In 1973 two teachers at Dreher High School created a program to give teenagers an opportunity to serve as mentors to middle school students. The idea was approved by the school principal because he felt the program had a twofold purpose. The teenagers would help the middle school children while at the same time it would give the high school students something to do with their free time.
The nation is dealing with yet another blow to the country's image abroad with the tragic murder of Christopher Lane and the arrest of three teenagers and the police reports that the senseless murder was a random act of violence due to boredom.
The statistics for summer youth employment support the sad truth that America has the highest teen unemployment rate in history. Millions of teenagers are unemployed, bored, and waiting for trouble. A strong summer youth employer employment program serves teenagers by giving them gainful employment. Mayor Vincent Gray understood the importance of teenagers having jobs during the summer and he made the youth employment program one of his top priorities.
D.C. had the most successful youth employment program in the nation this summer and it caused barely a ripple in the media. Having worked in youth programs to help teenagers for 40 years the present writer has witnessed what happens when effective youth employment programs are established. "For the third year in a row, the program came in under budget – this year, nearly $2 million under budget. All of its approximately 15,000 participants were certified as eligible residents of the District of Columbia. They worked at jobs in all kinds of private businesses, non–profit organizations and government agencies. The participants were paid on time. And any disputes over pay were resolved within 24 hours. The youth received their paychecks safely and securely, without incidents of theft or robbery on payday," Gray said.
Teenagers who are gainfully employed are less likely to get into criminal behavior. As a volunteer working with teenagers 25 years after the teen involvement program nothing had changed in terms of the problems teenagers faced. Many just wanted a level headed adult to talk to them.
Maggie Hope, a legend in youth services work with teens, said that teenagers need guidance and counsel. "It will never change. 40 years in the past or 40 years in the future teenagers need mentors and volunteers to help them. Many are lost. Many have no idea what to do with their lives. They are always a heartbeat away from getting into trouble. They need adults to guide them before they reach that point," Hope said.
The murder in Oklahoma echoes Hope's brilliant contention that nothing will change 40 years in the past or 40 years in the future. Babies are born the same way as they were 40 years ago. It has been 40 years since the Teen Involvement program was initiated at Dreher High School in 1973. It is time to dust off the training manuals and start the program in every high school in America.
Serving teens now, will serve America later.