Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fisrt Meeting Student Response--Jordan Gaches

ad·o·les·cence noun \ˌa-də-ˈle-sən(t)s\

Definition of ADOLESCENCE
1: the state or process of growing up
2: the period of life from puberty to maturity terminating legally at the age of majority
3: a stage of development (as of a language or culture) prior to maturity

Let me flat out say it: being a teenager can suck.  Growing up can suck. But hey, life isn't  a walk in the park for anyone, no matter their age.  It has its natural highs and lows, and it's up to the living to decide how to respond to it. 

When people are not equipped with the right tools to face life's challenges, disaster and tragedy occur.  The consequences of not educating the youth of society about life, love, sex, and puberty are explored in "Spring Awakening."  Some people may dismiss the play as not being relevant to todays teenagers, "Of course I know what sex is!  If I got pregnant, I wouldn't be as clueless as some of the naive characters in this show.  How dumb can you get: your father beats you every night, but you don't tell anyone that could help?!"  I'm here to say that "Spring Awakening's" central concept  about the importance of education in all aspects of life is still vitally important to teens of today.  Yes, almost all American teenagers receive some form of sex education today, but there are certain important questions that don't get answered by these classes. 

What do you do if you get pregnant?  So much emphases is placed on avoiding pregnancy that the idea of some wicked girl deciding to have sex, getting pregnant, and not knowing what to do seems unmentionable. 

Also, educating teens about suicide is literally a life or death matter.  What do you do if you or someone you know is depressed, hurting themselves, and wants to take their own life?  I feel passionate about telling the world how important education is, either through acting on stage, or directly talking to my peers.  I am excited to be a part of this group and to help spread the truth. 

Sunday, October 24, 2010

First Meeting Student Response--Anonymous

Back in August, the arts center did a staged reading of Spring Awakening.  I had read the play the spring before and thought it was a beautiful masterpiece.  When I saw it performed, I was rather annoyed by the play.  It depicts the teenage plight too accurately.  Although students are slightly better educated in today’s society, than in sheltered Germany of 1890, the way life works is essentially the same.  Basically, Spring Awakening is depressing, but it gets some very important points across.  Teenagers need good information.  We are not kids, we are not going to act like kids, and although we are not adults, we need to be given more information so we can handle ourselves more maturely.  Communication between everyone helps spread knowledge and makes people happier.  A sense of belonging comes from the people who care about you, so everyone needs to know that people in their lives care.  That brings up another strong point in Spring Awakening: it demonstrates that everyone goes through the same big picture struggles.  It can spread a sense of understanding between witnesses of its story.  Talking to the other students working on this project, we discovered that we all feel the same way about life.  The harsh reality of Spring Awakening can help us spread information and reach out to form a community of people who can support each other through what seems to be a cruel point of growing up.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

First Meeting Student Response--Madi Brunkan


You know how there are always those topics that you never bring up at family gatherings or get-togethers with opinionated friends? The taboos that always bring on a debate? 

Let’s talk taboos and debates. Debates over Sex- education (or lack thereof) leading to teen pregnancy, which is practically taboo. And what else is taboo? Suicide and its causes. No one likes addressing the fact that teen pregnancy and suicide rates are growing.  Lately, many children have committed suicide due to being bullied because they were gay. The “It Gets Better” campaign is great because people are trying to address the problem and make sure it doesn’t happen again, but it shouldn’t take teenagers dying for their voices to be heard. 

But, they don’t always speak up. It is an issue that can be debated in circles for hours, but it does need to be addressed, and that is what we are doing in this project. Next is sex-education, some believe in abstinence, while some believe that that is the wrong approach--it's yet another debate--but in this case, it would not be as much of a debate if it weren’t for the problem of the increasing rate of teen pregnancy. Teen pregnancy is an issue that can be seen in a school’s hallways. Sometimes there is a pattern, sometimes not with the teen mothers. In some cases they want a baby and feel like they are ready, or in other cases they just didn’t use a condom. Some cases are caused by lack of information, others lack of judgment. It is wrong to say that lack of sex-education is the main reason for teen pregnancy. In modern times, by high school (at least at mine), most kids know some way or another how sex works. In "Spring Awakening," that isn’t the case. 

Which leads to the problem of curiosity. If kids don’t have an education, like ancient times, they try to figure out what they want to know from other sources, not knowing whether it is correct or not. All of these things need to be talked and thought out by the population. Maybe not at family dinner with your crazy grandparents, but TALK somehow. Because if everyone talks, the opinions and experiences we hear could create a solution, or at the very least  grant more knowledge. So please, TALK!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

First Meeting Student Response--Anonymous

"I want to kill myself."

"I wish I were dead."

