Cheering Our Teens
I always look forward to Ukiah High’s Homecoming Parade. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to drive the lead police car in the parade.
Leading the parade is such a wonderful experience. Not only does your presence announce the arrival of an enthusiastic (and very loud) group of kids through the streets of Ukiah, but you also get to see just how many supportive people come out to cheer for our kids as they parade through our streets.
I am always amazed at how well our community rallies around small town events. Smiling people lined the streets as they clapped and hollered in support of the high school students‑—who were cheering their hearts out on the homecoming floats. It was great to see. I see the same support from community members at other after-school activities, and I think it makes Ukiah a very special place to live.
And, I think it is critical that we celebrate that cheering – that we continue to cheer, and cheer, and cheer – to encourage our youth to get involved and stay involved in afterschool activities.
Did you know that extracurricular activities have been proven to improve academic achievement and keep kids safe?
Consider this: www.afterschoolmatters.org reports that every 26 seconds, a student drops out of high school. A great way to combat this is with after-school programs—they are crucial in reaching young people who are most at risk and searching for meaningful activities to keep them invested in their own success.
If we can find ways for teens to stay busy with productive activities, they will be less likely to become a victim of a crime or engage in dangerous activities. Crime statistics show that teens are at highest risk of becoming a victim of a violent crime in the hours immediately after school. This is also when teens are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like smoking, drinking, using drugs, or engaging in unsafe sexual activity.
Here in Ukiah, we are lucky to have so many different opportunities for our kids.
Teens can participate in school-sponsored activities like sports, performing arts, clubs, and academic tutoring. They can also get involved with community-based activities like volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club or spending time at the Arbor on Main. Maybe a part-time job fits the bill.
Can’t think of something to do? The Ukiah Daily Journal publishes volunteer opportunities every week. The idea is to get involved with something. From arts to sports to volunteering, there’s so much! Try these: team or individual sports, martial arts, performing arts, Boys & Girls Club, play an instrument, tutoring, Math-Engineering-Science-Achievement (MESA), organized high school clubs, or volunteering.
Each of these activities will give teenagers experience that can help in getting a job, creating a resume or completing a college application.
While many teens with time on their hands make good choices, some don’t. We’d all like to think our teens won’t succumb to peer pressure or curiosity, but filling their time with positive activities reduces those opportunities for risky behavior. Studies show that teens who do not participate in after school activities are nearly three times more likely to skip classes or use marijuana or other drugs.
Being involved in after school programs also offers other intangibles – the opportunity to engage in activities that help young people realize they have something to contribute to the group; the opportunity to work with diverse peers and adults to create projects, performances, and presentations that receive accolades from their families and the larger community; and the opportunity to develop a vision of life's possibilities that—with commitment and persistence—are attainable.
Finding paths as a teenager can be difficult, but having afterschool activities and great support systems helps. Thank you for cheering, and cheering, and cheering our Ukiah teenagers. It really does make a difference!
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.