By the time a young person reaches his or her teens, there is a lot they have to juggle in their lives — school, family, jobs, sports, their future and friends, to name a few. Teens living and growing up in South Lake Tahoe voice the same concerns as those of their peers throughout the country. To understand the scope of their concerns, we need to hear what is on their minds.Our local Boys & Girls Club teens joined teens from 4,000 other clubs in a national survey to glean information about their issues and concerns in order that we are better prepared to provide the programs and resources they need for a successful future.The top three issues indentified by the teens in the national survey were:1. Access to college, jobs, and training after high school. Nearly all teens surveyed (95 percent) thought that graduating from high school was critical to their future success, yet 74 percent said they know someone who has dropped out of school. Nearly half of teens (44 percent) said the biggest obstacle in going to college is cost; followed by poor grades (18 percent); family issues (7 percent) and they don’t know how to apply (6 percent). In the survey, 75 percent said it’s more important to be educated than to make a lot of money.2. Violence affecting youth. In the survey, 27 percent said they felt very safe at school; 55 percent said they felt somewhat safe; 18 percent reported their school was not very safe or not safe at all. Nearly half in the survey (44 percent) said they knew someone who has carried a weapon to school.3. Risky behaviors by youth including drugs, alcohol, sexual activity, and gangs. More than one third (42 percent) of teens surveyed have been offered drugs at school.Trei Dudley, a freshman business major at the University of Arkansas, was recently selected as the National Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year. This is an honor bestowed on an outstanding club member selected from more than 4,000 clubs across the country. On Jan. 29, along with BGCA President and CEO Jim Clark, Trei spoke with CNN.com about these and other issues teens feel impact their future during a State of the Youth address. “Our BGCA survey reflects what I often hear from young people — they want and need our nation’s leaders to address their priorities,” Dudley said. Trei and Jim issued a call to action to all Americans — teens and adults — to sign an online petition asking the White House to form a National Teen Advisory Committee as part of the National Commission on Children with efforts led by Save the Children, Harlem Children’s Zone and Boys and Girls Club. The committee will ensure our nation’s leaders stay engaged and offer solutions for the most pressing issues facing youth. You can join our quest to give our nation’s youth a voice in their future, and ours, by visiting www.bgca.org/stateoftheyouth to learn more and to sign the on-line petition. Let’s help our youth turn their challenges into opportunities!— Karen Houser is the executive director of the Boys & GIrls Club of Lake Tahoe.
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