What do I say? What can I possibly say or do to stop them from feeling like this? Nothing scares me more than these words. I just wish I knew what to do. Do nothing? Then what if they go through with it? I would carry that guilt for the rest of my life. Tell an adult? What if the adults in this person's life are what caused these feelings? What if that only makes matters worse? I haven't been through what they've been through. How can I possibly know what they're feeling right now? Of course I'm going to be there for them as much as I can. Yes, I'm going to do all in my power to show them that their life, and life itself matters. But no matter what, these words keep coming back. I feel helpless, lost, guilty and afraid. I just want to help them. What can I do?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

First Meeting Student Response--Anonymous

            Stereotypes are present in all walks of life. For example, you can see a cheerleader and automatically assume they are popular, “emo” kids are “weird”, and nerds have few friends. Pop culture and the media occasionally further these stereotypes unknowingly. However, these stereotypes are personally broken by experiences. One important stereotype that needs to be broken is the issue of teenagers committing suicide or that prevention is the only necessary area of emphasis.
            The prevailing myth is that all of these victims fall through the cracks; nothing could be further from the truth. People hear the stories and think, “she was a loner” or “he never connected with anyone” but when you know people who have attempted or committed suicide or you yourself have been down the path, your perspective changes radically.
            Your friend appears normal in everyday life, he is bubbly and everyone knows he is funny and charming. But he is hiding a secret; he has created a façade to hide his horrible secret. He feels that though he has friends, he can’t trust anyone to keep his secrets. His family life has been turned upside down by circumstances beyond his control. Rumors spread around school about his social life. He enters a state of withdrawal.
            The mindset of the victim changes, and when he finally decides to reach out to a friend he has made up his mind. The friend has no idea what to do, he was sworn to secrecy. Furthermore, he doesn’t feel comfortable talking to his English teacher or Math teacher. The situation could be compounded if the student was in the middle of summer vacation. The friend tells no one. The victim commits suicide.
            But, an email was sent to the friend 45 minutes prior to death. The friend could not act. But, nobody told the friend how to cope; it was only what to do if suicidal. No focus was placed on how to deal with survivor’s guilt. The only emphasis was placed on prevention. More emphasis needs to be placed on the aftermath of a suicide. Yes it affects people around us, but how do they get the help they need. It’s something I struggle with three months later.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

First Meeting Student Response--Babs Boswell

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” –Flannery O’Connor.
As human beings we tend to ignore things that make us sad, or upset or even things that just cause us to think. It’s just in our nature to think things are one way when the truth is not pleasing. We can’t ignore the truth; not now, not ever. I’m here to say that the issues of teen pregnancy, sex education and suicide are three huge truths that we should not ignore. These issues are ones that plague America and as a teenager affect me regularly. I don’t want to just sit around and let misinformation and sadness happen all around me. I can’t do that. Quite honestly it’s painful to see on the news that another teenager has committed suicide because of some sort of pressure or misfortune. Or in the hallway at school on Monday morning to hear about that girl who found out she was pregnant this weekend because her boyfriend that “loves her” was too naïve to use a condom. If I have any say my generation is going to be different, we will be educated and know that there’s always someone there to help us through. These are harsh truths that have been stifled for too long. It’s time for us to realize that the truth is there and we must stomach it in order to change it, not ignore it.

Service Learning Project

Thanks to an incredible grant from the Kansas Volunteer Commission, today the Lawrence Arts Center began a wonderful journey.  Over the next eight months, a core group of enthusiastic, intelligent, thoughtful students from across the Lawrence area will engage in discussions, community service projects, and talk back sessions with other teens about themes within the 19th century German expressionist play "Spring Awakening".  After exploring these themes and working to make their voices heard--and hopefully effecting a little change along the way--we will raise a full production of the play in May.

I will wear many hats over the next eight months.  As the Outreach Director for the project, I will be coordinating the community service hours, proctoring the discussions, monitoring the blog, and directing the production in the spring.  As a teacher in the USD 497 school district, I will be looking for ways to incorporate more voices into the discussion and to make the voices heard of those involved.  And, finally, as a human being, I will be impressed and honored every day to work with such talented, reflective, and impassioned young people.  

We had our first meeting today and, while many of the students involved could not attend this first session, those who did were excited, insightful, and committed to bringing a message of hope, empowerment, and universality to the world related to teen issues.  The themes we've chosen to focus on for this project--all of which feature prominently in Spring Awakening--are Teen Pregnancy, Sex Education, and Teen Suicide.  Over the next week, this blog will feature reactions from those who attended today's session, some named and some anonymously should the writer wish to address issues s/he is not quite ready to have his/her name attached to.

Please check back frequently to hear more about what we're doing, and feel free to comment if something sparks your interest.

--Shannon Draper