Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sue Scheff: Earth Day 2010 and Your Teens

Forty years after the first Earth Day, the world is in greater peril than ever. While climate change is the greatest challenge of our time, it also presents the greatest opportunity - an unprecedented opportunity to build a healthy, prosperous, clean energy economy now and for the future.

Earth Day 2010 can be a turning point to advance climate policy, energy efficiency, renewable energy and green jobs. Earth Day Network is galvanizing millions who make personal commitments to sustainability. Earth Day 2010 is a pivotal opportunity for individuals, corporations and governments to join together and create a global green economy. Join the more than one billion people in 190 countries that are taking action for Earth Day. Source: EarthDay.net

VolunteerSpot has created an excellent source of information and ideas to Give and Grow for Earth Day and all year round through their new eBook. Simple online sign up sheets and scheduling tool for all your spring earth-friendly service activities.

About the Give and Grow Together Promotion

As part of this effort to promote earth-friendly service activities, Arbor Day Foundation and VolunteerSpot are teaming up. Plan any local earth-friendly service activity on VolunteerSpot through the end of April, and invite at least four volunteers, and the Arbor Day Foundation will plant a tree in your honor. Sharing the promotion via social media (Facebook or Twitter) or trying a sample sign up on VolunteerSpot will also earn a tree. "The trees we plant will be lasting symbol of service to generations to come," said Kevin Sander, director of corporate partnerships for the Arbor Day Foundation.

Save time while Saving the Planet

Give and Grow together not only inspires earth-friendly action, but also highlights VolunteerSpot's free (paperless), web-based online sign up sheets and volunteer coordination tool. Volunteer leaders and teachers who use VolunteerSpot find more people step up to get involved and that they cut their administrative time by 85% and eliminate volunteer drop-out due to poor communication practices like reply-all email and phone tag.

In honor of our Mother Earth, here are some service activities to consider this April and beyond:

  • Participating in a community garden project
  • Picking up trash at your neighborhood park
  • Planting a tree or flowers in your yard or an elderly neighbor's
  • Teaching children about the importance of recycling
  • Planning a trash-free Earth Day picnic
What is Arbor Day: The Arbor Day Foundation inspire people to plant, nurture, and celebrate trees. This is the mission statement of the Arbor Day Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit conservation and education organization. The impact we make on our world is accomplished through our conservation and education programs.

When is Arbor Day? National Arbor Day is on the last Friday of April and celebrated at the same time by 28 other states. You can find out when your state's Arbor Day is celebrated by reviewing the following calendar, click here.

Read more.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Sue Scheff: Bullied Nearly To Death - Isn't it time to start SAVE in your schools?

Although March 26th, 2010 marked the end of National Youth Violence Prevention Week, the campaign against school violence and violence among teens continues.

Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE) is a non-profit organization that promotes the virtues of civility and respect by helping students of all ages learn how to care for other people. SAVE's mission is to decrease the potential for violence in schools and communities by promoting meaningful student involvement, education and service opportunities in efforts to provide safer environments for learning.

Josie Ratley, an eighth grader in Deerfield Beach Middle School, is one of the latest victims of violence. She remains in critical condition and in a medically induced coma at a Florida hospital. Her family's attorney says doctors are optimistic after two surgeries to relieve pressure on her brain.

Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti said, "It seems like with this youth violence happening, it seems like we have a culture of callousness going on with kids. We really have to get to the bottom of it." - CBS4

Last October, Deerfield Beach Middle School student, Michael Brewer was victim of a heinous act of bullying and violence. With over two-thirds of his body burned by being set on fire by other teens, he miraculously is healing and is an example of perseverance.

Josie Ratley and Michael Brewer were once simply students that shared a science class together, today they have a mutual bond that, thankfully, few can understand - being bullied nearly to death.

Isn't it time your school started a SAVE program? Learn how to start a chapter today. To assist potential or new chapters to get started or to aid established chapters of SAVE in their overall organization, The National Association of SAVE has created a useful planning tool for exclusive use by you and your SAVE chapter. Simply download the Getting Started information for immediate use!

