Role Models for Today's Generation

Everywhere you turn there is another advertisement urging adults to be positive role models for our present generation of teenagers. How could one disagree with this concern?
Teenagers everywhere are in need of ...

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Everywhere you turn there is another advertisement urging adults to be positive role models for our present generation of teenagers. How could one disagree with this concern?

Teenagers everywhere are in need of role models, mentors and life coaches. The challenges the average teenager faces in a given day are disarming.

From every quarter of our larger community, we hear people voicing their concern about our teenagers and the choices and decisions they are making.

Thirty years ago, life was simpler. You got up in the morning, had breakfast and went to school. After school, you played a sport or stayed after for an activity, then returned home. Everyone gathered for dinner. After dinner, you did homework, then shortly after, went to bed. One's choices were very limited. They were best expressed in the limited television stations you had to choose from.

Today, if you have a satellite dish or a cable box, you may have hundreds of choices. Most families have a desktop computer and/or a laptop wireless computer. Again, a wider range of very different choices.

Thirty years ago, there was a good chance that when you got home from school, there was a parent at home to greet you. Today, only the lucky have a parent who can stay home.

Many teenagers come home to an unsupervised home and are tempted to engage in behavior that is potentially problematic. In these unsupervised settings, our middle school and high school coeds are more likely to experiment with drugs, alcohol and sex.

The social landscape thirty years ago was also very different. When you thought about positive role models and heroes, you would quickly think about doctors, lawyers, teachers, clergy and athletes. There is not a respected profession that has not been profoundly blemished due to the poor decision making of people from every walk of life.

Who would have thought that a sitting President would be impeached and accused of sexual misconduct; not to mention the clergy scandal, the school scandal and the Congressional scandal presently unfolding on Capitol Hill.

So where does this present generation look for role models and mentors? Who can they look up to? As adults, who do we want them to look up to?

Homecoming for most high schools across the country is seen as a positive, wholesome activity that attempts to unify and celebrate not only positive school spirit, but also positive community spirit.

Unfortunately, this once, time honored sacred tradition is also being infected with reckless decision making, not only on the part of students, but also their parents.

In a local Suffolk County community, an upper middle class, highly regarded community celebrated their annual homecoming ritual.

It began early in the week of their homecoming weekend. The various classes worked hard on their class floats. This year, in this school district, student and faculty participation was up. They had their big pep rally in the gym. The weather forecast for the autumn weekend was superlative.

The annual high school parade began in the late morning. Thousands lined the streets to support their children's floats and their high school football team.

Thousands packed the high school stadium for their annual game. Many more adults came this year over last. Some faculty who volunteered for campus security commented on the crowd, but also on their behavior. There was much more drinking in the stands and the blatant sharing of beer with underage students. The faculty supervisors felt like the police.

By half time, there were record numbers of people, students and adults alike, who were being escorted off the campus due to public intoxication and rowdy behavior.

After the game, hundreds of adults and students continued to celebrate homecoming by tailgating in the high school's parking fields.

The tailgating got out of control and the police had to be called. Four students were hospitalized because of their alcohol consumption. The attitude expressed that day was even more disturbing. Many who participated did not see the big deal. They were drinking to excess in front of their kids. In too many circumstances to count, people were allowing underage students to drink. When confronted, many said, "at least they are not driving."

On Monday morning, the school social worker facilitated a conversation among the school staff that witnessed the out of control behavior of so many during homecoming weekend. The dilemma that emerged was how to proceed. The staff was alarmed by how many adults and school parents were poor role models that weekend.

Unfortunately, as of this writing, this particular school district was still struggling on how to effectively address this reckless behavior on the part of parents and students during their homecoming celebration.

The easy response is to talk about it and do nothing. The hard response is to create an action plan that will call students and parents to accountability.

One of the troubling aspects of this very complex social dilemma is that if a student had died that weekend because of alcohol poisoning suffered while on campus at homecoming, the larger community would go ballistic. They would demand to know what the district was going to do to address this unfortunate, tragic event.

However, since there was no human tragedy, the troubling behavior of so many will possibly go unaddressed.

Despite our troubled social landscape, positive heroes, mentors and role models are being born among us. We need to seek them out, celebrate their contributions and encourage our young people to look up to them.

We have to work harder at celebrating the good things that ordinary people do on a daily basis. There are countless ordinary men and women who do extraordinary things to make our community a better place.

These anonymous faces volunteer on our ball fields, they serve meals in our soup kitchens, work in our thrift shops and support community initiatives like Christmas Magic and local church food pantries.

They are teachers, doctors, lawyers, fire fighters, police, EMS workers and clergy. They are simple ordinary people who dare to be different as part of their human vocation. They really want to make a difference that counts.

They are our unsung heroes, our mentors and our role models that our teenagers should look up to. As a community, we need to celebrate their goodness.