessie Spano was Bayside’s resident feminist. While some of Jessie’s politics can be called into question (check out Saved By the bellhooks AMAZINGblog critiquing the show’s feminist discourse - think of it as a meme for the nerdy), she was awesome at calling out men on campus who referred to women as “chicks” and “babes.” Jessie is my hero for standing up as a feminist, particularly given the thick skulls of Zack, Slater, and Screech. Feminism has become somewhat of a dirty word in past years, but allow Jessie as a template for making the personal political.

Saved By the Bell Life Lesson #2: Love conquers all

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High school love - first relationships, and chaperoned dates - is something, ain’t it? Zack and Kelly taught me that despite breaking-up every-other episode, love conquers all. After years of the pair having an up-and-down relationship, the lovers finally tied the knot in the corniest Vegas wedding ever televised. Apply the Zack/Kelly saga to humanitarian work - despite the frustrations, disappointments, and headbanging against the wall, in the end, if you show passion for making change, love can buoy you towards creating real, and permanent, change.

Saved by the Bell Life Lesson #3: Dream Big

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The aspirations of the Bayside crew ranged from housewife (Kelly) to scientist (Jessie). The Saved By the Bell crew did everything larger than life. Whether in their relationship drama, hair, clothing, or ridiculous dialogue, the pals of Saved By the Bell showed me that pizzazz works towards one’s advantage.

Saved by the Bell Life Lessons #4: Things Don’t Always Go As Planned

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For Screech, nothing ever went as planned. Lisa Turtle rejected him 4,998 times. He could never get a date, and was considered the weirdo of Bayside. Screech kept truckin’ forward, even at times where it seemed easier to give up. It’s the same in global development. Things don’t always go according to plan, but sustained effort is how goals will be achieved. Point in case: Screech and Lisa did, eventually, go to the movies together.

Saved by the Bell Life Lesson #5: Time-outs are a good thing

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If only we all had Zack Morris’s magic power to temporarily freeze time by calling "Time out! But this surreal ability is a good reminder for all of us. Sometimes the best course of action is to pause and think. All too often, global leaders and humanitarians will make emotional over logical decisions – in those moments, mindfulness is best. Contemplate on how to move forward before acting is always better than blindly charging ahead. Thanks, Zack!

Saved by the Bell Life Lesson #6: Learn How to Compromise

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Talk about fire and water! Jessie and Slater’s relationship didn’t make sense. Slater was the token, hunky jock. Jessie was the book-smart feminist who didn’t take crap from anyone. When the two got together, it was the quintessential story of opposites attracting. The pair challenged one another in their relationship, and despite their disagreements, managed to come to a mutual understanding through compromise. Oink-oink, baby!

Saved by the Life Lesson #7: No one is perfect

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Remember the episode where Kelly had a serious case of the craters right before prom!? It’s a hard reality to accept, but no one is perfect. Despite Kelly’s zits, she still won the crown, proving being human is far more appealing than being flawless. For humanitarians, sometimes it can feel like we, global citizens, have to be perfect in order to work towards a better tomorrow. But ultimately, as long as we are honest and hold ourselves to high standards of justice and global well-being, we all can be nominated for prom queen!

Saved By the Life Lesson #8: Success doesn’t come easy.

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Jessie had a 4.0 GPA, awesome zingers, and really, really good hair. She had a total meltdown striving towards perfection. Success doesn’t come easily, and it takes work. In those moments of stress, and when things seem impossible, go to people that can support you and help you achieve your dreams. The clan at Bayside always had one another’s backs.Their success in school, life, and relationships, wasn’t easily obtained, but achieved through the support of their strong network. We can apply this model towards humanitarian work - by connecting and building bridges, we, global citizens, can achieve the difficult task of ending extreme poverty.

Saved by the Life Lesson #9: Stay positive

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Just like being a teen, humanitarian work isn’t always conducive to a super happy outlook (floods, famine, poverty, and disease aren’t cheery). But staying positive is imperative for keeping momentum, and it also helps with burnout. In those moments, when world change seems too big to conquer, STAY POSITIVE, and keep moving forward.

Saved by the Life Lesson #10: When all else falls, DANCE

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Even the most optimistic humanitarian is going to feel down sometimes given the ever-depressing global headlines. In those moments, when the world in causing you to sing the blues, take it to the Max like Kelly and Slater, and get those endorphins pumping and dance out the angst! Bonus points if you wear a glittery bodysuit!


Saved By the Bell was the ultimate mix of high jinx and wisdom, offering digestible bits of life advice without seeming overly precocious. More than an afterschool special, Saved By the Bell was a cultural phenomenon and American obsession. The show’s morals were solid, and each episode left its viewers with a little snippet of wisdom. For me, Bayside gave some sage advice that I have carried into adulthood. Pop-culture works in mysterious ways. Totally.

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Kathleen Ebbitt