Based on the research in the various fields of youth development, the single most important factor that makes a positive difference in the life of young people is the presence of caring adults.
Now, let me be clear from the outset, there is a lot of good being done behind the scenes to benefit our young people in Sampson County, and we need to acknowledge and celebrate those collective efforts. However, the fact remains, we still have too many young people whose lives we see “crash in slow motion” every day. As a community of people of good will, we still have the high charge and responsibility for the general welfare of our young people. No matter what first-impression we have of our young people, after we get beyond the fashion and music, they are good and decent people.
To those people of good will who make up this community, let me just remind you that we are all responsible for our young people’s futures, becoming community activists in support of all young people. By encouraging young people to stay in school and succeed in life, we are helping them to reach their full potential and become inspired to take ownership of their own future.
Believing that it takes an entire community to raise a child, when the well-being of our young people is ignored, we do a great disservice to the future of our community. As caring adult community stakeholders, we should all pitch in, helping to support our young people as if they were our own, reminding them, when appropriate, they need to “straighten up and fly right.” And just as it should be, providing for the general welfare of our young people is everybody’s business as we find ways to direct their power toward good outcomes.
It will remain my firm conviction that hope lies in what we, as a community, do in finding ways to make all young people feel connected, validated and cared for through building stronger relationships. Yes, we have to believe that our young people can be successful, pulling themselves up and out of negative circumstances. Further, we must let our young people know we’re with them, that we’re here for them, while encouraging them to become life-long learners as a means to enhance and upgrade their skills and knowledge.
If we are sincere and genuine in our desire to make a difference in the lives of our young people, we will have fewer young people “just there on a corner, nothing to do, angry and frustrated.” So, let’s take up the torch as we cherish the future of our young people by expanding opportunities for all, especially college opportunities for our low-income youth, with the knowledge that an investment in our young people will be eventual cost-savings for all.
Being proactive in dealing with these systemic, long-standing concerns will go a long way in building a sense of hope and optimism among our young people.
Larry Sutton is a retired teacher from Clinton High School.