<< Neighborhood Reports, The Teen Guideā€”It's all part of L.A. Youth's Health Project

By Nadine Dabby, 18, UC Berkeley
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Adolescence is one of the most unclear periods of time in a person’s life. Teenagers are busy trying to discover the difference between what people have told them all their life and what they need to believe in for themselves. They are trying to figure out who they are, trying to deal with friends that put all sorts of pressures on them every day and trying to deal with expectations that have been put on them by parents, friends, teachers, society, you name it. Every day teens ask, "Should I try pot?" "Should I have sex with my boyfriend?" or "What exactly would I do to be in the in-crowd?"

It makes me really sad when I think about what my friends have been up against. One of my friends turned to anorexia because she wanted to be popular. A co-worker at the ice cream shop has been selling drugs for the past year and his brother recently died of a heroin overdose. The boyfriend of another girl I recently met was shot and killed by a gang… The list goes on and on.

Let’s face it, the number one problem and the number one solution in a teenager’s life are their peers. Even if friends do not pressure you into doing something, just knowing that they do it makes you want to do it too (like drugs or sex or something). And by all means, spending your time on the phone looking for a healthy activity to do is a waste of time when you can be pretending to be cool with your "homies."

That’s why we need to make it easy and fun for teens to get the help they need. We need a youth center that would have all of the services and materials necessary to produce happy teenagers and put them all under one roof. Imagine going swimming at the community pool, and being able to talk to a counselor about problems you are having with friends through other activities sponsored by the same community center. Teenagers are attracted to the promise of fun and games, that might lead them to get help in other areas they would not have normally bothered with. We should treat the whole person when serving teenagers instead of focusing on the problems that some of them have."