Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Before It's Too Late

The year is almost over.  It has been a year full of opportunity and challenges.  A year full of laughs and sadness.  A year full of unpredictables and many predictables.  This is what the year has been like for most of the teens I encounter. 

People often marvel at my passion at working with the adolescent population.  I'm quick to acknowledge them as being one of my favorite people.  Always thirsty to explore, thirsty for knowledge, thirsty to establish an identity and thirsty for guidance and structure.  Unfortunately, the guidance and structure doesn't always come from the appropriate people, like parents, relatives, teachers or ministers.  As a result, some have been forced to make some inappropriate, negative choices.  Why they make these choices leads to a host of reasons, generally starting with something an adult in their life did or did not do.

I tell the teens I know this:  Exercise your right to make good choices before its too late.  You know right from wrong.  Make the right choice.  Stop waiting for someone or something else to give you personal meaning.   Your value MUST come from within.  You must understand that there is nothing more important than obtaining an education, starting with a high school diploma.  Don't get caught up in the wrong things like skipping school, the street life, crime, violence.  Life is not going to owe anything to you. You must stand on your own and make a way for yourself.  I tell them that this is not only possible, but MUST happen. 

It's hard being a teen and I recognize that, especially if life has taught you that what you think and feel doesn't matter.  I'm here to say that it does matter and it starts with you.  Make a decision today, a decision to dream big and achieve great, before its too late.  You will meet people along the way who will help you to accomplish your goals.  Its as simple as that.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Teen or Adult?

Hello All!!  It's been a very busy few weeks.  Everyday is a different day and everyday I seem to learn more from the young people with whom I have fairly regular contact.  I say it often and I will say it once more:  It's hard work being a teenager in these times.  The world is very busy.  The country is very busy.  Schools are very busy.  Parents are very busy.  With everyone being so busy, who is watching over and guiding our teenagers?  Are we, the adults, doing a "good enough" job of helping them become good decision-makers, good scholars, good, productive, healthy individuals, and good stewards of service to others?  What messages are we sending to our teens about what's really important in life?  Are we allowing them to be teenagers, those people in constant need of structure and guidance or are we pushing them too quickly, emotionally unprepared into the adult world?

That is a question I ask myself more than I feel I should. However, I speak with many teens who are left to make adult choices and decisions, sometimes leading to unwanted or predictable consequences. Consequences which too often are not positive for them.  Why do some parents leave their teenage children alone with unrelated adults for long periods of time?  Why do some parents leave their teenage children home alone for days at a time?  Why do some parents leave their teenage children, particularly females, in malls, street corners etc. with the "expectation" that their teen WOULD NEVER do something inappropriate or dangerous?  Why do some parents allow their teenage children to have their own computer in their room (password protected) with the door constantly closed, even when they are present in the room?  Why do some parents involve their teenage children in adult discussions with their friends?  Why do some parents involve their teenage children in the intricacies of their personal lives, particularly their romantic relationships?  Why do some parents share inappropriate information with their teenage children about the other parent, particularly in divorce or contentious situations? 

I ask these questions because I hear from teens often how they are put in adult situations, most often by their parents, when it is convenient for the parent.  However, these same parents become agitated and angry when these same teens project adult-like behavior when it is inconvenient or embarrassing for the parent.  This leads to what is referred to as "mixed messaging".  Parents, in particular, are guilty of this and their teens are left confused and unsure of their themselves and their decision-making.  In short, parents cannot give their children adult responsibilities when it is convenient for them and then become upset and punitive when that same child independently exhibits adult behavior at a time that is clearly inappropriate.  Teens have to remain teens at all times.  It's a stage in life.  A stage with its own set of learning curves.  Let's not take that away from our precious young people.  Too much responsibility too soon can be detrimental.  It takes away from what should be central in their lives:  school, education, their friends, and their interests.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What's A Teen To Do?

It has been a busy school year.  School has been open for a little over two months and much has happened.  Some of it has been exciting and exhilerating and some has been disappointing and frustrating.  Given all of the experiences I have had with teens in the past few months, I continue to be amazed by their sense of responsibility, their sense of right and wrong and their desire to "do right" and make positive life choices. 
Sure, there have been some that have gotten distracted and made some unfortunate, negative choices, but the overwhelming majority are fantastic people to know.  They crave direction, structure and a listening ear.

