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Message for the Young

March 16, 1986

When looking at the pitfalls of growing up in our society, it's easy to feel despair over the future of today's children. Hardly a day passes without depressing reminders of the pervasiveness of drugs, the alarming percentage of teen pregnancies or the various inadequacies of the American educational system.

In writing about these social problems in the past, we consistently have tried to make the point that no single group bears responsibility for dealing with any of these issues, but rather the community as a whole must play a role in confronting each one. Young people should be bombarded with the message: We care about you; we understand what you're going through; we want to use our experience to help.

Recent days have witnessed several examples of the community extending a hand to its youth and saying just that. They include:

- "Education Sunday," an attempt by the San Diego Unified School District and the ministers of many black churches in the city to involve parents in their children's education. The program included asking parents to sign pledges to provide an atmosphere for learning in their homes by, among other things, seeing that their children have a quiet place to study and encouraging them to do their homework every day.

- The San Diego Rally Against Drugs, spearheaded by the Navy with the cooperation of law enforcement agencies, businesses and sports figures. More than 20,000 adults and children walked down Broadway on March 1 in a demonstration aimed at convincing children who have not yet experimented with drugs that they are better off not to start.

- A four-part program in the San Marcos Unified School District designed not just to teach young people how to avoid pregnancy but to reinforce the belief that they don't have to be sexually active at all. After taking the laudable step last year of openly discussing a counselor's informal survey that 20% of the high school's girls had told her they were pregnant during the 1983-84 school year, Supt. William Streshly called on parent leaders, clerics and his staff to devise a program to address the problem. The approach the group developed was to help build students' self-esteem and decision-making ability.

- The community-based "dropout prevention round table" convened by the San Diego Unified School District. Among its three-year goals are cutting the dropout rate in half.

These kinds of partnerships among the various elements of the community that come into contact with young people are increasingly important, and those who have made these programs happen should be congratulated--and emulated by others.

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