Students Against Violence Everywhere will be happy to mail you a free introduction packet that includes sample activities, pledges, crime prevention and conflict management information, as well as information on service projects. Many of these items can be found in the SAVE Sampler . One tool that has been very beneficial to SAVE chapters is the SAVE Essentials Manual, a 200+ page manual full of ideas, lessons, and violence prevention strategies.

Be sure to register your SAVE Chapter! For more information, email cwray@nationalsave.org , or call toll free number at 1-866-343-SAVE and request the SAVE Sampler.

Watch slideshow and read more - click here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sue Scheff: Boys Brag about Sex - Teenage Sex

O-kay, let’s face it, teens are very well versed in sex education – far more than generations prior. However the bragging rights seem to continue. According to the CDC, an estimated 48% had sexual intercourse before graduating from high school. Nearly two-thirds of teens that have had sexual intercourse say they regret it and wish they had waited, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Connect with Kids just posted an interesting article about boy and their boosting about their sexual encounters.

Boys Brag about Sex

Source: Connect with Kids

“Some guys are really stupid and all they want is to have sex and, yeah, they brag about everywhere.”

– Stephanie, 16 years old

Teenage boys like to talk about it and, sometimes, they exaggerate.

“All they talk about is sex,” 17 year old Tyler says. “You go walking down the hallway…sex, sex, sex. ‘Hey I had sex with her, I had sex with him.’”

In a new Seventeen magazine survey of boys and young men, almost half said they were virgins and one in four said he had lied to other kids about not being a virgin. According to the survey of 1,200 boys and young men, age 15 to 22, 60 percent said they lied about something sexual, 30 percent lied about “how far they had gone,” and 78 percent said that there was too much pressure from society to have sex.

17 year old Brad confirms that “guys brag all the time. I mean I’ve met one guy who hasn’t bragged about it. ”

Still there are some boys, like 17 year old Jesse, who are willing to say ‘no’ even when pressured by a girl.

“I was just astonished and I was like, ‘no’ because I like know this girl, she was my friend, but she wasn’t someone I wanted to do that stuff with. She wasn’t the right person for me to lose my virginity with.”

Daniel Jean-Baptiste, a health educator, says he has seen a change in the attitude of young men. “The attitude is starting to become, ‘I don’t really care if my buddies are talking about it and this person is bragging about it. It’s not really a big deal, because you can get STDs. Or you can get someone pregnant.”

Many experts argue that in our culture, boys are pressured to have sex, or at least say they have, but that it’s up to parents to talk about the seriousness of sex… and the risks.

“A young person is never too young to talk about HIV, to talk about STDs, to talk about puberty,” Jean-Baptiste says. “And I think that if parents start to talk to their young people before they reach puberty… you’ve really seasoned them, so that in the future years… you’ll be more comfortable and they’ll be more comfortable talking to you.”

They will be more comfortable, as he says, and there is a good chance they will listen.

“Kids, they might not say they listen to their parents but deep down inside, there’s always… their parents are their little voice… anything a parent says usually does get taken to heart,” says 18 year old Jesse.

Related Information

It’s not uncommon to see statistics showing that girls face a great deal of pressure to have sex at an early age. But a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that girls are not alone. Researchers found that one in three teen boys reported feeling peer pressure to have sex – often from male friends. In fact, the survey findings showed that boys were more likely than girls to feel pressure and more likely to believe that waiting to have sex is a myth.

How prevalent is sexual behavior among teens? The most recent numbers come from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey of high school students from 34 states:

•An estimated 48% had sexual intercourse before graduating from high school.
•Approximately 15% had sexual intercourse with four or more partners before graduating from high school.
•Nearly 62% of currently sexually active students used a condom during last sexual intercourse.
•Approximately 90% of the students said they had been taught about AIDS and HIV infection in school.

Tips for Parents
Nearly two-thirds of teens that have had sexual intercourse say they regret it and wish they had waited, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. The campaign also found that when it comes to making a decision about sex, 30% said that friends influenced their decision the most.