I don't think teenagers receive enough credit for what they have to endure.  Parents who give mixed messages.  Teachers who don't always deliver good, interesting, engaging and motivating teaching.  School boards who make decisions based upon personalities, personal interests or money and not the best interests of students.  Friends who sometimes bully and pressure to make poor, negative choices.  Society who overloads them with images of promiscuity, body image, greed and violence.  What's a teen to do with all of this?  What direction should they take?  Who should they believe?  What should be important?

I tell the teens I encounter to talk about their feelings.  Talk about what is on their mind.  Talk about what is important to them.  Talk about the things that are exciting and confusing.  I encourage them to be creative, to ask questions, to explore the world outside of their world, to reject fear and embrace opportunity.  I encourage them to not miss this chance of achieving a solid education, a prerequisite for future sustainability.  What's a teen to do?  Such a good question that I get asked many times over.  It's hard walking the line of part adult, part child.  Part of the solution lies with the adults within their lives to give good example and unconditional regard for their well-being, physcially and emotionally.  It's hard being a teen.  More adults need to understand that.   

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The List

The school year is in full swing.  Most young people have been in classes for more than a month and already a long list of things have happened.  Natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes, political unrest domestically and abroad, a primary election, recognition of another 9/11 anniversary, students lost to freak accidents, tragic car accidents and health related causes, daily observations of teens texting while driving and driving without a seat belt connected, teens showing school spirit and pride through competitive sports, seniors engaging in the college application process.  This list could go on and on.

My question for teens is this:  What does your list consist of?  sports? academics? friends? girlfriends?  boyfriends? family time? college? negative behaviors? jobs? independence? substance abuse? Whatever it may be, every teen has a list and that list is important.  What is the list?  The list is what teens have either in their minds or somewhere on paper or in a journal that outlines what is most important to them at this point in their lives.  The list tells the older folk alot.  The list tells us what our young people are thinking about and what they think about the world in which they live.  The list can indicate if a person is headed in the right direction or falling prey to some negative influences.  The list.  It can seem so simple, yet can be complicated.  One thing for sure is this:  education should be #1 on the list.  As I've stated before, without an education, life will have very few options

To teenagers, I say this:  Whatever your list consists of, make education #1 on your list.  Encourage your friends to make education #1 on their lists.  Go to school, everyday and learn all you can, challenge your teachers to teach you until you understand, encourage your parents to come to the school, sit in your class, volunteer and hold the administration accountable for providing excellent teachers who can deliver excellent instruction.  Make graduation a stepping stone and not the end stone.  Set your sights on college.  If you like all those things on your list, most of them will not be achievable without a good education and a good education starts in the school in which you attend.  High school is the last in a 12 year process of life preparation.  There are only 4 years in high school.  Have many years have you let get by because education was not #1 on your list?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I Feel Lucky

I feel lucky.  Lucky to be able to awake every day knowing that I get to do the things that make me happiest: thank my Savior, speak with parents and family members, breathe fresh air, eat nutritious food, wear adequate clothing and share my good fortunes of mind and goodwill with some very deserving young people.

I feel lucky.  For the past several months, I have been designing and implementing extended learning programs for young people.  These programs provide intensive academic enrichment to students who are struggling in core subject areas of reading and math and who reside within communities in which they don't always receive an opportunity to share in experiences outside of their communities.  These programs make tremendous difference in the lives of the impacted young people and tremendous difference in my life. 

I feel lucky.  Lucky to have met the phenomenal children in the programs.  Children who are full of intellect, creativity, imagination and curiosity.  Children who have a desire to learn, a desire to ask questions, a desire to achieve.  Children who may not always have the designer shoe or shirt, but always have the smile, the determination and an innate desire to do well.  Children who have the compassion to help each other during difficult and/or unhappy times.  I saw many hugs, expressions of "its gonna be ok", "don't cry" and "let me help you".  These children taught me much more than I believe I taught them.  I miss them in my life and those daily life lessons of honesty, perseverance, kindness, trust and faith.

My question to young people is this:  Do you feel lucky?  Do you feel lucky to be able to awake daily and have a mind that will allow you to be as creative as you can imagine?  Do you feel lucky to be able to form your own opinions free of negative influences?  Do you feel lucky to be able to go to school and obtain an education, which is permanent?  Do you feel lucky to be able to have the experience of learning from a mistake, whether your own or someone else's?  Do you feel lucky to be able to give to someone who may be less fortunate than you?  Do you feel lucky to know the perils and dangers of risky behaviors such as substance abuse, reckless driving, violence, sexual promiscuity, or truancy?  Do you feel lucky to have adults in your life, family or otherwise, who care about you and your well-being?

