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1997-98 ESSAY CONTEST RESPONSIBILITY Responsibility! Where does it come from? Why is it important? What makes it work? Why do some have it? What is its purpose? As human beings, we are responsible for our own lives. We must know how or how not to live in order to be responsible for our own effectiveness and happiness and ultimately, for most of our own circumstances. However, to do this requires that we possess a personal standard of responsible behavior that grows out of realizing there are boundaries for responsible behavior and knowing how and when to make appropriate choices. What is responsibility? “What does responsibility mean to me? This word means having to work hard, [being] trusted by others to do jobs, and it means being able to take charge [when] doing something on your own.” Tom Moore, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Responsibility means several different things to me. Being responsible means that you will get your work done at home, at school, or on a job. It also means that you keep your promises and that people can count on you to be on time and to get the job done.” Adam Williamson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “One of the most important [aspects of] being responsible is knowing how to make good choices…In order to make a good decision, you need to know all the facts about the [choices] that you are considering.” Tara Dufour, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “I believe [being responsible] is what you’re obliged or expected to do. Everyone, generally speaking, is looking for a shortcut to find the quickest way out of doing [his or her] job in life. Responsibility takes a lot of conscious effort; it takes the ability to discipline oneself. Being [responsible] makes others feel secure knowing they can rely on you for anything.” Jessica Jones, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “A person who finds an expensive coat lying in a locker room and turns it in to the lost and found instead of keeping it as their own, is taking responsibility over someone else's unfortunate mistake. A woman who is asked to give blood to help another person live and accepts is also acting responsibly. Likewise, if the woman doesn't accept, but finds someone to give blood for her, she is still acting responsibly. Students who complete their assignments on time and use their class time wisely are good examples of people who are responsible.” Eric Wemhoener, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri
“To be a responsible person, you have to know the difference between right and wrong and do the thing you [think] is best.” Joe Ward, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “To me, responsibility means doing what you are supposed to and avoid doing what you know is wrong.” Darren Erickson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “My definition of responsibility is being able to take care of yourself and control all of your actions.” Matt Smith, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “A responsible person is able to distinguish between right and wrong and to think and act rationally…Being responsible is being mature.” Janae Buchanan, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Having respect for yourself and others is a large part of having responsibility.” Melissa Fox, Harrisburg High School, Harrisburg, Illinois “Responsibility is the quality of being reliable and trustworthy.” Jolleen Erickson, Luck Public School, Luck, Wisconsin “To me, the word responsibility means to do something without being asked and to do something for someone if they ask.” Derek Velasquez, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Doing your best in everything is a good example of responsibility.” Jennifer Buford, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “Great responsibility is shown in being a good friend. The person must be willing to listen, compromise, show honesty, and be trustworthy.” Julie Cunningham, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “Being responsible takes high moral standards and self-discipline.” Matt Nelson, Luck Public School, Luck, Wisconsin “Responsible behavior is defined by Webster as deeds done using moral, legal, or mental accountability.” Betsy Eddins, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “Responsibility is the ability to meet obligations or to act without superior authority or guidance.” Alyssa Lemoine, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Responsibility is defined as the ability to meet obligations or to act without superior authority or guidance.”
Christina M. Nicholas, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “Being responsible means helping out…Responsibility takes an attitude of caring for what happens in our society and having the initiative to take action when a problem develops. Without these qualities, responsibility would not exist. Awareness of groups less fortunate requires action with compassion. There is always opportunity to help others.” Clint Stevenson, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois As young people begin to make sense of the meaning of responsibility, they also begin to see the correlation between the freedom to act and the consequences of those actions. Wouldn’t setting a personal standard of responsibility help avoid the negative consequences? “Responsibility, to me, is taking full credit for any situation where I am at fault, no matter how severe or petty the consequences may be.” Kristen Stevens, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “When you are responsible, you are accountable for your acts, you are able to fulfill your obligations, and you are liable for what you do in all situations. Everyone in society has some type of responsibility, whether it is towards parents, friends, teachers, co-workers, or others in the community.” Brenda Stevens, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Responsibility means meeting a requirement set by someone or yourself. It also means to be accountable for something you have done.” John Westra, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Responsibility is the condition or fact of being responsible, an obligation, or an accountability. One definition for responsibility is ‘a person or thing that is responsible for its own actions.’” Phillip Eide, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Responsibility. It is a word that can be used in many ways. We are responsible for the actions we take and the outcomes or results of those actions. There is a difference between being responsible for our actions and taking responsibility for them.” Neysa Baker, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “To me, responsibility is always doing what you need to do to get [it] done. For example, if you have a job, you should always go to it on time and do your work efficiently. You should always know for whatever you do, there will be consequences and you should take responsibility [for those consequences].” Mandy Austin, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “What the word responsibility means to me is looking after and taking care of your own actions. The Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines responsibility as ‘the quality or state of being liable to be called on to answer.’ There are many different
definitions to the word responsibility and I don’t think that there is just one correct definition.” Connor Myers, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “I think responsibility is doing everything to the best of your ability, admitting to a mistake and taking the proper action to correct it. It is setting and achieving goals and living by set standards.” Anna Robbins, Luck Public School, Luck, Wisconsin “I think the most fundamental form of responsibility, and from which all other moral actions will emanate, is self-responsibility. I think to be responsible and accountable for one’s actions is the most difficult and, if accomplished, the most fulfilling thing a person can do in his life. It is at the very heart of human nature to have acceptance for a person’s own behavior. A truly responsible person will own up to his mistakes and not attempt to place the burden on another.” Joe McCombs, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “To me, responsibility is something a person must be mature enough to possess. [It takes] courage to own up to certain mistakes you’ve made and the wisdom and acceptance to learn from them… It shows maturity and responsibility to learn [to] take the blame when it is rightfully yours.” Tara Dufour, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Responsibility to me means to do [your] duty. This includes taking credit for your actions, good or bad…I feel I am responsible for my actions, not only because what I do affects how I look and feel, but what I do also affects the people around me.” Ryan Evans, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Responsibility is the act of being responsible for something regardless if it is good or bad. Responsible people… take care of themselves and others.” Adam Buckneberg, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota Responsibility also means being accountable. “Many times people are late for appointments or engagements because they ‘just couldn’t get away.’ Do these people not realize that they are throwing everyone else’s schedule off when they are late? For example, when a person is late to a doctor’s appointment, the doctor’s schedule is thrown off and he is made late for the parent-teacher conference he had in the afternoon. Then the teacher is late, and so on.” Jennifer Nicole Wilhelm, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “When we take responsibility for the things we do, we admit to others and ourselves that we are responsible individuals.” Neysa Baker, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “Nothing teaches…responsibility faster than getting out of bed at 5:30 in the morning to be on time to work.” Mitch Melohn, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa
“The responsibility it takes for a graduate of high school to make a life-determining decision on what to do with the life ahead of him/her is unbelievable.” Katie Yocum, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “Responsibility is the moral, legal, or mental accountability of a person. Being responsible is not something you receive, it is something you have to work at.” Joni Partin, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri Teens respond to negative pressures to gain the respect of their peers. “Teens are faced with pressure from peers more often than not. Out of my fellow classmates, forty-three percent say they face it one to three times a week and thirty-four percent say that they have to deal with [it] over five times a week. The point is that, as teens, we are always making decisions on how we should deal with this pressure. Most of us are taught not to do drugs, but yet teens across the world do it because of peer pressure. We must make up…our minds that we will make decent choices and never compromise what we believe in. “Nine times out often, peer pressure is associated with negative connotations. Although peer pressure is [oftentimes] negative, it isn’t always. You might pressure someone to do something that [is] positive…Since [peer pressure] can be good or bad we, as teenagers, must distinguish whether the pressure we are receiving is positive or negative for [us], because different people have different opinions [about] right and wrong. We have to choose our friends wisely these days. We cannot be hanging with people that are going to try to force friends to do [something] for the wrong reasons. We shouldn’t decide to “kick it” with someone just because they look or seem to be popular or cool. With the right friends in the right environment, peer pressure most likely won’t be destructive. If you choose your friends wisely, then you should never have to worry about being pressured to do something that you don’t want to do. “Since I’m part of this crazy Generation X, I know we don’t always make the right choices [in] friends. I guess we haven’t lived long enough to be so wise. So we face this pressure no matter how hard we try to use our good judgment. This is why we must, at all costs, stand up for what we believe in. We must be morally strong. So many of us have compromised what we believe in to be a part of a group. Two-thirds of teens I recently surveyed have compromised their morals at least once because of this plague called negative peer pressure. “Compromising your morals is wrong and you should never do it. I know that’s easier said than done, but we’ve all got to try. Sometimes doing something might look or seem exciting but going against what you believe in will never, ever make you happy. I have done things I never even dreamed of doing because [of] peer pressure and it never made me happy. Of course, it was fun while it lasted but, sooner or later, I began to regret it. Your morals are you, so if you compromise them, then you are compromising yourself. “Sometimes we, as teens, pressure our friends into doing things without even realizing it. It is amazing how oblivious it can be to us to basically force someone to do something that they would never [have] done on their own…It is okay to [be] influential in
someone’s life, but we must influence people positively; we have to help our friends make good decisions. “Eighty-three percent of local Joliet teens say they have pressured someone else…Why teenagers pressure their peers is a mystery. I‘ve done it plenty of times without even realizing it. I guess it’s in our nature and subconscious or something. One student responded that we do it because misery loves company. That might possibly be the cause of negative peer pressure, but I’ll let you decide. Maybe we don’t take it seriously. Over half the students…I surveyed [thought] as long as you make the right decisions, [peer pressure] won’t get too serious. “As teens, we must have the responsibility to recognize negative peer pressure and deal with it without compromising our morals. One teen said, ‘Peer pressure isn’t something I worry about because my self-esteem is greater,’ as compared to a few years ago. Another said, ‘Peer pressure is nothing more than a simple obstacle that can be conquered by one’s true moral judgement.’ I suppose that as long as you realize that there can be consequences, whether you pressure someone or give in to pressure, then you have what it takes to make a responsible decision. That’s what’s important, a responsible decision.” Keely Stewart, Joliet Central High School, Joliet, Illinois “Responsibility means the state of being responsible and accountable for your own actions. This is, perhaps, one of the most important lessons to be learned in life. From the time that we are born until we die, we will be held responsible for decisions that we make, mistakes we make, and our choices along the way. Responsibility must be taught and learned. It is not a trait that we are born with. Taking responsibility is not always the easy or most popular thing to do. It is sometimes hard to own up to something that you have done to cause harm or trouble to another person.” Sarah Elizabeth Spancs, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “Every day of our lives we are faced with the chance to do or not to do something. Making this decision involves weighing the positives and negatives, using common sense, and taking responsibility [for our decisions]. People make good or bad decisions constantly, but taking responsibility for those decisions is much less common.” Tom Feldman, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “Everyone has to take responsibility for themselves to become responsible. There is no one in this world who can give responsibility away; it has to be…learned…A person… needs to be responsible to live a full and happy life.” Chad Douglas, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “The best way to pass this responsibility on to others is to teach it to our children and siblings at an early age. No one can be responsible all the time. There will always be an exception, even with some of the most responsible people in the world. But, if everyone sets a good example on a daily basis, we can help to keep the responsibilities and morals of future generations strong.” Eric Wemhoener, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri
“Teenagers tend to involve themselves in what everyone else is doing or what feels good without thinking [about] the consequences they might have to face.” Julie Cunningham, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “Peer pressure results in students’ drinking or even having competitions to see who can become the most inebriated or not pass out first. Every weekend someone either provides the alcohol or the place for a party. We have had many parties broken up by the police, resulting in the ticketing of minors for possession of alcohol. If we approach this problem at the elementary or grade school level, it might have an effect when the students come to high school.” Danielle Schmitt, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “To me, it is easier to be responsible when you are with responsible friends. If you have a responsible influence, I think you have a better chance to be responsible.” Darren Erickson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota Where does responsibility begin? Is there a growing failure on the part of parents and other adults to set an example of responsible behavior? What other influences help to shape our attitudes toward right and wrong behavior? “Responsibility starts with the parents. Teaching children obligations must be a priority. It can start with doing your homework, walking the dog, and belonging to a club. Parents need to help their children make the right choices and become involved in their lives. If they are not involved, the child has no guidance, which results in a lack of judgement between right and wrong. Kids these days have a hard time deciphering between good judgement and bad judgement anyway, so they need a little push in the right direction. I just advise that if you have a child, actually become a parent and teach your child the responsibility that comes with life.” Niki Ill, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “…Parents must set rules and guidelines for their children to follow. Simple punishment for breaking a rule can teach a young child…respect for authority and laws…Whether we like it or not, we must learn responsibility because the world requires it. Responsible parents make responsible children.” Nathan Haskell, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “Parents have a duty to educate their children about drugs, sex, money, prejudice, religion, and all other matters they will experience in life.” Nathan Haskell, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “When children are young, they watch and mimic everything their parents do. Therefore, parents have a responsibility to set a good example. If children see what is right, they will be more likely to follow the right path. When I was young, I knew my parents made a special effort to drive to town and devote in all the public elections. This has played a vital role in making me take part in my civic duties. I just turned eighteen and am already registered to vote. I am anxious for the first election so I can play a part in our government. Also, my parents have…encouraged me to participate in community services. Although I am eighteen years old, I still take pride in helping elderly ladies with
chores [and I] baby sit at the primary school on parent-teacher night. Also, my parents have told me of the severe punishment I would face if I chose to break the law. I respect their authority and choose to stay out of trouble. I believe my parents have taken the responsibility of raising me to be a responsible citizen. If other parents took the time, as my parents do, I believe more young adults would be responsible citizens.” Gayle Price, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “No one is born with the notion of how to be responsible. This is taught from the time a person is a child and it is a lesson that is never ending. Even adults learn new lessons in responsibility. [It is] more or less, a promise that a man or woman will do his or her duty.” Kenneth Moreau, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “One of the most important influences on children are their parents. Parent’s involvement in education helps to stimulate a desire for learning in their children. Many problems in school evolve [from] lack of attention from parents. “All children deserve attention and when parents are too busy to spend quality time with their kids, the children may resort to negative behavior in order to be noticed. To some children, getting bad grades is a way to gain the [notice] they crave. This is an expression for an emotional requirement that needs to be fulfilled. Also, children may resort to skipping school when their acts are not taken seriously. Children tend to follow the examples their parents provide for them. If parents seem uninterested and uninvolved in their children’s education, the children are more likely to lose motivation to do well in school. Some children may even end up dropping out of school if parents do not supply proper guidance and reinforce the importance of education. When kids feel as if their parents are not concerned with their education, they are less likely to think about their future and the consequences of not furthering their education… “Parents become so involved with their occupations that they leave little allowance for quality time with their children. With a fast-paced society, it is difficult for both parents and children to create time for each other. A time should be set aside when the whole family is able to sit down and communicate with each other…Giving children encouragement and praise can serve as a way to [open] the lines of communication between parents and children. Parents can begin with gestures as small as asking children about their days or finding out about the kinds of information they learn from day to day. This can help children feel a sense of responsibility to apply themselves so they can provide positive details to share with their parents.” Jennelle Bieberle, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “Parenting has more responsibilities than any job I know of…Children who come from stable families do better in school, have less chance of becoming involved with crime, and live better lives than children who have poor family lives. It is the family’s responsibility to raise their children, not anyone else’s [responsibility].” Anna Robbins, Luck High School, Luck, Wisconsin “Responsibility is an important trait for kids to learn at a young age. Some, like the ones previously mentioned, have already learned it and others are still learning it. Some adults
have shown that they don’t have it. Whether small or large, everyone has a responsibility to himself and to those around him to be the best he can be and to work for the good of others. The more people that look this responsibility in the face, the better our nation will become.” Sara Robertson, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “Parents teach children to be responsible for common everyday things…such as brushing their teeth, using the restroom, and putting on clothes. As people enter their teenage years, more [responsibilities] are piled on to the list like driving, getting homework done, and household chores…[An] employer expect [an] employee to be reliable and responsible. Showing up for work on time and getting your job done are two major aspects of maintaining a job, which all ties back into responsibility.” Christina M. Nicholas, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “Young [grocery employees] are learning valuable lessons in life, [which] helps them form dreams of higher-end jobs with higher wages, actual benefits, and a comfortable work environment. Young employees at this store learn a valuable lesson in life: promptness. When one person shows up late for their shift, it is a setback for the rest of the workers on that shift. When a young person learns to be precise in their timing, or even a little early, this trains them for when more responsibilities will be placed on them later in life with the existence of a family, and so on.” Scott Boyd Keltner, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “Teenagers are taking responsibility when they excel in academics…Responsibility is shown in their sports because they have to make many sacrifices to participate…as well as focus on academics in order to stay eligible. “Then, teens take responsibility when they hold jobs while in high school…Teens who get jobs show responsibility by looking ahead to future needs for money…to help pay for college or just their individual needs. Carrying the loads of school and a job shows great responsibility. “…Being a good role model [for] young children, as well as junior high students, shows great responsibility…” Julie Cunningham, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “I think responsibility is an important part of growing up. As you grow older, you gradually take on bigger responsibilities, and you must learn to deal with them in a reasonable manner. [People] need to learn how to speak in the active voice and confess their faults in order to complete a successful rite of passage.” Nicole Madison, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “Late one night in Boston, [a youth] and two other friends beat up two Hispanic woman and threw bottles into an Hispanic family’s home. His family, along with the families of his friends, was evicted from public housing. The Boston Housing Authority is invoking a ‘one-strike-and-you’re-out’ policy to get rid of racism and drugs in housing projects. Keith’s parents brought this on themselves by not keeping closer track of their son.
“Another example is [this girl in school]. She has admitted that she often forgets to set her alarm clock. Each time, her mom calls in to the school so she can go to class instead of being sent to a study hall for coming to school later. Although this may seem like no big deal, [she] has become less and less worried about getting up on time because she knows her mom will cover for her. [Her] mom is hurting [her] by not making her responsible for setting her alarm clock.” Matt Hinkle, Joliet Central High School, Joliet, Illinois Responsibility is an essential guideline for human conduct. We must live by the rules of society if we are to continue to live in a civilized world. Doing so in our personal lives and in our communities not only improves our civilization, it also provides a sense of meaning, belonging, and purpose to our lives. “Research has shown that many people who volunteer made their own lives better. Some have completely changed their lives around. In some schools, in order to graduate, you are required to take a service-learning course. If this course [were] required everywhere in the United States at every school in order to get a high school diploma, so many people would help out. People would think of ‘responsibility’ as an important word…We make our own choices. I hope to read about more stories of good deeds and volunteerism and [fewer] stories [about] irresponsibility. The only way we can is if we go out there ourselves and make a difference, no matter how big or small.” Christy Coulter, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “You ask me, 'What is responsible behavior?' and I am supposed to tell you exactly what it is, and give examples of it. The truth is, I don't really have a clue...For instance, I am failing English class with a fifty percent, and if I actually put some real effort into it, I could probably ace the class. I am irresponsible, I admit that. Today someone told me that admitting it is the first step toward recovery, I guess they are right, because I am doing this paper now. “From past television interviews and magazine articles I have heard of irresponsible actions, far worse than my laziness in school. O.J. Simpson was accused of killing his wife, and his wife's friend. It was never actually proven that Simpson did it. In my mind, I think he did, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt. The harm caused by this crime is easily seen. The grief felt by the victim's family and friends is obviously felt by everyone. Imagine your family member being beaten, mutilated and murdered! “Sexual harassment accusations have been 'popular' for many years. What I mean by 'popular' is that they are so commonly used, sometimes when they shouldn't be. These accusations are made mainly by women, towards men. Clarence Thomas (one of the Chief Justices) sexually harassed Anita Hill. The media loved this, tabloids, newspapers, bad jokes...very popular news, indeed. The bad part of this ordeal was the loss of trust of courts and government in general. This is not good, for the fact is that America is known for its freedom of rights, so what happens when the 'free' people don't trust their government and/or society. Riots, fights, theft, and mainly induced fear break out…Police officers beat Rodney King (an African American) to the ground with police issued defense weapons (sticks). The harm caused by this act is evident. Although he is
scarred by this irresponsible act, in the long run, the police will have a far worse record. When people don't trust the police, bad things happen...So in this essay, let's take some notice of responsibility for a change... We are only human, and irresponsibilities surround us. We can only try our best to act responsibly.” Benjamin Norris, Salem High School, Salem , Missouri “The fire fighters needed to be able to see during fires so that they can reach victims on time. So students raised money for…a helmet, which is a great asset to the fighters.” Jennifer Buford, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “A fourteen-year-old…newspaper delivery boy put a handwritten note on each of his customers’ porches asking for used [clothing] and household items to donate to Goodwill Industries for resale to the needy. His customers donated 50 large [bags full] of various items…Adam’s spirits were lifted at the thought of contributing to other people’s happiness.” Sara Robertson, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “People may worry about clean water, clean air, and wildlife. Some people worry about what is happening to society as a whole. Others may think the world is changing and we need to be responsible for the whole picture. I believe you need to be responsible for yourself before you [become] responsible for the planet.” Dustin Hofer, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “Many teens will not admit that they have a problem and need help…The containment of severe stress —the bottling up of one’s problems without communicating them to others —contributes to a chemical imbalance that impairs one’s ability to function normally and induces a feeling of hopelessness. It is our responsibility as a community and as a friend or classmate, to try as hard as we can to help them…” Alisha Shevon Heyen, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “I have thought about the problem of having no recreational activities in a community. Once, we were supposed to get a civic center that would have recreational activities for young, old, and all ages in between. Even though it was a great idea it was voted down by the taxpayers. In the summer, people can go to the pool and the rivers for fun, but in the winter, there is nothing to do. We have a bowling alley in Salem, but it's nasty and dirty, so people don't go there often. Once, years ago, we had a movie theater in our town, but it didn't get enough business, so it had to shut down. Since then, people don't have faith in opening a business that provides fun in Salem. “In my town, Salem, we have empty buildings that could be transferred into a building that has recreational activities. Since we have a group called 'Community Betterment,' I think they could get a special committee to get a place where people, teens and all, could go hang out for fun. The building could have a pool hall, a dance floor, an arcade, and a concession area. The committee can raise the money that will be needed by doing a variety of fundraisers, such as roadblocks, bake sales, charity auctions, etc. The group will have to get one of the buildings either donated or rented to them. The group can also help when the remodeling process comes about. Since our town is small, contractors would either volunteer their time or give it for a lower price. When the new building is
finished, there could be a small fee for getting in. If all this would happen, I believe the number of people partying and having premarital sex would decrease.” Brie Boyer, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “We need alternate choices of entertainment for junior high and high school students. My town put in an arcade, a popular place for junior high students. The high school students still use the parking lot where a lot of drinking occurs. High school students would appreciate a non-alcoholic dance club.” Danielle Schmitt, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas Life can and does impose some extraordinary responsibilities on us, even at an early age. It takes a great deal of courage and maturity to meet those responsibilities. “…Recently, a friend’s mother was diagnosed with cancer, a kind that is almost always fatal. This practically crippled him and his state of mind. [This is happening to him] at a time when he is developing his outlook on everything [that is] important [to him]…planning a good future…having the best time of his life…all at the same time. He tries his hardest to do right and be strong and [to] help his family as much as possible…He sometimes does not realize that by trying his hardest to do right and to be strong that he is being very responsible.” Scott Yerkes, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “One…very important example of responsible behavior [is] my other best friend, Crystal. Crystal’s mother passed away a couple of days before Crystal’s sixteenth birthday. Crystal had to, all of a sudden, become an adult and take care of herself, her brother and her dad. She does a great job of taking care of her family and she manages to keep her grades up. I’m proud of her, and I hope she continues to do well in her life.” Margie Walker, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “Mary Borchers has had to grow up fast. When she was little her father died of cancer. Mary and her mother moved to Salem, and in the few short years they have been here, her mother has also been diagnosed with cancer. Because of this, Mary has had to spend a lot of her time in the hospital with her mother and help her in her, oh so often, ups and downs. Although it has been hard, Mary hasn't given up in school. Mary continues to keep her grade point average up and has recently been accepted to participate in the Occupational Therapy program at Maryville College.” Melissa Curley, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “Shelia takes care of her seventy-five-year-old grandmother [who] is losing her memory …[She] has to go around and check behind her when she’s using electrical appliances. She makes sure her grandmother is okay before she goes to bed. Shelia’s being very mature because most teenagers would like to be out partying and hanging out with their friends. She chooses to take care of her grandmother first and do the other things later.” Margie Walker, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama Teens making a difference…for life!
