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VOICES / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES | Youth Essay

Most Teens Are 'Pretty Good People'

April 24, 1999|JENNIFER CLARK | Jennifer Clark attends City of Angels Independent Study and is a staff writer with L.A. Youth

I was glued to the TV following everything about the teens who killed all those people at their high school in Colorado. You get caught up in these types of stories. It's so unbelievable and horrific. You don't want to think that people could do something like that. So you protect yourself by labeling teenagers as "out of control." It's all the teenagers' fault--those bad kids.

I'm 15. I know what most people think: a teenager. What if she's just like those Columbine boys? What if she's some kind of deranged individual who looks up to Adolf Hitler? She probably spends all her time looking up bomb instructions on the Internet.

Is this what what most people were like as teenagers? Probably not. I'm not like that either. I spend my time talking on the phone, writing letters and giggling at movies. I have never seen a gun. I enjoy swimming, playing with my dog and listening to the Spice Girls. I'm your average teen.

You see me at your church and baby-sitting your child. I mow the lawn and set the dinner table each night. Most teens are just like this. We do not wear masks and take assault weapons to school. We are respectful and try very hard to become successful in whatever we do.

I value life. It's important to me to make my family proud. I want to be valedictorian of my class, get high SAT scores, attend the college of my choice and become successful in my career. When I do decide to marry, I want to be happy and raise my child to be moral.

And my priorities are typical for people my age. At LA Youth, the newspaper by and about teens, we did a survey of 709 teens and we found out that teens have good priorities.

When asked what they would like to change in their lives, here were the top choices:

* my relationship with my family (42%);

* my relationship with God (40%);

* my self-esteem (38%).

A majority of teens said it was "extremely important" to do well in school (85%), get into college (79%) and get a good job in the future (91%). This is teen reality--we love our families, we worry about our futures and we're pretty good people.

The Colorado incident should not be used to stereotype all youths.

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