My message to young people is this:  Take those feelings of luck and transform them into goodwill experiences for others, such as tutoring or mentoring young people, helping a young person in your community make good, positive choices, modeling positive behaviors when not in the presence of an adult, becoming an active participant in the educational culture of your school, or communicating with political leaders about issues of importance to you and your peers.  The list is endless and it starts with you.

Good luck!

Monday, April 5, 2010

What Is Your Passion?

Where have you been?  A question that has been asked of me several times in the last couple of weeks.  People have emailed and called asking why I haven't posted in over a month.  I tell them it was because I really wanted Isaiah's story to remain in the forefront and because I was completely consumed with working on a worthy project for some very special kids.  I would like to take this opportunity to share what I have been doing.  Something that is dear to me and something that I think is really important for others to understand.

If you don't know, in addition to working with teens, I am the founder and executive director of Achievement Services, Inc. (  It's a nonprofit organization that partners with low-performing schools to design and implement out-of-school academic learning opportunities for at-risk students in Baltimore City.  It's really cool because I get to act like an "architect" of education....meaning I have the autonomy to study a school, its students, parents and staff and together with a team of advisors, we design a program to meet the needs of that particular school.  Our goal is to get kids to like learning and to learn, particularly in reading and math.  This past month, I was charged with the task of soley applying for federal funding to implement a program at a Baltimore City School.  Achievement Services and helping kids learn and achieve is my passion.

What is your passion?  What is it that makes you smile, feel good and want to share with everyone?  What is it that gets you up in the morning, regardless of pay?  What is it that you feel is your personal calling?  For me, that passion would be to find a way to help children achieve beyond the expectations of themselves and others.  For me that passion is putting kids in a safe place with safe people and giving them the tools to learn and want to learn in fun, exciting and engaging ways.  It there were any downside, it would be the fact that I have to CONSTANTLY worry about having enough money to operate such needed programs for children that will produce countless benefits to kids, families, schools, communities and societies.  There is no better money spent than money spent on education for kids.  I'll never understand why our society will pay athletes, singers and actors enormous and unimaginable amounts of money and dare say there is not enough money for education, afterschool programs and other learning opportunities that will help to advance others, particularly kids.  I wish someone could help me to understand the logic.

So, I am back.  Back working with teenagers and back learning from them, as I do each and every day.  If you have a passion that is about helping kids, let me encourage you to pursue that passion.  The kids need our help, today and always.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Making History

In the United States there are certain months of the year that are dedicated to the history of a certain group of people such as African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and Asian-Pacific Americans.  Today is the last day of black history month.  Today I would like to present to teens and young people the story of Isaiah Mauzone.  His story is a story of success, triumph, perseverence and determination.  His story is a story like many teens who grow up in unfortunate circumstances, struggle with the challenges of life and growing up and often feel unsure and perplexed about their own life stories.  I have the privilege of working with and knowing some amazing teenagers who sometimes need to hear the story of a teenager who once walked the familiar path of hardship and uncertainty.  A teenager who once felt that not having an active father left a big void.  A teenager who once felt that no one would understand or could help him with his problems.  A teenager who once thought that college may not be for him.  Below is a biography and interview with Isaiah Mauzone, a young man who exemplifies that if one is willing to work hard and NEVER give up, life will reward you.

Isaiah Mauzone is a 19-year old, African American male who was born to a single mother and raised in the Sandtown/Winchester neigborhood of Baltimore City.  His neighborhood is one that is plagued with underemployed families, poverty, drug use, high crime and gang activity.  His neigborhood is also one that boasts a strong religious presence and a longstanding history of families who work hard and believe in education.  There was never enough money, never a break from worrying how the bills would get paid and how the family would survive.  As a middle school student, Isaiah was attacked and beaten badly by a group of middle school kids who had nothing better to do.  Despite his injuries, he refused to miss school.  Even though he spent most of his child/school years worrying about adult problems, he still managed to garner an interest in exercising, football, lacrosse, working, drawing and helping others.  Throughout most of his high school career he held a job, sometimes two, to contribute toward household expenses.  He rarely sees or speaks to his father who did not attend his high school graduation, his proudest moment.  In 2009, after much adversity, he graduated from high school and is now a student at the University of Maryland struggling with the decision of which passion to pursue:  architecture or physical therapy.

1.  How would you describe your high school experience?
Challenging because of standardized testing, class grades and the choice to secure employment to help out at home.  It was hard getting everything done.  I worried alot about money and making something of myself.  I wanted to be self sufficient.  I wanted to help out my mom who has given so much.