“Many teens are helping themselves by helping others. They form an Early Adolescent Helper Program at their schools…At the Gorilla Theater in Oregon, teens try to educate other teens, through a play, on the effects of AIDS. The cast is made up of a bunch of teens who try to educate street kids not to use dirty needles, not have unprotected sex, and AIDS.” Sara Byl, Luck High School, Luck, Wisconsin “Peer Helpers…pick individual kids or groups of kids and work with them. In some cases, the helpers just visit with kids one-on-one, just to make them feel important and let them know that kids in their high school care about them. I think this is showing a great deal of responsibility because kids are taking the time to help out other kids.” Laci Harmon, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota Taking positive action sometimes results in negative consequences. Does this mean then, that taking a lackadaisical attitude toward responsibility is okay? “It is even worse when bad things happen to people trying to do a good deed. A radio station went bankrupt so nineteen listeners scraped up enough money to buy the station. They volunteered their time to keep the station on the air. When the government found out that they weren’t receiving minimum wage, they were threatened with large fines. They explained that the station wasn’t making a profit, and the matter was finally dropped. Their reward for volunteering was nothing more than a great deal of stress. “Kim was driving home when she saw a house engulfed in flames and noticed a woman dangling a child from a second-story window. Kim left her card to help the woman. She caught the girl and held her until the mother jumped down. Kim received enough gratitude from the mother’s hug, kiss and many thanks, but had another reward waiting at her car. While she was helping the woman, her purse had been stolen. People willing to volunteer deserve so much more gratitude than they get.” Kathleen Kies, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “Two young teenage girls spot an adult stealing merchandise in a department store. When one of the young girls tells a manager what is going on, he does not believe her. Later, he realizes that something was stolen and [that] the two young girls were trying to help. To be rewarded for this, the man should have given them a gift certificate or showed an appreciation for his poor judgement.” Derek J. Veade, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “A teenage girl sees bruises on a child that she is babysitting. She thinks the parents are beating this child. She calls social services to make a report. When the parents were investigated, it was shown that they did not beat their child. He had a disease that caused bruises or busted veins [that] appeared on his body. This had been undetected. The parents then sued the teenager for the accusation even through she was trying to help. Even though the girl was trying to help another person’s life, she made a bad choice. I understand that she could have been punished but not as strict as the family took it. “Two young men attend a local high school party. They are having a great time until they are offered marijuana. They refuse the marijuana but went home with the smell of it on
their clothes. The parents unjustly accused them of having smoked it themselves, even though they didn’t touch the stuff. These children knew the difference from right and wrong, yet were still fussed at for making the right decision. A child’s word should mean a little more than that.” Derek J. Veade, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “A young teenage boy wrecks into the rear-end of another car. He takes full responsibility for the accident. He offers to pay for damages, hospital costs, etc. However, the man wants to “milk” the teenager and his parents for more financial benefits. The child is trying to be honest and take full responsibility for a problem that he knew he caused. But the way some people are treated in today’s society, this would be impossible.” Derek J. Veade, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana In the following stories, students evaluate the ethical pluses and minuses of adult behavior in our society. “Teri Majewski donated something that is dearer to her than money. This 34-year-old mother of two went ‘beyond the call’ when she was asked to donate a quart of her bone marrow. Majewsi, an American Bone Marrow Donor, had signed into the registry ten years earlier. [Through] Majewski’s kindness and courage, [she] willingly endured a painful procedure in hopes of saving the life of a perfect stranger. [This showed] a remarkable sense of responsibility. This courageous woman’s efforts helped to [save] the life of a young patient dying of leukemia.” Natasha Jeansonne, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “In 1984, Lynn Carr lost her job and was forced to live on the streets of St. Charles, Missouri with her five-year-old son. They lived for a week out of their car and [then] began staying with friend after friend. Carr began working toward a high school diploma and making cheesecakes in her spare time. The cakes were pretty good, so Carr offered them to several restaurants in which they sold pretty fast. “Later that year, she met a man at church and they were married shortly after. Carr began selling the cakes from their home and soon she opened her own company. All of the women that Carr hires are welfare moms or high school dropouts. As the women make the cakes, they listen to motivational and self-esteem tapes. Carr [also] wants to start a learning and daycare center on site.” Christine Brummett, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “My older brother lost his wallet. It had his driver’s license in it and some other items of identification. It also had some money and some personal items. The wallet was sent to him in the mail a few days after he had lost it with nothing missing. My friend also lost his wallet at the beach and it had money, identification and personal items in it. A lady found it on the beach and called him to come and get it.” Eric Adamson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “In order for one to be a safe driver, he must not only take responsibility for himself, he must [also] take responsibility for others. A teenager in Northern Indiana witnessed a hit-
and-run accident. She immediately pulled her vehicle to the side of the road and signaled for help. A volunteer firefighter saw the teen, pulled over, and called for an ambulance over the radio. Doctors said that if the victim had been brought into the emergency room any later, he would have died of internal bleeding. Had the young woman and the volunteer firefighter not acted so responsibly, this man would not have survived the crash… “A state trooper was involved in a high-speed chase near Wellington, Kansas. As the chase continued onto some winding and hilly roads, the trooper gave up the chase. The trooper knew that if the high-speed chase continued through these roads, many lives would be in danger. Rather than risking the lives of others, the trooper acted responsibly by giving up the chase.” Ty Stackhouse, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “Heather Whitestone is completely deaf in one ear and has only five-percent hearing in the other. She lost her hearing at the age of eighteen months from a medication reaction combined with the H-influenza virus. She enlisted in special programs for the hearing impaired that helped her to read lips and use her voice. Heather attended regular high school and graduated with a 3.6 GPA. She went on to attend Jacksonville State University in Alabama. This took a great deal of responsibility [on her part] to go through all that in order to graduate from regular high school.” Christina M. Nicholas, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “Fred and Joy Allen are Southern Baptist missionaries in Zambia. There are a great number of hungry people in Zambia, and the Allens have taken the responsibility of distributing food to ninety-three families in eight villages in the area.” Christina M. Nicholas, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “Another example of responsible behavior would be how this deacon is dedicated to being faithful to his church. He opens the church every Sunday morning. In the winter, he gets there early and turns on the heater. He does the same thing in the summer. He starts devotion on time and he basically makes sure everyone is comfortable. Being responsible and dedicated has earned him numerous awards in the church.” Margie Walker, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “Most women enter motherhood because they want to create a child with the man they love. That is not the case with a single, 27-year-old woman named Theresa who was raped by an acquaintance of hers. She was quite scared and did not report the rape, but she soon realized that her ordeal was not over; she was carrying his child. When confronted, he asked Theresa if she wanted him to throw her down the stairs to get rid of [the baby]. She was ashamed of the whole incident and confided in a few friends who all recommended she get an abortion. She knew that was not the choice for her and decided to have the baby and raise it. She told the rapist that she had gotten the abortion, then moved to another town where she is now raising her child. This woman must be commended for her bravery. She took responsibility, not for her own actions, but the actions of a rapist.” Niki Ill, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois
“Responsibility is [demonstrated] daily and is a very important part of becoming an adult. As life gets harder, people try to find ways to make it less stressful. Sometimes, they leave out important [principles] in accomplishing this and the most common one left out is responsibility.” John Valentine, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “…People who adopt animals from shelters keep them from being euthanized. Most times, the animals are there as the result of some form of human neglect to begin with, so it is nice to see others pick up the slack.” Allison Speth, Rockridge High School, Taylor City, Illinois The minuses… “In this world today, most people are responsible for their own actions, but there are some people who are not responsible. One example of irresponsibility happened when we took our horse to get it broken so it could be ridden…The man had starved [our horse] to the point where most of its bones were showing. He did not take the responsibility of feeding the horse while breaking it. To make matters worse, the horse still was not broken.” Josh Nichols, Luck High School, Luck, Wisconsin “A third example of an irresponsible act is the poaching of wild game. Poachers are a threat to organized hunting. Hunting is a good experience for people who like the outdoors, but if poachers keep taking game illegally, they will limit the game for hunters who have licenses. Poaching raises the price of licenses and limits the amount of licenses that are handed out.” John Westra, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Oprah Winfrey said that people should not eat beef because of Mad Cow disease. After she said this, the cattle prices dropped really low. This affected the cattlemen…All of a sudden, they couldn’t even get the same value for their cattle. So I think that the irresponsibility falls on Oprah Winfrey’s shoulders because Oprah Winfrey is not a cattle disease specialist and she shouldn’t say things on national television that she doesn’t know for sure.” Phillip Eide, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “An obvious lack of responsibility occurred when three former Northwest Airline pilots, while intoxicated, flew a Boeing 727 from Fargo, North Dakota to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. The pilots, Norman Prouse, Robert Kirchner, and Joseph Balzer, were convicted and sentenced August 20, 1996. These pilots violated strict FAA and company regulations and put the lives of 91 passengers in jeopardy. This is a clear example of three men in an important position who acted irresponsibly.” Matt Nelson, Luck High School, Luck Wisconsin “I live across the road from a bar and grill called the River Side Station. When a new owner came, he fixed the place up, inside and out. I thought it was a good thing. Then I found out that he was a drug dealer. He was selling his drugs across the street from my house. He got greedy and had his friend start the place on fire. The first time we called it
in, the building was just smoke-damaged. About an hour later, we had to call the fire department again. The fire fighters thought it just restarted and so they soaked the whole place down to make sure it did not start again. There was little damage to the building at this time. The third time we had to call that night it was too late to save the bar. We later found out that he did it deliberately for the insurance money. He went to jail for selling drugs and insurance fraud.” Eric Adamson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Recently a California television star and her boyfriend were followed home from their shopping trip and later robbed in their own driveway. This irresponsible act just proves that it is easier to steal from others than to feel the pride of working for what you want. A person who steals will never feel that pride because they are only thinking of themselves and not the overall consequence of their actions.” Erica Keller, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois Here, students evaluate the ethical pluses and minuses in the behavior of their peers. “Two of my friends who are dating recently found out that they are going to have a baby. They are both straight-A students and have high hopes for their careers. They have chosen to have the baby and are transferring to a community college closer to home to finish out the year. They took responsibility for their actions and told their families. I know that they love each other and I respect them for their decision. [Their decision is] a prime example of [taking] responsibility.” Jackie Hauer, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “An example of responsible behavior would be how my cousin, Evelyn, takes care of her child. She’s in the eleventh grade and she takes the baby to the babysitter every morning. Then she goes to school and tries to focus on her schoolwork. At home, she has to do her homework while at the same she has to make sure the baby is taken care of. He has to be fed, bathed, and put to bed. Sometimes the baby wakes up in the middle of the night and Evelyn has to rock him back to sleep so she can get some sleep. She is taking responsibility for her actions, and she’s doing it very well.” Margie Walker, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “Heather Schaller has shown her responsibility through her job. She wanted to go on the school sponsored ski trip in March. She also wanted to be a lifeguard at the pool this summer, which required her to take a life-saving course offered only on the weekend of the ski trip. Heather decided to stay and take the course. Her decision was responsible because she decided a good summer job was more important than the ski trip.” Erin Wohlwab, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “A teenage girl has sex with her boyfriend. After he finds out she is pregnant, he leaves her, not wanting anything to do with the baby. Instead of having an abortion, she decides to face her parents and have the baby anyway… “A teenage girl gets her father’s credit card without his knowledge. She spends more than she has in her savings. She tells her father what she has done and gets a job to pay the bill…
“A boy neglects his homework for his football practice. Report cards come out; he fails two subjects. He tells his parents he has spent too much [time] on football and realizes he needs to study more.” Christina M. Nicholas, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “When someone does the wrong thing, it is easy to forget about it…A few years ago, a boy used to bully all the kids around him until one day someone bullied him. He did not like it at all, and it made him realize that what he was doing was wrong…He decided to change, and…started to take up for the smaller boys and girls and help them when they were having trouble. Realizing what he did wrong and acting on it was very responsible.” Scott Yerkes, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama The minuses… “…[Taking] responsibility all starts with the small things, such as taking the blame for an accident. During the 1996-97 school year, the Newell-Fonda Mustangs were lucky enough to win the Boys’ State Basketball Championship. While they were in Des Moines, they resided at the Howard Johnson Hotel. The Mustangs were not the only team staying there, however. Upon checking out, the coach was informed that things had been broken. They didn’t know who did it and nobody took responsibility…. “Another incident concerning people being irresponsible is when a local boy from Fonda ran over his neighbor’s dog. Of course, nobody witnessed this event, so he assumed he was in the clear. The bad part about it was that he actually was in the clear. The family mourned the passing of their pet, and nobody was the wiser. “Many hit-and-run accidents happen every day all over. Somebody backs out from a parking space and smashes out a taillight or dents a door. The owner is left to pay for the damages out of his or her own pocket. Even accidents carry their own responsibility, and it’s time people face up to them.” Thomas Kruchten, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa Teenage pregnancies and teenage mothers… “Teenage mothers often have poor eating habits, smoke, drink alcohol, take drugs, or do not receive prenatal care. This increases the risk of their babies being stillborn or born with health problems.” Edward Couvillion, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisisana “One out of three teenage mothers drop out of school and do not get a job. This leaves them to depend on their parents or go on welfare.” Edward Couvillion, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Children coming from out-of-wedlock births tend to be quiet, shy, [and] not very confident. They usually do not do very well at school and often, like their parents, have sex at a very early age. They are also more likely to use drugs or alcohol, or even be so depressed that they commit suicide…So much could be avoided if we teenagers thought
before we [acted]. The young parents would probably exchange changing diapers and warming up bottles with milk for having fun with their friends. And the children, whose parents had them when they were very young, might be blaming themselves for their parents’ mistakes and the irony is that it is very probable that they will once make the same mistakes themselves. And lastly, these families would not have to live in poverty, contributing to the national welfare. Maybe we will not do anything as big as becoming a teenage parent, but that does not allow us to act irresponsibly.” Sandra Carbolova, Joliet Central High School, Joliet, Illinois “A final act of irresponsibility…[is] teenage pregnancy. A lot of young people all over the world have one major problem: they either already have a child or they are expecting one. Teenage pregnancies are most common in high school, but are now [occurring] in the junior highs also, because teenagers are becoming younger and younger when they have sex. But after they get pregnant, they have another choice to make, either letting the child live or having an abortion. Most teenagers take the easy out and have an abortion. That is why teenage pregnancies are irresponsible.” Jennifer Buford, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “Children coming from out-of-wedlock births tend to be quiet, shy, [and] not very confident. They usually do not do very well at school and often, like their parents, have sex at a very early age. They are also more likely to use drugs or alcohol, or even be so depressed that they commit suicide…So much could be avoided if we teenagers thought before we [acted]. The young parents would probably exchange changing diapers and warming up bottles with milk for having fun with their friends. And the children, whose parents had them when they were very young, might be blaming themselves for their parents’ mistakes and the irony is that it is very probable that they will once make the same mistakes themselves. And lastly, these families would not have to live in poverty, contributing to the national welfare [problem]. Maybe we will not do anything as big as becoming a teenage parent, but that does not allow us to act irresponsibly.” Sandra Carbolova, Joliet Central High School, Joliet, Illinois Sometimes a responsible friend can influence the actions of another. “…A friend acts in a responsible and caring manner by speaking up and advising another friend when they seem to be doing something that is potentially harmful to themselves.” Danielle Soldani, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “A 13-year-old girl told her friend that she is going to take her mother’s car for a drive before her mom arrives home from work. The friend advises the girl that she shouldn’t do it because she doesn’t have her license, she is uninsured, and her mother isn’t home. She also said that if something would happen that the 13-year-old girl and her mother would be in some really serious trouble.” Danielle Soldani, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana Legislation is being passed at state and local levels that holds parents responsible when their children break the law. Some think this action is necessary because the
number of troublesome children who are breaking the law is increasing at an alarmingly high rate. Should we be legislating parenting? “All around the United States there are laws being passed to make parents more responsible for their children’s actions. There are different laws in every state; in Louisiana parents can be found guilty for ‘improper supervision of a minor’ and can be fined up to $1,000 and imprisoned for six months if their child associates with a convicted felon or drug dealer. These laws all began because states began using compulsory education laws that would hold parents responsible for ensuring school attendance. These laws have expanded criminal codes to make parents liable for a broader array of offenses by their children.” Kara Lemoine, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Seventeen states and thousands of cities have passed responsibility laws. These laws require parents of juvenile delinquents to pay fines or go to jail when their children break the law. In West Virginia, parents had to pay $5,000 in fines because their children were caught defacing public property. A law in Louisiana requires parents to pay $1,000 and face imprisonment for six months if their child is caught associating with convicted felons, drug dealers, or street gangs.” Matt Hinkle, Joliet Central High School, Joliet, Illinois “In about 40 states, some type of ‘parental responsibility’ legislation has been formed. Parents can teach their child right from wrong, but that doesn’t mean that their children are always going to listen. Some children don’t care what their parents say. Who cares if their parents went to jail because of something they did? If authorities want children to stop breaking the law, punish them. By punishing the parents, the children don’t learn anything…If the children are punished and take the responsibility for their crime rather than the parents, the children have a better chance of realizing their mistakes and not doing it again.” Erin Lemoine, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana Elizabeth believes that parenting laws are what parents need to make them parent. “Most young criminals are in jail because their parents don’t want to be bothered with their children, so they let them do as they please. Now, in some states, the parents are held responsible. It’s an incentive to make parents parent. If they spend a night or two in jail and pay a fine for something they didn’t even do, it may make them pay attention to where their kids are. In fact, that’s what lawmakers are counting on.” Elizabeth St. Romain, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “A 10-year-old boy in Virginia was kicking, teasing, and generally tormenting his elderly neighbor’s dog. The man came out of his house and proceeded to spank the boy. It was not an excessive beating and lasted less than a minute, but the boy’s parents attempted to sue the man for over three million dollars. The boy’s parents could have reacted differently and punished him for beating the dog but, instead, they sued an old man trying to discipline a little brat. This sets a very poor precedent for that child. It will make him think that he is protected from the consequences of his actions.” Jason Veit, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa
“One solution to juvenile delinquency is parents who discipline their children, making them accept responsibility for their own actions. Obviously, teens are also responsible for their own actions, but the problem I’m addressing is parents not getting involved. When children screw up, they need a strong parent to make them accept responsibility for their mistakes. Too often parents allow children to misbehave and get away with it. I think most parents have good intentions, but they don’t realize the actual harm they cause when they don’t punish children.” Matt Hinkle, Joliet Central High School, Joliet, Illinois “In the United States, people show irresponsibility by not caring about the teens. Evidence exists that the major contributor to the deaths of teens has been the failure on the part of the communities, parents, teachers, and friends to understand that so many vulnerable young people are in trouble. In 1987 four teens, two sisters and two young men, killed themselves by sitting in a car and died by carbon monoxide poisoning. All four were considered to be “very troubled.” This is where…society knew that these children were troubled; the public should have helped the teens.” Alisha Shevon Heyen, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “Teenagers of today are in dire need of punishment and rewards. Children seem to get away with murder a lot of the time. But there are still good children that are given no respect for the good they do…Most teenagers are not bad, but a lot of them are judged unfairly because of the name that the bad ones give us.” Derek J. Veade, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana Have parents abdicated their parenting responsibilities? “…Kids were able to get their hands on guns and take the lives of other children. Not blaming the parents of these children, but the kids [should] have been educated…in the ways that would have taught them the right and the wrong…” Kyle Jordan, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “An 11-year-old, fifth grade girl goes home after school every day to be welcomed by an empty apartment. She does her homework, cooks her dinner, and cleans up all by herself. Her parents are divorced. Her mother lives in another state and her father will not return home until about 9 p.m. Her parents, who are possibly aiming to teach her some responsibility, are only instilling in her a sense of fear and abandonment by their display of irresponsibility.” Danielle Soldani, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana Taking the initiative to make a difference helps us become a part of something larger than ourselves. These teens are making a positive difference… “I believe that I [have a] personal responsibility to improve our world. That is one reason I have joined the Advanced American History class at school. Our class takes on important civic responsibilities, including informing voters and publicizing patriotic events at school. On this day, around a hundred veterans and their wives entered our gymnasium to be honored for their sacrifices, for the fulfilling of their responsibility to
our nation. It [is] our responsibility to ensure that the memory of those who served [are] never forgotten…I believe we lived up to [our] responsibility on that day. The reason I know that I served my responsibility? The tears in the eyes of those veterans, tears not of grieving, but of gratitude. [It] was the only proof that I required.” Morgan Hardy, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennesse “It may not be a big deal, but going to college takes responsibility. For most people, it is the first time without their parents. So, if someone used to rely on their parents to get them up and nag at them until they were ready, they're in trouble. Now, one has to get used to getting up and going on their own. No more home cooked meals. So now this teenager that has always depended on mommy and daddy is on his or her own.” Melissa Doff, Salem High, Salem, Missouri “Teenagers are becoming more active in the effort to help others…Many students donate hours of their time to community service. Kids participate in projects that they organize and plan themselves. Several students volunteer at the hospital and work in after-school programs to help younger kids. Teenagers spend their time, not at the arcade, but at the library reading to children who cannot read yet.” Jennifer Nicole Wilhelm, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “Not all of America is shirking its responsibility. In fact, a program called PREP (Personal Responsibility Education Partnership) is aimed at teaching responsibility to teens. Staff members work in conjunction with elective classes to teach moral development by addressing such problems as drug abuse, teen pregnancy, absenteeism, gang violence, and poor academic performance.” Sara Robertson, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “Peer Helpers…pick individual kids or groups of kids and work with them. In some cases, the helpers just visit with kids one-on-one, just to make them feel important and let them know that kids in their high school care about them. I think this is showing a great deal of responsibility because kids are taking the time to help out other kids.” Laci Harmon, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Teenagers from Blissfield, Michigan decided to make a difference in their community, too. Led by 13-year-old Christi Stoker, the Blissfield community pitched in to renovate a 45-room homeless shelter with new wallpaper and paint. Christi and her friends befriended a 13-year-old resident of the shelter, Mahalganie Wilson, and with the leftover donations, helped Mahalganie and her mother move into their own apartment.” Sara Robertson, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “As treasurer of [the] Student Council at Demopolis High School, I take on a responsibility. When I was elected treasurer in 1997, I took on responsibilities such as organizing Pride programs, making sure all fundraising projects are successful, and organizing school fests. I also took on the responsibility of being a role model. It is very hard to be a good role model, but I try to be a perfect example of a young, responsible teenager.” Maria Jones, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama
“…A student of Medicine Lodge High School creates a 35,000-light Christmas display at his home for the surrounding community each year. He pays [the] electric bills and does it all for his community. This shows a student striving to find a place in life that is not involved in negative actions…Students like this need to be commended for…[their] work [toward] a common cause that everyone can enjoy.” Justin Kimball, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “I clean the ditches out by my house in the country. My grandpa and some others adopted a highway and clean the ditches. They also have the town, where I live, clean ditches for people who volunteer to help clean up the town.” Eric Adamson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota Community Responsibility Adult participation in community service sets an example of responsible citizenship for young people that lasts a lifetime. “If there was no one who was responsible, how would our families, communities, and our nation function? Who would feed and clothe us, who would make sure that we were kept safe? Who would build and make the products that we take for granted? Who would keep our streets and homes from becoming a war zone? If people were not responsible enough to work, vote and maintain some structure in their lives, we would all suffer. There is a certain amount of responsibility [connected with] almost everything we do: People who care for others who may be sick or helpless, mothers and fathers caring for children, and teachers and educators who are responsible for the minds of children. Also, employers [who are responsible for their employees), spouses, and almost anyone else who interacts with others has to [accept that there are] certain responsibilities they have to face. Whether we are paid to do a service or volunteer to help others, we must act responsibly. “Some people [accept] responsibility better than others [do]. Ask anyone who runs a day care facility. [Ask nurses, doctors, bus drivers, parents [and] teachers and they will tell you that there is a lot of responsibility [involved in] what they do. Ask the teenagers who works after school to help ends meet at home and they will tell you that they have taken on part of the responsibility for the home. Ask an adult child who is caring for their elderly [or] sick parent about what they do and responsibility will probably be a big part of the reason that they are do what they are do. Ask the person driving a new car about the responsibility…of making payments. Ask the family man about responsibility and he will probably respond with words like food, clothing, rent, medical bills and insurance. Ask people running for or elected to public office and they will tell you that responsibility is a very important part of their jobs.” Sarah Elizabeth Spancs, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “Mrs. Jodie Tassin, a teacher at Avoyelles High School in Moreauville, Louisiana, is showing how her Chemistry, Biology, and Environmental Science classes are all pitching in for recycling by bringing in discarded newspapers and many other paper items for a recycling project to help conserve our natural resources.”