As a parent, how can you help your child make an informed decision about sex? It is first important to openly discuss sexual health with your child. Although it may be tough and awkward at times, open communication and accurate information that comes from you – the parent – increases the chance that your teen will postpone sex or use appropriate methods of birth control once he or she begins. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry offers the following advice when talking to your child about sex:

•Encourage your child to talk and ask questions.
•Maintain a calm and non-critical atmosphere for discussions.
•Use words that are understandable and comfortable.
•Try to determine your child’s level of knowledge and understanding.
•Keep your sense of humor, and don’t be afraid to talk about your own discomfort.
•Relate sex to love, intimacy, caring and respect for oneself and one’s partner.
•Be open in sharing your values and concerns.
•Discuss the importance of responsibility for choices and decisions.
•Help your child to consider the pros and cons of choices.
Your teen may be feeling pressure to have sex from a number of places – friends, peers or partners. As a parent, it is important that you give your child the necessary tools to make a decision about sex before peer pressure makes the decision for him or her. The American Social Health Association (ASHA) offers the following advice about sex and peer pressure to share with your teen:

•Not every person your age is having sex. Even if sometimes it feels like everyone is “doing it,” it is important to realize that this is not true. People often talk about sex in a casual manner, but this doesn’t mean they are actually having sex.
•Hollywood doesn’t show the full story. Sexual situations are everywhere in our culture. They are on television, in movies and even in commercials and magazines. This is part of the reason why we enjoy these things so much. Just remember: Characters in these movies, television shows and advertisements are actors and actresses. They can’t get unwanted pregnancies and STDs. You can.
•There are lots of great reasons why people wait to have sex. You may be making plans to go to college or to start a job after you finish high school. Would a baby in your life make it easier or tougher for you to do the things you’ve dreamed about? Wanting to avoid STDs is another reason that some people are very cautious about becoming sexually active.
You can continue to help your teen avoid peer pressure to have sex by teaching him or her the following strategies from the ASHA:

•Hang out with friends who also believe that it’s okay to not be ready for sex yet.
•Date several people and hang out with different groups of people.
•Go out with a group of friends rather than only your date.
•Introduce your friends to your parents.
•Invite your friends to your home.
•Always carry money for a telephone call or cab in case you feel uncomfortable.
•Stick up for your friends if they are being pressured to have sex.
•Think of what you would say in advance in case someone tries to pressure you.
•Be ready to call your mother, father or a friend to pick you up if you need to leave a date.
•Never feel obligated to “pay someone back” with sex in return for an expensive date or gift.
•Say “no” and mean “no” if that’s how you feel.

•American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
•American Social Health Association
•Kaiser Family Foundation
•National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
•Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (CDC

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sue Scheff: YMCA Offers Teen and Youth Programs

Many people are not aware of the vast services and resources the YMCA offers. In Broward County you will find kids programs, summer camps, educational events, teen and youth programs, lecture series and so much more.

As summer is soon approaching and many teens will have extra time on their hands, it is best to get their summer plans organized. Do they need community service hours? Are they interested in becoming a CIT (Counselor in Training), or do they want to participate in the vast list of activities the YMCA has planned?

The YMCA recognizes the importance of creating a positive, safe environment for youth and teens in every community. We offer an outstanding variety of programs designed to encourage children to grow to their full potential. By learning about themselves and others, they learn vital life skills and avenues of expression that they might have otherwise overlooked. Each program or activity is focused on developing the spirit, mind and body; stimulating creativity; offering challenges; building developmental assets; and of course, fun! - YMCA Youth and Teen Programs

Are you interested in the summer camps that the YMCA offers? Click here for more information.

Learn more about the Family Programs at the YMCA:

The YMCA brings parents and children together for life enriching experiences. We believe the YMCA can help in strengthening relationships in families by providing fun and meaningful programs and activities. Time together as a family is valuable; the YMCA provides quality physical and social programs and activities, designed specifically for families.

