Proactive and Passionate Youth Can Inspire and Make a Difference

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(The Vancouver Sun, March 3, 2003)

Question: I am the proud mother of a responsible, 15 year old boy. He participates in a school peer counseling program during the school year, and as far as I know generally treats people with respect. These days you’d think my son was an exception to the average teen. I am constantly hearing about teens and young adults doing destructive things and committing horrific crimes. It seems like weekly I am reading about something in the newspapers or hearing about them on the news or through the community. It really scares me. Why don’t we ever hear about some of the positive things teens are doing? Surely, there are newsworthy things out there that teens are doing that are good.
Signed, Still Hopeful in Vancouver, BC
Teresa: You bring up an excellent point. Despite the negative coverage teens have received in the media, I truly believe that there has never been a more proactive generation of teens. There are thousands of teens we unfortunately rarely hear about, committed to contributing to the well being of our communities. Walk into any high school and you’ll hear about programs ranging in focus from teens against drinking and driving to anti-smoking programs – all of which are teen directed and run. So… in honour of the numerous amazing teens amongst us, this column is dedicated to the promotion of creating a more accurate and positive image of our youth. Here is a mere sampling of some of the projects to which thousands of teens generously volunteer there time and commitment in order to make a difference in the world:

  • Our Environment: The Great Canadian Shoreline Clean Up is a program coordinated by the Vancouver Aquarium dedicated to cleaning water sites in BC. Last September, hundreds of BC teens participated in cleaning 177 water sites including lakes, rivers, streams, and beaches. They removed 1518 bags of debris from propane tanks to cigarette butts cleaning an area of 247km of water. This year the clean up is being held September 14-22. Children, teens and adults may participate by contacting Tara Taylor at the Vancouver Aquarium at 604-659-3487 or by checking out the website at www.vanaqua.org.
  • Our emotional well being: The Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Center for BC. Youth and young adults participate and volunteer throughout BC to help members of our community cope with stress and receive information at times of crisis. They commit to 4 hours weekly for a period of a year on the phone lines either delivering information and resources or lending a supportive, nonjudgmental ear to those in need. In addition, they also volunteer in the Community Education Program facilitating workshops in the schools on Stress Management, and Suicide Awareness. For information on volunteering at our local Vancouver crisis Center, call 604-872-1811 or for other areas in BC look under Crisis Center in the white pages of the phone book.
  • Our Safety: Youth Against Violence. This program is in partnership with the RCMP and Safe School Center with the goal of decreasing youth violence in our communities. Youth participated in directing this initiative and the youth against violence gang & youth contact phone line. The number, 604-775-GANG or 1-800-680-GANG throughout BC, is an answering service where youth may leave a confidential message regarding any information they have pertaining to youth violence. It may be they are aware of a fight about to take place or are experiencing harassment themselves. They may leave a name and number to receive a call back or simply leave the time and location they know a fight will take place and an officer will respond.
  • The futures of our youth: The Boys and Girls Club. Every year teens volunteer in commitment to various programs dedicated to the well being and positive growth of young people in the community. They volunteer their time to projects ranging from computer labs focused on providing youth the opportunity to learn new skills, arts & crafts workshops to give youth an opportunity to express themselves artistically, to out trips designed to giving youth a chance to see and experience new things they might not have otherwise had the ability to participate in. In addition, they also volunteer in programs under the Boys and Girls Club such as Odyssey 1 &2. Odyssey is a counseling, education and awareness service dedicated to the prevention of substance abuse.

I could go on and on but the column is only so long and I can’t possibly cover all of the numerous ways youth have changed our lives and communities for the better. They have saved lives with prevention and awareness programs, saved environments with clean up projects, decreased violence, helped heal emotional wounds in youth struggling from abusive backgrounds, and provided opportunities for learning. They have consistently filled me with awe at their energy, commitment, wisdom and courage. I think we have every reason to feel hopeful at this amazing generation of teens.