Teen trouble blamed on idleness at forum Many complain of nothing to do

November 09, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

Columbia teen-agers said last night that the 1990s is a difficult period because of pressures to engage in sex and use drugs.

They also said that living in Columbia makes their teen years even more difficult because there is nothing for them to do.

"As teen-agers, we're kind of left out," said Danielle Lowery, a senior at Hammond High School. "There is stuff to do elsewhere, like in the city, but not here."

Danielle was among 90 students and parents who attended a panel discussion on "Being A Teen-ager in the '90s" sponsored by the Parent Teacher Student Association at Hammond High on Guilford Road in Columbia. The program featured a panel of four adults and four Hammond students.

The meeting was a follow-up to a Students Speak Out on Nov. 2 that was sponsored by the school's Student Government Association.

During last night's program, Suzanne Ricklin, a clinical counselor, conducted it like Oprah Winfrey.

With mike in hand, she rushed to adults and teen-agers seated in the school's cafeteria to get their comments on the lack of activities for teens, parent-child relationships, stereotypes, drugs and responsible behavior.

"We're going to try and create a dialogue between parents and young people . . . so we all have a better understanding of one another's perspectives," Ms. Ricklin said.

Clay Seda, 38, father of a 14-year-old Hammond ninth-grader, asked the four teen panelists why teen-agers in the 1990s think they are any different from other teen-agers who have ever lived.

"Every decade it gets harder to be a teen-ager," responded Amy Hanson, a senior. She said nowadays, people are indulging in drugs and sex at a younger age.

Sometimes, the pressures and circumstances of today's society make it hard to avoid trouble, she said.

For instance, she recalled how she and some friends ran into a male friend and got into his car. They found he had alcohol in the car, but didn't get out because it was dark and they were afraid to walk home. The friend drove about 90 mph.

She told her mother about the incident, and her mother told Amy: "I could have been planning your funeral."

Hansel Henry, a 10th-grader, said society has changed, becoming more violent. "Nowadays little kids have guns," he said.

But the main topic of discussion seemed to be what is there for teen-agers to do in their free time in Columbia.

Gay Seward, 42, mother of a 15-year-old Hammond High student said, "I think a big problem in Columbia is that there really isn't a lot to do."

She said that when she was a teen-ager there were places to go.

People suggested opening a free or low-cost nightclub for teen-agers, who could go there without parents or chaperones.

"When you have no structure . . . I think you're prone to get into trouble," said Christine Goldin, the mother of a Hammond ninth-grader.

One girl said that police harass teen-agers for no apparent reason.

"We're always harassed," she said. "It's like there's nothing better for the cops to do in Columbia."

C.E. Martin, security coordinator at the Columbia Mall, said teens who hang out there block entrances for patrons. "The Mall is a place of business," Mr. Martin said, adding that it's not a teens-only facility.

Nathan Cunningham, a high school junior who works at the mall, said he stands outside to smoke after work in order to relax, but is frequently bothered by mall security because he fits a certain stereotype.

He let down his ponytail and put a cigarette in his mouth to prove his point. "It's really made me sick," he said of the harassment. "I feel I have the right to do that after having a hard day at work."

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