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The period of the life cycle known as youth is a very special one. In this period they are growing and developing into their adult roles. This is also is a time where they deal with trouble and uncertainty, which some very special and menacing problems can arise. Youth today are being perceived as to having their own culture. This then makes it difficult for the parents to deal with their needs.A major problem our youth are dealing with today are drugs and alcohol abuse. The drugs are out there and many have tried a substance as young as eight years old. Just the legal and socially accepted substances in our society are taking over our youths. We can not just take our kids and hide them in the closet so they will not use any substance at all. We have to educate them about what they are getting involved in if they use drugs or alcohol. This is a way of preventing them from allowing it to interfere with their futures.Parents, schools and churches have to work together to help the children and youth cope with the substance abusing society that we live in. It sounds easy, but it is not because most of the adults have a problem when they start speaking to our youth about it, they would have to admit that they at one time had a drug problem. Therefore, where can we begin in prevention? I really do not know. Of all of the different books that I’ve read on prevention, I have yet to find one that has a definite starting point or solution to drug and alcohol abuse prevention. Other books and articles just discuss how bad the problem is, without telling us how to begin solving the problem.I am going to take the direction of helping our youth. Many have already been exposed to drugs and others are just starting. As parents and adults, we have to save our youth from destroying their lives before it has even begun.We must begin the process of prevention by providing love and structure to the lives of our children, even after they become teenagers. We should help them build their own self-esteem. We must constantly remind them that they have a right to be healthy, and enjoy life without the use of drugs. Parents need to practice what they preach. Today s youth needs to see active role models concerning drug use. Parents and adults need to talk about alcohol, drugs, and their effects. Show our future adults that we can celebrate and have fun without the involvement of drug and/or alcohol. Our youth needs to understand that family members are people they can go to and talk freely to when they have a problem. They should understand that openly expressing their feelings is okay if they are upset. Along with educating the youth on the effects of drugs and alcohol, parents must be honest. Parents need to let their children know that they are more likely to develop alcohol or other drug abuse habits if there is a history in the family. If there is a problem, parents should not be ashamed to talk to them about it. It is very important for our youth to learn how to make decisions, and solve problems before they are confronted with pressures. Show them how the media sends constant, persuasive messages that drug abuse is okay. They need to learn how to recognize and resist these messages. They need to feel that their life is an important part of the world we live in.There are many schools that host alcohol and drug awareness days once a year. Some schools even have classes such as substance and alcohol abuse education. The goal is to teach our youth that drugs and alcohol are a constant threat to them and society. The Education Committee of The White House Conference for a Drug-Free America encourages Americas youth to become actively involved in community programs for the aged, handicapped and other community service programs. This committee also states that youth are in need of drug and alcohol free gathering places, summer programs, after school evening programs. The programs should include academic, cultural, and character building activities. Americas youth must be fully integrated into their communities to develop a strong sense of being important and significant to their communities.

The Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development recently concluded a ten-year study stating that half of the youth population are at risk of damaging their lives. They went on to say that profound societal changes have left our youth with less adult supervision while subjecting them to growing pressure to experiment with drugs, sex, and violence to resolve conflicts. The study strongly suggests Americas youth be able to closely interact and form relationships with adults and professionals. The purpose is to instill the concept that they have opportunities and power in communities and society in which they live. The report also stated that as the risks to Americas youth has risen, so has the costs of ignoring them.Parents, teachers, and now the community must contribute to helping our youth. The youth center that I work for is constantly dealing with youth that are looking for direction. Many of the youth that come to our center go to school and then come home to a house with no one home, because their parents are working. They need a place to go to hang out and do their homework. Then maybe they can use what they know to help the younger children, by tutoring them. We have weekly discussion groups with topics they choose. We allow them to make their own decisions, because they have their own youth board organizing the activities they would like to see for the next month. Another way we allow them to feel needed and helpful is by taking them to the home of a handicapped or senior citizen to shovel snow, rake leaves, and mow lawns. At first, many do not want to do such work, but after they realize that these people need them, they look forward to doing it again.We are now involved in a program called extended school day in the school district I graduated from. Twice a week for two extra hours kids from grades 1-8 stay after school voluntarily. The teachers help the students with academic projects, and we come in and do activities that helps instill self esteem, and conflict resolution techniques. This program is new and is taking time to get the kids attention, but we are stimulating their minds and allowing it to grow. We are trying to give them a basis for their future. I never look at the youth center as a place that would save all of Americas youth from ever using drugs or alcohol. Yet, I look at it as a drug and alcohol free environment, where they can go to after school and feel good about themselves. They need to know that there are other fun things to do, other than drugs and alcohol. If we could save three out of five children daily, it would be a step towards saving thousands that get lost in societies cracks yearly.Parents, schools and communities need to work together as a unit to prevent our youth from getting killed before they are able to become adults. Together we need to help our youth learn how to survive in a future that is surrounded by drugs and alcohol.

1. Clarke, Jean Illsley, and Dawson, Connie. Growing Up Again: Parenting Ourselves, Parenting Our Children. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1989.2. Greene, Michael B., Chronic Exposure To Violence And Poverty: Interventions That Work For Youth , Crime And Delinquency, 1993, Jan., 106-124.3. Hahn, Andrew, Managing Youth Development: Programs For At Risk Youth , New York, 1992.4. Prothrow-Stith MD, Deborah, Deadly Consequences, Harper Collins, NY, 1991.5. Rosenberg, Ellen. Growing Up Feeling Good. New York: Viking Penguin Books, 1989.6. Shogren, Elizabeth, Study Finds Teen At Risk , Newsday, October 12, 1995, pg. 8.

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