The YMCA of Broward County strives to offer a safe, welcoming environment in which parents and kids can communicate, cooperate and care for each other. Family nights and days give families a chance to have fun together in a safe, caring, welcoming environment. Ever-popular pool and gym components help family members relax and fight stress. - YMCA

Being an educated parent will help you provide an educational and fun family time for everyone.

Read more - click here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Sue Scheff: College Visit Checklist

It is that time of the year when high school juniors will be planning their colleges of choice. For parents, they need to be involved too since this will be a big decision both financially and what is best for your teen.

Schoolwork, your job, your parents... choosing the right time to go on campus visits may seem like a complicated procedure. But when you're planning your trip, just be sure not to lose sight of the reason you're going: to see if the school is a good fit for you. This means you need to see the college when classes are meeting and day-to-day activities are taking place. In other words, go when the college is in session. - College Board

Here is great checklist to start with:

  • Take a campus tour.
  • Have an interview with an admissions officer.
  • Get business cards and names of people you meet for future contacts.
  • Pick up financial aid forms.
  • Participate in a group information session at the admissions office.
  • Sit in on a class of a subject that interests you.
  • Talk to a professor in your chosen major or in a subject that interests you.
  • Talk to coaches of sports in which you might participate.
  • Talk to a student or counselor in the career center.
  • Spend the night in a dorm.
  • Read the student newspaper.
  • Try to find other student publications—department newsletters, alternative newspapers, literary reviews.
  • Scan bulletin boards to see what day-to-day student life is like.
  • Eat in the cafeteria.
  • Ask students why they chose the college.
  • Wander around the campus by yourself.
  • Read for a little while in the library and see what it's like.
  • Search for your favorite book in the library.
  • Ask students what they hate about the college.
  • Ask students what they love about the college.
  • Browse in the college bookstore.
  • Walk or drive around the community surrounding the campus.
  • Ask students what they do on weekends.
  • Listen to the college's radio station.
  • Try to see a dorm that you didn't see on the tour.
  • Imagine yourself attending this college for four years.
Source: College Board

With today's expanding cyber-world, don't forget to check to see if your college of choice has a Facebook page. Talk with current students and follow their events! Check out to see if they have a Twitter feed too.

The more you know about the college you are choosing, the better prepared you can be.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sue Scheff: Don't Let Your Luck Run Out on St. Patrick's Day

"I'm fine to drive."

Expect to hear this line a lot on March 17th, St. Patrick's Day. Known as much for drinking as it is for shamrocks and the color green, this holiday is a fun time to be out with friends, but can be a dangerous time to be out on the road. Too many people are under the misconception that you need to be "falling down drunk" to be too impaired to drive safely. They couldn't be more wrong.

Nearly 12,000 people were killed in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver in 2008. That's about one person every 45 minutes. You can't help but wonder if those lives might have been saved if only people had thought twice before getting behind the wheel.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Ad Council are continuing to work together on the "Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving" PSA campaign. Buzzed drivers drink and drive, but do not consider themselves a hazard on the roadway because they have had "only a few drinks." BuzzedDriving hopes to educate people on the reality that consuming even a few drinks can impair driving and that "Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving."

With St. Patrick's Day approaching, it's important that drivers be reminded about the dangers of buzzed driving. We need your help.

Get the word out that before going out after work to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, you should be sure to line up alternative transportation: have the number for a taxi, know the area public transportation system or designate a sober driver.

Follow BuzzedDriving on Twitter and Facebook to get the latest updates and news from NHTSA. You can also visit their campaign Web site to sign a pledge not to drive buzzed, play an interactive game demonstrating how drinking can impair driving and hear a personal story from someone who has been affected by buzzed driving.

Enjoy St. Patrick's Day and remember safety always comes first!

Watch the PSA video and read more on Examiner.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sue Scheff: Hoarding - It can start in adolescence years

With the expansion of cable television, there doesn't seem to be a topic in reality shows that is missing. From 16 and Pregnant, to Intervention, to Hoarders, people are learning more about a variety of issues. More importantly, there is now an awareness that is helping others to understand disorders, addictions, challenges others are facing and a distinct mental health problem such as hoarding.