Lauren Moreau, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana Personal Commitment “Living in a small town of under 5,000 people, I, personally, know many people that are irresponsible. I think the biggest contributor to irresponsibility in our town is the community itself. One of the main problems in our community is underage drinking. Kids my age and younger are constantly attending parties that serve alcohol to minors. Kids usually throw parties themselves and have older people purchase the alcohol for them. Our community, parents and elders, recognize this growing problem but place the blame on the children and their parents. The children must learn to take responsibility for their own actions, however, the community must also see themselves as part of the problem. Our community has very little to offer teenagers for recreation. There are no movie theaters, shopping areas, skating rinks, or decent bowling alleys. The community refuses to recognize their responsibilities to the teens. Recently, they even voted down the proposition of building a community civic center that would provide sporting activities and swimming for teens and parents. With nothing else to occupy their time, they turn to parties and alcohol. Before the community places all of the blame on the teens themselves, they need to provide alternate recreation for the teenagers to take part in instead. “We have many community members who would willingly donate their time and money to help erect various recreation sites such as bowling alleys, skating rinks, or even dance clubs. But we have many more who would rather complain about taxes and place the blame of teenage drinking on others. I would like to organize an awareness group that would educate teens more about the dangers of drinking, and would actively seek out community involvement for the proposition of new teenage attractions. The group could make an effort to communicate with high school kids at least once a month. By showing movies with the effects of drinking and presenting them with alternate activities to do instead, I think the town of Salem could decrease its underage drinking statistics.” Anna Swanson, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “I have decided that I would take responsibility for a problem in my school system. Every day there is a large amount of paperwork that is done at my school. After it is done, the paper is just thrown away. The paper is either moved to a landfill or burned. Recycling this paper would be much more environmentally sound. There is no local recycling center that recycles paper products in my community. The closest facility is 150 miles away. I have developed a way to get our wasted paper there. All the excess paper could be placed in marked boxes instead of being thrown in the trash. At the end of each week the paper could be gathered up and placed into spare cardboard boxes. A local company makes deliveries in the area of the recycling center every week. The trucks could pick up the boxes of paper and deliver them to the recycling center. This project would only require a few workers and minimal time. Taking this responsibility would help solve a growing problem in our school.” Matt Wofford, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri
“The leaders of this world, such as our President and our preachers, are people with big responsibilities…These people have to take full responsibility [for their actions and answer] to the reactions people take to what they do and the decisions they make. “People who own businesses [entrepreneurs] and manage stores have to take lots of responsibility. The production of the store and the money it makes rests on the shoulders of these people…They help make products that will help customers or keep food on shelves that will end up on tables to feed families and children. These people have to put in long hours to ensure that there is work for their employees and that business is good. “Teachers… have tons of responsibility…They are responsible students…Teachers [devote] a lot of time and commitment to [their jobs]…” Chad Doulgas, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee for the
“Responsibility, whether it [is] civic, social, or religious, is a trait we must all share. From the rude caveman to the European technocrat, we have all been charged with the basic human duty of responsibility for others and ourselves. By practicing dutiful responsibility, we make life better for everyone else as well as ourselves. This is why the concept of staying remote from the world, committing to nothing, is so alien to me…It is as critical to the human body as [is] the heart. And even as our hearts beat, our minds must commit to our fellow man, commit to the commonweal. By doing this, we glorify or communities, our nations and, last but not least, ourselves.” Morgan Hardy, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennesse “In my town of Centerville, South Dakota, there is an outdoor activity area by the river that we call the beach. Over the past few years, the river has flooded…the beach. When the beach floods, the soil erodes and trash is deposited everywhere. The various clubs and organizations in Centerville have teamed up to trim trees, pick up trash, mow the grass and put campsites in for campers. They are even going to put up playground equipment for the kids.” Josh Nelson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “People are being responsible and kind-hearted by giving blood to a blood bank. By giving to a blood bank, many people benefit…People who give blood show they understand the responsibility of helping others in our world today.” Ryan Evans, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “We have a nursing home in our town and there are kids and grownups who come to the nursing home and play games with the residents. Some paint the residents’ nails; some take the residents shopping for clothes or just for an outing. Then there are the piano recitals and children from Sunday schools that come and entertain the residents with their music. We have people who come just to talk to some of the residents. We even have some people who volunteer to scrape the hallway walls so they can be repainted! The residents really enjoy the people who volunteer. “We also have a food pantry in our town. The kids in the elementary grades bring canned food to the food pantry during the Christmas season. It is nice to have the food pantry in case any emergency would ever occur. We know that it would be there to help us if we
needed it. It also helps those families in need of food who cannot afford the necessary items.” Jayme Wellenstein, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota Nathan believes people today are not serious about responsibility. “Responsibility is defined in the dictionary as being accountable and reliable. Today, many people struggle in life because they don’t take responsibility seriously. If people want to be respected and have success, they have to be responsible.” Nathan Kier, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa To prevent loss of community, we must begin now to set an example for the next generation. “Contrary to what the media might tell us, people of color value family, education, and collective responsibility. However, some of us [don’t hold onto] those beliefs because of the legacy of oppression. Some of us have bought into the stereotypes and lies about ourselves and have started acting on the “every man for himself” mentality. We can all take responsibility…by facing the problems [in] the world —environmental damage, hunger, hopelessness, and illiteracy. We should not waste valuable time and energy placing blame, either on other people or ourselves. We must accept the reality that society’s ills will not disappear unless we all accept responsibility.” JaRee Underwood, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “We are all in this world together trying to live a happy, normal life. We all want better neighborhoods, more kids to finish school and crime rates to go down, but we cannot just keep blaming others and not take any of the blame for ourselves…The next generation is going to have to grow up in this world. We need to stand up and start setting an example now for the [next] generation.” Jennifer Sharum, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “Many people stand up for others’ needs and take responsibility for them, even though it is not their problem. This type of responsibility is displayed by students who tutor others and also by the way people make sure everybody gets decent food to eat. I felt I needed to show that some kids can do positive things by putting up Christmas lights…In order for the world to become more responsible, everyone must pitch in and do their part to make a better place for future generations to live in.” Justin Kimball, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “The Thompson family from Vermillion, South Dakota, adopted two children. One of the children [suffers] from fetal alcohol effect and the other from fetal alcohol syndrome. The older child, with FAE, has many behavioral and learning problems. She was also born deaf. The family was required to learn sign language to enable them to communicate with her. The younger child is worse. She has more severe disabilities. Although she appears normal, she lacks the ability to reason between what is right and wrong. The Thompsons have had to completely alter their lifestyles to accommodate these girls’ special needs. They never complain and consider these girls a wonderful blessing in their lives.” Joe McCombs, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota
“The recent tornadoes that devastated Nashville, Tennessee left many people indigent and dependent. Yet many people stepped up to the task of supporting their fellow man. By… supplying money to people they owed nothing to and accepting that their generosity would never be repaid. In one day, over 700,000 dollars were raised to equip the Red Cross. They were living up to social and civic responsibility, the [unspoken] contracts between everyone on earth. This…is perhaps the most important--the responsibility of helping one another survive and prosper.” Morgan Hardy, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “The churches of our city have come together to form a food pantry. It is a place where members of the community can put non-perishable foods and other items that might help those who need it. For example, if someone were passing through town and needed some food, [it] could be provided…The food pantry is a great example of how communities can be responsible [for others].” Jennifer Buford, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “Many associations exist out there to help. One is the Yellow Ribbon Project [operated by] a nonprofit organization that helps to prevent teen suicides. The Yellow Ribbon organization receives profit from the sale of the book, Chicken Noodle Soup for the Teenage Soul. A boy’s parents designed this program after the boy committed suicide. The yellow ribbon stands for someone who is willing to help. Teens are a key to fighting teen suicides because most youths thinking of suicide turn to friends. When a friend comes up to us with signs of depression and possible suicide, the following steps should be taken: 1. Listen hard. 2. Be honest. 3. Share your feelings. 4. Get help for them. In Los Angeles, California, many schools have become a leader in teen suicide prevention by making a counseling video that soon will be available across the United States.” Alisha Shevon Heyen, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “Americans need to realize that it takes only one person to ruin the lives of all people. Taking responsibility for the actions I make every day and never forgetting there is always someone…who is willing to listen and learn from me is the essence of a responsible life.” “A man was being savagely beaten by a mugger in plain view of everyone that happened to pass by on the [New York City] sidewalk. The mugger acted alone. He was not armed. He was not the kind of person who struck fear into all who saw him. In fact, he was hardly physically imposing at all. However, this attack lasted for at least five minutes before authorities were even notified. Even a small group of people could have subdued the attacker but, instead, they chose not to become involved. Most of them probably figured, ‘That’s not my problem,’ and continued on their way. The problems of society are everyone’s business. If humanity seriously expects to change the way things are, people must at some point say ‘enough is enough’ and take decisive action.” Jason Veit, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “People volunteered their time to clean up a small town park that used to be really nice about 50 years ago. Over time, it had deteriorated because people threw beer cans and garbage all over and spun their tires and dug ruts. People had been doing this for a very long time and nobody had done anything about it until recently. A group of people got a
committee together to clean it up and think of new ways to improve the park. They also got fundraisers going to pay for the improvements.” Connor Myers, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “The park had become an eyesore. It was overgrown with weeds and much of the playground equipment was either rusted or broken. [People in] the community…cleaned up the park. They fixed and repainted the old playground equipment…and it…is now an ideal place for parents of the community to bring their children [to play]. It has also become a popular hangout for teens of the community. The members of the community were responsible…with a little initiative and unity, they…easily made their neighborhood a friendlier place [in which] to live.” Danielle Soldani, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “The Seattle central area had a problem with graffiti. The citizens decided to take the problem into their own hands. Community volunteers, including many young adults, began a cleanup of garbage and graffiti. It helped the youths to see themselves as individuals who had a responsibility to the community.” Jolene Erickson, Luck High School, Luck, Wisconsin “Here in Centerville, another group that shows responsibility would be the Garden Club. These volunteers try to bring some beauty to the town. They make it beautiful by planting flowers and cleaning up the park area. Doing this not only brings people into the town, but it also beautifies it for those who live here.” Tom Moore, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “The FFA has also helped put in a sprinkler system at the Good Samaritan nursing home. They did this for free and, in return, the football team gets to practice there.” Adam Buckneberg, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “The Department of Corrections in Pierre let some inmates help wire the Centerville High School. They wired the school with cable and Internet hook-ups. The inmates were in school working on all the wiring for about two months. They did get paid, $0.20 an hour, which is very cost effective for our school.” Phillip Eide, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Every year, to make money and provide test results to local seed companies, we provide a test plot. Every year, the FFA members come and help plant the beans and care for them.” Darren Erickson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “In clearing up Edwards County, we need to consider taking these three steps: Focusing on what other cities are doing, noting the efforts that local individuals are making with recycling, and coming up with an incentive so local individuals will recycle more fully… Second, we need to note the efforts that local groups and individuals are making to keep the local area cleaner…Third, the community needs to continue providing incentives for the public to recycle and to maintain a clean environment.” Nick Klenke, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas
Corporate Responsibility Today’s business owners and managers are generally aware that their labor forces mistrust management and that people are demanding social accountability. However, they are also responsible for profitability . What can we personally do to ensure that corporations care for the environment and people? “When I first heard that many chemicals banned in the United States are used in Third World countries, I did not rally care. Then I realized that many of the fruits and vegetables that I eat are grown in these countries, sprayed on fruit and then the fruit is shipped to America for consumption. Many Third World countries spray their crops with deadly chemicals while the workers work in the field. In this case, the United States must take the responsibility to protect American consumers.” Jeremy L. Burr, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “Companies are even putting an effort into helping the nation. One of the most famous efforts is by the restaurant chain, McDonalds. McDonalds runs an organization called the Ronald McDonald House. The home helps the parents of seriously ill children stay close to the hospital where their child is [hospitalized]. Patrons of the restaurant [donate] their change…[in support] of the houses. Without the help of each other, neither the patrons nor the restaurant alone could run the houses but, together, it is one of the most successful programs.” Jennifer Nicole Wilhelm, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “A series of recent lawsuits against such companies as Albertson’s, Wal-Mart, PETsMART, and Dean Witter by disgruntled employees [who]…work off the clock for no overtime pay…The Wal-Mart response: ‘Wal-Mart believes they are exempt professionals. Therefore, there is no off the clock issue.’ Whether hourly or salaried, employers have a responsibility to their workers to be fair and respectful of a worker’s rights…” Sara Robertson, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “Working people and their employers need to be responsible...The employers have workers depending upon them…[He] has to provide fair wages and make sure that the workers have a safe working environment. If these conditions are not provided, the workers will either leave and find another place of employment or will go on strike until these conditions are met. This would cause the employer to lose money and could even ruin the business. If the employer is a fair person, the workers would be satisfied and the boss would make a larger profit.” Kenneth Moreau, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “A powerful legal issue that questions personal responsibility is tobacco litigation. People are suing tobacco companies because they claim the cigarettes gave them lung cancer. They seem to neglect the fact that it was their choice to start smoking in the first place and, therefore, they would have to face the consequences of doing something harmful to their bodies. Instead, they shift responsibility to the “bad guy,” the tobacco companies.” Sara Robertson, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee
Life’s Lessons “My grandmother has had Alzheimer’s Disease for about seven years or longer…An insurance representative…asked if she needed insurance for a nursing home. She agreed and she bought a policy. The insurance [salesman] kept coming back and getting money for new policies…We got everything worked out so she could go to the nursing home. She had been living there about a month when we got a letter saying that she didn’t have nursing home insurance and the company said they weren’t going to pay for anything…The [salesman] who sold her those policies shouldn’t be able to sell another policy again.” Derek Velasquez, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Today, most baby boomer families are not saving for the future...We buy new cars and houses before we worry about our distant retirement...In many large cities such as Chicago, small groups of people set up investment clubs. As members of these clubs, even small investors can take advantage of the booming stock market. While this isn't a practical solution to save for retirement, it does serve as an introduction to investing...The real problem with retirement planning isn't lack of money, it is failure to realize what steps must be taken for the retirement you want. A solution to the lack of investment planning in Salem could be solved by monthly meetings. Business representatives from local insurance agencies could provide information about mutual funds, and stockbrokers could come and explain which stocks were likely to perform well over an extended amount of time. This would benefit everyone involved. The businessmen would get increased sales, and the public would get information. Armed with this information, most people will begin investment planning. Then they will be self-sufficient at retirement and be able to provide for themselves without living off the government or family members. All of this requires that people take responsibility for their future. If they don't plan for the future and expect others to take care of them, they will be rudely awakened. It is unfair to the general public that they have to take care of these people.” Justin Wylam, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri There seems to be a growing trend to have the schools do what families, communities, and churches have been unable to accomplish. Some students think the schools should do more at the school level for children. “Schools should not be so worried about competing with the schools in other nations as with the morals and the standards of the children of this country. Schools should concentrate on all subjects: math, science, reading, and especially the arts and ethics…As a nation, we need to help our own nation first before we help others.” Jennifer Nicole Wilhelm, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “There are many solutions such as a class [mandate] for students…throughout school, starting with kindergarten. Each class would entail moral teaching, anger control, dealing with difficult problems, expressing your feelings through a non-violent way and learning to go to someone for help…Teaching from an early age would let children get used to being friendly and open towards other people. This would allow the children to grow up
with respect toward others and they would be able to teach their child the respect they need. “Another solution would be [a] one-on-one with students: Teachers and students talking personally with students [who] lack of self-esteem and [in need of] moral [guidance]. An example is a program called White Hats. It is a program designed to help grade school students have a high school buddy. The high school students meet [with the grade school students] one day per week at the grade schools. During this time, they can help with homework, play on the computer, play basketball, read a book or just simply talk. This allows personal contact with a child that is more [susceptible] to society’s pressures. White Hats allows a child to have a role model that he or she might not normally have. “Another program…is the Key Club [which] allows students to become more involved with the community…There are also many programs set up to help students work through their problems. Peer mediation is a fast-growing concept that many schools are using. This allows students to confront their problems head-on. They can talk about their problems with a person of their age and who is going through the same thing. Students that drop out of high school are on the rise. Schools are now developing programs for high-risk and dropout students. These programs teach the basic knowledge of everyday life. These programs help young teen [parents]…learn and take care of their children at the same time.” Mindy Harrawood, Harrisburg High School, Harrisburg, Illinois “A solution to widespread teenage pregnancy that hasn’t been tried yet is to let teenage girls experience motherhood before they get pregnant. Schools have already tried this with the electronic baby that cries every now and then, but that’s not enough. I think the teenage mothers and the school system should get together to have a program where girls could stay with a teenage mother for a couple of days to see what motherhood is really all about. If everyone would cooperate, this program would benefit a lot of people.” Margie Walker, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “A suggestion that I think would bear some fruit is to have a group of students at a particular school whose job it would be to keep watch over their peers. These would be people who are well thought of and recommended by several teachers or other school officials. They would keep themselves highly organized and their function would be kept out of the knowledge of other students. There would be about five members of this organization per 100 students. These would watch the activities of their peers and periodically and secretly report wrongdoing or suspicious activities.” Jeremy W. Yeary, Harrisburg High School, Harrisburg, Illinois The media delivers instant crises and instant heroes rather than news for its intrinsic value. Is the sensationalism due to media or public thirst for real and instant drama? “ ‘A New Boston man pleads innocent in the charges of beating a pregnant woman,’ I hear over the radio on my way to school. I shake my head in shame and pity and switch the station in search of music. So many of my mornings begin this way as I drive to school with the news of robbery, rape, and murder. Is the world ever going to change?”
Amanda Beauchamp, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “We never hear as many good things as we hear bad things. Bad news always travels faster. The good things never interest people. We, as a country, need to refocus ourselves and observe the many wonderful things people do every day…” Megan Lacour, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “When we see all the negative aspects of life, it is hard to see the positive aspects. People seem to take for granted all the joys of life today, because we pay too much attention to all of the bad things. People today don't 'see' nearly as much of others or themselves taking responsibility in their everyday lives. It is not because there is more irresponsibility, it is because we make a bigger deal out of it. For instance: For every responsible act shown on television, there are ten irresponsible acts shown.” Benjamin Norris, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “…A person reading the newspaper could see an article about a volunteer group working to get food for the needy. This makes a person feel good, like there are actually people out there who make a difference. A flip of the page shows a group of kids…vandalizing churches because they worship Satan. Talk about going from a state of high spirits to a state of low spirits! It seems like the good and the bad just cancel each other out.” Clint Stevenson, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “Violence in the media is a problem, but it cannot be held responsible for an individual’s actions…The media did not pull the trigger…We may not unload on anyone at any time without having to face the consequences. The thought that the media is to blame for this young man’s actions is…unreal.” Gatha Place, Harrisburg High School, Harrisburg, Illinois “With all the disheartening stories we hear on the news and read in the newspaper, one wonders if there is any responsibility left in this world… Abuse, neglect, and random ‘accidents’ are a part of society that no one wants to accept as reality… There is too much irresponsibility and not enough solutions. The top news stories are overridden with violence and tragedy.” Chala Mills, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “In another case of irresponsibility, the mass media…[tried] to make a national event a controversial event [by] attacking the Promise Keepers…The news station…spoke to a member of this group instead of a leader…claiming he spoke for everybody involved. However, this member did not… fall into their trap…The mass media did not report facts, but false rumors and innuendo.” Tom Feldman, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “Every day…the news media takes the responsibility to investigate and bring information to the waiting world. Often, people take the media for granted, not realizing how much they depend on it for information.” Jamie Cunningham, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas
“Even though there are still numerous irresponsible people in this world, there are also those who care and make responsible choices. There need to be more of these caring individuals, and they deserve much more recognition than they are receiving. We just need to be more observant of the noble things people do and stop recognizing the unethical things that are done.” Megan Lacour, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “For as much irresponsibility as there is publicized, I think there is three times as much responsibility that occurs. It is up to us to commend these people and encourage more acts like theirs. If society as a whole can realize the importance of owning up to its actions, the question of whether or not people are responsible would never even have to be asked.” Allison Speth, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois Calling for discipline in the classroom, President Clinton is bringing together educators, law enforcement officials and parents from across the country for a special conference October 15, 1998 to focus not only on the recent school shootings, but also on truancy and other acts of aggression. He is proposing tight curfews, strong anti-truancy measures, wider use of school uniforms and zero tolerance for guns in schools. These teens grapple with the enormity and seriousness of the recent school shootings. How do we best define ourselves in dealing with these tragedies–an eye for an eye, or with forgiveness and healing? “The seriousness of punishments for wrongdoing at school isn’t always harsh enough and many students feel they can do whatever they want without obeying any kind of rules. When students are given too much freedom, the schools lose their purpose of giving discipline and creating an orderly and safe learning environment. Another problem that leads to school violence is the cruelty between students and the lack of respect for others. At Heath, the student who committed the crime was said to have been teased and made fun of by other students. Many times students don’t consider others’ feelings and many times they have an extremely harsh effect. The possession of weapons is another problem contributing to school violence. The ease [with] which irresponsible and young people can get weapons is scary. Perhaps stricter gun laws and enforcement of them could prevent violence. Parent involvement, or rather the lack of parent involvement, is just one more problem adding to school violence and violence of young people, in general. Many times the ones committing the violent crimes are people who have grown up without parents who were loving and involved. “In the tragedy at Heath, one brave student by the name of Ben Strong took a huge risk. He took action by approaching and talking the boy with the gun out of doing any further violence. This heroic act perhaps saved many more lives. By taking less dangerous actions we, too, can help save lives.” Ginger Reynolds, Harrisburg High School Harrisburg, Illinois
“I think we [should] rewrite the juvenile justice laws and show [juveniles]…[that they] can and will be held responsible for their actions. They [legislators] need to write stricter laws, enforce them, and make them stick. First I think [juveniles] should get probation; second, they should spend some time in a [juvenile hall]; and then if they do it again, keep them there. I think juvenile murderers should be executed. The death penalty should apply to all people no matter what age they are. If these laws and rules are enforced, I think it will deter them or others from committing more crimes. I think it would show them that they [would] get more than a slap on the wrist. I think we need to show them it is not okay to walk into a school (like Alabama or Kentucky) and shoot others; it is not okay to kill your baby because you don’t want it and it is not okay to kill another human being. We need to show [juveniles] that it is time for them to take responsibility for their own actions…Over all, I think all people…should take responsibility for their own actions. Juveniles are getting away with murder and something needs to be done about it.” Rebecca Ann Pierce, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “An example of school violence in my home area was the Heath High School shooting that occurred in December, 1997 in Paducah, Kentucky. In this horrible incident, one student in the high school went up to a prayer group that was just breaking up and just started shooting at the students. Three were killed and one will never walk again. In this situation, I feel that the student is fully responsible for his own actions and so are the parents. I do not think that the high school had much responsibility because they had no clue what was going on and, therefore, should not be held responsible. I think that to the nation it means that they are letting the youth be too out of control. The government needs to put some stricter rules on what teenagers are allowed to do and not to do. Some of these rules could be stricter gun control laws, more enforced town curfews, and a stricter way of controlling the things that teenagers buy.” Amy Bowers, Harrisburg High School, Harrisburg, Illinois “The recent shooting at Heath High School in Paducah, Kentucky was a senseless act of violence. The accused was definitely a disturbed person and he should be looked at as such. He is reported saying that he did not know why he shot the group of students. The shooter needs to be punished to the fullest extent of the law so as not to set a precedent for other senseless acts of violence.” Matt Smith, Harrisburg High School, Harrisburg, Illinois Legal responsibility for drug abuse -- Sarah compares two programs competing for the same federal funds. “We have to educate our children now to prevent drug abuse in the future. We have to make younger children aware of the dangers of drug abuse. The first step in doing this is to take federal money away from DARE. DARE officials say that DARE will survive without federal funding. We should test this theory by putting the money into a more qualified program, such as Life Skills Training. Several evaluations have shown that LST does reduce the rate of teenage drug use. LST uses homeroom teachers and peers to teach Life Skills. LST focuses on the immediate negative effects of drug usage, while DARE focuses on the long term. LST uses role-playing and problem solving exercises to make its point…