2.  What was the hardest part about high school?
Trying to keep up with the smart students.  I wanted to be good at everything I did. 

3.  What do you think teens go through in high school?
Sex, peer pressure, gangs, street activities and family issues.  It's hard for teens because most can't talk to their parents.  They need organized stuff to do to stay away from trouble.  I think it's also hard for teens when they think about growing up.  Most realize that they probably aren't properly prepared for the real world and that they will have to figure it out on their own.  That's scary for a young person because you hear about so much bad stuff happening.

4.  What would you say to teens who feel discouraged and want to drop out of high school?
Dropping out is not an option.  You have to want to become more successful, have more options and not limit yourself no matter what is happening in your life.

5.  How do you think growing up in a single-parent household affected you?
It made me want to work harder.  I've learned a lot.  I don't want my kids to go through what I experienced from my mother and father.  That was my motivation.

6.  How do you like college life?
I love college life.  I love furthering my education, meeting new people, the good environment, being responsible and learning to live independently.  There are people there who are willing to help.

7.  Any advice for teens who are feeling lost and overwhelmed by the stressors of teen life?
They need to analyze themselves, pay attention to what they do, what they say and who they invite into their social circles.  Don't be afraid to ask for help and don't get caught up in things that will cause trouble.

8.  A lot is made of role models for teens.  Who are your role models?
Jesus Christ, my mother, my brother and the staff of my high school.

9.  What do you think parents should understand about their teens?
They should really get to know them, talk to them, spend time with them and allow them to make mistakes.  Establishing and maintaining a bond with their child is very important to the child.  Parents should also understand that their teen children are watching more of what they do and paying less attention to what they say.

10.  If you could change anything about the life of a teenager, what would it be?
Access to good, dedicated mentors, community recreational and educational programs and physical activities.

Isaiah's story is important because he could have gone the other way.  The other way of giving up on himself, not reaching out to adults who cared about him and not believing that he possesses the gift of a mind able to take in all the information and knowledge he can grasp.  Isaiah did one simple thing:  he believed in himself.  To all teens:  believe in yourself and you too can make history.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Do You Think?

Hello and welcome back.  If this is your first time visiting my blog, I hope you enjoy the read and commit to return.  Bookmark, email and text to friends and other teens, conduct discussion groups.  For those of you that don't know, this is my space where I share my thoughts, advice and views about teens and young people, based upon my professional and personal experiences.  Typically, I select a topic impacting the lives of teens and young people.  This time I would like to try something different.  Since I began this blog, which I thoroughly enjoy, I have not provided an open opportunity for readers to respond and/or ask questions.  This entry is dedicated to you, my readers. 

I am very curious about what my readers think, particularly my teen and young readers.  I feel fortunate to have acquired readers from many parts of the United States as well as the world.  A few have responded directly to me, but most have not.  Now is your chance.  What do you think about this blog?  What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing teenagers today?  What are some questions you have about the behavior of teens?  What topics would you like to see addressed in this space?  If you are a teen, please share your thoughts here.  I ask that you keep your comments constructive and appropriate.  If you are an adult, either with or without a teen, please share your thoughts here.  I ask that you keep your comments constructive and appropriate.  Just click on comment and go for it.

Thanks for your time, comments and questions.  I truly hope you find this blog helpful and informative.  I know there are many places you could choose to spend your precious time and I feel privileged to have your attention.  It is my goal to provide a forum for teens and adults to dialogue, share and learn more about one another.  I also hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing.  To all the teens out there, I hope you are enjoying your teenage experience and preparing for your transition to adulthood.  Be well.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Teens In Trouble

Are teens in trouble?  What do you think?  I think the question is worth asking and pondering.  Clearly, many are not in trouble, but given recent news reports, there are a significant number who are in trouble.  The CDC, also known as the Centers for Disease Control,  reported that 1 in 5 teens have cholesterol problems.  1 in 5!!  Does that sound incredible or unbelievable?  Another report out this week indicated that the teenage pregnancy rate has risen for the first time in ten years.  In other words, more teens are giving birth to children of their own than have been in the past 10 years.  Teenage pregnancy has always been an issue.  Apparently, it's becoming an even bigger issue among the young.  Violence among teens has increased.  We only have to listen to the news to see too many stories of teens being seriously injured or killed as a result of violence.  The number of teens dropping out of high school is shockingly high.  What are they doing?  Where are they living?  What are the employment outlooks?  There are high numbers of teens who are overweight, spending too much time in front of the television or on the computer and not enough time engaging in any sort of exercise activity. 

