Rye Youth Ask Us to Believe in Them
By Gretchen Althoff Snyder
When the RyeACT Youth Action Team asked over 2,000 Rye teens what they thought parents need to know about their lives in this community, the response was as diverse and informative as it was unsettling. Whether it be academic stress, social pressures, drug and alcohol use, or all of the above, their message was loud and clear: what they need most is unwavering support from families and friends who will listen to the issues they are facing as they navigate the hills and valleys of life in and beyond Rye.
As Rye High School junior Julia Laber thoughtfully put it: “If you do not believe in us, we will not believe in ourselves.”
Nancy Pasquale, co-founder of RyeACT and group advisor to the Youth Action Team, addressed a large crowd at The Rye Arts Center on May 8. She explained the Team’s goal: to get to a place where “it becomes the norm for our kids to make safe, healthy choices about alcohol and drug prevention.” She noted that the group is yet another example of a larger movement across the country where youth have banded together to rally behind causes that are important and meaningful to them.
The majority of the evening focused on the kids: singers, poets, athletes, and comedians used their respective passions to express their views on life in our community. In addition to live performances, different rooms throughout the Center exhibited a wide range of opinions about what motivates our kids, what they struggle with, what they value, and most importantly, what we as parents can do to best support their needs.
Another RHS junior, Sophia Cetina, read her poem, “Dim Resolutions”, which touches on the unrelenting academic pressures kids are experiencing during their high school years.
<Silent evenings bristling with promise,
The scintillating light of the lamp above my desk.
Papers sprawled out, snow-rimmed edges juxtaposing the ebony of wood beneath the blackness below my eyes.
Clocks stand solemn, silently mourning the loss of sleep,
The irony of it all, even the papers get to lay down and rest.>
The RyeACT youth group also reached out to tenth graders in Health class, asking them to respond to the following questions: What do you love about Rye? What are the challenges/negatives to living in Rye? How could things be improved? The sophomores were more than happy to oblige – the positives ranged from the variety of classes offered, the opportunities to get help from teachers whenever needed, school spirit, and multiple lunch options. As for the negatives, responses included: “judgy” people, extremely high stress levels, way too much pressure and emphasis on grades instead of knowledge, sleep deprivation, lack of acceptance for those who are different, and “too cliquey”.
The evening wrapped up with several students offering their reasons for joining the Youth Action Team.
Julie Tiedemann, a freshman, said that before she joined the group and attended a training conference last summer, she lacked confidence and was often concerned about what other people thought of her. After a transformative experience at the training conference, “RyeACT became part of my family and I learned not to care so much about what other people think and to instead look towards who I want to be in this community.”
Julia Laber was motivated to join after her best friend’s father died in a drunk driving accident. She saw firsthand how the relationships that people care most about can be sidelined or erased by drugs and alcohol. (TOM, THIS DOESN’T FOLLOW…) Laber wants parents to understand that kids in Rye “often become consumed by the strive for perfection,” and “we want you to celebrate the positives, encourage us to try our best, but still support us when we fail.”
Parents need to really stop and listen to what is causing stress in their children’s lives. Bridging the gap between parents and their kids, says Laber, is an integral part of drug prevention.
To learn more about RyeACT and the Youth Action Team, visit www.ryeact.com.
- Photos courtesy of RyeTV
Kaitlyn Zion performs for the crowd