“One obstacle to my solution is that legislators and President Clinton support DARE…One benefit of my solution is… that we are implementing programs that are working. A research group compared DARE with other programs in the area of drug use. On a scale of 0 to .6, DARE scored .05. Peer programs scored .4. Peer programs also scored higher than DARE in the areas of knowledge, attitudes, and skills. Another benefit we will gain is that our children will be better educated about the dangers of drug abuse and they will have the ability to say no.” Sarah Brake, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas Irresponsible actions reach into our law and order ranks and as well as other ranks of our legal system. “…When Abner Louima was arrested outside of a nightclub in Brooklyn, he was taken to the Flatbush Station where he was sexually abused from one to four times by the policemen that arrested him. The police threw him in a waiting cell and prevented him from going on a waiting ambulance. The ambulance arrived at the station at 6:30 p.m. and was not able to leave until 8:00a.m. Thirteen officers were suspended or transferred because of the incident.” Ryan Olson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Many Americans feel the organization [IRS] uses its power to enforce an unfair tax code that is incomprehensible. This is an enormous problem for taxpayers throughout the nation. Every honest taxpayer pays every time there is dishonesty in a tax return, whether it is the …actions [of the taxpayer] or the IRS. These crimes of deception translate into money out of the pockets of every law-abiding American.” Jackie Ohler, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas Nicholas Prather talks about responsibility in national leadership. “Over and over again, those in leadership lose their primary focus. Visions of money and power tarnish the concentration of many of our superiors, causing them to cheat, swindle, and pervert our government that was founded so honorably. Yet, it is still our responsibility as citizens to educate ourselves and respond to those exploitations correctly. “As citizens of the United States, we have been given unrestricted rights. Freedom to petition, press, and assembly are just a few of the rights we can utilize. These liberties are given to us to prevent an unquestioned, unstoppable government. We have the ability to show our opposition to those officials who have been recognized as detrimental to our nation. With the freedom of press, we can inform the public of the misuse of materials and power. Also, freedom of petition allows us to gather the names of all of those who feel the same misgivings about someone or something. Assembly, in the same way, grants us the privilege to [gather] under similar interests and doubts. Despite corruption, many people have prospered under these same liberties. “In 1776, James Madison was elected as a delegate to the Virginia Revolutionary Convention. With his superiority, he helped start a revolution of independence and good
government. He failed to be re-elected in the Virginia legislature because he refused to furnish whiskey to the voters. He later took a strong stand for religious freedom during the writing of the Constitution. His ideas and insights were the main points used in the building of the Constitution. Also, Madison was elected as a President of the United States and, today, is considered one of the greatest government leaders of our nation. “Similarly, former Senators and Presidents have made a wonderfully positive impact on our nation, taking the responsibility that our citizens have given them very seriously. President Franklin D. Roosevelt had a unique care and compassion for the American people. During wartime, Roosevelt provided jobs and food for those in need. He held a firm resistance to compromise and irresponsibility. “Thomas Jefferson, also a President of the United States, took a strict stand on morals and ethics. Jefferson once stated, “The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government.” Like Roosevelt, Jefferson had a strong charity for his fellow constituents. “President Abraham Lincoln was famous for his opposition to slavery and his steps to overcoming that evil. Lincoln once said, “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.” His desire to end slavery despite its overwhelming support was, and still is, very inspiring. “Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican President, was a very energetic man. He believed in a constant growth and taking risks. Just the thought of his determination for success and improvement fatigued many.” Nicholas Prather, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas Solutions “This great nations’s foundation is built on the rock of responsibility.” “In his recent State of the Union Address, President Clinton stated that this great nation’s foundation is built on the rock of responsibility. Responsibility is within the power and control of each of us. It is time to stop blaming others for our own mistakes and to start helping others in greater need. One must stop being passive and take control. A willingness to make a difference is what can change the bad in our society to good. Albert Einstein said, “You cannot solve problems with the same kind of thinking that you used to create them.” Niki Ill, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “There are many people who have taken the step to help out America in the military. The people who died for their country in previous wars are the foundation for what we are today. Those who lived through the wars all tell their stories to us so it will never be forgotten. They are the proof of what America has done to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the citizens of this great nation. One must not forget the veterans who were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Their responsibility to the Untied States was extremely great. Some gave their lives for other comrades. “Unfortunately, not all people believe in what we were fighting for. They are totally against all wars and conflicts. They do not seem to care what certain people did for their
country. They would rather see our country slip away from the world. Those people are the ones who ruin spirit and pride in everyone else. I do not know if selfishness is contagious, but it is having its affect on America. If only those people who do not believe in American values would see the light, then this would probably be an even greater place to live… “[A] good way to show responsibility is through voting. Voting is the key…[to the] running of this country. It gives Americans the chance to choose whom we want to run our towns, states, and country. It also gives people the feeling of power, a chance to voice their opinions. It keeps everything fair, and every citizen of the United States has the right to vote.” Chris Lynch, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “Finally, the responsibility that we all have as Americans is the responsibility to vote. Many people do not take advantage of this right and responsibility, and then they complain because they do not like the choices that were made in the government. If they had used their responsibility and voted, then maybe their vote would have made a difference in the outcome of the election. Then, they wouldn't have to complain about government. This also shows irresponsibility because they don't use the choices that they have, and then they complain about the choice that was made.” Shandy Flett, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “Where has responsibility gone? Where are the heroes who save lives, the fighters of injustice, and the general responsibility of all society for the well-being of its fellow man? Sometimes we find some problems are related to our own governments’; we must rise…and defy the so-called norms. Civil disobedience is an act against government power in the name of personal morals and values…Rosa Parks and Henry David Thoreau committed…civil disobedience in the name of social equality…They took on the responsibility of carrying heavy loads for the bulk of society.” Erick Deshaun Dorris, Joliet Central High School, Joliet, Illinois “Responsible people are accountable for their actions and feel that sense of duty. They are trustworthy and dependable. They do not rely on other people, but rather are the ones other people rely upon. Responsible people are the heroes of today and should be the people w e look up to.” Tony Peterson, Luck High School, Luck, Wisconsin “The most responsible people in America…are ordinary people…They are the people who help others in a time of need without looking for gratitude.” Josh Nichols, Luck High School, Luck, Wisconsin Irresponsibly Responsible - Blame “Baseball used to be America’s biggest pastime. But now the crack of the bat has been replaced with the crack of the judge’s gavel, and the roar of the crowds with the roar of the defendant and prosecutor trying to drown each other out with their whining. ‘He looked at me funny!’ ‘It wasn’t MY fault!’ ‘I have a syndrome or a complex. I can’t be
blamed.’ All these things are yelled back and forth across the courtroom and, like baseball, it can be entertaining. Entertaining, that is, as long as it isn’t happening to you. “People laugh about the individual who was sued by his neighbor over a tree branch. The tree was in John Doe’s yard and Joe Smith didn’t like the fact that one of the branches as in his yard. So, instead of telling John, Joe decided to cut off the branch. While he was cutting, the branch broke and fell onto Joe’s house. Since the tree was on John’s property, Joe sued John for $10,000 for repairs and the emotional trauma of seeing his house being hammered with a tree branch. Somehow, the jury agreed with Joe and he got paid for cutting a branch off his neighbor’s tree (without permission) and damaging his own house. Pretty funny, huh? Tell that to John. “Unfortunately, this type of incident is not uncommon. Everyone seems to want to play the blame game and much of the time the stakes are high. This is especially true in cases involving human deaths. One tragic example of this involves a woman named Renee Polreis who killed her two-and-one-half-year-old son and continues to deny that it was her fault. No, she claims it was “reactive attachment disorder” that caused David to die. She said that the Russian orphanage that he had been adopted from had been very harsh. This caused David to throw violent temper tantrums and he beat himself to death. It wasn’t her fault. She can’t just take responsibility for her own actions; that would be too much to handle. And like many others, Polreis blames a disorder for her son’s death. “Nowadays, people can find all kinds of disorders, syndromes and complexes to use in avoiding the blame. A person can’t be held accountable for losing the grocery money at the casino because they have an addiction. ‘People can’t blame themselves for having cancer,’ writes Ron French. ‘Now, sins are illnesses.’ A mass murderer can blame parental neglect for his killing [of] innocent people. Everyone’s a victim and nobody can be blamed for anything they do. “Marion Barry, former Mayor of Washington, was caught on camera using cocaine. He said he was a victim of racism. A teenage girl used a fake ID to buy alcohol for her teenage boyfriend and he was killed in a car crash soon afterward. Instead of apologizing for her actions, she said that she didn’t make her boyfriend drink the beer and it was his fault that he died. The owner of the liquor store agreed, saying that the fault lies with the person who drank the alcohol. Instead of sharing the responsibility, they try to put blame on one person —the dead guy, naturally. “Sinedu Tadessa, while at Harvard University, stabbed and killed her roommate, Trang Phuong Ho, and then hanged herself. Ho’s parents are now suing Harvard for not noticing Tadessa’s homicidal tendencies. All that [says] is that it was Harvard’s fault, not Tadessa’s. They were telling the murderer of their daughter that she was not to blame. And that is completely wrong. People need to take responsibility for themselves. “We need to stop making excuses and face the facts. Don’t rationalize cheating by saying you really needed that grade or justify beating someone up by telling others that ‘he started it.’ If more people agree to take the blame for something they did, America would be a little less screwed up. Of course, the newspapers would be more boring. There
wouldn’t be any stupid people trying to use lame excuses to weasel their way out of their punishment. “‘Um…yeah, I helped make a bomb, but I didn’t think anybody would get hurt.’ ‘Yes, I was robbing someone’s house, but he shot me, so I should get paid for such trauma.’ “‘I didn’t think that using a lawnmower to trim hedges was dangerous. They didn’t have any warnings about that on the label. We should sue.’ “If people [would] start taking responsibility for themselves, no idiotic laws would have to be made to protect good people on the wrong side of a bad lawsuit (the Good Samaritan law). And, people wouldn’t have to live in fear of having a lawsuit smacked on them for something they didn’t even know they did. Common sense is what people need to use. If they would do that, accept consequences for what they’ve done, and not scream LAWSUIT every time a person bumps into [them] or makes a bad pass [at them], everyone would be much happier. Except, of course, those boneheads who think they can make someone else take the blame and have to pay them money. They’d just get booted out of court. What a shame.” Ellan Troughton, Joliet Central High School, Joliet, Illinois Finger pointing appears to have become the #1 response to wrongdoing--the fault, the blame, the responsibility when something goes wrong all belong to everyone or everything else. And, judging by some of the decisions handed down by our judicial system, finger pointing appears to be supported by the juries and the courts. Are we all obsessed with self-interest? “Everybody makes mistakes. After all, that is what makes us human. But people must stop blaming others and start taking the blame for their actions. If people see that they have made a mistake and admit it, then they truly start to learn the meaning of responsibility.” Amanda Beauchamp, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “Today, I read an article about a group pushing for safer air bags. A man by the name of Alan Greer, during a rally, stood by a picture of his infant daughter who had been killed by an air bag. No, the seat was not strapped to the passenger seat as dictated by the manual. No, the child was not, as she should have been, placed in the back seat. But, yes, the company is responsible for her death.” Morgan Hardy, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “It is much easier to blame [someone or] something else [than to accept] the consequences for your [actions]. We do not understand everything that happens and instead of trying to understand, we just blame the government, another person, a company or something that has happened in the past. How are we, as a society, ever going to…improve…if no one wants to stand up and take responsibility.” Jennifer Sharum, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee
“Some people take very little responsibility…They are to blame for not keeping a job. They are to blame for being a drug addict. They are to blame for not raising their families. They are to blame for every action they take…People on drugs blame the drugs. Drunks blame alcohol. Health problems are often blamed for actions that we take. If we look hard enough, we could probably find something or someone else to blame for most everything that we do that has an outcome that we don’t like…We all must remember that responsibility is a two-sided coin, one side being blame and the other being credit. To enjoy one, we must be willing to face the [other].” Sarah Elizabeth Spancs, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “The common trend these days is to commit a serious crime and then see what ‘brilliant’ excuse can be concocted to defend it. For example, in Lynwood, California, a boy and his cousin stabbed the boy’s mother to death. Their excuse? None other than the two worst recent smash-hit horror flicks, Scream and Scream 2. Until people come to grips with the fact that sometimes people just do bad things for no reason, any old excuse will suffice.” Allison Speth, Rockridge High School, Illinios City, Illinois “In the world today, there is no room for accidents. Citizens in the community are being sued for outlandish reasons.” Natasha Jeansonne, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisia Everyone can agree there is too much crime. Since the late 1980s, states have been cracking down on troublesome juveniles and implementing laws that would place greater liabilities on the parents for the offenses of their children. Here are these students’ thoughts on this very serious matter. “As a result of the Heath shooting in Paducah, Kentucky, the question is asked, “Who is to blame for this horrible tragedy?” Is it the parents of the young man? Is it the media? Is it the criticism of the other students? When I thought about it, it all boiled down to this young man, himself. Was it the parents that brought the weapons into the school? Was it the media who pulled the trigger? Was it the other students of the school who took the young lives of three victims? The answers to these questions are no, no, and no. The only one responsible for these deaths is the person that performed this dreadful act. “The parents direct the child by setting an example and teaching him or her. They serve as a role model for the child, but are they always to be responsible for the actions of that child? Children do not learn from their parents forever. They develop their own minds. This is when accountability comes into affect. Could a fourteen-year-old student honestly put the blame on his or her parents for stealing something from the mall, for cheating on a test, or for shooting and killing his or her classmates? No, these are actions that developed from the thoughts of this individual’s mind… “What could prevent this sort of thing from happening? Parents could teach their children the difference from right and wrong and bring them up in a non-violent home. The schools could put up metal detectors, cameras, or hall monitors. Counselors could take closer interests in the students. Could doing all of these things stop the violence? It may decrease, but I do not feel that any of these things could completely prevent it from
happening. As far as making a personal contribution, the only thing that I can do is promise that I would never take the life of another human being.” “Almost every student has been made fun of at one time or another by a brother, sister, or a peer. In return, almost every student has made fun of someone. How do we handle it when we are being laughed at? Do we just pack a gun and shoot the critic? If we were to do so, could we blame the critic for making us? Did the critic say, ‘Hey, why don’t you shoot me, now that I have made you feel bad?’ In this case, the answer is no. It was the student who thought these words. It was the student who brought the guns into the school. It was the student who pulled the trigger. It was the student who took the lives of the three youths. If that is not enough evidence to prove that the student is responsible for this terrible tragedy, then I do know what is.” Gatha Place, Harrisburg High School, Harrisburg, Illinois School uniforms? “Every day when they get dressed, it’s the same thing--little plaid skirts, a blue shirt and the most horrifying socks and shoes you’ve ever seen. They are the students from Frederick Douglas Academy in Harlem, New York. These kids are forced, every day, to wear the exact same thing they wore the day before. Some parents may say it’s a lot easier on them, but to the students, it’s chaos. When the students see each other, they feel like they are constantly looking into a mirror. They feel that a little variety and style would go a long way.” Amy Ann Rachel, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Whatever happened to personal responsibility?” “Whatever happened to personal responsibility? This is a hard question to answer with certainty, but some professors and philosophers… suggest that the loss of personal responsibility is a result of the American dream turned to chaos. The country was founded on the ideal of individual liberty, but has reached a point where those individual freedoms overpower the welfare of society as a whole. “When Stella Liebeck spilled hot coffee in her lap, she blamed McDonalds. This caused haywire among the courts, the McDonalds corporation, and probably her family —and was directly caused by her lack of personal responsibility. “I think that our problem may be simple selfishness. Small daily actions we take…are what make up America’s loss of personal responsibility.” Jill Lacombe, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “If more people today would take responsibility for themselves and their actions, our society would stop losing its moral values and people could make a difference in each other’s lives. People need to start making careful distinctions between [being] objects of compassion and [being] products of the victim’s culture.” Natalie Riché, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana
The criminal behavior that is becoming commonplace among young people is frightening to us all. Young people and adults alike struggle to find answers for these senseless acts and to find a way to stop it. “Many people blame his actions on the type of music he listened to which is only another way not to lay the responsibility on him. If he had known he would receive the death penalty for taking innocent lives, he might not have been as quick to storm in the room with the power of life or death in his hands. When people of this nature kill without reason, the death penalty should always be pursued. By making an example of what will happen if others commit these actions is the only way to ever deter future violent acts like this…Our lives are a great contrast between violent action and a random act of kindness. This world can be as cruel as a vicious tiger in the jungle or as calm as a baby sheep grazing. We all live together on the same planet and somehow we must learn to share and live together.” Jeremy Klope, Harrisburg High School, Harrisburg, Illinois “The boy is to blame because he committed a crime and he should take responsibility for what he did. I also think that the school is to blame because the boy should never have been able to get into the school with guns in the first place. The family is also responsible because they apparently did not teach this young man how to control his behavior. All three of these should take their own small amount of responsibility because they all could have stopped this incident from occurring… “My only solution to this problem would be to have better interaction between students and maybe even parents. I would set up a program designed for students who need to talk about their problems. I would make sure that all information remained private except that parents could talk to a counselor if they felt their child could have a problem. This would help to build a communication line for troubled kids to open up and let their aggression out in a positive way and not a negative way.” Ashley Ledbetter, Harrisburg High School, Harrisburg, Illinois “Everyone would feel so much better about life and themselves if they wold admit to their wrongdoing and attempt to correct them. Placing the blame on something or someone else only makes things worse. [Taking] responsibility is an important part of life and everyone must learn to [take] it if they want to lead a fulfilling, happy, and honest life.” Nicole Madison, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois Role models help to shape the values and character of those we interact with. “Tiger Woods is a 21-year-old African and Asian-American Masters Champ. N an age of the commercially hyped, trash-talking, in-your-face sports stars, tiger is an exception who combines great athleticism with decency, politeness and respectfulness.” Melissa Curley, Sales High School, Salem, Missouri “Michael Jordan is one of the most extraordinary athletes…Some responsibility he has acquired is spending time with his family, fulfilling his and his father’s dreams, and being committed to a cause. Jordan is not an athlete who chooses to have children, then
never spend time with them. He goes home whenever possible. Jordan also had a childhood dream of playing baseball, which was his father’s dream for him, too. So, a few years back, Jordan decided to play baseball and even though he was not the best, he stuck to it. He showed respect by taking on the responsibility of making his and his father’s dream come true. Now that he is back to basketball, he is truly committed to winning all of the championships in which he is able to play, even if that means playing with a 104-degree temperature. “…This shows children that when faced with a commitment, responsibility to others is also involved. Jordan made a commitment to his teammates; therefore, it became his responsibility to be at the game.” Crystal Moore, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “Being a professional athlete who is also a role model, takes a tremendous amount of responsibility…there are plenty of individuals who choose to go the extra distance to show they care about the example they give.” Crystal Moore, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “Many professional athletes, such as Barry Sanders, are idolized by many kids throughout the world. His dazzling stop and go, shake ‘n bake spin moves are not the only actions that separate Barry from the rest of the players in the NFL. The way he conducts himself on the field is one of the many reasons millions of people love Barry…One act sets of his unselfishness more than any other. Barry gives ten percent of his yearly earnings to the Paradise Baptist Church, his former church in Wichita, Kansas. When Barry was drafted into the NFL in 1988, he promised on television that he would donate ten percent of his yearly contract to his church. Barry has kept his word for almost ten years now. Barry Sanders is truly a responsible athlete who devotes his extra time and money to his many fans and favorite charities. “Roy Williams, the Kansas men’s basketball coach, after losing in the NCAA Tournament, stayed positive and ignored the critics who called him and his team ‘chokers.’ In one game, a fan from the opposing team verbally abused one of his players; Williams ran over to his player and helped him out of the situation. Tracy McGrady, a 19-year-old basketball player, after signing an $8 million dollar shoe contract, donated a percentage of the money to charities. Michael Jordan, whom some consider the best basketball player ever, puts on a ‘Jordan All-Star Game’ every summer and the proceeds benefit those with cancer. Eric Davis, a professional baseball player, now battles colon cancer. Davis talks to groups and individuals about cancer and other related topics. Tiger Woods likes being a role model. He avoids drinking and partying. He says he is an individual who makes his own choices. Responsible acts are more positive and should make more of an impact.” Tyler Huslig, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “A teenage boy sits in front of his television set and watches his favorite basketball team, the Chicago Bulls, play during the playoffs. During the game Dennis Rodman, a Bulls player, trips over a cameraman while chasing down a loose ball and falls to the floor. Rodman, blaming the cameraman for his fall, kicks him in the groin.
“Today, many professional athletes are looked at as role models. The athletes need to take the responsibility to watch their actions and control their tempers while they are in the limelight. What does the incident involving Dennis Rodman and the cameraman say to today’s youth of America? Does this tell all of the children who look up to Dennis that it is okay to kick their teachers, their friends, or even their parents?” Kyle Fowler, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “While Barry’s millions of dollars are being donated to charities throughout the world, some professional athletes look to spend their money in other ways. Dwight Gooden, currently with the New York Yankees, spent much of his wealth on illegal drugs. He became addicted to cocaine while finding fame in the big leagues. Gooden is a perfect example of an athlete who makes millions of dollars playing a sport, yet cannot find any better way to spend his money than on harmful drugs.” Kyle Fowler, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “Alonzo Mourning of the Miami Heat basketball team may be a millionaire, but he chooses to spend large portions of his NBA paycheck on charities. His self-managed Zo’s Summer Groove in Miami, Florida, last year raised more than $200,000 for the Miamibased Children’s Home Society and 100 Black Men of South Florida, a mentoring program for black youths in the area. Forty-nine thousand three hundred forty-seven dollars went to roof the gym repairs of a Washington D.C. elementary school, and $50,000 in scholarships went to his old high school. Mourning also frequently visits the MacLamore Center, a shelter for abused, neglected and abandoned children. He goes there alone and without publicity, so workers there know he’s sincere.” Sara Robertson, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee Positive teen role models help change our attitudes about teens. “Children need to learn the negative aspects of gangs and drugs. Many professional athletes are setting bad examples for children. High school students need to set good examples and teach young children right from wrong…Young children look up to high school students and dream of being like them someday. Every time we see these children, we need to say ‘hello’ or ‘how are you today?’ High school students make young children feel good about themselves. Some high school organizations sponsor and help at grade school events. Every year, high school students at Kinsley High School volunteer to help the grade school students at the Little Kid track Meet. At this meet, the high school students run and assist the little kids with their events. The children are always overjoyed that they have had the chance to ‘hang out’ with high school students. Having high school role models teaches responsibility to the younger children and to the role models. With more positive high school role models, we can reduce the growing number [of] problems that children face.” Trevor Kurth, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “Many of my fellow students in high school give younger children the wrong image of high school life. The older students frequently convey the message that high school is full of drugs and alcohol, that these items are exciting. Not only are older students sending bad messages, but these children are also living in a country where the divorce rate has increased 200 percent in the last 30 years. When the children cannot look up to their
parents, they often idolize sports figures. Yet, many of these sports figures do not want to be a role model for these children. My challenge as a high-school senior is to mold myself into a positive role model for these younger students.” Joseph Rodriguez, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “To meet my challenge of becoming a positive role model for younger children, I must take three steps to become [the] person I want to be. First, I must examine my life and decide to change…The second step is to make a commitment…The third step involves making contact with the younger students [so] they can see how different I am--a positive difference. They [will see] that I have a healthy sense of humor, but not a dirty one, [that] I am good at sports but I do not have a bad temper. [This way] will help the younger students set positive goals for themselves. I will encounter many obstacles while reaching toward my goal [but]…I want to be a light for children in need. The community will also gain as I interact with [these] children…With changing attitudes and better role models we can make our community a light in the dark.” Joseph Rodriguez, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “Chantelle Kimble had maintained a straight ‘A’ average throughout her entire high school career. For her hard work and dedication, she has received many scholarships and awards for college. She is now majoring in politics and is doing a great job. Chantelle’s efforts in school have shown her responsibility throughout the state. She is looked upon and admired by many people… “I try as much as I can to take [responsibility] for the mistakes that I make and learn from them… Life gives you a lot of choices and making the right ones are great but when you do make the wrong ones, make sure you always face up to them…[Being] responsible will make you a better person and citizen.” Sarah Bordelon, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Many teenagers have taken time after school to help other students with their schoolwork. This is a positive manner to show younger children that they care for them and do not mind giving their time for them. This gives kids a great example to look up to, and they will possibly someday do the same favor for others with the same need they once had. Many times the best ways to show responsibility is displayed by the small deeds one does for people.” Justin Kimball, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas "Christians are responsible for staying out of questionable situations, standing up for their beliefs, taking the opportunities to tell others about Christ, and not doing things that hurt their witness or make them seem like hypocrites...Jack reads his Bible every day because he wants to know more about what God wants him to do in his life. He takes his Bible to school, and is not afraid to take it out in class and read it. He just wants to get closer to God, and he doesn't care what other people think." Julie Anderson, Salem Senior High School, Salem, Missouri “Jill Lacombe, a 16-year-old Avoyelles High School student, takes time out of her weekends to help others…She has [volunteered her time] many weekends at a religious retreat called TEC…
“After the destruction of their high school gym, several teens organized a roadblock to raise money for paint and a new sound system. They spent countless hours working to make their gym look as it did before. They had their first opening night of the new gym two weeks after the destruction occurred. Everyone was amazed at what a good job the students had done. “These examples of maturity and responsibility can help people understand what it means to be dependable and focused on helping others…Hopefully, they can be a guide to help others realize what they need to do in order to make America a better place to live.” Jessica Jones, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Many other good role models exist for young women. Heather Whitestone was found to be deaf at a very young age. The doctors told her parents that she would probably never develop skills past a third-grade level. In 1995, Heather won the Miss America Pageant, recognition for millions of disabled persons worldwide. Courtney Conway, also a good role model for young women, was an honor student in high school where she also excelled in track and field. Courtney is now a cheerleader for the World Champion Denver Broncos.” Joseph Rodriguez, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas We elect our leaders on the values they espouse as candidates as well as on their records and platform. Thus, we expect that our leaders live up to those values and to be above reproach. “Our president should be a positive role model for others that look up to him. He is sending the message to young people that it is ok to have sex with anyone, whether married to them or not.” Christina King, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “The question on hand is, did the President ask Monica Lewinsky to lie for him in court. Did he? If not, law officials should let him be. If so —why, that is a whole new ballgame; he should ‘fess up’ and take his medicine like the President, role model and man he is. Just look at what effect this could have on children. They will think, ‘Well, if the President of the United States can lie and get away with it, then why can’t I?’ I would have thought the same thing when I was younger and so would the reader of this essay. Now what kind of attitude is that for our younger generation to have? I know if I was raising a child, I sure would not want my son or daughter to have this outlook on life.” Jarred Sayles, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “Many of our government leaders have not led responsible lifestyles… 1. Robert Packwood, former Senator of Oregon and Chairman of the Finance Committee, was recommended unanimously by the Senate Ethics Committee to be expelled for evidence of sexual misconduct, evidence tampering, and bribery.
