SPEAK YOUR MIND
Sunday, 28. August 2011 - 23:45 Uhr
The media have been saturated, in recent years, with articles on the troubles of today's teens: drugs, drinking, dropping out, gangs, violence in the schools, STDs, poverty, racism, running away, suicide, AIDS, illiteracy, truancy ...
Filled with facts and figures, most articles have addressed these issues from an adult perspective. But what do young people say is their greatest concern? What solutions do they suggest?
When teens are truant, is it because they're tired from working? Or are the classes boring, the teachers indifferent? When they skip school, where do they go, and what do they do?
Years ago, students dropped out because of external causes: illness, employment, or the need to help at home. Today, personal frustration, failure, and fear are more likely to be contributing factors.
"Nobody is listening, and nobody really cares," says Angie, 18. (Names have been changed to conceal identities. Without anonymity, teens felt they could not give honest answers on the issues without facing possible negative repercussions from parents and teachers), a senior at Newton High School.
'No place to go'
Outside of school, young people say, the biggest problem is that there's no place for them to go.
"Senior citizens have their places to meet" in most communities, one student said. "Kids go to daycare. But there's no place around here for teenagers to get together." So on Friday and Saturday nights, the dark, vacant parking lot on Highway 278, location of the former Kmart, informally converts to a youth hangout. ...
"We don't have any where else to go, so we hang out here," says Anthony, a former student of Newton County High.
"Right here is what we've got to do," says Rod, pointing to the dark, empty lot. "Anywhere else, you get run off."
"The bowling alley closed down. The pool hall closed down. We can't go to bars. This is all we have," he says. "We used to love to bowl."
"The cops come through here and tell us to turn our music down," he says, as a patrol car pulls onto the lot. "We're a bunch of drunks, drug addicts, that's how they perceive us. But we're not hurting anybody."
"If the police come up here, they'll give him (the driver of the car playing loud music) a ticket," says Anthony.
"But you can go to a bar and play music as loud as you want," Rod says.
"They should give us something to do," says Ginger. "They don't want us drinking and driving, but we have to go to Athens or Milledgeville for something to do."
Teens wish the community would just provide them with a place to go, they say.
"They don't have to serve alcohol. Just a place for music, getting together."
Their desire for socialization is both healthy and harmless. Covington police report no recent acts of violence or trouble in the parking lot where local youth gather. A squad patrols the area only when called upon by concerned members of the public, police say. Occasionally an under-age drinker is instructed to pour out an alcoholic beverage, they say, but no arrests have been made.
"We understand they have no place to go, and they're not hurting anyone," one officer says.
At home and in school Young people often don't want to entertain their friends at home. It is the home to which many teens' troubles can be traced.
Some "parents are like the teachers at school," says Anthony. "They don't want to listen. If you do something wrong, you get in trouble. If you do something good," they don't say anything.