Having the opportunity to work with young people on a daily basis is an opportunity to transform a life.  As I walk in the midst of teens I notice many things about them.  Loud voices.  Interesting clothes.  Junk food.  Books.  Cell phones.  Ipods.  Hugs.  Kisses.  Playful behaviors.  Laptops.  Conversations about school.  Conversations about friends.  Conversations about boys.  Conversations about girls.  Conversations about parents.  I wonder if they are aware of the troubles that plague them, so I ask.  The responses I receive are varied.  Some are keenly aware that their generation has many challenges.  Some are more oblivious.  Some discuss "teen stuff" with their parents and are comfortable doing so and some don't and aren't comfortable doing so.  Some feel that the adults in the world don't pay enough attention to what is going on in their lives.  Some feel that they are old enough to make their own choices.  Some feel that the "world" allows them to get away with things that should be reserved for adults and that teens have too much freedom.  Some feel that enormous pressures are placed upon them without adequate support.

Here's what's important for teens to know:  Be conscious and aware of your health.  Stop drinking so many sodas and fruity juices.  They are loaded with sugar.  Drink more water and non-carbonated drinks.  Stop eating so much fried foods, potato chips, cookies, candy and all the other snacks you can't seem to eliminate from your diet.  Pay attention in health class.  You just may learn some useful information.  Take school and your education seriously.  Dropping out of school will not solve any problems.  It will create more.  Without a high school diploma, life will be very challenging and most likely, unfulfilling.  Stay away from places and people who engage in violent activities.  They may put your life and the lives of others in jeapardy.  Consider the serious consequences of engaging in sexual behaviors.  Putting yourself in a position to become a parent is a serious decision.  Child-rearing is a lifetime commitment, meant for adults.  Trust me when I tell you that it is hard for a child to raise a child.  What is the lesson here?  Stay in school.  Listen to your parents, your teachers and mentors.  Ask for help when needed.  Think about the consequences of your decisions before you make them.  Help each other and instead of looking for a role model, be a role model. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Teens In Haiti

Haiti.  Until last week it was probably not a place in the forefront of the minds of people who reside elsewhere.  Probably not a place where many have studied or visited.  Probably not a place where it was thought unimaginable tragedy might occur.  Tragedy did occur and the people of the world, teens included, are left to ask: Where do we begin to understand?  Where can we get some reasonable rationalization?  Who can help us to make sense of such enormous tragedy, death and destruction?  What is going to happen to the people of Haiti... the children, the teenagers, the adults, the elderly? 

It's a safe guess that most of the teenagers in Haiti are probably similar to teenagers in other parts of the world.  They probably like to socialize.  They probably like sports.  They probably sometimes like school and sometimes don't like school.  They probably want to be independent of their parents, yet still depend on them for guidance, direction and money.  They probably endure feelings of stress and confusion regarding boyfriends or girlfriends.  They probably engage in HS rivalries, enjoy prom and party after graduation.  They probably worry about grades and college.  They probably are faced with peer pressures such as teenage pregnancy, violence or substance abuse.  They probably like to wear the clothes of popular designers and the shoes of famous athletes.  They probably sometimes make choices and decisions without regard to consequences.  They probably possess raw emotion, frankness and a good sense of right and wrong, as modeled by the adults in their lives. 

It's normal for teens to feel unsure about the future.  Unsure about decisions regarding educational goals or independent living.  As of January 12, 2010, the lives of Haitan teens will never be the same.  Gone are the normal stressors and worries that other teens may share.  Present is fear, anxiety, devastation.  What will they do?  Who will help them?  What does the future hold for them?  When will they be able to experience the life of a "normal" teenager again?  When will they hear the sound of the school bell or the voice of a teacher scolding her class for incomplete assignments or the excitement regarding the Friday nite dance or Saturday afternoon ballgame?  What will they tell teens who will come after them about life in the aftermath of an earthquake?

What can other teens do?  First, understand that life presents many challenges, some fair and some not fair.  Understand that your life as a teen is "cake" compared to the life of a teen in another part of the world.  Understand that the teens of Haiti are in need of goodwill.  Goodwill in the form of knowing that they share the bond of "adolescence" with all the teens of the world.  Teens like to help other teens.  They do it everyday in their own environments.  If you want to help the teens of Haiti, mobilize your friends, peers and classmates to organize donations to send to them in Haiti.   They need clothing, shoes, school supplies, books and most importantly, letters and words of support, encouragement and hope for a bright future.  Consider giving up a pair of shoes, some sports equipment, some hats to protect from the heat.  Make a list of the things you like as a teen.  Whatever you can give will be appreciated.  Teens in Haiti.  They are just like teens everywhere.  They need to be given the opportunity, once again, to experience the life of a teenager. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Role Models??