Hoarding can start in early adolescence. If not addressed, it can get progressively worse. Some of the symptoms can be:

  • Cluttered living spaces
  • Inability to discard items
  • Keeping stacks of newspapers, magazines or junk mail
  • Moving items from one pile to another, without discarding anything
  • Acquiring unneeded or seemingly useless items, including trash
  • Difficulty managing daily activities, including procrastination and rouble making decisions
  • Difficulty organizing items
  • Perfectionism
  • Excessive attachment to possessions, and discomfort letting others touch or borrow possessions
  • Limited or no social interactions
It's not clear what causes hoarding. Some researchers believe that hoarding occurs on a continuum - some people may simply be considered harmless pack rats, while others have a much more severe form of collecting that is life-threatening. The condition is more likely to affect those with a family history of hoarding, so genetics and upbringing are likely among the triggering factors.

Hoarding is currently considered a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), but this classification is under debate. Many mental health researchers argue that, while some people with OCD have hoarding behavior, hoarding is not specific to OCD. In fact, one study found that hoarding was no more likely to be associated with OCD than with other anxiety disorders. - Mayo Clinic

Some risk factors and features about hoarding that researchers have come to understand are associated with age, family history, stress factors, social isolation and perfectionism.

Help for hoarders is widespread today. Hoarding Cleanup is an nationwide service that offers resources of help. If you are in Florida, click here to find a local service near you.

Parents, start with your kid's bedrooms - encourage them to keep their rooms organized and if you notice that their room is becoming more than "just a messy room" take steps to find out why. Another red flag could be your child's locker at school. Check it out!

Be an educated parent, you will have safer and healthier teens.

Read more on Examiner.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sue Scheff: PS Youth Outreach Services - Help Motivate your Teens to Success

Motivating students today can be a challenge. Many children are very bright, intelligent and have the ability to get excellent grades, however are underachievers. This can be extremely frustrating to parents as well as teachers.

PS Youth Outreach Center located in Lauderdale Lakes, offers Broward County youths an opportunity to learn better study skills, prepare for SAT's, ACT's as well as GED preparation. PS Youth also helps teens and young adults with career development by offering assistance with resume writing, interview tips, filling out applications and computer classes.

Paula Scott, President of PS Youth Outreach Center, said they are planning a Summer Camp which will also foster educational growth and retention during the summer months as well as incorporate some fun, educational activities. PS Youth's one-on-one tutoring rate is very low, in comparison to other tutoring and private educational services.

PS Youth Outreach Center, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization which serves at-risk youth between the ages of 5-22 who reside in Broward County. The agency was founded in 2006 as a reaction to the numerous youth of Broward County who are under-served or unaware of the many services available.

Education is a privilege which many of our youth become discouraged to follow through with. Whether discouraged by social distractions, familial distractions, or simply a lack of guidance, these youth need to be helped through education.

PS Youth is approved by FDOE and the School Board of Broward County. Call today and learn more! 954-358-0625 or email at info@psyouth.org . Are you able to sponsor a student or have school supplies to donate? Learn more, click here.

Be an educated parent, it can help your child reach their greatest potential.

Read more on  Examiner.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sue Scheff: Fake Pot - What are your teens smoking?

As parents scramble to keep up with the challenges of raising teens today, they are now thrown another curve ball. Most know that smoking pot, although not legal and seems to becoming more addictive among youths, is a trend that some parents brush under the rug with the justification thatit is only pot.”

Recently after speaking with a parent of an at risk teen, she said her therapist actually told her teen it was “okay” to smoke marijuana. Excuse me? This parent was horrified and this only empowered the teen. Obviously they are not returning to that therapist, but how many others feel this way?

Parenting is hard enough, and it is the parent that is the strongest tool in helping our teens to understand the dangers of drug abuse.

