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Don't overlook teens who care

As residents of Clearwater move ever closer to the end of this decade, we join with the rest of the nation in preparing for a promising future. Unfortunately, we also share our concerns about youth and the violence in their lives. Even though statistics reveal that your child has a one in a million chance of being shot at school, recent disturbing events reveal several concerns that we as a community need to address. Blame has been passed out to everyone for the demoralization of young people. From the film industry to video game producers to working mothers, adults cast stones in all directions in order to find answers to such questions as: Why is there so much violence? How could the shootings at Columbine High School happen?

We grudgingly admit that adults can commit violent acts, but seem to be stunned when teens do the same thing. Perhaps it is because we as adults don't want to deal with the roller coaster ride of adolescence. As teens change, they lose that adorability and become that part of our own lives that we have conveniently forgotten. And for a reason _ it was a very traumatic time in our lives that we often want to block out. So we don't give teens the attention they deserve.

Teenagers have long been considered second-class citizens. What they do, how they dress, how they talk and even whom they are seen with become important only when something distressing happens. Media, parents, teachers and the general adult public tend to focus on negative behaviors without realizing that is part of the problem. When the teens lament, "You're always criticizing me!" they're not far from wrong. So now what?

We don't offer any absolute solutions, but will throw out a question. How can we as adults change? We can stop blaming others and look at what we are doing. We can start adding positive observations. We can celebrate those teens who have decided to make a difference in their world.

Some of those teens are right here in Clearwater. The ". . . try denting it" committee is a group of teen volunteers based at Clearwater Countryside Library whose purpose is to do something about the problems their peers experience. Their slogan, a reflection of their realistic goals, states "Maybe we can't change the world . . . try denting it." Just as the students of Columbine are beginning their school year with the keyword "respect," the ". . . try denting it" committee advocates self-esteem and tolerance through education.

A top concern is personal safety and gun awareness. So, the committee has invited Clearwater Police Officer Greg Stewart to speak on that topic. The program will be at Clearwater Countryside Library, 2741 State Road 580, at 7 p.m. Monday. We hope the success of this initiative by caring teens will not only be noticed by adults but also will stimulate and inspire other teens to create their own positive destiny.

_ Jana Fine is Youth Services manager and Julie Hudson is Youth Services librarian at Clearwater Countryside Library.