Gilbert Arenas.  Chris Brown.  Tiger Woods.  Brittany Spears.  Rihanna.  Just a few of many.  All very famous and presumably wealthy individuals.  All living their lives in the public spotlight.  All having to endure their share of "life challenges".  All given, solicited and unsolicited, the responsiblilty of ROLE MODEL.  Is it fair?  Is it justified?  Is it needed?  Is it wanted?  Given recent national news stories regarding each of the above-named individuals, these seem to be fair questions.  Do their lives and behaviors and that of other equally public individuals influence the lives and behaviors of teens and young people?  The answer to that question is probably "sometimes".  As I walk in the midst of teens and young people, I try to seize the opportunity to learn more about how they think, what they think about and why they think what they think.  On this particular day, I decide to ask the question, "who are your role models"?

The answers received may be surprising to some.  My mom.  My grandmother.  My teacher.  My football coach.  My music teacher.  My brother.  My sister.  My next door neighbor.  My principal.  My friend.  It seems as if not all teens consider celebrities and the like their role models.  Although they may follow their lives and the twists and turns, they don't necessarily view these individuals as someone, as one teen put it, "to want to be like".  When asked why they didn't consider celebrities as role models, one teen replied, "cause they probably have problems just like us".  Another replied, " their lives don't seem real".  "The money is nice, but they act stupid sometimes", was another response.   "Why do they do things when they know people are watching" needed no return reply.  One surprising response, "maybe it's the adults who need role models and not us kids", left much to ponder.

As one who is rarely surprised by the insight of teens and young people, I believe they need to know and understand the following.  Role models, according to, are defined as persons whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people.  Role models are good.  They are positive.  They are inspiring.  Their influence is endless.  They help teens figure out right from wrong, make good choices, develop self confidence, dream big and aspire large.  Role models care about the messages they send and the impact upon the receivers.  Role models are real and honest.  Real in their existence and honest in their position.  My challenge to teens is to figure out who is your role model?  Find someone you like and admire because of the good they demonstrate.  Find someone you trust that is selfless, giving and understanding.  Find someone you can talk to and know they will listen.  That person is your role model.  That person probably exists within your environment.  All you have to do is find them.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year

There is no better time than now.  No better time to think about past actions or reactions, accomplishments, mistakes, regrets.  No better time to think about school, grades, sports, friends, family, parents, boyfriends and girlfriends.  No better time to think about what will be done differently this year.  How will you be a different, better person?  Last year is now gone.  It's time to seriously consider a new start, a new beginning.  It could be the start or beginning of something big or something small.  Something that may impact only you or something that may impact many others.  Something that you probably have been giving thought to for a considerable amount of time.  In short, it's time to stop doing the same things the same ways and expecting bigger, greater results.  Be different.  Do different.

New Year's resolutions.  I think all people at least THINK about them and young people and teens are no different.  They huddle together with friends, talking on the phone, hanging out, texting each other about what they "pledge" to do in the new year, what they hope to obtain, like a new wardrobe or what they hope to change, like a new boyfriend or girlfriend.  I often wonder if they think about changing a circumstance or the plight of someone's life.  The answers I receive are always inspiring.  Helping a friend find a place to live, raise money for the light bill, food bill or mortgage/rent.  Helping a friend get over a break-up, the loss of a friendship or some other tragic event or circumstance, such as divorce.  Spending time with a friend who is having a hard time with life's challenges and the sometimes stressful times of a teen.

I ask teens this question:  What will you do differently this year?  Don't answer right away.  Think about it.  Think about what feels right to you.  Think about something that will help you to be a better individual.  Will it be to study more?  Will it be to take school more seriously?  Will it be to read more and learn more?  Will it be to be a better friend?  Will it be to listen more to your parents and share more with your parents?  Will it be to spend more time with family?  Will it be to abandon envy, jealousy, disrespect, sadness, intolerance, anger, rage, violence and embrace peace, forgiveness, happiness, understanding, honesty, respect and loyalty?  Whatever you decide, may it be something that will build upon your foundation.  Your foundation of life, that piece of you that builds character and leaves a legacy for others to follow.  Whatever you decide, may it bring joy to you and others, remembering that it's better to give than to receive.  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!