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IT WAS one of those warm, sunny June days when high school seniors have time to contemplate the future.

This was the final week of school at the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts; seniors were about to embark on a rite of passage called graduation. Four years had passed, the world had changed, and in between classes, books and homework, they had somehow managed to grow up.

Inside Performing Arts Academy, the halls were eerily quiet. The library was empty, until a group of about 10 seniors came in to talk with us about how they feel about the world they are graduating into.

The tone of conversation was a kind of effervescent introspection. There was a sense that life would never be quite as simple as it had been during high school.

Following are excerpts of the discussion, which covered a variety of topics from adults to drugs to the future.


Toniann Scime, 18, who will attend Cornell University and study law : " 'Just say no' is the dumbest anti-drug movement ever. It's a joke. It doesn't work."

Lisa Morganti, 18, who will study communications at Buffalo State College: "Most of the kids who do drugs get the idea from someone at home. I would say the problems with drugs indicate the problems at home. The parents use drugs, or just don't care what their kids do."

Vonronica Russell, 17, will study advertising at Syracuse University: "For every kid who's a crack head, you'll find five good kids. But nobody pays attention if you're good. It used to be good to be good, but now nobody notices."

Amy Traynor, 17, will major in theater arts at Fredonia State College: "I've never smoked a cigarette, but I know of people who do drugs. That's their decision, but I'm scared to get near it. I'm not going to judge other people, but I don't mind feeling left out when it comes to drugs."

Thomas Tyree, 17, who will join the Army in September: "If someone asks you if you do drugs, and you say no, they leave you alone."

Chris Putman, 19, who will study communications at Buffalo State: "People ask me on the street if I have drugs, and I say I don't have anything to do with drugs. You see people using drugs, but you stay away from it. What bothers me is when you see kids 6 and 7 years old selling drugs. That's when it hurts people."

Brenda Rusch, 18, who will study English at Geneseo State College: "It used to be cool to do drugs. Now it's cool to make your own choice and do what you want to do."

Sex and AIDS

Sean Finken, 18, undecided about college or military service: "A lot of adults can't talk to kids about sex. There are a lot of fathers who don't want a boy to even kiss his daughter. Then there are fathers who aren't protective enough. I try to keep a level head in what I do. I try to be responsible."

Chris Putman: "I think guys do have a responsibility, especially with something like AIDS going around. Buy a condom, put it in your wallet. I'm not saying you have to use it, but at least it's there."

Thomas Tyree: "Kids understand the responsibilities and the dangers, but it's the classic phrase, nobody thinks it will happen to them."

Amy Traynor: "I cried when (teen-age AIDS victim) Ryan White died. It was all so sad, and there was no reason for him to die.

Charmesa Brown, 18, will major in pre-med at Michigan State University: "I think AIDS is more a social problem than a medical problem. There are ways to avoid it, and you should know what you can and can't do."

Teen pregnancy

Amy Traynor: "A lot of religious people just don't believe in abortion, so they have the baby. You see a lot of teen-age girls walking around pregnant. Kids want to use birth control, but they're afraid their parents will find out. The guys don't have to worry -- if they don't want the baby, they walk away. It's tougher for a girl."

Lisa Morganti: "The sad part is, you see kids in school who are on their second and third child. I don't know who to blame. You can say the parents weren't strict enough. They used to say that a girl got pregnant because she didn't get enough love at home. People don't even think about it anymore, now it's something that just happens. I don't think kids are obsessed with sex, but they all want to fall in love. The trouble is, they're falling in love too many times."

Valency Reid, 18, who will study theater arts at Buffalo State: "Sometimes it happens because parents are too strict. It's a way of getting even, and that's sad."

Chris Putman: "If you are weak in morals and don't have high standards, you can get into trouble. A guy does have some responsibility. It's his choice, too, if he wants to bring a baby into the world."

Race relations

Vonronica Russell: "I think we're going backwards, and it's sad. Society is going through some tough times and when times are bad, society becomes more racist. I'm black and, God forbid, I'm a woman. One of the things I want to do is get a job and make a lot of money. I'm not trying to be white. The way you walk and the way you talk says a lot about you. I can talk 'yo-yo' talk, but I know when to cut it out. I think white people and black people have to get together and until they do, we're going to have trouble."

Lisa Morganti: "For me, it has never been all white or all black. I don't think white kids are trying to act black because they listen to rap music, or black kids are trying to be white because they like heavy metal. The main thing I've learned in high school is that you've got to be your own person. I don't care what white kids do, or black kids do, all I care about is what I'm doing."

Chris Putman: "I'm black, but I don't feel so much racism. Kids hang out with the people they are comfortable with, and with who they feel something in common. That's why you see black kids with black kids, and white kids with white kids. I feel I'm going to have the same opportunities as anybody else. Life is not about what you can't do; it's about what you can do."

Thomas Tyree: "I grew up in a mixed neighborhood, and I didn't grow up with racism, but like every black person, I've had to deal with it. I think some people, black and white, want segregation of the races, and I don't agree."

Mikhail S. Gorbachev

Lisa Morganti: "That guy's a cool dude."

Thomas Tyree: "He's filled with new ideas and reform. He's trying to change the world."

George Bush

Lisa Morganti: "He talks a lot about a thousand points of light and the finer things in life, but he hasn't done much so far."

Amy Traynor: "There's all these problems of hunger, nuclear war, the environment, and all this guy worries about is burning the flag."

The '60s

Lisa Morganti: "A lot of kids today want to relive the '60s. The only problem with reliving the '60s is that drugs were very popular back then."

Amy Traynor: "It's easy to conform to non-conformity. My parents were teen-agers in the '60s, and I can't tell you how relieved they are that I don't do drugs. They tell me that back then, everybody was doing drugs."

Vonronica Russell: "What happened to all those young people in the '60s? They grew up and now they're all part of the big, bad system. Now they live in the suburbs, have a daughter named Moonbeam and wear suspenders."

Toniann Scime: "Now, just like the '60s, it's trendy to be socially aware and join Greenpeace and not use disposable diapers. But how long will it last? Maybe it's just a fad."

Sean Finken: "Kids today aren't that different from the '60s. It's up to us to change the world. If we don't do it, nobody will."

Parents and adults

Amy Traynor: "A lot of adults have forgotten they were kids, too, not so long ago. They just have forgotten all the things they did as kids, and they don't understand when we do something. They should remember that it's pretty hard these days not to do drugs, not to have sex and not to get in trouble. You don't have to win the Nobel Prize to be a good kid."

Thomas Tyree: "Parents don't give kids enough credit. They think we're easily persuaded and will do things that we're not supposed to do."

Brenda Rusch: "Parents get a bad rap. A lot of times, I think they're just trying to help us, and I think, overall, they're fair."

The future

Brenda Rusch: "I'm going to college to find out what makes me happy. I want to be happy in my life. I don't want to be rich, but I would like enough money to live comfortably. I couldn't handle a 9 to 5 job."

Thomas Tyree: "I just want a job so that when I get up in the morning, I'm not going to be mad and dread going to work. I'm still trying to find out what I'm going to do with the rest of my life."

Valency Reid: "I want to be rich and famous, but I don't want to be like Michael Jackson."

Sean Finken: "It's funny, four years went by just like that (snaps his fingers). I look back and four years ago we were all freshmen. Now, next year, we're going to be freshmen again. And four years after that, we'll be starting over again. I think I've figured it out: Life is nothing but one big new beginning."

Also contributing to this story was News Staff Reporter Jeff Sparshott.

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