Teens require guidance to stay on track

Last week, I told you about Teenage Years 101, a presentation that Columbia County Chief Magistrate Judge Wade Padgett delivers to teens and adults about the legal, moral and societal issues facing young people today.


Limited by space, I didn't get to mention a similar session I had heard weeks earlier by Richmond County Juvenile Court Judge Bill Sams, who told our Sunday school class about the horrible consequences of risky teen behavior. He gave us the facts about disease, pregnancies, dropouts, jail and the like.

Judge Sams delivers his slide show around the state, usually to lawyers and judges. He is eager to talk to other groups and can be reached at (706) 869-7625.

"I feel very strongly that the public -- including juveniles -- need to know what is going on with our youths and their parents," he wrote in an e-mail response to last week's column, adding that he will go "just about anywhere" to speak on the subject. "They need to hear the numbers."

The judge said he likes working with juveniles because he sometimes has legal leeway for straightening them out without imposing a criminal record. Toward that end, Judge Sams has been trying to build an ark.

Actually, it's an ARK -- At-Risk Kids -- facility, a diversion center that would house youths who get into legal or family trouble.

"ARK is a work in progress," he wrote, and money is keeping it from sailing. "I am putting out feelers for Augusta's 'Bill Gates'! Not only is funding needed to get it open, but to sustain it once open."

Among readers who responded to my column was Patty Jiles, the clerk for the Heard County Commission, way across the state in Franklin. She wrote that she and several other county and school employees organize speakers each year.

"These speakers talk about drug abuse and such," she wrote. "We talked about incorporating other topics all through the year and since teen pregnancy is running rampant in our high school, I thought Judge Padgett's talk would be great for our students and parents to hear."

She and others can learn more at http://teenageyears101.com, which contains clips from the talks, a schedule of upcoming speeches and e-mail information.

Craig Spinks, of Evans, said he hoped coverage of the presentations would "inspire responsible parents to promote limit-based parenting, to vanquish 'cool' parenting and to encourage our young folks to habituate rule-following and law-abiding."

Billie Jo Sullivent, of Martinez, urged all schools, churches and youth groups to be informed of Teenage Years 101: "It appears our children are not being taught RESPECT, RESPONSIBILITY, and ACCOUNTABILITY. I have grandchildren who will receive a copy of this."

Many more e-mails and online comments were received, and I appreciate them all; once again, though, I have run out of space. Read the comments posted at the bottom of my previous column.

When Judge Sams talked to our class, he listed ways every one of us can help young people: mentoring, giving jobs, serving on citizens review panels. He closed with a quote by 18th-century philosopher Edmund Burke: "No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little."

Reach Glynn Moore at (706) 823-3419 or glynn.moore@augustachronicle.com.


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