This man was both a representative in our government and an influential leader. It was, and still is, discouraging to know that this type of character was allowed into our political system. 2. Senator Phil Gramm of Texas was given recommendations for a 1996 GOP presidential election position. Gramm was given recommendations despite being fined $30,000 by the Federal Election commission in 1989 for illegal and excessive campaign contributions and other election law violations. Also, Gramm was proven to have business transactions with convicted Dallas S&L owner, Jerry Stiles. Stiles was convicted of 11 counts of conspiracy, bank robbery, misapplication of bank funds, and other charges. Furthermore, Gramm was caught in the act of making campaign solicitations from his Congressional office; this was a violation of 18 U.S.C. 607(a). Is this really someone we needed to review for a presidential election position? Did we really want someone with these credentials as a President of the United States? 3. Senator Alphonse D’Amato of New York was accused of being ‘The poster child for the rotten campaign-finance system on Capitol Hill.’ More than half of D’Amato’s associates and political allies were convicted in 1988 for bribery and racketeering. A former vice chairman testified that his company funneled at least $30,000 in illegal contributions to D’Amato for favors they expected to receive. Yet, D’Amato continues to be re-elected to the Senate and was an adviser to Dole in his 1996 presidential campaign.” Nicholas Prather, Medicine School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas Lodge High Parents as role models “My parents’ relationship…has taught me that marriage is not easy, but instead, marriage is a life-long commitment.” Justin Fluke, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “I believe that once two people are married, it should be forever, and the thought of divorce should never enter the mind. I believe that divorce is morally wrong. A responsible marriage leads to a good life.” Melissa Halbrook, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “Society believes that marriage is based upon love. Love does not imply the monogamy of marriage, its permanence, nor the difficulty and pain involved in a divorce. Marriage is the only way sexual relationships are accepted by society and, until recently, has been limited to adult heterosexuals. Love has no limits. It has, in the past, been illegal for two people of different races to be married. Love has never complied with this boundary either. Therefore, love is only one small aspect of a healthy marriage. Trust, dedication, loyalty and friendship combine with love to make a strong marriage. “Families require a sense of responsibility that many people today no longer possess. Our society has become a permissive one that allows infidelity and divorce. Due to this noncaring attitude projected by society, it is not as difficult for people to stop caring and
forget about their families, resulting in divorce. Years ago, such problems did not exist. Change is inevitable, but not irreversible.” Andrew Deering, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “One needs to stay true to their spouse, and this is the most difficult task it seems...I know from personal experience, coming from two broken homes, because my father and stepfather could not stay faithful to my mother. As a result, I have had somewhat of a traumatic life; growing up primarily without my biological father, and then having my stepfather do the exact same thing, only worse. In many cases, some people don't grow up as stable as I have...In fact, younger children think that they are the reason for mommy and daddy getting a divorce. However, they are just too young to realize that their parents weren't very responsible regarding marriage...To anyone who does get married, be responsible...and, once married, be honest with one another, let each one in on everything, because deviation and deception can corrupt anything. But one doesn't need to take my word for it, just ask someone from a broken home how they like growing up without one parent or with their parents always fighting because one wasn't responsible with his or her own actions. At that point, it might hit a little closer to home than one would like, and one might see just how important responsibility in a marriage is.” Adam Lough, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri Social Values in the Community Honesty - When we speak of honesty, we usually mean we don’t lie. But honesty also means being trustworthy and acting with integrity. “In a world where some would say one has to lie, cheat and steal to be a success, honesty is the best policy.” Adam Lough, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “A homeless man, Gary Foster, found an undesignated check for $5,000. Foster has a wife and children who have no home, but he returned the check and was not even thanked by the owner. A local pastor heard about the story and offered Foster a chance to speak and gave Foster a check for $1,000.” Joseph Rodriguez, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “Three boys were diving in a Delaware river last May when they stumbled upon some jewelry. Without hesitation, the boys decided to find the owner of these missing valuables. Among the items was a wedding ring with the name Psitos engraved on it. The boys found a lady with the last name of Psitos and returned the missing jewelry to her. While crying, Mrs. Psitos said they had been stolen from her when their house was broken into many years ago. She was grateful to the boys for their genuine kindness.” Cynthia Eldred, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “A man in Minnesota bought a chair at a rummage sale and when he got it home, he found a 14-year-old wallet in the cushions that contained $500. Without even thinking twice [about] keeping the money, the man sent it back to the rightful owner’s sister, since the owner had died two years previously. This is a perfect example of a man overcoming greed and taking responsibility for his actions and himself.”
Josh Nelson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “There was a survey conducted by a periodical (Readers Digest, 1966) that ranked a few cities of America in an 'honesty test.' They did this by scattering several wallets, each stuffed with about one hundred dollars in cash, throughout each city which they tested. In each city, they dispersed ten wallets. In a few cities, half and sometimes even more were turned over to the police station. The people of Salt Lake City, Utah returned the most, with a mind-blowing seven out of ten wallets returned. Other large cities such as St. Louis, Missouri, San Francisco, California and Atlanta, Georgia also fared quite well in this test. One woman who returned one of these lost wallets in Seattle, Washington said, ‘I had my wallet stolen right from my hand once, so I know how much of a hassle it can be to cancel all of your credit cards, and notifying the police is no help at all." Many other responses were the same.’” David Chenault, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “Probably the most used examples of irresponsibility are the common little lies that are told every day that serve no purpose. If a person accidentally breaks another person's coffee mug or causes a piece of clothing to get dirty and then they claim, 'It was like that when I got here'. Or, 'It must have happened earlier and you didn't notice,' when they know they were the person who caused the destruction, that person is acting irresponsibly.” Eric Wemhoener, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri Cheating defeats purposeful learning. “A student realizes that she didn't finish her homework from the night before. Instead of taking the grade which she deserved, she found a friend who had done the work. The friend gave her his work and she proceeded to copy it.” Jon Stogsdill, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “Every day in our school, people witness cheating going on all of the time.” Joanna Johnke, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “A high school student’s outlook can be shaken by irresponsible actions. An example of a student’s irresponsible actions is noticed in a recent poll of academically top-rated high school students. The poll found that a majority of the students admitted to cheating in order to help keep their grades up.” Nathan Haskell, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “My softball coach teaches a special education class at the Middle School. She always stresses to her class that cheating is wrong. Well, this little girl whom we’ll call Lanie, accepted some answers from her friend. Lanie felt so guilty that she wrote my coach a letter telling her that she was sorry and she would never cheat again. I think this was responsible behavior on Lanie’s part because she knew she had made a mistake and she wanted to correct it.
Stealing “Some people think little things like taking towels from a hotel room doesn’t matter, but the little things add up. The hotel industry estimated that over $100 million worth of items are stolen each year. Every towel, tissue box, Bible, and shower cap add up to a sizable amount. Some hotels have caught people trying to take the TV or even the whole room of furniture. Other menaces to society are the people who pay for one movie and sneak into a second one, athletes who take steroids and students who cheat on tests. More serious is the problem of people who dent a car and then drive away without leaving a note. Nothing can be done to catch the guilty unless they are caught red-handed or an honest witness turns them in.” Jenny Tuttle, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “For example, you go into a local convenience store to buy a pack of bubble gum. The cashier, currently occupied, accidentally gives you too much change. You leave the store and get into your car, and decide to count your change to find that the cashier, indeed, did give you too much change. After you find the thoughtless mistake, do you return the money? Or, do you make the innocent cashier pay the balance out of their pocket. After all, it was not your mistake.” Kristen Stevens, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota Legal Irresponsibility - Injustice Doing what might be politically correct but results in selective prosecution helps to breed contempt for the law. “A fifteen-year-old boy is working at a store. He decides to steal alcoholic beverages. When he is caught he fears the punishment, but is let off very easily because he comes from a good family. “A sixteen-year-old girl receives a speeding ticket in a city. The police office is rough with her until he realized that she is the mayor’s daughter. Instead of receiving a ticket and proper punishment, she is let off the hook. “These examples show that our system is failing us. It is proving that if you know the right people, or come from a good family, you can get away with more than you should.” Derek J. Veade, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana Are our judicial systems and social agencies so fragmented and so complex that they sometimes inadvertently favor and espouse irresponsibility? “Kenneth Curtis shot and killed his girlfriend in 1987 and then shot himself in the head. He suffered a brain injury and was declared unable to stand trial. He was ordered to undergo an annual psychiatric evaluation. The order was overturned in 1990. In November 1993, Curtis enrolled in Southern Connecticut University. The state had even paid close to $1,000 toward his tuition. But, he [had been declared] incompetent to stand trial.” Sarah Bordelon, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana
“Drunk driving is one of the leading causes of death in America today. On the radio this morning, I heard of a local man who has had 20 DWIs in the past five years. For his most recent punishment, the judge decided that all the man has to do is move [to] within walking distance of the bar. What is wrong with America’s judicial system today? Clearly the man is not going to learn his lesson if he is practically being handed the bottle as long as he does not drive.” Amanda Beauchamp, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “[Here is] a story…about a man who filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against a restaurant whose dress code demanded that he wear a necktie before entering. Even though the maitre d' offered to loan him one, he refused it and, instead, sued the restaurant claiming it wasn’t fair men had to wear neckties but women didn’t. The judge awarded the man $18,000.” Cynthia Eldred, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “There used to be a time when people took responsibility for their actions. Ten years ago, if a student’s performance earned them an “F” in one of his/her classes, the teacher gave that student an “F” and didn’t think twice. However, after the University of Michigan was sued for $853,000 for giving a student an “F”, educators may think twice before giving a student the grade they deserve.” Jason Veit, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “A woman went into a Northridge discount department store to buy a blender. She decided to take the bottom box from a stack of four blenders from an upper shelf used to store extra stock. When she pulled out the bottom box, the rest of the boxes fell. She sued the store for not warning the customers from taking stock from the upper shelf and for stacking the boxes so high. She claimed to sustain carpal tunnel syndrome along with neck, shoulder, and back pain…When this case went to court, the woman won the case and got $40,000 from the store. I think our court system should [have] overruled the case because it was an irresponsible mistake made by the lady, and it was no one else’s fault but her own.” Laci Harmon, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Juries order large awards because they identify with the plaintiff’s effort to get what they can while they can. Compassion for others has a great impact on juror’s decisions to help people who have been hurt. This is not always good, especially for people who just want to get the “best deal” out of their misfortune.” Natalie Riché, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “In 1989, a Blazer with ten teens traveled along sharp curves after midnight. All of the teens were drunk except Jason Rausch, the designated driver. Rausch lost control of the car, skidded, and flipped. Only the driver and one passenger were wearing their seat belts. One person died and two others suffered brain damage. The parents of the passengers are suing the driver, even though the others were drunk and not wearing their seat belts. The only responsible teen is being sued by the irresponsible teens’ families.” Rebecca Petrek, Joliet Central High School, Joliet, Illinois
“Another example of irresponsibility was seen on the Oprah Winfrey show. A mother told a story of her eight-year-old son, a pitcher for a little league baseball team, warming up before a game with his catcher when one of the pitches bounced off the catcher’s mitt and hit a woman sitting on the bleachers. The woman sued the boy’s family for fifteen thousand dollars. If a person knows that they are sitting in an area where they could get hit by a baseball, then that person should not have the right to sue for being hit by accident.” Clint Stevenson, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “During the summer of 1996, Pepsi had stuff points. These points would allow the consumer to buy merchandise. The points became so popular that Pepsi made a commercial to increase the popularity and sales. The commercial pictured prizes and the number of points needed to purchase that particular item. Towards the end of the commercial, they pictured an F-16 Fighter Jet for an outstanding number of points. However, an individual took the photograph of the jet seriously and earned enough points to purchase the jet. Pepsi told the gentleman that the jet was just a joke. The man took Pepsi to court.” Jesse Lee Wipperling, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “A former school district employee who consistently showed up late for work was fired. Later, she sued after claiming to be a victim of chronic lateness syndrome…A young man in Framingham, Massachusetts…had stolen a car from a parking lot and was killed while driving it. His family sued the owner of the parking lot, saying that it failed to protect thefts…“If people continue to make up claims to excuse themselves from their actions, will they be able to distinguish between right and wrong?” Emily Boettcher, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa Many of the irresponsible actions of teens are a reflection of society at large. Alcohol and drug use is particularly popular among teens. Abuse of alcohol and drugs contributes to the destruction of self and others in both worlds. Are teens considered more irresponsible than adults about drinking and drugs? “Drinking is the number one problem among American teens. Statistics reveal that many teens are starting to drink at a younger age. Drinking is irresponsible in itself, but what teens do under the influence is even worse. For instance, alcohol-related highway deaths are the number one killer of fifteen to twenty-four-year-olds. Furthermore, alcohol use is a contributing factor in numerous teen suicides, and over half of all the rapes involve the use of alcohol. A shocking 90 percent of all reported college rapes involve drinking by the attacker, the victim, or both. Drinking has also been known to lead to unsafe sex. It has been proven that if alcohol is being consumed, proper precautions will not be taken to prevent pregnancy and diseases like HIV. In addition, alcohol has been a component in almost every abusive family. “Many teenagers fall into peer pressure. A lot are afraid that if they say no they won’t be cool. As young people move through the teen years, the frequency and amount of drinking increases steadily. At age thirteen, nearly 40 percent of the teenagers claim to be nondrinkers. By the time they reach eighteen, only ten percent are nondrinkers.”
Sara Byl, Luck High School, Luck, Wisconsin “According to a recent study, an astonishing 38.6 percent of all teenagers drink weekly. Of all of the teens surveyed, 31 percent say that they only drink alone. There are 41 percent of teens that drink when they are upset because they claim it makes them feel better. Only 25 percent drink when they are bored and 25 percent drink to feel high. Even though 92 percent say that they will not drink and drive, one-third of all teens have accepted rides from drunk drivers.” Julie Cunningham, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas “Is there such a thing as responsible drinking? My answer is yes. I think that one solution is if people decide that they have to go out drinking with their buddies they should have someone take them wherever they are going and stay with them to make sure that they don't go for a ride with someone. Another solution is when someone asks their parents if they are okay with having a party at their house. If they say yes, then invite everyone over and have your parents take everyone's keys at the door. This way, no one can leave and cause an accident...Drinking is not a bad thing like everyone makes it out to be, it is just that some people abuse the right to drink and get so drunk that they cannot stand up or tell left from right. Drinking is a very relaxing thing that people do at dinner or just when talking to a friend. If you have to drink, do not drink and drive.” Rob Woods, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “A few times, drunk driving has hit close to me. One night I went to a party. There were some guys there with beer, liquor and some marijuana. They seemed fine, and could walk straight, so they decided that they needed to get home. About an hour later they were knocking on the door asking us if we could get them out of the ditch up the road. They were embedded in the mud about four miles up the road from the house. The front end was demolished, and nothing was left of the car. They were really lucky that the sheriff was not called out to the site. The guys would have all gotten DWI's, and they should have received them. Another irresponsible act by one of my friends did not happen too long ago. We were going to a concert; one of my friends was already there. He had been at a frat house before we got there for about an hour and a half. During the time he was there, he drank a fifth of vodka and a twelve-pack of beer. He was extremely drunk. He tried to dance at the concert, but he could not stand up. I tried to help him up, but everyone was pushing us. Eventually, my friends and I got him up out of the crowd. We put him over in the bleachers and took him outside occasionally so he could get rid of some of his liquor...it got to the point where he would not move very much. Someone said we should take him to the hospital, so we did. His parents got called, and he got his stomach pumped. He was close to getting alcohol poisoning.” J. R. Steelman, Salem R-80, Salem, Missouri “People who drink and drive do not take any responsibility. They end up either causing harm or damage to themselves or they cause harm to someone else without even giving a care. It is very irresponsible…to drive drunk. In many instances after [a] drunk strikes someone in a vehicle [that] is innocent, the drunk does not even realize what he or she has done. Usually, innocent victims of drunk drivers end up dead or paralyzed for life while the intoxicated person stumbles off without a care in the world.” Chad Douglas, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee
“Many of my friends drink and drive. They don't think that there is any harm in this, even after all of the stories they have heard. One day, someone could be in the wrong place at the wrong time and could get really hurt. Another irresponsible behavior is having sex before marriage. I'm afraid that I'm at fault with this one. At any time I could end up pregnant and ruin everything that I have planned, such as going to college to make my life better. The last irresponsible behavior that I'm going to talk about concerns both men and women. Abuse is a big problem in our country. Any man that hits a woman is irresponsible. Even if he thinks that what he is doing is right. I have been hit before by my boyfriend, and he blamed his irresponsible behavior on me, saying that it was all my fault.” Leslie Jones, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “Lori frequently drank throughout her high school years. She knew what could result from this, but wasn't worried about it. She was fortunate, and was never involved in any accidents. Now, she acknowledges that her actions were irresponsible, and that she not only endangered her life, but the lives of her passengers and other drivers.” Carolyn Schweighauser, Salem Senior High School, Salem, Missouri “Binge drinking can cause alcohol poisoning. This happened to 15-year-old Brian Ball. Sadly, binge drinking brought him to his death in two days…He downed 26 shots of vodka at 50 cents apiece. He died, in two days, merely to $13 worth of vodka.” Danielle Schmitt, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “Another example of irresponsibility comes from a very sad case of underage drinking in which a local teen was killed. The teen died of alcohol poisoning. His blood-alcohol level was four times the legal limit. The young man was at a party given by three adults. They allowed the teens to drink. These adults were charged with murder because the teen had passed out and they simply ignored it. The young man died that night. The adults did not even check on the young man.” Jackie Hauer, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “Bob is a popular Christian student. His friends invited him to a party. He knew there would be alcohol, and many of his non-Christian friends would be there. He thought it could be an excellent opportunity to witness to them. He went, thinking he was being responsible by not drinking and telling his friends that it's wrong; however, he lost his influence on his friends. The fact that he was there showed his friends that he condoned drinking, which made him look like a hypocrite. Some were so drunk that they couldn't verify that he wasn't drinking. Although Bob thought he was being responsible, he seems irresponsible to others.” Julie Anderson, Salem Senior High School, Salem, Missouri “Many projects today are unsuccessful in turning around alcoholic teens because they don't encourage the teen to want to quit. These projects are strictly punishment or psychological analysis. These teens will not get better until they want to and decide to get better. The obvious solution to the problem of teen alcoholism is to set up programs that get the teens to change their desire. Such programs would be subsidized by taxes to take the place of unsuccessful programs that now exist.”
Nathan Hogan, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “A 21-year-old man who was drinking at a bar in Brandon, South Dakota… got drunk and the bar wouldn’t let him drive home. One of the people who worked at the bar drove him home. As soon as the man got home, he started walking back to the bar so he could drive his pickup home. It was foggy out that night in February of 1998. The man set out from the bar in his pickup for home. At the same time, a 16-year-old girl was driving her car along with her 17-year-old boyfriend on their way to a basketball game at approximately 8:00 p.m. As the kids were driving eastbound on a nearby highway, they met the [drunken] man who was driving westbound on a bridge. As the 22-year-old approached the bridge, he was on the left side of the road creating a head-on collision. The two kids in the car were killed on the spot. The man driving the pickup was thrown out but received only minor injuries.” Connor Myers, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Where I live there isn't much for kids to do so a lot of kids go out every weekend to drink and drive and to do drugs. Therefore, there is usually a lot of trouble that could be reduced greatly if we would have things to occupy the kids in this town. Salem has a lot of empty land in it that could be used to put in recreational activities for people to do. I feel that if they would do this then they would find the amount of young kids in trouble would be reduced greatly and the amount of under age drinking would also be reduced. There are many people in this town that have quite a bit of money that could help pay to build recreational things for us to do. They could also have fundraisers to get the whole community into helping raise money to do this. The community doing fundraisers would help with getting everyone involved, no matter what their backgrounds are. The community needs to join together to build a stronger community here in Salem. If the kids that are committing these crimes would see that the community is joined together then they would realize that they are not going to be able to get away with doing the crimes they are doing. If everyone would work together and get to know everyone around then maybe the young kids would not be able to find someone to buy them alcohol.” Crystal McGuirt, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “An example of irresponsible behavior that happens in my own home town is some of the youth community drink, and some even do drugs. But, even more irresponsible are the people that sell that alcohol or drugs to the underage teens.” Daphne Younger, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “Most of the time, drugs are dangerous substances you encounter when you run with the fast crowd. Not all of the time, though. A girl who was looking for a necklace of her mother’s found marijuana seeds in her mother’s room. When confronted, her mother claimed that they belonged to the girl’s father and that was the reason they separated. The drugs truthfully belonged to both of the parents…I think that the mother with the drug problem should have told her daughter the truth about the drugs in the first place. I think it would have caused a lot less problems and mistrust…Her father should have come forward also. They both should attend a rehabilitation program together to get rid of their drug problem. They should respect their daughter and take responsibility for their actions. This would, in turn, be taking responsibility and being responsible for their family. They
should have started that before they started a family. Later is better than never in some cases. Many of these heartaches could be mended with the acceptance of responsibility. Neysa Baker, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee The problem reaches into an increasingly younger generation. “According to a survey, the age for experimenting with alcohol drops as low as nine to ten-year-olds...Publishers are publishing coloring books, picture books, and affirmation books for children as young as four. At many nursery schools, Boggles the Bear preaches alcohol prevention to three and four-year-olds. Many people blame alcohol advertising for teenage drinking. But [in] the past decade, Anheuser-Busch has spent more than $100 million on ‘responsible drinking’ ads and community outreach programs.” Danielle Schmitt, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “Illegal drug use and cigarette smoking among teenagers continued to rise in 1996, according to federal officials who unveiled the latest drug survey results. The sharpest increases shown in marijuana and cigarette smoking occurred among eighth and tenth graders.” Julie Cunningham, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas Can these activities be stopped? Students propose several solutions to the problem of alcohol and drug abuses. “I think the people doing drugs should be held responsible and they should have to pay for their own rehabilitation after they are helped. I think if everyone would be responsible for their own actions, the government would [find] more important things to spend tax money on. They wouldn’t have to pay for drug rehabilitation, extra prisons to hold drug offenders, HIV studies, or juvenile detention centers.” Rebecca Ann Pierce, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “A girl attends a party. Everyone there is drinking or doing drugs. She decided a long time ago that she wasn’t going to be or get involved with any of those actions. She decides to leave the party and takes a few friends home.” Neysa Baker, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “If you know someone who has a bad drinking problem, make sure that they do not get on the road drunk. TAKE THEIR KEYS! They may put my life and yours in danger.” Maria Jones, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “PARTY is a student organization created in 1986 by students of the University of Missouri-Columbia. PARTY stands for Promoting Alcohol Responsibility through You. PARTY provides awareness of drinking and driving issues as well as providing activities that educate people on the safe use of alcohol. They have many monthly activities like alcohol-free parties and activities.” Lindsey Dorr, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “Club members and athletes of Georgetown High in Georgetown, Texas, must sign a behavior contract, swearing off drugs, alcohol and tobacco at all times, including weekends and summers. Officials say they want to hold kids involved in extracurricular
activities to a “higher standard.” Two-time contract breakers get banned from all activities for the year. “Alateen is a free self-help program for kids who live with someone who drinks or uses drugs. It is a safe place where teens can talk to other kids about what living with this problem has been like. It teaches problem-solving skills for scenarios, such as what to do when your parent is under the influence and screaming at you or when you need a ride and don’t have a driver’s license, but don’t trust your parents to drive.” Neysa Baker, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee Consequences “Many children do not understand consequences. A Vancouver woman wrote a letter to a newspaper telling the story of a thirteen-year-old girl who trespassed, forced entry, and stole to obtain explosives. After the girl obtained them, she accidentally blew her hand off. The courts didn’t hold the girl responsible; it was the police who were held responsible because they left the explosives there.” Matt Hinkle, Joliet Central High School, Joliet, Illinois “Not enough people consider the consequences of their actions. If people would stop and think of the consequences to their actions, there would be fewer irresponsible actions taking place.” Marcy Gauthier, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “A teen-aged couple decide to engage in sexual activity, but do not consider the dangers. The couple disregards the importance of birth control, and end up having an unwanted and unexpected baby. In 1997, a college student attends a fraternity party, where he is killed by the selfless act of binge drinking, the new and irresponsible fad of attaining a fast buzz that has become popular. Christian Davila, 14, and Maryling Flores, 13, were sweethearts who were forbidden by Flores' mother to see each other. In November, 1995, the couple met one last time standing at the edge of a Florida canal, where they joined hands and plummeted to their deaths 15 feet into the cold, murky water...Teenage suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers. Every one hour and forty-five minutes, a teen commits suicide...There are many 24-hour hotlines that those who are confused and contemplating suicide can call. Many times, talking to someone who knows how he/she is feeling can make the person feel that he/she is not alone in the world. They can be informed that whatever the problems they are facing, they can be worked out, and there are always people out there who are willing to help one in need. “A probable solution to the problem of suicide can begin with government funded classroom instruction about the dangers of suicide. This class could be alternated daily with a health class, and inform students about signs of suicide, ways of prevention, and the effects suicide has on loved ones left behind. The class should be offered not only in every public school around the country, but also to private schools...the rising rate of suicides may begin to decrease." Shannon Jones, Salem High, Salem, Missouri