Now we have what is being called, K2 – or “Spice,” Genie” and “Zohai” – that is commonly sold in head shops as incense and referred to as the “fake-pot“. Produced in China and Korea, the mixture of herbs and spices is sprayed with a synthetic compound chemically similar to THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Users roll it up in joints or inhale it from pipes, just like the real thing. – AP

K2 costs between $20 and $50 for three grams, similar to the street price of marijuana, but with the key advantages of being legal and undetectable in drug tests. The Federal Drug Enforcement Administration has classified it a “drug or chemical of concern.”

Kansas and Missouri already have bills to ban the mystery substance. What is your state doing about this latest trend?

Be an educated parent, you will have safer and healthier teens.

Read more on Examiner.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sue Scheff: Dangerous Games Teen Play - Fishbowl Party aka Pharm Parties

Raising teenagers today is one of the most challenging jobs a parent can have. From the Rainbow Game, to Trunking, to The Choking Game, to Bagging, to SNAP.... it can be literally impossible to keep up with it all. However as a responsible parent, we have to try to stay in tune with all these games and let's add another to the list.

Fishbowl Parties also know as Pharm Parties are a serious concern for parents. At these parties, teens will drop an array of pills into a bowl, then pass around the trail mix for the party goers to graze. Where are they getting these prescription drugs? Usually in their home medicine cabinet or even their grandparents medicine cabinet!

Dr. Drew Pinsky warns against this craze. Learn about Dr. Drew's RX Locker and keep your children safe. Dr. Drew recommends that parents clean out their medicine cabinets and throw away old prescription painkillers. "Never say, not my kid! Get those pills out of your medicine cabinet, talk to your kids," he advises.

As the problem of prescription drug abuse among young people continues to increase, parents need to be aware of fishbowl and/or pharm parties and the dangers of them.

Communication is key, start talking today about these concerns. You could potentially save a life.

Florida Department of Children and Families offers an extensive website and resources on substance abuse in the state of Florida.

Watch the informational video and read more on Examiner.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer and healthier teens.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sue Scheff: Teens and College Students Learn the Value of Debates

During the election year we hear about the presidential debates and encourage our teens to get involved and learn. However have you ever thought of the value of a good debate and what it can teach your children? Today more high and college students are learning to give their opinions and beliefs through sound and educational debates.

Source: Connect with Kids

The Value of Debate

“It provides a way for students to learn outside of the traditional classroom. They have control over their learning, and that inspires students and motivates them.”

– Bill Newnam, debate coach

After declining in popularity, high school and college debate teams are now making a comeback. Today, there is a new pool of young students who are learning to battle against each other using words and their wits and gaining important life skills along the way.

On the court and on the field, kids love to compete. And now on the intellectual front, a familiar type of competition – a contest of reasoning and persuasion that some kids misunderstand – is gaining popularity again.

“Before I got into debate, I thought it was for geeks,” 15-year old Hannah says.

Willie, 14, echoes those sentiments. “I thought you had to be a nerd or you were geeky or you weren’t cool [to debate].”

As it turns out, many students say it is cool to match wits and win an argument against other students. And while these students are having fun, they are also learning.

“Debate teaches us three things that we can use in almost any field we go into,” says Bill Newnam, associate director of debate for Emory University. “It teaches us incredible critical thinking skills, very good research skills and strong organizational and presentational skills.”

In fact, some studies show that teenagers who participate in organized debate for at least one year are able to significantly improve their critical thinking skills. And kids say that debating is training for the mind.

“It’s helped with my school work and my articulation skills,” Willie says. “I speak out more. I comprehend better.”

“In class, I used to not talk. I used to sit back in the corner, but now it’s like I know what I’m talking about so I talk more,” Hannah says.

Participating on a debate team also helps boost kids’ confidence and teaches them how to use words and ideas to resolve a conflict.

“Words are strong enough themselves. So if you speak what you think is right, people will accept or reject it,” Willie says.

In the past, competitive debate was mostly associated with students who attended private schools and came from affluent backgrounds. But the argumentative practice is now gaining popularity with students all across the United States, even those who attend inner-city schools. In fact, the Urban Debate League (UDL) says approximately 3,000 students take part in its nationwide program.

