After the mayhem in East Aurora on Halloween night, I heard a young man in a television interview ask: "What are the kids (in that area) supposed to do? There are no malls or skate parks here."
Here's an answer for that young man and other teenagers in East Aurora and elsewhere.
Many of your parents moved to East Aurora and other suburban or rural areas to get away from the malls and other urban things they grew up around. If you talk to them, they will tell you that they "did it for you," so you would not have to grow up in the environment they did. They want you to have it better. They want you to enjoy fresh air, to be away from the railroad yards, industry and busy thruways that polluted the air they breathed and affected their asthma and allergies. They wanted you to have better schools and good sports programs, and open spaces to play and spread your wings. They wanted opportunities for you to have the groundwork to be ready for college and get a head start in life.
What did teens do before going to the mall? Young people were involved in clubs, like the Boys & Girls Club you have in East Aurora. Other organizations included Explorers, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, clubs at school and many others. Teens went to the show and saw movies. They were involved in extracurricular activities like chorus, school plays, the school newspaper and the yearbook.
They were involved in sports, playing on a team, running cross-country or being the team's manager. They may have been cheerleaders or organized activities like a pep rally or motorcade before the games. Young people would serve on committees to have a school social activity or dance.
Teens had part-time jobs, paper routes or volunteered at the local nursing home. They were also involved in after-school intramural programs, PAL basketball or baseball leagues and other youth athletic programs. Teens helped out around the church or school. They played with their little brothers and sisters.
Time was also spent doing some work around the house. They helped their parents by cutting the grass, raking the leaves, cleaning up their bedrooms, washing the car or tending to some other odd jobs. Most teenagers I know do many of the things mentioned here. Most young people I meet are great kids.
The bedlam that occurred on Halloween night is inexcusable. All young adults are not to blame, neither is law enforcement. The police are always used as a scapegoat in these situations. They are on the front line, representing the authority of our system.
It does not matter what the cause may be -- abortion protest, picket line at a factory strike, demonstration at a local campus or crowds rioting in the streets. The message was delivered by these teenagers' actions. The court system will sort things out.
Now is the time for our young people, their parents, the school and elected officials to work together to address the issues in their communities so the frustrations of youth do not take this course of action again. If you really want better conditions or things to change, sit down with your elders and discuss the issues. This is another item that today's teens can add to their "to do" list.
CHRISTOPHER CLARK is a resident of West Seneca and a 29-year veteran of law enforcement.
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