“Baby April was found on the riverbank stuffed in a plastic bag. Her mother decided she had no choice but to throw her baby out like trash. Maybe she was too young and could not face her parents. Or, maybe she had nothing in the world and did not want to bring her baby into it. Whatever the reason, she [had other] choices. There are many couples unable to have their own children who would have adopted Baby April and loved her. Instead, she was just a nameless body in a bag on a riverbank. She was loved after she died and given the name Baby April and a place to rest by saddened community members.” Chala Mills, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “Stella Liebeck bought her coffee at the McDonalds’ drive-through. When she received her coffee, she put it between her legs, pried off the lid, and spilled it in her lap. This caused her to have severe burns. A jury ordered McDonalds to give her $3 million, but the judge cut the award to $600,000. McDonalds appealed but settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed sum. In this situation, Liebeck failed to admit that it was her fault for spilling the coffee that caused her burns. Instead, she blamed McDonalds for her accident and received a sum of money. Is this ethical? In a way, Liebeck was rewarded for her irresponsibility and clumsiness.” Natalie Riché, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Susan Haas plays guitar for her church’s folk singing group. One day, Haas leaned her guitar against a wall during a break in her performance when it fell and broke. She could not afford to buy a new one. Two years later, a church member handed Haas an envelope that had been left for her after mass. Inside the envelope was a two-hundred-dollar gift certificate from a local music shop and a card that read, ‘Thank you for the years of joy your music has given to so many people.’” Edward Couvillion, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana In a perfect world… “Infants and babies [have no responsibility]. Every need that they have in the world is fulfilled by the people who love them and live to care for them. Babies do not have to worry…about a single thing….” Chad Douglas, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee Irresponsibility - Child abuse and neglect. “Mary Smith* lives with her mom and her three-year-old brother in a Chicago apartment. She has sufficient food and clothing and is enrolled in a good kindergarten program. [This is] the typical life of a typical five-year-old…until one night when her brother wouldn’t stop crying. Mary watches as her mother grows more agitated with each passing minute. Finally, Mary’s mother is fed up. She grabs a sock and stuffs it in the boy’s mouth, securing it with tape. She wraps a cord around his neck and strings the end over the door. In the last moments of his life, her little brother waves goodbye to Mary, who is watching from the doorway… “In 1996, 960,000 cases of child abuse flooded relief agencies, sixty percent of them involving parents with drug problems. This means that nearly one million experienced either what Mary’s brother had as a victim, or like Mary, witnessed a traumatic event that
would certainly affect them for the rest of their lives. Nearly one-half of the children who die from physical abuse each year have been reported to agencies, some of them more than once. What does this say about the responsibility of these agencies? “Who is responsible for the deaths of these children? Is it the procrastination of the agencies? Is it the fact that the number of cases reported restricts the agency’s ability to investigate thoroughly? Is it the mental state of the parents? There are two sides to every story. “The goal of almost every relief agency is to keep families together; however, that is far from rational in some cases. Mary’s mom had been a ward of the state since she was eight years old and has been a resident at Elgin Mental Health Center when Mary’s little brother was born. While pregnant, she repeatedly did things to herself to cause harm to her baby. Yet, Mary’s mom was granted custody of both children with a simple, “Good luck, Mom” from the judge. “The effort to keep Mary’s family together was a lost cause. The history of her mother’s mental health should have indicated to officials that she was not likely to have a ‘turnaround’ and be a responsible and loving mother anytime soon. This was definitely a case in which the children should have been removed immediately. Yet, due to lack of responsibility from both the mother and the courts, the situation ended in the death of a child. “Rachel Jones* was reported to a child protection agency for the alleged abuse of her two-year-old daughter. The agency placed Rachel in a program designed to help her get back on track. A counselor from the agency spent hours with her over a period of several months and reported that Rachel was making significant progress. What a shock it was when Rachel and her boyfriend scalded and beat Rachel’s daughter to death after the toddler wet her bed. In addition, the autopsy report showed cuts and bruises on the child that indicated that she had been abused while her mother was working with the agency. Where is the blame laid in this case? On Rachel? On the agency’s counselor? “How should the decision be made to either remove a child immediately or work with the family? Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala states: ‘The goal is to shrewdly pick cases in which the right efforts might help keep a family together.’ Some indications could include the mental stability of the parents, any felonies committed by the parents or signs of abuse to the children. Responsibility for good judgement plays a key role in making this decision. “When the decision is made to remove a child from his parent(s), it is important to be sure that the removal is the best thing to do in the situation. Many children have been taken away from families in which the worst crime was poverty and where abuse didn’t even play a part. The workers of the agencies must have the ability and the good sense to separate [children from their parents] only where needed. “The decision to work with the family should be promoted by positive factors found within the family. Although parents should be responsible enough to keep their children separate from their own problems, families in which the parents are under stress because
of marital or work-related problems are one example of a case that would likely be helped by some type of counseling. “Since all kids need a positive role model, the stability of the parents is probably the most important thing in the healthy development of the child. Counseling can provide this stability. The family can move away from the abuse and toward spending time together. The family can get involved in a church or participate in a YWCS program. This responsible behavior by parents will reflect on the children and influence their behavior in the future as parents. “A recent reform has taken place in the child welfare agencies of Cook County, along with the adoption of a bigger budget. This has also brought about an improved efficiency, including solutions to problems that have plagued the agencies in the past. The shortage of foster parents has been ameliorated by the decision of the agencies to pay individuals to stay home and care for children. “What will our country be like in the future if these children and their families are not helped? Studies have shown that abused children were more likely to be child abusers as adults than non-abused children were. Do we want America to be a land of low morals, deteriorating family life, and victimized children? That is why we must work together. Parents must take responsibility for their children and for themselves. Welfare agencies must take responsibility to treat cases with the proper action. We, as citizens, must also help. By treating children with love and care, teaching them proper morals, and training them to take responsibility for their actions, we can assure the well-being of America long in the future.” Elizabeth Haire, Joliet Township Central High School, Joliet, Illinois *Names have been changed “Another example of an irresponsible act is parents not taking care of their own children. My parents are foster parents. We see many children that are treated unfairly by their biological parents. Some of the parents of these children will beat or sexually abuse their children to the point where the children are scared of any human contact. There are other parents who don’t abuse their children physically, but the child is left alone because the parent is in jail, the parent is recovering from drug abuse, or the parent is not financially stable.” John Westra, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Out of every one thousand babies born each year, it is estimated that six will be abused during their childhood years...Nothing is more irresponsible as child abuse; beating up on someone who is not strong enough to defend themselves is a disgrace to society as a whole.” Josh Nichols, Luck High School, Luck, Wisconsin “More neglect is reflected in the case of a child who was delivered dead to his New York Special Education Class. The boy weighed 27 pounds and had been absent for 37 consecutive days without the school taking action. This handicapped child was part of a 50-million dollar escort program that employed irresponsible people. His driver thought
it was not her duty to touch passengers. This self-centered act shows an attitude of irresponsibility for other human beings and reflects the decay of moral values of the nation.” Mitch Melohn, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “Deadbeat dads all across the nation refuse to accept responsibility for their children. These fathers don't pay their child support. They don't take the time to see the children they created. This can cause severe emotional damage to the child that is much worse than the monetary damage.” Justin Wylam, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri When the irresponsible actions of persons in authority are widely tolerated, we send mixed messages about responsibility to our children. “The examples of irresponsibility range from minor incidents, such as lying about who took a person's pencil to major acts of senseless conduct, such as killing someone and then blaming it on conditions that have nothing to do with the crime. An example of such behavior occurred in Chicago, Illinois. A man who had planted a bomb in a subway car, planning to cause a total shutdown of the subway, was caught and arrested. He was then tried for attempted sabotage and the endangerment of civilians. During his trial, he maintained a plea of not guilty, and stated that his actions had been caused by a childhood fascination with burning his model toy trains. After a psychiatric evaluation, he was found guilty of his crime, but sentenced to only three years of incarceration at the federal penitentiary. Although this crime didn't inflict casualties, it did cause many people to question the dependability of the judicial system of Chicago.” Eric Wemhoener, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “One night, four underage friends decided to try out their new fake IDs at a local bar. They got in and drank nearly all night with no problem at all. On their way home, they caused a head-on collision, which nearly killed the other driver. When the other driver said that he would be pressing charges, the parents of the four friends argued that it was not their children’s fault. They argued that the bar was at fault because it let in people underage and allowed them to drink.” Travis Gaspard, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “One major act of irresponsibility is that a third of the businesses in Sioux Falls, South Dakota sold alcohol to minors in a police sting…In South Dakota, people younger than 21 carry driver’s licenses with a red stripe across the top while older people have a blue stripe on their licenses. Restricted licenses for teen drivers have a green stripe. I think that it is pretty bad when the clerk can’t tell if they are legal buyers or not, when all they have to do is look at he color of the license.” Matt Smith, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota Irresponsible behavior by those in public office also send messages about right and wrong behavior. “In the United States, there are laws to prevent irresponsible people from doing harm, but these laws are often bent or broken. In the case of the Mayor Marion Barry, he should
have been removed from office immediately, no questions asked. When parents fail to set an example for their children, it is a sad thing, but when elected officials set that kind of example, they need to be relieved of their duties.” Elizabeth St. Romain, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Another example of irresponsibility is when people abuse their positions of power to benefit themselves. One State Senator was removed from office because he solicited gifts, money, and even a luxury car from a state college. These are people who are elected to represent the public and their views. They have a responsibility to these people to do their job. It is a great privilege to become an elected official, which should not be taken lightly.” Allison Speth, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois Difficult family situations contribute to the confusion about right and wrong behavior. “A father preaches to and warns his children not to smoke. Yet, while he preaches, he starts coughing and he lights another cigarette. He always complains about lack of breath and chest pain, yet he continues to smoke and set a terrible example to his youngsters. This, in a way, could be responsible or irresponsible. It is being responsible because he is showing his kids what harm it causes to your health, yet he does not try to quit. This is setting a bad example. This is irresponsible behavior because he is contributing to killing himself and the second-hand smoke hurts his family.” Travis Bordelon, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “An…example of irresponsible behavior is that of a man who is more dedicated to his job than he is to his family. A 29-year-old corporate lawyer arrives home from work at 2 a.m. His wife and children have long since been asleep, but he has been at the office doing some late work on one of his cases, as usual. His son has tried to reach him at the office all afternoon. He wanted to tell his dad about his home run in the Little League game. He also wanted to ask his dad why he wasn’t there to watch. The young boy receives a message from his father’s secretary that his father is very busy right now and that he should call back later. The boy hangs up. He has heard this many times before and has no intention of calling back this time. He’ll tell his dad about the game this weekend, hopefully. The son knows that his father’s job is very important to him. The father is acting very irresponsibly by not showing his family that they are more important to home than any job.” Danielle Soldani, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Even though students are irresponsible sometimes, adults sometimes are worse. In New York, a man gets up and gets ready for work. His wife gets up and makes him his favorite breakfast. The man eats all of the food his wife made and grabs his briefcase and kisses her goodbye and tells her that he loves her. Later that night, the guy calls his wife to tell her that he has to work tonight and tells her not to wait up for him. She understands and tells him not to work too hard and that she loves him. As the guy hangs up the phone, he turns to his secretary and gives her a kiss and the two of them head out of the office and to the secretary’s house, where there will be no office work done. Cheating on someone is the most irresponsible thing anybody could ever do. When a person marries someone,
they both receive the responsibility to be loyal to one another and, too often, that responsibility is not carried out.” Josh Maske, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “It is believed that when one gets married, divorce is always a way out. That is an irresponsible behavior by itself.” Heather Schaller, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri Our legal system often excuses irresponsible actions through clever and subtle defenses. “In the society we live in today, there are too many ways to get out of taking responsibility for our actions. Lawyers, parents, teachers, doctors, psychologists, and judges often allow us to get out from under our responsibilities. Some professionals make a good living by helping people avoid responsibility.” Sarah Elizabeth Spancs, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “A clerk at the Vermont District Court for Rutland County said the state reduced the charges against the 32-year-old woman…from felony retail theft…to misdemeanor retail theft. City police said the woman stole about $100 worth of items from a supermarket … the items’ retail prices added up… to $101.49, just over the $100 threshold for the felony charge. But the public defender filed a court motion asking that the sales going on the day of the alleged theft be accounted for… [This would bring the total] down enough to lower the bill to $97.37 and the charge to a misdemeanor…I feel the woman that stole goods should not have had her sentence reduced… I think our courts should be tougher on people that commit crimes…When someone does break the law, they have to face the consequences.” Mandy Austin, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota Are we never really in charge of our lives? “Psychoanalysis suggests that links between behavior and biology reinforce the theory that we are guided by genetics, not forces. Could this theory explain our nation’s lack of responsibility, or is this theory yet another example of us making more excuses for our lack of responsibility?” Jill Lacombe, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana Pleading ignorance and blaming someone else for their failures allows them to deny any responsibility for their actions. Are they simply trying to have it both ways? “The media has begun to promote the practice of safer sex. From commercials to pamphlets to billboards, everyone now has the resources to know how to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea, syphilis, Chlamydia, and the deadly AIDS virus. If the resources designed for prevention are there, why are the rates of people having these diseases still rising? The answer is irresponsibility. It’s pitiful the way men, women, and teenagers, who think they are grown enough to have sex, are hurt when they come from the doctor’s office with the news they have tested positive for one of the above diseases. They are quick to blame the person they had sex with in giving them the disease. What these people fail to realize is that they were given the opportunity
to use condoms or practice abstinence, but they chose not to seize the moment. Their irresponsibility will cost them the children they may have wanted, or even worse, their lives.” Carla Phillips, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “It’s hard to deal with a man who has no feelings or cares. Our U.S. troops were going to Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein [in] short order. They were all prepared for the attack when something precious stood in their way. Saddam had his men gather up some children to bring into Saddam’s chambers. The U.S. troops were going to attack, but children could be taken at the same time, so they halted the attack.” Molly Palmer, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa Chris says: “Each time an irresponsible act is committed, it sets the whole society back. The reason is because someone has to fix every irresponsible act.” Chris Ross, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama Irresponsibility on the job “Responsibility has been broken even in the workplace… The following is a situation in which a person didn’t do his job correctly. An employee…was told to call a company and double check to see if he had ordered the right size of equipment…He didn’t call [and] the next day the piece of equipment came in and it was the wrong size…It cost the company time and money.” Nathan Kier, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “A firefighter named Ceradus Saint is about 60 pounds overweight. This is very irresponsible because his job is to save people from fires and he cannot do this to his highest ability while he is so obese. He stated that he would feel better about his job if he were lighter. He should take responsibility and try to lose weight.” Scott Jenkins, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri Dustin Hofer speaks out on responsibility. Blame someone else “There are many people that act irresponsibly and pay the consequences in the end. An example of this is the traumatic accident that happened in Colorado this year. Michael Kennedy failed to heed the warnings and ended his life suddenly with a head-on collision with a tree. The thing that makes this incident irresponsible is that he was playing football with a water bottle while skiing down the mountain. The family and media were quick to blame the resort, question the danger of skiing, and demand the requirement of helmets for all skiers. The blame really lies with the individual. His lack of responsibility cost him his life. Littering and pollution “Another example of irresponsibility is littering and pollution. These two things have become problems throughout the world. Big businesses pollute the air, the water, and the land, thinking that rules do not pertain to them. Vehicles are essential for our way of life
[with] no thought [given] to what it does to our air. People litter our highways and streams thinking that their little bit does not make a difference. Children bear the burden of our environmental irresponsibility. Their dreams are shattered, their health is sacrificed, and their chance for a safe world to live in is compromised because of our negligence. Ignoring the seat belt law “People are also careless regarding laws that pertain to them. Putting a seat belt on does not require much thought or effort, but still people forget or neglect to buckle themselves or their children safely in their vehicles. They not only endanger their lives, but they jeopardize the lives of innocent children. In the news every day are stories about people being injured or killed because of their irresponsible actions. Lawyers make lots of money defending people even though some of the injuries could have been avoided if the person would have acted more responsibly. Putting the blame on someone or something else is easier than taking responsibility on your own. Many innocent people suffer because of someone else’s irresponsibility. Mother Teresa “A person does not have to be big, strong, or well known to make an impact on the world. Mother Teresa was a Catholic nun who saw how the poor lived in India. She decided to spend her life traveling all over the world helping the poor. Mother Teresa was a small, frail woman who became well known because she took the poor of the world as her responsibility and made a difference. An act of courage and sense of responsibility. “Another case of a small person helping was demonstrated in Wisconsin. A school bus driver had a heart attack and slumped over at the wheel. A responsible junior high student quickly reacted and jumped behind the wheel. Even though he had not driven before, the student took on the responsibility and saved the busload of kids. People cannot wait or assume that someone else is going to take care of a problem. Every individual should be responsible for themselves and act accordingly. The world needs more bus drivers like this student. The world is veering off of the road and there is no one at the wheel. What can we do? Recycling “Programs and systems can be set up and enforced to make our world a better place to live. I see an example of this when I go to Colorado for a ski vacation. Colorado Ski Resorts seem to have a system that works. Their cafeterias have different recycling bins for everything. Three are containers for waste, cans, glass, plastic, and paper. Even though their customers are from all over the world, everyone takes the time to recycle. This goes to show that it does not matter whom you are or where you are from, people are not too important to recycle. Outreach for teens. “Outreach programs for runaway teens, such as the Larkin Street Youth Center in San Francisco, is another way to make a difference. This program helps troubled homeless teens. The center realizes the importance of responsible teens and focuses on finding,
promoting, and developing the teen’s ability to take on responsibility. By watching adults and role models they accept and learn responsibility for their actions. The youth of today are tomorrow’s future. Making teens responsible for themselves is the key to success for our future. Community efforts for common survival “Community-based forestry programs are also helping to make our world better. These programs can improve the way Americans care for their urban and rural ecosystems. Quincy, California, once a thriving timber town, has a forest management plan that includes fuel reduction and an acceptable harvest level. The plan works because the people compromise and work toward the goal of common survival. Conserving, protecting, and restoring the environment should be our common goal. Responsibility begins with a single step. “Responsibility starts with [each individual]. Responsibility begins with a single step. In order to create a world that we are proud to leave for our children, we need to build bridges for our future. If we do not set a good example by being responsible, then what will our future hold? The time has come [to take] responsibility.” Dustin Hofer, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “People stand out when they take responsibility for themselves or others. One example occurred on Mother's Day 1955 in Sugar Hill, Georgia. Rob and Margaret Glass had let their kids go outside and play on a drizzly day. They heard lightning and ran outside to see their son, Stephen, running from the woods. Rob ran into the woods and found his son Kyle face down, struck by lightning. Remembering his Boy Scout training, he performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation until the paramedics arrived, and Kyle survived. Rob took the initiative and the responsibility for his son's life, which he saved by taking control of the situation and doing something.” Cassy Felkerson, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “A man driving on the interstate realized that a truck driver had lost his brakes and was out of control while going down a hill. The man pulled his truck in front and allowed the out of control driver to bump against him to stop his truck. By sacrificing minimal damage to his vehicle he possibly saved many lives.” Matt Wofford, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “There are so many responsible examples that it is hard to write about just a couple.” Leslie Jones, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri Outrageous Irresponsibility What we practice conflicts with our ideals. Are we reinventing the conditions of our civilized life? “A jury awarded $178,000 in damages to a woman who sued her former fiancé for breaking their seven-week engagement. The breakdown: $93,000 for pain and suffering, $60,000 for loss of income from her legal practice, and $25,000 for psychiatric counseling expenses.”
Mandy Austin, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Recently, a friend and I were talking about the Oklahoma City bombing when I learned that after the bombing, the rental company that rented the U-Haul truck was sued for renting the truck to terrorists…Then Ford Motor Company was sued for making the UHaul truck that carried the bomb. Ridiculous!” Clint Stevenson, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “Recently, a surfer sued another surfer for ‘taking his wave.’ The case was ultimately dismissed because they were unable to put a price on ‘pain and suffering’ endured by watching someone ride the wave that was ‘intended for you.’” Laci Harmon, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “A minister from Irene, South Dakota, received thousands of dollars in [charitable contributions] to help pay for his cancer treatments. As it turned out, this man did not have cancer. He had conned everyone into thinking he did. He went so far as to shave his head to make it appear as if [he] was receiving chemotherapy treatments.” Joe McCombs, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “One example of an irresponsible act is, three years ago there was a fragile little girl named Jennifer Bush. Jennifer was from Coral Springs, Florida. Jennifer pleaded for the Clinton health care plan because of the medical bills for her chronic digestive problems. The two million dollars in medical bills exhausted the family’s health insurance. At an event promoting Clintoncare, the sick child posed for a picture with the First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton. “Jennifer’s mother, Kathleen Bush wrote to the White House, ‘Do you know what it is like to choose between purchasing groceries for the week to feed your family or buy needed medications for your chronically ill child?’ “As it turns out, Kathleen didn’t know about that stuff either. Florida officials arrested Bush and charged her with aggravated child abuse and organized fraud for making her child sick so they could gain attention. Independent pediatric specialists found no evidence of a chronic illness. The reason the Bushes were lying about their daughter’s health was because prosecutors found out that they were using the donations and the government aid to pay off the bills on the credit cards they were racking up. They would use the credit cards to go to the Bahamas and Disney World. They also had a HarleyDavidson motorcycle, remodeled their kitchen, and put in a swimming pool. “My last example is, in Idaho there was a student by the name of Jason Wilkins. This kid thought it would be fun to make his friends laugh by ‘mooning’ them. Jason was in his dorm room on the third floor when he got the idea. He stepped onto the radiator and pressed his bare buttocks to the window and leaned back. As he leaned back, the window shattered and he fell the three floors to the cement, landing on his buttocks. When he fell, he fractured four vertebrae. The disconcerted college student just called it a freak accident at the time. Then six months later, Wilkins and his parents alleged that it was negligence on [the] part of the school and its employees. They tried to sue the school for $940,000…”
Darren Erickson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Another example [occurred] in Salem, Massachusetts. There were some inmates who sued the county jail, the sheriff, and some other officials for cruel and unusual conditions. The reason they sued is that they didn’t like the multiple bunks. The fact they didn’t have a sink and toilet in each room made them unhappy. They were also unhappy that they didn’t have any place to exercise during the winter. I guess they forgot that they were in prison to be punished for crimes that they committed and not to have [luxuries], like a vacation…They were awarded two million dollars plus twelve percent interest from the time the trial was ended until they collected their ‘hard’-earned money. “In addition to the winnings, each [plaintiff] got $10, tax-free, for each day that person was in jail. An article from the newspaper read, ‘The Department of Correction officials might feel relieved; the inmates were seeking $1,600 per day, per man.’” Darren Erickson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “…A 15-year-old boy raped a 3-year-old child and got sent home with probation for a year. Another 14-year-old boy sexually assaulted his 6-year-old sister and he was sent home with only four years probation. People all over want to know what can be done, but there is no answer yet.” Ryan Olson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota In our arbitrary justice system, distinctions are not made with regard to intent. Is this fair? “U.S. schools are being criticized for ‘Zero Tolerance.’ In America, [some] educators like the philosophy. ‘No slip-ups, no exceptions, no excuses.’ The rules are very easily understood. ‘Every weapon brought to school is a weapon, whether it is an AK-47 or a Boy Scout camping knife. Every drug is a drug, whether it is cocaine or a Tylenol tablet.’ Every violation of this rule is met by pre-set punishment no matter what kind of a school record the kid has. They are suspended or they get expelled from school. “A Texas girl, who was 13 years [old], was punished for carrying a bottle of Advil in her backpack that was detected by a drug-sniffing dog. “A 17-year-old Georgia girl was punished for bringing an African tribal knife to her world history class. Schools punish the kids before they use common sense in thinking why they had a weapon or drug… “The student should get some kind of punishment because they broke the rules, but they should not get expelled or suspended for bringing a knife for history class or Tylenol for a headache.” Joe Ward, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota Volunteers - Helping Others Taking the initiative to make things happen!
