Edgerton coalition helps teens, adults come together
“Give a little bit, give a little bit of your love to me,” the 14-year-old sang as 13-year-old Michael Via played guitar. “There’s so much that we need to share, so send a smile and show you care.”
A dozen teens and their adult advisers asked residents to “give a little bit” to the effort to break down the barrier between teens and adults at a “family and community town supper” Monday.
Nearly 50 parents and children, teachers and students, and community members of all ages discussed how Edgerton can make young people feel more valued.
The dinner grew out of a 2005 survey that showed Edgerton teens are more likely than their peers in the rest of Rock County to use alcohol, binge drink and drive after drinking.
Meanwhile, only 22 percent of Edgerton teens said the community values youth, something experts have defined as a vital asset to raising successful young people.
A group of residents formed the Edgerton Coalition for a Healthy Community, which organized Monday’s event along with local teens.
Participants discussed the challenges young people and adults face in working together effectively and how those challenges can be overcome.
“Sometimes (adults) don’t understand you,” said 11-year-old Autumn Forss. “Some adults don’t realize what’s going on in kids’ heads.”
Participants agreed adults have to make time to listen to children and realize that children sometimes lack the focus and commitment to see a project through without adult help.
“We have to show kids they are intrinsically valuable, no matter how screwed up they may be,” said Dave Flood, who runs the Non-Toxic Teen Center in Edgerton.
Children, on the other hand, have to realize the importance of forming relationships with adults as an alternative to negative behaviors such as underage drinking.
Autumn said many of her friends didn’t realize what the coalition was all about and probably didn’t care. Dave’s wife, Toni Flood, said several teens dropped out of the project after their peers found out about the anti-drinking angle.
Many of the ingredients for relationships between youths and adults already exist in Edgerton, participants said. For example, the city already has a teen center and Edgerton Community Outreach, a food pantry and thrift shop where teens and adults can volunteer together.
But those opportunities need to be expanded and publicized, participants said.
The coalition can take the general ideas brought forth Monday and use them to create specific programs, said Kathy Comeau, coalition project coordinator.
“It’ll be interesting to see what the group takes as the next step,” she said.
To get involved with the Edgerton Coalition for a Healthy Community, call Kathy Comeau at (608) 884-9402, Ext. 315.
The group is writing its bylaws and planning an April dinner for adults to focus on underage drinking. A group of teens also participates in the coalition.
Ideas to improve teen-adult relationships
Each table at the “family and community town supper” Monday offered these suggestions to improve teen-adult relationships:
-- More adult mentors for children whose parents can’t or won’t spend time with them;
-- A youth advisory/leadership group that could participate in city committees, the school board and other representative bodies;
-- Support groups for parents, especially single parents;
-- More family dinners and more time “watching kids instead of the TV”;
-- A “Take a Grown-up to School Day” similar to “Take Your Child to Work Day”;
-- More volunteer opportunities for teens and adults;
-- More recognition for teens who do well.