Last updated: June 20. 2014 4:01PM - 195 Views
By Larry Sutton Contributing columnist

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Can you imagine some kids not wanting to leave the safety of the school environment to go home for the summer break? Well, for more kids than we would like to think, this is no exaggeration as some young people reside in homes with constant turmoil ranging from bullying to various forms of child abuse. There is no doubt our youth deserve a summer break, but they deserve to be safe, too.

As a community, we all have a responsibility for the general well-being of our youth, particularly when many of them will spend over nine weeks of potentially unstructured and unsupervised time during this summer.

Even before the last bell rang earlier this month, signalling the start of summer, many parents had concerns about where their children would go and what they would do. Many of them are working parents and would like to have their children engaged in constructive activities. And, then too, many parents lack the resources and support to make plans for the summer break from school, finding it difficult to keep their children occupied in worthwhile and engaging activities. Other parents take the risk of leaving young children alone and unsupervised.

Also, as a community, we have the responsibility of making our youth a priority and finding ways to support them in their attempts to do the right thing. Even though we have many responsible young people and teens, we shouldn’t want to leave them to their own devices for having a productive summer.

Some research suggests that the summer break is when many teens try something new for the first time. With so much free time on their hands, it is imperative for us to help channel that extra time in positive directions, helping young people to better connect with self and others, while acquiring greater personal responsibility.

With more resources and support, parents, grandparents and other legal guardians can help make summer break an enriching and memorable growth experience. As a community, we can surround our youth with an abundance of positive influences, or we can let them surround themselves with an abundance of negative influences. It’s our call, and we will pay regardless.

For the summer of 2014, what percent of our county youth will have access to quality and inclusive summer programs? Let this summer be the time we start creating a broader awareness for summer activities to better serve all our youth, including summer internships and temporary summer jobs, while exposing our youth to future career options and grooming them for future local employment.

These 21st century summer activities can be made possible by transforming our public schools into community centers and by sharing resources resulting from the better coordination and collaboration among our schools, businesses, local government, law enforcement, civic organizations and the faith community.

We can start something now that will continue for generations to come, helping our youth achieve their personal best, by letting summer be a time for continued learning which will help them maintain hope for a brighter future.

So what do we do: whee do we go from here? Well, there are cots. We will pay dearly if we do nothing, but we will pay a whole lot less if we do the right thing. As a society, we can do better; no, we must do better!

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