“It’s eleven in the morning and the lasagna is ready to be served, along with twenty loaves of bread and plenty of fruits and vegetables. The tables are set and it’s almost time to open the doors and offer a healthy meal to almost a hundred needy people. People of all kinds, some young and spirited, most old and worn out, gather together to admit that they need some assistance. I am proud to help these people and I feel that it is my responsibility. There are few things I could do with my time that would be more fulfilling. Many lives are touched, including mine. “Not too many people can look around their community and say that they like everything they see. It is our responsibility to try to change the things that upset us. If we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem. There are so many people in our society that just need a little push to get back on the right track. If we desire to live in a community where we feel safe and comfortable, it is our responsibility to make it that way. These changes do not come easily, so the community needs people who are willing to show some lonely people a caring friend…Society will not change overnight, but gradually we will see change in the way we [view] one another. To take the time to help someone less fortunate is to become a better, more appreciative person. “Most people claim that they don’t have enough time to volunteer. To me, that is a very selfish and cold-hearted claim. Those few hours can make you feel like time has stopped and that you are making a difference. There are few things more rewarding than seeing a person move on to a better life with your help. About a year ago, I was invited to a banquet dinner for our local mission, where I am a volunteer. We heard the testimonies of several people who had found strength and hope at the mission. That night, I found new meaning to life. I discovered a purpose that all people should seek. The glory that comes out of volunteering is a feeling like no other. Men and women of all ages and races stood before us and told it like it was. They explained the terrors and struggles they had faced, and said that without the help of people like us, they couldn’t have broken those chains. That thought tugs at my heart and proves to me that everyone in the world has the responsibility to try to make that kind of impact. “It seems that more people are beginning to understand the importance of volunteering. Three are currently ninety-three million volunteers in America. Unfortunately, a majority of these people are not involved in the “human services” such as serving food to the poor or being a big brother or sister to a needy child. Most of these ninety-three million [volunteers] do things like cook for bake sales, mow lawns, or baby-sit. In fact, only eight percent of these people do things that actually benefit the less fortunate people in their community. “An article in U.S.A. Today stated that eight out of ten people would probably volunteer these services if they were paid [for their] time off from work…Doesn’t that completely defeat the purpose of volunteering? These people would not be helping anyone; it would be a selfish attempt to get time off from work “Not only does community service provide the backbone of a good society; it also shows the volunteer a good sense of character and appreciation. Psychologists are really beginning to discover that there are great emotional [rewards] from helping others. Sometimes the only way to learn is to look at the worst examples of life’s failures. Nine
out of ten people who volunteer agree that they have a healthier state of mind than those who don’t help out. “Fortunately, there has been an effort by one of the strongest forces in our communities to get kids to volunteer. High schools are beginning to require a certain number of community service hours in order to graduate. Students can begin to look at volunteering as a responsibility early on in life. If teens are never exposed to the responsibility of volunteering, they will eventually become too busy and never have the chance. High school is the perfect time. Not only are students more open to a new experience, they can also learn to appreciate what [they] have and stay in school and away from drugs. “Some high schools are trying to work the services into the school day. Once again, this does not seem like the ultimate example of volunteering, but it is a step in the right direction. For example, a psychology class might observe at the local soup kitchen and learn about the state of the human condition while helping hundreds of hungry people. Students can learn about conventional ideas and theories while also learning about life itself. Seventy-five percent of students said that they learned more during community service than in a typical class. “If everyone could hear the testimony of an individual whose life has been changed by someone who chose to make time for a stranger, I’m sure that more people would have the desire to volunteer. It becomes so clear that it is the responsibility of an entire society to try to make a difference. Everyone strives for something better and the first step is to improve our community. It’s time to hold out a helping hand and ask for nothing in return. Only then can we call ourselves responsible individuals.” Erin Meers, Joliet Central High School, Joliet, Illinois “Volunteers for school are needed in Rock Island. However, this is no ordinary school. This is clown school, a special class being offered through the Rock Island Parks and Recreation Department. Anyone, ages 14 and up, may join [who wishes] to spread smiles, laughter, and kindness. Sometimes a smile is the best medicine in the world for cheering up someone.” Amanda Beauchamp, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois Self As human beings, we also need to be responsible for ourselves. “Sometimes there are people who do not know how to behave responsibly, so they set poor examples for other citizens, especially young children. Other people allow themselves, mentally, to decline to an area where they want to commit suicide or harm others. Responsibility not only means helping others and do what is right, but also to make sure you are taking care of yourself.” Justin Kimball, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas
Programs Teen Mentors “The people that are in the Big Brothers and Big Sisters program in a nearby town donate a lot of their time to help some kids in their community who do not have a role model to look up to. People that give their time to show a kid the “ropes of life” and expect nothing in return except the affection of another person truly show responsibility for others in their community.” Josh Nelson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “In the community of Centerville, South Dakota, there is a program in the school involving teens called the “Natural Helpers.” They contribute [their time and commitment to] an activity called the “Buddy Program.” The program involves a high school student who…[works] with a child in grade school who may have problems at home, problems in school subjects, or problems with friends. The teen helps the child once a week or more. The child gets a new friend and usually does better with the problems they had. The individual who takes part in this activity is very responsible by helping a troubled individual. “Another example of a responsible act is the Centerville Improv Team located in Centerville, South Dakota. They help kids with their problems and show kids how to do the right thing in difficult circumstances. They also distribute bike helmets to first graders. By doing this they show kids how to be responsible for their actions and to remain safe.” Ryan Evans, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “School clubs are a major help in small communities in the nation. Clubs such as BETA Club, HOSA, DECA, and BPA let their students organize activities to help their communities. Clubs in my school do everything imaginable: blood drives, food drives, helping the needy, serving the elderly, educating the public about elections, and even food drives for the local animal shelter.” Jennifer Nicole Wilhelm, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee Adult Mentors “Many good things are being done by people because they are starting to realize that a good life is based on responsibility. For example, a few elders in a community were tired of being rejected and ignored by retirement plans that weren’t sending them enough money. These elders got together and recruited more and more elders to the group. Every Saturday and Sunday night, they cooked a dish and brought it to the community center. They called it ‘The OLD Pot Luck Supper.’ These people could eat an enormous meal of a variety of foods and not have to spend the little income they get.” Travis Bordelon, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Most people in the world probably think that senior citizens wouldn’t be able to help younger kids, but they can. There are many organizations where older people help younger people. The Foster Grandparent program is where seniors [are] paired one-on-
one with younger kids who are disabled or disadvantaged and talk to them about different things. The Green Thumb program engaged older adults in certain community service projects. There are many programs that involve senior citizens because many people feel that they are more experienced in many situations and are available most of the time to help out someone in need.” Kara Lemoine, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “The lonely are often overlooked in today’s fast-paced society. More and more, people are becoming aware of this fact. Many adults are donating their time to programs like the Big Brother program, so that kids might have chances that they might not have otherwise. Youths are donating their time to spend with the elderly of this nation. People who were not as appreciated before are becoming noticed by all and helped by all.” Jennifer Nicole Wilhelm, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee White Hats Teens “Volunteering doesn’t only help out the community…it also aids the volunteers. Ten ninth-graders from McCluer High School became part of the volunteer program to end teen pregnancy. This program keeps teens off the street where there is a high risk of pregnancy and drugs. The teens [do everything] from dealing with crack babies to cleaning up roadside trash. This program takes young teens and turns them into mature [and] responsible young people of the community.” Natasha Jeansonne, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “After school, 17-year-old Jenny Simmons is going to the nursing home. No, she is not going to visit her grandmother, and she does not have a job there. She is going to visit the elderly and read books to them, voluntarily. She wants to make them happy and she wants to let them know that someone still cares for them.” Jill Lacombe, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Marcia Cortez, a 15-year-old California student, has provided a day care center for the weekends. This gives the parents a chance to get away and relax. Maria has bought new games for the children to play and provides them with snacks. Her day care center has proved that she is mature and responsible.” Jessica Jones, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Jill Ernster was diagnosed with leukemia the first week of her junior year. When she learned that the Grand Forks seniors lost their dresses for the upcoming prom in the flood, she sent her own prom dress to the Grand Forks High School. Her mother attached a note saying that “Jill had been hospitalized and ended up missing her own prom.” Lindsay Kay Bordelon, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “In Kansas, Job Corps students and staff contributed more than 5,000 hours of free service to their communities in 1996. These students gave back to their communities, showing a great deal of responsibility.” Nathan Haskell, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas
“Volunteer work through fund-raisers is another example of responsibility. The Anchor Club at Demopolis High has begun raising money for the Helmet of Victory Foundation. The helmet is designed so that firefighters can see their victims through smoke. The club assigned each member a homeroom to ask for donations. So far, Anchor Club has raised a tremendous amount toward this project. “The Demopolis High National Honor Society also has the big responsibility of conducting tutoring every Wednesday night. Each member is given a list of dates when he or she is expected to help tutor. If one cannot help, one must give a reasonable excuse why. This program offers a great opportunity for students who do not learn a subject in class to learn it at tutoring. As responsible young adults, these tutors have taken on an important task.” Maria Jones, Demopolis High School,Demopolis, Alabama “Many students are preparing for a rock-a-thon fundraiser to raise money for the homeless. These students will sit in rocking chairs for as long as possible. They are finding pledges to give so much money for every hour they spend rocking. By doing this for the homeless, these kids are kept in a good state of mind, and guided to the fact that doing can be fun.” Scott Yerkes, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “Our local Interact Club has greatly helped our community this year. For the first time ever, we sponsored a dance…A local preacher asked for our help to collect canned goods for the unfortunate people in our community. We decided to make a canned goods [item] the price of admission to the dance. Our project went over very smoothly, as did the dance. We were very proud of our diligent effort to help unfortunate people among our community.” Elizabeth Etheridge, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “The 1997-1998 Demopolis High School cheerleaders have not only showed support to their team, but also towards the community. One way we have shown support towards our community is through helping with the Special Olympics. This is a program for the Special Education classes from Alabama schools. This is a very touching and special way to reach out to our community. This kind of responsible behavior makes you feel very lucky and it touches your heart in a special way. Many citizens of Demopolis do not realize the impact that D.H.S. cheerleaders have had on children throughout the community.” Elizabeth Etheridge, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “Kids Korps, USA, engages young people in community-based service and volunteer activities. Kids Korps is designed to build role models, raise self-esteem, develop responsibility, and enhance leadership skills. Members spend time with senior citizens, plant trees, visit shelters, serve meals, and much more.” Jolleen Erickson, Luck High School, Luck, Wisconsin “Children are also capable of understanding responsibility. One young girl heard that there were children who were sick and others who would not have any Christmas. She
told her mother that she wanted to give the forty dollars she had saved. She donated it to Make-A-Wish Foundation, and shortly thereafter, they helped see a three-year-old boy off to Disney World.” Carolyn Schweighauser, Salem Senior High School, Salem, Missouri Adults “Mary Leonards is a young woman from Louisville, Kentucky. She owns a 5-acre ranch that has hardly been used. Mary thought it would be wonderful to provide a free summer camp for children who are less fortunate than others. She gives them horseback riding lessons, and takes them swimming and canoeing in the lake. This way she could help others and get use out of her land. The kids all have a real nice time and are appreciative of Mary’s generosity.” Jessica Jones, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Tom and Maryanne Potter take in troubled boys as foster children and teach them about raising livestock, gaining skills, self-confidence and love.” Sarah Bordelon, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “George Munoz, a former teacher and principal, dedicates his time to teaching a 40-hour English class at community centers and service centers.” Sarah Bordelon, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Project Zero is a program run by many people throughout the world. It is a pilot welfare program designed to get everyone receiving welfare a job.” Kara Lemoine, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Dr. Lorraine Hale and her mother, Clara Hale, founded the Hale House in 1969. It is a refuge for the infants and toddlers of drug addicts. They offer nutrition, chiropractic medicine, massage, and above all, lots of love. Hale’s staff is also employed to help parents improve their parenting skills once they are reunited with their children.” Lindsay Kay Bordelon, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Joan Kroc, also known as The Angel, flew in to survey the area for herself. “It looks like a war zone with no bodies,” she reported in observed sorrow. After her tour, she pledged $15 million to be given to the flood-stricken households. The Angel’s money enabled the families to buy desperately needed clothes and food.” Lindsay Kay Bordelon, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Nick Mangeris, founder of the Kaire Network Marketing Company, felt that he should help families in Byelorussia who were devastated by the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power station. He sent over $50,000 in vitamin supplements to Byelorussian families. The vitamins should help strengthen the immune system of Chernobyl survivors allowing them to live longer, healthier lives.” Edward Couvillion, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “One day Margaret Herring was headed home when she crossed a dump truck. A cantaloupe-sized rock fell, bounced off the pavement and struck her windshield at a
speed of nearly one hundred miles per hour. Noelia Guajardo and Marlon McAllister saw what had happened and pulled over to help. Joe Corcoran, a registered nurse, was driving along when Guajardo flagged him down. She told him that they needed help because someone was hurt. The rock had hit Herring in the head and exposed part of her brain. Deputy Sheriff Francisco Gonzalez was driving by when he noticed the accident. Gonzalez called for an airlift and Herring was airlifted to the hospital where she was treated. Four months after the accident, Margaret resumed her full-time duties as an Air Force captain, thanks to the immediate help she received on the roadside.” Edward Couvillion, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Being a donor is a spectacular deed which is respected by all. Another helpful way of becoming a responsible individual is to be a volunteer. Steven Wellner, a 41-year-old crossing guard, learned this by becoming a volunteer for a new program called Project Zero. Wellner, along with numerous other volunteers, became a driver to help out welfare recipients. The volunteers would drive people to job interviews, helping them to get off the welfare program. This good deed decreased the number of welfare recipients from 119 families to 49 families. This act of responsibility took time and dedication, but it was a superior improvement of their community.” Natasha Jeansonne, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “One afternoon, Marshall Cohen saw a group of teenage boys hanging out at his family drugstore. Cohen, a weightlifter, rented a storefront and filled it with weights. He told the boys that they could work out for free if they went to school and didn’t fight or use drugs. Today, over 500 kids work out at Lift for Life Gym; half of them are girls. Cohen donated $10,000 and began coaching the kids in weightlifting. ‘In 1997, twenty-one of his lifters took medals in the Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympic Games in Charlotte, North Carolina.’” Christine Brummett, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Mr. Donato was a custodian at an elementary school and a high school dropout. At thirty-eight years old, he found that he would have to pass a high school equivalency test or lose his job. The entire faculty and student body did not let him go with out a fight. The kids and teachers encouraged him to study hard and to make sure to keep God first and everything would be all right. Mr. Donato passed with a score of eighty-one. This young man took on great responsibility by going back to study and pass the test to keep his job.” Maria Jones, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “The Bargain Box of Demopolis is another example of the way organizations act responsibly to help out the community. The Bargain Box is a service organization that donates the money earned through the sales of donated second-hand clothing out to needy members of the community. The Bargain Box gives money to the people of the community who need it to keep their power and gas on when they have gotten too far behind on their bills. The Bargain Box serves as a means of survival for many people in the community, and the people involved make it possible.” Betsy Eddins, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama
“Another example of responsible behavior is direct providing for the homeless. Member of the Quilter’s Guild will have quilting day. These people are going to make quilts and sleeping bags for the homeless and the Ronald McDonald house.” Scott Yerkes, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “A local charity called “Harriet’s House” is a wonderful example of responsible behavior. Harriet’s House was started to house abused women. It has been very successful in Demopolis. Recently, Susanna Smith, the shelter manager, Kelley Jacobs, a volunteer, and Marcia Lankster, president of Harriet’s House board, accepted boxes of clothing worth $1,800 from our local Wal-Mart. Other donations have been made by outsiders. Harriet’s House also started a campaign to open the shelter. Instead of orange bows, people or businesses received purple bows. Harriet’s House has been a huge success and the volunteers have made that possible.” Elizabeth Etheridge, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “In North Carolina, an eight-year-old girl had cerebral palsy. To be able to walk again, she needed a specially designed tricycle that cost $700. Because she was not able to come up with the money on her own, a trucker helped her out by providing her with the money. The trucker, in his spare time, now drives for a charity that gives handicapped children things their parents could not provide them with. The trucker said, “It is the greatest feeling in the world.” In July 1984, he also helped another disabled child buy a wheelchair van. He was able to receive help from the local fire department to organize a fundraiser for charity.” Natalie Hendrick, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “A third example is Agnes Stevens. Many people are concerned about homeless children and other children who are not getting the education they deserve. Instead of just being concerned, Stevens took action. She founded a program run by volunteers that provides one-on-one tutoring to children in Los Angeles. She tutors at shelters, halfway houses and parks. Last year, she tutored six hundred homeless students. Instead of just voicing her concern, she took the responsibility upon herself to educate them. If more people would do what Stevens did, there would be [fewer] uneducated children.” Heather Broadhead, Demopolis High School, Demopolis, Alabama “In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, there is a coalition forming to help find welfare mothers reliable, inexpensive cars so they can drive to work. The coalition is raising money to pick up most of the cost for the cars. The coalition is taking responsibility for the people in Sioux Falls who don’t have it so good.” Josh Nelson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Jane Meyer and Polly Fabrizio have been taking their dogs to visit the residents in local nursing homes. The dogs provide good therapy for the residents…The residents like to share memories of their dogs they had when they were young.” Janna Johnke, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “The second example of a good responsible act was the building of two baseball fields… There were fundraisers to raise money for the materials and the lights that were put up. A great amount of time went into this project, all of which was volunteered time.”
Aaron Hybertson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Our local FFA helps out with the Special Olympics when they can. Many of the students who had the chance to help with the program said it felt great knowing they helped.” Laci Harmon, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Project Zero…is based heavily on volunteerism and prodding the unemployed into action. Those involved are being taught the value of fulfilling responsibilities to the community. In Menominee County, Michigan, those on welfare have been supported by others who are taking responsibility for those in need. Examples of this include individuals who volunteer special skills such as free haircuts, rides to interviews, and childcare that help make employment opportunities more readily available to those who so desperately need them. “In this vein lies the solution to the problem of responsibility in receiving welfare.” Joshua Higgins, Joliet Central High School, Joliet, Illinois “The Promise Keepers is a Christian-based group that stresses the responsibility of men in all aspects of his life, especially for his family. It encourages men to look beyond themselves to God in search of meaning in their lives. It urges men to stand up for what they truly believe in and to give them an extra encouragement to go out there and actually be a more responsible person…The number of attendants has grown from around four thousand in 1993 to over one million in 1996. There are motivational speakers, activities, and prayer that are focused on making men more responsible [for] their lives… “PK (Promise Keepers) emphasizes specific roles for a husband to play, encouraging them to stand up and lead their family along with their wife… PK fortifies the hope in men that they can stand up against [the] erosion of values in society like weakening marriage vows, premarital pregnancy, sexual immorality, and divorce. “In my opinion, this is a wonderful organization. The United States needs more organizations of this sort to help teach the irresponsible men how to be real men. These organizations need to stress how important being responsible is in raising a family. These things were so prevalent in our society only a few decades ago. If men want to take the chance of having a child, they should automatically accept whatever responsibilities go along with it. Men should no longer be able to choose to leave the poor baby and mother to face a terrible fate because they are not willing to accept their responsibility.” Krystal Baker, Joliet Central High School, Joliet, Illinois “Mr. Ruchell, for the past thirty years, used his legal skills to help the poor, oppressed, and wrongly convicted. Many of Ruchell’s clients were released [from prison] because of his work. There’s the National Volunteer Lawyers Project that… matches legal cases with…elders from volunteer law firms. In addition, there’s the Lawyer’s Committee for Human Rights who have an asylum program. For the past 16 years, volunteer lawyers [have] used 45,000 hours of their time, giving up a total of $56.5 million to contribute to their cause. They win 85% of their cases--that’s three times the national average.” Leslie Halder, Joliet Central High School, Joliet, Illinois
“Officer Wayne Barton has reduced drug activity in his neighborhood and has gone beyond his call of duty--he helps dish up plates at the school cafeteria. Every weekend, he goes to visit some kids living in a local housing project. He takes the first twenty kids that can show him an improvement in their school progress reports to his home to play on the computer and shoot baskets. His only thanks is the love he receives from the kids.” Kathleen Kies, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “Another example…is the lady who goes into eye surgery to hold people’s hands and give comfort as they go through this painful surgery. She feels that the people feel better if they have someone there with them and it makes them relax during surgery. As [this] lady thought that it was her duty to hold people’s hands in surgery, another man felt responsible to clean up a polluted stream and restore plant and animal life. This man had lived near a stream that had been filled with trash, oil and other disgusting stuff that had killed all the fish and plants. This man worked hard to restore plant life and clean the place up. He made that stream so clean that fish would survive in it again. Then he planted plants and even introduced animals, such as fox and turtles, to the stream.” Nathan Kier, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “Street Soldiers (or Omega Boys Club) is a special center for inner-city kids. Joseph Marshall started the club in his basement in 1987. Now the organization has its very own community center in San Francisco. The main goal of this program [is] to keep kids out of gangs and drugs and to keep kids in school. Joseph Marshall and a small group of volunteers have already helped approximately 600 kids.” Emily Boettcher, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “A thunderstorm damaged the levee badly and flooded the town. The levee was located on Dale Best’s property. The city or the state wouldn’t help him. He put this half-milelong, thirty-foot tall project on his own shoulders and rebuilt it. That is amazing!” Thomas Kruchten, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “NFL star Warrick Dunn bought nine houses and donated them to homeless families.” Jason Veit, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “…A man and his wife gave food to a food pantry once a month. They never gave their names but they just wanted to help out. The shelter figured out that they were spending $400 a year and they had been doing this for fifteen years! They finally told the people to just call them Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public, and that is how they are known.” Amanda Kier, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “David Robinson donated the largest single gift ($5 million) by an NBA player, to help found the Carver Complex in San Antonio’s inner city. The Center gives kids a place to go for help and has a main goal of turning today’s kids into leaders. Another man who has donated is a former sailor and now owner of the Braves and Hawks, Ted Turner. Turner pledged $1 billion to the United Nations, which will be given in chunks of $100 million a year for 10 years.” Kyle Corderman, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa
“Channel 9 TV in Sioux City, Iowa, has a segment on Thursday evenings called Thursday’s Child. They interview a child who is looking for a Big Brother/Big Sister while showing the viewing audience the child doing something that he/she likes to do. The child tells what his/her hobbies are, why they want a Big Brother/Big Sister, and what they would like to do with the person.” Julie Lanxon, Newell-Fonda High School, Newell, Iowa “In our own area, the Moline Pride Commission is establishing a “Citizen of the Year” program. The award will honor people who have done a lot for the community, or have just done good neighborly deeds. It is nice to see an organization step forward and recognize people who do responsible things, and give back to everyone around them.” Allison Speth, Rockridge High School, Taylor City, Illinois “Some firemen in the city projects wanted to help the children in their neighborhood. As a result they have become mentors to the children and encourage the children by giving them prizes. For example, they fix up old bikes and at the end of the school year, they give them to the kids with good attendance and the ones with good grades.” Christy Coulter, Rockridge High School, Taylor City, Illinois “A responsible organization [is] the Quad City Furniture Connection. They collect old couches, tables, chairs, lamps, or any other used furniture and hand them out to families who need them but cannot afford them [to buy them]. This charity serves a double purpose: it is a great way to recycle and it helps make life easier for someone in need. This responsibility shown is very helpful and beneficial to the community.” Nicole Madison, Rockridge High School, Taylor City, Illinois “For some, helping others is something they do occasionally, but for Ida Johnson it is a way of life. Ms. Johnson is the Executive Director of United Neighbors, Inc., which is an organization that helps to unite neighbors and benefits the community. United Neighbors began with only a few members, but it has grown into a task force and is looking forward to celebrating its 25th anniversary. It has helped build a church, created gardens and more parking, renovated parks’ helped people buy homes, and given children a sense of belonging by establishing a Youth Group.” Amanda Beauchamp, Rockridge High School, Taylor City, Illinois “Most people think of a neighbor as someone from whom we can ask to borrow a hammer or a rake, or maybe even to watch our pets when we are out of town. But seldom does anyone think of a neighbor as a person who would risk his or her life to save our own. Denny Zweifel did not ask questions when his neighbor, Kathy Peterson, came banging on his door late one night. There had been an explosion in the Peterson’s garage and Wayne was trapped. Mr. Zweifel could think of only one thing as he rushed next door; he had to help Wayne. He arrived in a smoke-filled garage and found Wayne trapped inside his truck. Denny stopped the smoke and got Wayne safely out of the garage. Mr. Zweifel’s heroic act of unselfishness earned him the “Neighbor of the Year” Award in the Quad Cities. Mr. Peterson is truly grateful for his neighbor and friend who risked his life to save someone else’s.” Amanda Beauchamp, Rockridge High School, Taylor City, Illinois
“In last week’s paper, a twenty-three-year-old man was recognized for picking up thirtyfive thousand pounds of trash along the Mississippi River. This man was given twenty thousand dollars by Alcoa, a major area corporation, in order to organize a group and continue his work. In order for this world to be a responsible place, we need people who do not just sit around and think that there is nothing they can do to help. There is always room for more help, especially in a poor part of society.” Clint Stevenson, Rockridge High School, Taylor City, Illinois “My Youth Group went to New Orleans for a National Youth Convention this summer. While we were down there, we were assigned an area to clean up for a servant event. We were given an area that was rundown and cluttered, but we raked, swept the streets and sidewalks, trimmed branches, mowed lawns, and picked up garbage. By the time we were through with that area, it looked like what a nice neighborhood should look like.” Jayne Wellenstein, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “The janitor’s wife had been in a car accident and his attentions had been toward her, causing him to be somewhat behind in his work. Our church tore down trees and took them to the dump, and did other jobs around the school that needed to be done. About 40 people pitched in and greatly bettered the appearance of the school.” Joe McCombs, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “Albert Lexie shines shoes at the hospital and gives his tips to the hospital's Free Care Fund. To date, he has donated over thirty-eight thousand dollars to the fund that provides free care to children who live in the area. He began his quest to help in 1981. He has gone to the hospital every Tuesday and Thursday since.” Justin Wylam, Salem R-80, Salem, Missouri “The responsibility that a family takes for one another is amazing. In Mesa, Arizona, John McNeil was in great danger. He had climbed up a power tower and he couldn't get down. His brother, James, went to his rescue. James climbed the tower, despite his fear of heights, to help his autistic brother. More than two hours later, help arrived. James' response was, 'Yes, I've given him a lot...but he's given me more. He gives me unconditional love. Am I my brother's keeper? Absolutely.' If more people had that attitude then the world would be a better place.” Autumn Fleener, Salem Senior High, Salem, Missouri Solutions Responsible behavior is learned through a complex web of interactions from childhood to adulthood. Personal “A sixteen-year-old boy named Jerry says that his father would rather give him five dollars than five minutes. This irresponsibility of the father has caused Jerry to have feelings of abandonment and might cause him to turn to a life of crime later in life...In the early 1900's, a black physician Louis Sullivan began organizing his department's research
resources. He called it Violence Initiative, where he took responsibility for the violence he saw by studying it and trying to find ways to stop it. “After evaluating a growing body of research on violence, a special panel gathered by the National Research Council in Washington published a lengthy report noting that "even if two individuals could be exposed to identical sequences of experiences as they developed, their potentials for adult violent behavior would differ because their nervous systems process information, recall experiences, and react to events differently." This council was taking responsibility for the actions of the nation because they were studying it and trying to find a way to prevent violence. “Anger is a big problem in the world today. I know that everyone gets a little mad, but it is not necessary to blow up and start punching and kicking things. Everyone should be able to calmly talk things out. Not everyone has this problem, but the ones who do usually won't admit to it and won't get help...The problem is how to get them to counseling. Maybe they have a hard time admitting to people that they have a problem and need help. I think that if people could get through the first time, it would be a lot easier for them. I just wish that no one had to get hurt by another person's inability to control anger.” Leslie Jones, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “As an individual, I believe that there are many things that I can do to fulfill my responsibilities. One thing would be to set an example for my friends and fellow classmates by setting my morals and goals high. One way I could do this is by taking full responsibility for my wrongdoing instead of making excuses… “Teenagers also have a responsibility [to] their school. The students of a school are a direct reflection of the teacher, faculty, and staff. If I fully prepare myself for my schoolwork and do my best in school, I would fulfill my responsibilities as a student at Avoyelles High School. Another aspect of school responsibility is participation in clubs, sports, and activities. These organizations help promote and better the school, and also help produce outgoing and well-rounded students. “All of these are responsibilities that the people of my generation overlook. Many see them as possibilities or opportunities —rather than responsibilities. By being a major part of my school, family, and social group, I can fulfill my responsibilities now and better prepare myself to do so as an adult.” Jill Lacombe, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Next door to my house there is a pasture that is overgrown with brush and weeds [and] it blocks the view of the highway from my driveway. This is considered a traffic hazard. It is also considered…an irresponsible act [on the part] the owner of the property. To solve this problem, I contacted the Highway Department to see if they could clean up the side of the road. I was told that it was not their responsibility and that I had to get in touch with the owner of the property. I got in contact with the owner… and he responded by cleaning up the lot… Eventually, the lot was overgrown again. I got in contact with the owner again and was told that he did not have time to clean up the weeds and brush. I then took…the responsibility of cleaning up the brush on the side of the road. If I ever
come across any other hazardous situations on land, I will try my hardest to solve them, or get help from others to get the site cleaned up.” Justin Ducote, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “For a week during the summer every year, several adults and young adult counselors from Johnson City, Texas travel to Arkansas to help with cerebral palsy children. A camp there specializes [in] the care of handicapped children…My aunt and uncle are the directors of this amazing program. I want to help with the kids so I can [appreciate how lucky] I am for being healthy and not handicapped.” Tara Dufour, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “When I was in the fourth grade, I wrote a letter to a soldier who was stationed in Saudi Arabia. I was shocked…[to receive] a response to my humble attempt to brighten his lonely stay so many miles away from home. Much to my surprise, Sergeant First Class Reed Curtsinger’s reply letter was just as ordinary as mine was. He seemed interested in… my life. It made me realize that although he was an important military official, he still needed a little girl’s hobbies and interests to cheer him up a little. It made me feel really good and important.” Tara Dufour, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “I was out south of Centerville, South Dakota, checking my traps when I saw a man kneeling on the ground in a snow drift. I got out of my truck and went up to him and checked to see if he was all right. As I got up close, I realized that it was Jim Peterson, an elderly man. He was very happy to see me because he thought he would have [died] if I had not come along. I assisted him into my pickup truck and then I brought him into town. We …got Dean Austin to pull his car out and then I brought Jim home. Jim was lucky that I showed up at the time I did.” Adam Williamson, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota Personal Commitment “In order to show responsibility, I need to take risks, be a leader, not a follower, and act appropriately to avoid irresponsible behavior…My leadership skills will improve if I become more open-minded. I need to accept ideas from others as well as be open to all opportunities…my attitude can improve by accepting nothing less than my personal best. I need to have a strong will to succeed, and be ready to face challenges in life. I can prepare myself by taking these steps and using them to the best of my ability…My peers can be an obstacle; [they would] would rather see me destroy my body on the weekends through alcohol and drugs than condition my body…so that I can excel in sports. I show responsibility by going against this opposition and being my own leader. “Responsibility gives me three benefits. First…I will learn to trust my judgment and [belief] in [doing] the best that I can. Second, my elders and peers will come to see me as reliable, loyal…a person who has convictions of high value. Third, the younger children will want to be like me when they are older because I continue to be a good role-model for them…In conclusion, taking on responsibility involves risk, criticism, and brings selfsatisfaction. Responsibility pays life-long dividends.” Jeff Carlson, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas
“I need to make the community… more aware of incorrect pesticide use and help the public realize the role of pesticides in our environment. First, I [would] hold an informal meeting with the farmers so they [would learn] the importance of government regulations and government policies on the use of pesticides. Second, I [would] hold an informal meeting for the community, especially those who purchase groceries…to let [them] know [about] the possible dangers [to the food they buy]. I [would] tell …ways to protect themselves by washing fruit and other protective measures. Third, I [would] hold an informal meeting for animal owners. In this meeting, I [would] warn pet owners about the dangers of pets playing in fields [where pesticides have been used]. This was a relevant topic during the corn-growing season of 1997. My grandmother took her dogs out to a circle of corn and let them play in the water holes. At the time, she did not know that the corn had been sprayed with the deadly pesticide, ParaQuad. The dogs [drank] from contaminated water hole [and] had…run among the plants so the chemical was all over their bodies. Luckily, neither my grandmother nor the dogs were harmed physically, but my father and I spent about three hours washing the dogs and making them drink lots of water. In a meeting, I could [talk about this to help prevent this from happening again. “In farming and ranching, responsibility to the land is vital in conserving the land [by] not spreading pesticides around the earth, so generations to come can enjoy the environment. Some of the obstacles that will hinder me [from having my message taken seriously] will be that many people will not see pesticide use as an issue unless they have already had misfortunes with pesticides. Also, because pesticides are used so frequently in our community, it will be difficult to publicize the meeting and find a positive response. With the base of the local economy riding mostly on agriculture, it will be hard for me to convince farmers to use fewer pesticides. If I can persuade them to think about the dangers, maybe the public will make more effort in protecting the earth. Everyone must accept and share the responsibility for dealing with pesticides.” Jeremy L. Burr, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “To be good at wrestling I have to be responsible on and off the mat. This includes going to all the practices, working hard during practice, making weight at weigh-ins, and being a good sport during matches, whether I win or lose. Next, I try to involve the seventh graders in activities. Every year, Kinsley hosts a JV wrestling tournament. This is the chance to involve the young students…[by letting them] help be timekeepers or run bout sheets from table to table. [Finally], I can be a role model on an individual basis with a seventh-grade wrestler. I can show him that… the most respected wrestlers are wrestlers who act with responsibility …[When] seventh grade wrestlers have learned how to be responsible in the wrestling room, this…will carry over to everything that they do… “The young are the future of our country. We, as high school students, must set good examples for the younger students so they can also become responsible adults.” Kurth Lancaster, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas Parenting “A parent gives a child chores to help them become better people. When a child is able to do their chores without their parents having to tell them, the parent feels good. They know they have done some good for the world, and their kid will be successful when it becomes older.”
