The final days of the year are often spent in merriment, reflection and planning for a prosperous New Year; like adults, teens are also looking forward to 2009. Many are calling it “The Year of Obama;” others are calling it “The Year of You can make it!”
I sat down and talked with some teens and asked them about their plans, goals, and resolutions for 2009. As usual, they had a lot to say with great enthusiasm. They were insightful, encouraging and geared up for “Everything is fine in 2009,” the tag an 18-year old Austin High School senior named Jamal shared.
When asked what he thought would be fine about the year, Jamal laughed and said, “Everything! For the first time a brother will be running the country and living in the White House. That’s just the beginning of the good stuff.”
I asked him about the recession, the economy and crime.
“Hey, that stuff is going to change and get better. Crime is already down and the people have money, they just don’t want to spend it right now. Did you see them in the malls?”
Jamal, a future college business major and entrepreneur, was exceptionally excited about his early acceptance to the University of Illinois.
“Man, now I can really celebrate,” he said. “When I finish school, I’m going to open several businesses and maybe a school for troubled students,” he said. “I’d like to open a restaurant, boutique and an insurance company. That’s three things everybody needs; something to eat, wear and protection,” he added with a smile.
Kelli, the 17-year-old pregnant teen who shared her story earlier this month, is now enjoying her newborn son, who arrived a few days before Christmas.
“The delivery was rough,” Kelli said, “but holding him makes it all worth it. I still say teens should say no to sex and wait! Wait! Wait! I have a baby now, so I’m making the best of it. I can’t help but think about how much simpler my life would be if I wasn’t a teen mother.”
In-between feedings and diaper changes, Kelli shared with me her New Year’s goals. She doesn’t have much time to spend with her friends now, but she is looking forward to returning to school in February.
“I’ll have to study on my own during January,” she said. “Then, when I’m able, I’ll go back and finish with my class. Yes, I’m still a little afraid; being a mother is a big responsibility. I’m glad I have my mother and sister to help me.”
Ralph, an 18-year old Austin resident, said he is glad to see this year come to a close. “I had a tough year,” he said. “Everything bad that could happen to me did happen. I dropped out of school, lost my part-time job and got arrested twice.”
Ralph, like so many young people, got caught up with the wrong crowd and was driving a car without insurance or a valid driver’s license. Fortunately, he got off with a suspended sentence and probation.
“I’ve re-enrolled in college” he said, “and I’m looking for a part-time job. Whenever I feel like I can’t make it, I think about Obama, and I get busy,” he added with enthusiasm.
Tina, 17, has great plans for her New Year. She and her brother, Joe, launched an internet business where they configure blog spots and sell ads.
“I read an article about teen millionaires who made it big on the internet and I said, I can do that, so I did,” she said. “We already have three clients. I might not become a millionaire, but I believe we will make some money!”
Many teens are using the internet as a source of income by selling things like designer sportswear, homemade jams or even peanut brittle.
Teens are also making their mark in the field of science and as environmentalist. There are several well-noted teen geniuses who have made significant contributions to the world in the field of bacteria research, saving marine life, unclogging landfills and launching innovative going-green campaigns.
Sterling, 19, said he is going to spend his New Year trying to educate teens about the risks of driving while drunk.
“Alcohol-related traffic deaths are the leading cause of death for teens,” he said. “I lost two good friends to traffic accidents this year alone. Only one involved drinking, the other was a tragic traffic accident.
“I want to tell teens, it’s not worth it to drink and drive. Find another way to fit in. Get high off life, music, there is always something better than drugs and alcohol. Find a way you can enjoy you and live to tell about it,” Sterling added.
Yasmine, 19, of Oak Park, said she has a new perspective on life after losing a good friend to suicide earlier this year.
“He had been sad for a while, but I never thought he would kill himself, “she said. According to many studies, suicide is the third-leading cause of death among teenagers, coming in behind malignant neoplasm, which includes various types of cancers and other abnormal growths.
Teenagers are the leaders of tomorrow. Their voices are strong now and can only become stronger if they are given a chance to be heard, supported and encouraged.