The murder of Lauren Daverin-Gresham in Rockville Centre late last month once again pointed up a recurring problem: We often overlook our teenagers.
Daverin-Gresham was hanging out and drinking with friends on a footbridge over Merrick Road that is a well-known meeting place for teens, away from the prying eyes of adults, but also without the safety that comes with supervision. We’ll never know, but perhaps if Daverin-Gresham had another option that night, somewhere else to go, she wouldn’t have been on the bridge.
What is certain is that our teenagers need places to go and things to do. The shortage of organized activities for them has been an issue on Long Island for decades. Local groups and municipalities spend plenty of money creating and overseeing programs for younger children and for adults, but teens often fall by the wayside, left to their own devices. At some local libraries, programs for kids outnumber those for teens by four to one.
The problem with being a teenager on Long Island is that there are so few easily accessible activities open to this age group. They can go to the movies, or go bowling, but for many, those quickly grow boring.
Often, teens take to roaming the streets with their friends, in defiance of the unwritten rules of neighborhood civility or those set by their parents. Being rebellious is what teens do.
Understandably, it’s difficult to create programs for them. They are at the point in their lives where they are trying to figure out who they are, and that often leads them to be fiercely independent. The last thing most teens want to do is hang out under the supervision of adults.
So, programs that aim to attract teenagers need to be creative. Virtually every town has a park of some kind. Locals officials might consider hosting an open mic night to give teens an outlet for their creativity, whether it be music, poetry or something else. Or, as autumn comes and the weather cools, perhaps a bonfire for teens.