Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Youth of Today!

How often when we hear that phrase it's a sign of exasperation because the young people haven't behaved in the way which an older person expects. Last night was rather different, and a few preconceived ideas were shaken away.
Some weeks ago young people from local secondary schools were consulted about what they thought of the Western Area (Preston, Eaglescliffe, Yarm, Kirklevington, Long Newton, Elton and surroundings). A graffiti artist produced a canvas of their thoughts and last night I had the privilege of presenting it to the Board. Some things on it really hit home: these young people wanted more help for parents of children with problems, more activities to do as a family rather than split into teenagers, adults, toddlers etc. They saw some of the problems of the area as being the drug dealers who hang around certain places, the play areas which flood so that they can't be used after heavy rain, the lack of places to have exciting rides on their bikes and the lack of places to safely leave their bikes when they arrive at their destination like the swimming pool or the museum.
These were ordinary children, aged from 11 to 16, from ordinary homes in our area. Some of them probably wear hoodies. Some of them probably swear from time to time. Some of them probably don't look very tidy to many adults. But they certainly cared as passionately for their area and their fellow citizens as any of the adults I know.
A group of slightly older young people came along to the meeting, not knowing that this was on the agenda, but wanting to experience a Western Area Partnership meeting for themselves. They had the chance to speak up about what they thought of the ideas on the canvas and what we might do for youngsters in the area.
At the end of the agenda item all the board agreed that we needed to have a way of moving forward on these things. That it isn't good enough to come back again next year and say the same things. We are now committed to trying to get some things moving and to report back on progress. I'm sure that the young people will hold us to account.

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