Community should learn lesson from negative incident

To the Editor,

I recently had the opportunity to volunteer my time to help chaperone a dance for seventh- and eighth-grade students at the Armory in Craig. Grand Futures Prevention Coalition sponsored this event as a positive alterative activity for our youth.

The dance was very successful, but unfortunately it did not go without incident. After internalizing some of the observations made, as well as the negative closure of the evening, I made the decision to address these issues in the form of this letter. My intention is not to point fingers, but to bring awareness and hopefully an interest to problem solve.

Several adult volunteers donated their Saturday to organize, prepare, decorate and chaperone a "costume party" dance. The targeted youth were seventh and eighth grade, the ages ranged from 12- to 14-years-old. Tables of chips, candy and bottled water were available for the kids to enjoy; there was even a ping-pong table set up! So what happened?

When you gather that many kids together, you can expect a little bit of drama. Girls usually start arguing with each other and boys get competitive. What you don't expect, or prepare for, is the blatant disrespect of having a 13-year-old cuss out a volunteer chaperone because she, and six of her friends, were not allowed to squeeze into a one-bathroom stall. Or, having to reprimand kids for dumping their water bottles on each other and kicking the water bottles across the floor. Despite efforts made to place trash cans by the snack tables, it was much easier for the kids to throw their trash on the floor and in corners. The ping-pong table was a success, until someone decided to sit on it and make it collapse.

Does this sound like a nightmare? Actually it wasn't. As usual, in any gathering, there is the challenge of controlling the troublemakers who sometimes succeed in preventing future events by setting a dark cloud of despair. When chaperones were handling the behavior problems of some, you could look around the room and see it flooded with the majority of kids laughing, and dancing and having a great time. So what's the problem?

The problem happened about 45 minutes before the dance ended. An eighth-grade girl and a couple of her friends came to the dance intoxicated. An observant volunteer detected their inebriation at the door and the child was detained. Attempts were made to make parental contact. Lies were told and quite some time passed before "mom" was located. By this time, the girl had thrown up, passed out and an ambulance was called. Mom got to ride in an ambulance with her child to the hospital because her child now had alcohol poisoning. Mom thought her daughter was babysitting, she didn't know her daughter was at a dance.

To make matters even worse, a female adult in a position of trust provided the alcohol and a male adult helped her and her friends drink it.

Hmmmm, not the safest scenario I would want for my daughter.

So what's my point?

As unfair as it is, the parents are always the first to be blamed. In some cases, rightfully so. Honestly parents, how well do you know your teenager? Do you know what their favorite subject is in school? What they have done that they are most proud of? What is their most prized possession? Who is their hero? What is their biggest fear?

How do you handle a situation when a wall is placed between you and your teen? What do you do if your teen lies regularly or has a rebellious attitude? Does your teen show you respect? Are personal manners, table manners, and telephone manners taught and enforced in your home? Would your children say that you are approachable? Have you exhausted all your resources developing your parenting skills, or, are your children a reflection of you? Do you care?

It was very cold the evening of the dance and some kids walked home or rode bikes because they did not have a ride. Several kids "shared" that their parents didn't know, or didn't care where they were. These are 12-, 13- and 14-year-old kids.

The United Way campaign this year was titled "Investing In the Next Generation." Several local non-profit agencies focus on children and are able to lend a helping hand in troubled families. Many of these agencies focus on prevention. These agencies are always in need of board members, volunteers, chaperones, and donations as they collaborate together to make positive impacts on the lives of our children. Maybe it's right for you to get involved, maybe it's not. But, how will you know unless you give it a try? There are not many rewards that are more fulfilling than one that makes a positive difference in the life of a child.

Just making an observation,

Debi Garoutte,

Director of the Northwest

Colorado Dental Coalition

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