News headlines inform us of an alarming increase in crimes being committed by American youth. Not only are the percentages growing but the amount of violence involved is terrifying.
Those committing these crimes seem to be younger and younger.
Whether these crimes are random or premeditated, they are equally troubling. A youth becoming angry enough to plot to shoot a classroom of children, or to plot to poison a teacher, can be as unsettling as a youth who shoots a stranger from a passing car.
Adults are justifiably concerned. If the youth who dominate the headlines are examples of the future there is cause for worry.
However, these youth, though in need of help and guidance, are only a small percentage of our young people.
We as a society must be careful not to label all of our youth as troubled or worry that they are beyond help. Many young people are preparing for productive, positive futures.
There are young people who are working to make changes in fields such as education, health and science. Some youth are scholars while others are choreographers, dancers, community leaders and music producers.
There are youth who patiently instruct other youth. Many are simply enjoying their childhood.
As a new professor at Eastern Washington University, I have met several wonderful youth who are polite, helpful, fun and directed. They have hopes, dreams and plans.
Young men hold doors open for me. One student went out of her way to escort me to a building I was trying to locate. I am addressed as “Ma’am” and “Miss.”
Students greet me as they hurry to class. I have found this to be true of all the students, even those who do not know if I am a faculty member or a mature student. Late students come to me after class apologizing for not being on time.
I feel more assured of our future.
Productive youth are not confined to Eastern. While I was cleaning my church on a sunny Saturday in preparation for Sunday’s service, a 15-year-old male began vacuuming on his own. We silently continued with our tasks until the church was clean.
Older children look after younger ones. They sing with pride in the choir. During service the young girls voluntarily care for babies and change diapers.
Youth today are faced with choices that we adults never had to face. They are being raised in environments that did not exist when we were young. Some are making poor choices while others are making dangerous ones.
It is sometimes easy to be swept away with the news stories and to think that today’s youth are hopeless. However, we need not only to realize that the majority of our youth are making positive steps towards a rewarding future, but also to recognize, validate and help them.