So why are more students choosing to exercise their minds by joining high school debate teams? According to a study conducted by Gary Alan Fine, author of Gifted Tongues: High School Debate and Adolescent Culture, the reasons for teens’ involvement in debate fall into three categories:

Strategic Involvement – Many students associate debate with the worlds of politics and law, and some who desire to follow these career paths say joining a debate team is a “logical choice.” Others join in an attempt to “beef up” their transcripts before applying to college.
Fun Experience – The number of students who join because “I always liked to argue” is considerable. These students find competitive debate both challenging and conducive to camaraderie.
Network Recruitment – Many students join a debate team because their friends are members. Others say that their parents, siblings or teachers whom they admire often influence their decision to try competitive debating.

Tips for Parents

The UDL says that because students involved in debate regularly engage in writing, information analysis, and in-depth library and Internet research, they often receive higher grades than non-debaters in high school and are more likely to continue on to post-secondary education. A recent study published in the journal Communication Education lends further evidence to debate’s educational benefits. The study’s findings showed students who participated in organized debate for at least one year improved their critical thinking skills by 44 percent. If you want to encourage your teen to join a debate team, the Puget Sound Speech and Debate Association suggests informing him or her of these potential benefits of participation. Debating …

  • Offers preparation for leadership.
  • Provides for investigation and intensive analysis of significant contemporary problems.
  • Develops proficiency in critical thinking.
  • Emphasizes quality instruction.
  • Encourages student scholarship.
  • Develops the ability to make prompt, analytical responses.
  • Develops critical listening skills.
  • Develops proficiency in writing.
  • Encourages mature judgment.
  • Develops courage.
  • Encourages effective speech composition and delivery.
  • Develops social maturity.
  • Develops multicultural sensitivities.
  • Develops computer competencies.
Although the popularity of debate is rising, many schools do not have a debate program in place. The National PTA encourages parents to approach their children’s school administrators with concerns about student programs or the lack thereof. If your child’s school cannot provide a forum for debate, you can find information for student involvement in national or state high school debate programs by contacting the UDL or the National Forensic League.

Urban Debate League
Gifted Tongues: High School Debate and Adolescent Culture
Communication Education
Puget Sound Speech and Debate Association
National PTA
National Forensic League

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sue Scheff: Building a Strategy to Reduce Gangs in Florida

One of a parent's greatest fears is if their teen becomes a member of a gang, or is even considering it. Whether it is peer pressure or a feeling of low self worth, teens can be vulnerable if they are striving to "fit in" with what they consider a "cool group."

By joining a gang, teens have a social network already established for them with friends who are literally ready to die for them. This infrastructure can fill a void in a young person's life quickly and easily; however, it is in a negative way. The teenage years are a formative and difficult time for many people and joining a gang is a simple way to feel liked and popular. In dangerous neighborhoods, joining a gang can actually provide protection from other gangs, which is attractive for many people.

Florida Gang Reduction organization was formed to help reduce gangs in Florida. This Strategy outlines a comprehensive plan for communities to develop specific solutions to dramatically reduce gang membership and gang-related activities by:

  • Empowering youth to lead productive gang-free lives;
  • Improving law enforcement suppression efforts; and,
  • Addressing rehabilitation and re-entry issues.
The Strategy calls for the formation of seven Gang Reduction Task Forces throughout the state of Florida.

Research indicates that parents play a pivotal role in keeping young people out of gangs. Negative influences within the family-including domestic violence, child abuse, harsh or inconsistent parenting practices, and/or drug/alcohol abuse by family members-can increase the risk that a youth will join a gang.

Parents can protect their children from gang activity through taking positive actions, such as monitoring their children's activities, fostering close relationships with them, and using positive discipline strategies. However, parents often lack factual information about gangs. - Parents Guide to Gangs

Learn more about Hanging With the Wrong Crowd.

Be an educated parent, you will have safer teens.

Read more on Examiner.