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Let’s celebrate the youth

While we have some young people in our community who are experiencing various types of challenges and hardships, most of them are working hard to do their best and many of them are excelling.

I think our entire country has gotten so deeply embedded in the idea of looking at the glass half empty instead of half full until it is difficult to see the reasons we have to be thankful.

As we move into this season of celebrations, it is a good idea to pay attention to the youth who are doing well. Today I want to highlight a group of teens who are excelling at Central High School. I learned about them a few days ago when I was having a cup of coffee with my new friend, Claire Cox.

Claire and other caring parents helped to organize a book club at Central which is a joint project between the Parent Teacher Student Association and the Media Center.

First of all, it is great to see this type of collaboration between the parents, teachers and students and the school itself. Clearly this is a model that needs to be replicated across the school system because without the support of all of who are involved in the education of youth no real success is possible.

Students have 30 minutes on Wednesdays for the meetings where they grab a few slices of pizza and discuss the book that is being read by the group. There are 130 students involved in the four clubs and interested students have been turned away because of the effort to keep the groups small enough to have good discussions,

Even though the membership is quite diverse spanning the social, racial and academic abilities of the general school population, participants come together to discuss the books and the issues surrounding them in a very civil manner.

The books which have been read covered immigration, date rape, drug abuse, runaways, picking peaches, parental abuse, Internet safety, war, teen pregnancy, friendship and the environment. The students have confronted these tough topics with great intelligence and honesty.

When author Terry Kay author of “To Dance With The White Dog” visited with the students to discuss his book during his visit as the keynote speaker for the Author Forum which is held each year. He said, ‘‘I have never seen a group of individuals so prepared to discuss my books as these students, and I don’t know of any other book club like this.’’Of course the students and their leaders were delighted.

When Janisse Ray, author of “Ecology of a Cracker Childhood” came as a speaker and engaged the students in conversation about her book, she found their discussion much more engaging than she had expected it to be and confessed that she had to change her preconception of the students in the book club.

This work at Central has good community support in terms of donations and attendance at the yearly Author Forums. The donations make it possible for each participant to be given a book and to provide lunch for them at each meeting. The next Author Forum will feature Charles Martin on March 1, 2013 at CHS Auditorium at 7 p.m. It is suggested that you might like to read “When Crickets Cry” before hearing him, but it is not necessary to read before attending. This event will be a great way for those who have not attended this event to show their support for this program and these wonderful young people.

Across our community there are many other stories such as this where parents, teachers and students are working together to do the good work of providing an education and helping our children to learn how to think, speak and behave in a civil manner toward one another. Let’s look for as many youth who are doing well as we can find and let them know how much we appreciate them.

This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. E-mail her at kayma53@att.net.