Emily Parrett, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “Brian was disrupting his kindergarten class, and his teacher told his mother about it. Then, Brian's mother asked him how he could stop the disruptions. He came up with two solutions. One was to ask the kids not to talk to him right then, and the other was to ask to be moved. This was an act of responsibility on both parts. It was responsible on the mother's part for asking Brian what he thought. This taught him to start thinking responsibly on his own. It was responsible on Brian's part for coming up with solutions and wanting to resolve the situation.” Nathan Hogan, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “Kevin Irvin was forced by his father to publicly apologize to his teacher for lying to her about his homework. Kevin hated fourth grade, especially math. He never did homework and lied about why it wasn’t done. His father found out and wasn’t happy. Kevin started to do his homework again, and now is ranked number two in his class. “Similarly, Tony Knight’s father took away all of Tony’s personal possessions when his father found out he was lying about schoolwork. Every week, his eighth grade class was required to turn in a project worth lots of points. Tony never did his projects and lied to his teacher about why he didn’t do them. After his father found out, he emptied Tony’s room. Tony had to learn to be responsible and do his projects. When his grades improved, he did eventually get his things back. “Another example is Joy Denewellis. Her parents made her go to school when she hadn’t finished her art project. Joy had spent the weekend goofing around and going out with friends. Sunday night she begged her parents to let her stay home, but they said no. They said she needed to get a bad grade to learn to take responsibility for her assignments. “In fact, even I have learned responsibility when my mom found out I was taking advantage of a kid on the bus. Our elementary school had a fundraiser selling Nestle candies and other products. For every ten dollars of merchandise we sold, we got a free fifty-cent candy bar. On the bus home, a kid asked to buy one of mine, and I told him it would be $5.00. Next thing I knew, he had a five in his hand. Now I’m not stupid. I kept going all the way up to ten dollars and he gave it to me. I was so proud of my sale, I rushed home and told my mom all about it. Needless to say, she wasn’t happy. She walked me to this kid’s house and made me give his money back, but I never did see my candy bar again. Since then, I have never taken advantage of someone else again. I learned how rotten it feels to accept responsibility for misbehaving.” Matt Hinkle, Joliet Central High School, Joliet, Illinois Parents “One solution to the problem of teenage pregnancy is for parents to take the responsibility of showing their children right from wrong. Parents should enforce curfews, have their children check in regularly, know where their children are going, and what they are doing. Parents should know their children’s friends and where they can be reached. A child’s parents should show their children other activities to do such as playing in local sporting events, going to an arcade, movie theater, or just a place to hang out with friends. This would lessen the chance of that child getting into trouble or having
sex. If parents took more responsibility for their children and knew more about their children’s actions, more teenage pregnancy could be prevented.” Edward Couvillion, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “An example of irresponsibility was stated earlier in which a father, who is also a corporate lawyer, neglected his family in order to excel at his job. Several steps could be taken by the father to show his family that they mean more to him than his job does… The father could start by committing himself to being home to have dinner with his family at least three nights a week…then, work up to being home for dinner four or five nights a week. He could also make it a point to write down in his daily planner all of his son's baseball games…and make an agreement with his son that he…attend as many of his son's baseball games as…possible...” Danielle Soldani, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana Working women with children are finding less and less time to devote to their children and often look to outside sources to fill the void. Family “…Families [need] to be families again. I think this is very important…that parents sit down with their families, especially children and talk with them about the things going on at school and with their friends. A good place for this is at the dinner table each night, if possible. My third step is perhaps one of the most vital of them all. It is that parents should know where their children are and what they are doing. I think a curfew is a good way to at least somewhat know this. When children reach their teenage years, a curfew becomes essential to having control over them. You should also know your children’s friends and their parents, as well as what kind of child that person is.” Melissa Fox, Harrisburg High School, Harrisburg, Illinois “All families, children and parents, need to realize and take responsibility for the things they do, especially if it is hurtful to the family or its members…Families can stick together better if they can trust the other members to accept responsibility. They will be more respectful if they know they are not constantly blamed for the actions of other [family] members and friends. The blame for what we do shouldn’t be put upon someone else. Those who take responsibility for their actions tend to gain respect.” Neysa Baker, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “I think that the most responsible thing a man can do for his family is get a good job and work hard to get them what they need and want. He also has a social responsibility. He can't be out all the time doing things that might hurt his reputation. The last responsible behavior someone can do for themselves and others is to control their anger. I've been in situations where my boyfriend didn't control his anger, and I've come out of it with cuts and bruises. It is so important that a person be able to cope with his or her anger. One should be able to just sit down and calmly talk about the situation.” Leslie Jones, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri Derek’s Rules “Rules:
Children and parents should be open and honest with each other. They should appreciate that they are sharing secrets. Children also should try to trust adults even though sometimes they seem to give reasons not to. Once a rule is made, parents and adults should abide by these rules. Government officials should listen to both sides of the story honestly and respectfully. When children do something against the law, they should not be let off the hook because of whom they know or who they are related to. Teachers and students should try to get along so that either one of them will not do something that he or she will regret. Adults, along with the government officials, should learn to cooperate when their children are involved in any circumstance.” Derek J. Veade, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana Marriage “I believe hotlines should be set up to help couples work out their problems. I also believe free marriage counseling by trained professionals should be established. Many people who have marital problems cannot afford to pay a counselor. If these programs were established, I believe the divorce rate would decline.” Ross Hawkins, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri The importance of education needs to be fostered early on by parents and teachers alike. Education “Children must be educated. Most education is done at school, but if basic things are taught at home, schooling is more effective. It has been proved through numerous studies that if a child is read to and they have intellectual stimulation from home, they are more likely to succeed in the future.” Anna Robbins, Luck High School, Luck, Wisconsin “I feel that the solution to having a more responsible society must begin with learning about responsibility when we are little children and [we must] continue to learn and live what we have learned all our lives. Responsibility should be taught and emphasized in all aspects of learning. From our Mother’s knee to church and school, we should be taught responsibility. “I feel that formal education will have to bear the biggest part of the burden for teaching responsibility. Children who do not have responsible parents cannot learn responsibility at home. Children who are orphaned or in foster care may not always have a responsible role model to teach them.
“ I know that teachers already have a lot of work to be done, but teaching responsibility should be on the top of the list with other valuable lessons.” Sarah Elizabeth Spancs, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee “In Louisiana, some time ago, a bill was passed that required ninth and eleventh grade girls to be taught the symptoms of and ways to prevent breast cancer. Recently, two nurses visited a number of local schools and lectured on ways of preventing breast cancer and on ways to catch the deadly disease in its early stages. Their efforts may one day help save another female’s life.” Carla Phillips, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “The degeneration of our society is related to education. There are no street corner thugs with college educations. The dedicated [students] with the determination to succeed and the desire to make our world a better place in which to live, work hard throughout high school and beyond.” Chris Farkas, Joliet Central High School, Joliet, Illinois “On March 21, in Uniondale, New York, one school district began a six-day school system. Although the classes were not mandatory, many students attended. These students set an example to kids of all ages across the nation. This example shows how important school should be in a person’s life and that Saturday mornings can be spent doing more than watching cartoons and eating cereal.” Travis Gaspard, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “After the education process is over, the only thing left to do is nurture. Nurture the people who hold the key to the future, which happens to be the children. When [we go] out into the world, we will face many hard challenges and [will] be responsible for the outcome…We need to be ready.” Kyle Jordan, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee Sex education “America is being more open about sex. Anywhere from teaching about it thoroughly to passing out condoms to students in gym class. Many people are skeptical...Those who spread rumors that openness will increase the rate of sexual harassment have been illinformed. Another rumor is that spreading condoms around is like telling kids sex is all right. I figure they are going to do it anyway, so they might as well be protected, and understand that they are not invincible against sexually transmitted diseases.” Benjamin Norris, Salem High School, Salem , Missouri “I don’t think that it is right that the parents make schools responsible for teaching their children about sex. Schools can never solve many of the problems that lead to teen sex because only parents have that kind of authority.” Kara Lemoine, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana Schools “The schools can have students find and explore the various ways and places responsibility can be found in today's society. They can have open class discussions on
responsibility and explore where the problems surrounding responsibility can be found. Responsibility is an important subject. Being able to say I was wrong is a lot harder than blaming something or someone else.” John Stogsdill, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri “In my community, we have a high rate of people dropping out of school and not graduating. This is because of pregnancy, family problems, the lack of liking school, or personal reasons. Whatever the reason is, people are not taking the options that my school gives. My school currently has programs like optional school, chances to take the GED exam, at risk program, pregnancy counseling, and home schooling opportunities for people to use so they can graduate. Many people on the other hand are not taking these options. If people would take the programs, then we would have fewer people living on welfare, and not getting good jobs, which makes people feel insecure about themselves. “Therefore, my proposal to this problem would be to get volunteers to counsel students that have dropped out or are contemplating dropping out. Each volunteer would meet with at least one individual a couple of days a week to discuss what is going on in their life, coming back to school, or about taking home schooling. The volunteers could help the students prepare to take the GED exam or offer tutoring to students that are either home schooling or that are going back to school. The only cost would be for the telephone bill.” Christina King, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri Sports “Sports give children a sense of responsibility. Sports teach [a] work ethic and competition. In sporting events, children are responsible for themselves and their teammates. They do not want to let themselves, their teammates, or anyone else down so they strive to do their best. They work as hard as they can, never giving up. They learn responsibility on and off the field.” Tony Peterson, Luck High School, Luck, Wisconsin Alcohol “I have the solution to the problem of drinking and driving. The goal is to stop all people from drinking and driving. The steps that should be taken to achieve this are: Pass stricter laws for people who are [cited with] a DUI or DWI. Set higher age limits on the purchase and consumption of alcohol. Set higher age limits for entering…barrooms, clubs, etc.” Travis Bordelon, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “We started the local S.A.D.D. (Students Against Destructive Decisions), formerly known as Students Against Driving Drunk program at a local high school to encourage students against destructive decisions. This has helped others and myself out a great deal. It gives us an opportunity to come together and talk about issues without feeling uncomfortable.” Mandi Barnes, Harrisburg High School, Harrisburg, Illinois
Ban drinking from public places. “I think that drinking should be banned from most public places and if drinking must take place, the place that sells these drinks should take the car keys away from these people before they [are] served. When the person wants to return home, they then must walk or call a cab.” Erica Keller, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois Crime “I believe that once someone is proven guilty, they should be denied appeals. Also, harsher punishments would make prisoners and everyone else think twice about committing a crime.” Lindsay Kay Bordelon, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “A convict who escaped from prison sued his county and the sheriff for negligence in allowing him to escape. Another convict sued his county and sheriff for the emotional stress he suffered while trying to escape… “The state or county that the prison was in should have had a tighter, [stricter] security program so they wouldn’t be able to escape so easily. They also should have come up with something for the convict or convicts to do so they wouldn’t have time to think about escaping, let alone trying to escape.” Jayme Wellenstein, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota “One of the biggest problems in this country is crime. Crime is not just in the large cities, but it is also prevalent in rural areas. Many believe that the only way to be responsible for crime is by punishment, such as jail and fines. I believe more can be done...Many may scoff at new research which points to a biological role in criminality. If we, the human race as a whole, can get to the root of the problem of crime, it can be stopped altogether. Many may see the cessation of crime as an unrealistic goal, but it is a possible reality. At the least, the nation's crime rate could be greatly reduced. “The most obvious clue that biology plays a role in criminal behavior is the simple fact that throughout history crime has occurred in all cultures, no matter how different their social and economic structures. One element in the universality of crime is the human capacity for aggression. Most criminals are angry people...in all societies, about 90% of violent criminals are young men. This fact invites the speculation that certain hormones may help tip the balance from heeding to breaking the law. “While no single determinant leads a person to break the law, each child is born with a particular temperament, or characteristic pattern of psychological and physiological response. Linking an individual's temperament to criminality and violent behavior is a complex matter. Research strongly suggests that violence arises from interactions among individuals' psycho-social development, their neurological and hormonal differences, and social processes. There is no basis for giving one of these elements more weight than another. “Research on this topic is based mainly in three areas: biochemical imbalances, genetic factors, and physical damage such as head injury before or around the time of birth. If
these factors are recognized before or soon after birth, steps could be taken to prevent one from becoming a criminal. “Some studies suggest a link between criminal behavior and birth related trauma. Researchers theorize that complications during pregnancy or delivery might result in subtle damage to the brain or nervous system that can create learning or attention span problems that are known risk factors for antisocial behaviors. Similarly, a woman's use of alcohol, cocaine, tobacco, or other drugs during pregnancy also appears to damage fetal development in a way that is related to later violence. “Convincing evidence from the field of behavioral genetics implies that certain biological predispositions to criminal behavior are inherited. Like test pilots, criminals tend to be born with relatively unflappable nervous systems that allow them to face risky situations with minimal stress. “Both adult criminals and children who later commit crimes score high on tests measuring impulsiveness. “Testing should be done in these areas before and after birth of all children. Granted, this would cost money, but in the long run it would be nothing compared to the cost of lives that would be saved. By finding who is predisposed to have criminal tendencies, one could take steps to prevent later criminal behavior. If one has a biological deficiency, medicine or therapy could be administered. Better steps could be taken to prevent low birth weight and drug babies. With more research and the necessary steps taken, our nation's crime rate could be greatly reduced.” Natalie Johnson, Salem High School, Salem, Missouri Juries and courts “A case of someone not taking responsibility for themselves deals with a young couple who decided to play bumper cars on the Grand Prix Go-Cart at Walt Disney World…After repeated attempts, [a young man] crashed into the rear of his fiancé’s car. She was hurt and she took it to court. The jury found that the young man was eighty-five percent responsible. The young woman was found to be 14 percent responsible. Walt Disney was found one percent responsible. Even though they were only one percent responsible, Disney had to pay one hundred percent of the judgement, since [Disney] had the deepest pockets. “One real solution would be to have a county-appointed person who tells the jury, before the hearing, to make sure people are taking responsibility for themselves. I think that judges should throw out more cases like the one above…and juries should also take it upon themselves to see to it that justice is truly done. I think that some of these cases are completely absurd… These cases are costing the taxpayers a lot of money in court costs.” Adam Buckneberg, Centerville High School, Centerville, South Dakota Politics “…Teddy Roosevelt, among many others, helped build a nation that is slowly being destroyed…without effort. Responsibility in politics can be saved. The first step to improvement is education. We must educate our voters. Our representatives should be
questioned and reviewed. Many of us vote before researching our options. An answer could be to begin election committees. These committees should form locally nationwide. In these committees, the [candidates] would be evaluated and analyzed. Their ideas and convictions on each available issue would be known publicly. This would prevent anyone with distorted intentions to come into power. Repeatedly, this process would provide responsible government leaders, which would lead us to a better nation and a better government.” Nicholas Prather, Medicine Lodge High School, Medicine Lodge, Kansas Corporate “A solution to the problem of Wal-Mart [mentioned earlier] refusing to pay overtime for off the clock work would be to abide by the Fair Labor Standard law of paying time and a half for overtime hours. If this is not financially feasible to the company, an alternate solution would be to hire part-time workers to do the extra tasks. Part-timers can be hired at minimum wage, and the company doesn’t have to pay benefits. If neither of these solutions is desirable, the company can look at redistributing the workload among fulltimers and making them more efficient at their jobs. There is a solution to every problem, but each side has to give a little to get a little.” Sara Robertson, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee Children “My solution for irresponsible people is to start with the children. I think we should teach them young to help those who are less fortunate. Get children involved with food drives or even have them collect for a mitten tree in a classroom. If their parents would simply show them responsibility at an early age, they are more apt to carry it through their lives.” Krista Dwinal, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “The best solution…giving a responsibility course in high school which would let children learn the risks of some crimes and also let them learn about life.” Natasha Jeansonne, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “More businesses should sponsor programs that will benefit children…” Niki Ill, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois Volunteers “Volunteers offering free babysitting once a week would reduce stress at home. This could improve mental health in the children and in their parents alike. Another factor to look at is cost efficiency. Childhood diseases can be prevented with vaccinations. In the long run, treating disease before it occurs is much cheaper for the United States.” Monica Wilson, Kinsley High School, Kinsley, Kansas “By everyone just giving a little to help others, communities become much closer and happier…I think that the best way to persuade people to be responsible is to offer more recognition for those who volunteer and work to make a difference. One way to do this is to hold summits to show the satisfaction involved in volunteering. When people realize
how fulfilling their experiences can be, they will be more inclined to lend a helping hand.” Nicole Madison, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois The ultimate solution “I advise you to take the opportunity to help someone less fortunate than you. It is a rewarding experience that stays with you forever…Take responsibility for your actions and, at times, for other’s actions. Be active and help others; you may find out that it benefits you the most.” Niki Ill, Rockridge High School, Taylor Ridge, Illinois “There are so many problems in society that it is very hard to identify one solution. One absolute solution is for… human beings as a whole, to take responsibility for their actions. The more responsible…people [become], the better society will eventually become.” Carla Phillips, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “Everyone can learn how to take responsibility by helping out someone in need. With all the various programs all around, there are many opportunities that people can take advantage of to show that they are responsible.” Kara Lemoine, Avoyelles High School, Moreauville, Louisiana “For all the problems, there is a solution. It is simple. Take responsibility for your actions.” Kyle Jordan, Camden Central High School Camden, Tennessee Is responsibility being redefined in today’s society? “Our entire country has lost its focus. The Americas were originally settled due to religious freedom, and almost 300 years later, a new country was founded upon a strong faith in God. I believe this is the mind set that we need to get back to. In today's America, the government restricts what we can and cannot say about religion. By law, teachers cannot talk about religion or pray in school. Religious discussions or prayer in school must be student initiated. Many young Christians do not have the ability to talk to classmates about religion, and the country is in bad shape.” John Westerman, Salem High, Salem, Missouri “All in all, the society that we are today is a well meaning one. Although we may not have the time or ability to help out our fellow man, a part of us wishes we could, and as long as we never lose that, we will be all right. Even the certain 'Hate-Mongers' have those that they love and respect. Finally, though it is often hard to see, goodwill is in human nature.” David Chenault, Salem R-80, Salem, Missouri “It would seem, today, that we are attempting to redefine responsibility. This ‘new and improved’ definition would look something like this when put in writing: ‘Responsibility: What everyone else owes to you.’ However, the New Webster’s
Dictionary has a definition quite different from this: ‘Responsibility: A trust, obligation, or duty; trustworthiness.” Unlike the modern one, this definition implies a bond between people rather than a debt owed by one to another. This bond is the primary bond holding society together. Could civilization exist without contracts, both [oral and written]? There must always be a superstructure to life, a [canvas] on which our lives are painted. This superstructure is responsibility, the building blocks of society. And slowly, these blocks are beginning to tumble and the superstructure is beginning to tremble with the first shudders of collapse.” Morgan Hardy, Camden Central High School, Camden, Tennessee
In these essays, students grapple with the confusion surrounding the moral and ethical issues of responsibility in today’s society. These students, each in their own way, describe how making a personal commitment to responsibility helps them to grow and mature into responsible adults. It has become commonplace to accept and excuse every kind of behavior. In the past, irresponsible behavior would have been ethically and morally unacceptable and would have filled individuals with guilt and shame. Today, irresponsibility appears to be tolerated in the home, in the schools, and in our law and order ranks. It is espoused in our legal system and vindicated in the upper echelons of our judicial system. Are we risking our liberty when we don’t take responsibility seriously? Are we facing a new American dilemma? The social relationships that promote the cherished values in our society are being challenged at every level. Perhaps we need to begin to think about putting our social relationships in the context of responsibility.
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