Like a path with many forks in the road, life for a teenager is full of many choices — the good, the bad and the ugly. If someone isn’t sure where they’re going, they may get lost and need help to find their way back.
The Fort Bragg Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program offers a class for teens to discuss what choices are right for them and set them on the path to success.
Life Choices for Teens, a three-hour seminar for children ages 13 to 18, covers topics such as self-esteem, peer-pressure, cyber bullying, drugs, sex and other issues, said Taurus Tyson, a FAP facilitator.
“A lot of times when we come into the class, we ask them (teens) what are some topics they would like to discuss. That gives us the status of what different topics we have to hit with the students,” said Tyson, who has taught the class for three years.
Although each class covers the same topics, each group can be different, she said.
“Sometimes we have to tailor our classes towards a group that we have in that class because we may have someone who is really dealing with some big issues and may be suicidal,” added Tyson.
The facilitators also help the students with decision-making and problem-solving skills.
“One of the exercises we’ll do is to ask them where they see themselves in five years (so they’re) looking at short term/long term goals. I really think it gets them thinking a little bit outside of the ‘now,’” said Chris Balduf, a new facilitator who taught his first class Nov. 17.
Tyson has seen the benefits of teenagers talking to one another about sometimes very difficult and personal problems, even during a seminar.
“One of the activities that we do is I have them write positive things on the back of new people they’ve met. We’ve actually seen people cry or really get emotional like ‘I didn’t think anybody saw me this way’ or ‘I didn’t think anybody felt this way about me,’” said Tyson.
The monthly class is open to any teenager. It is also mandatory for juvenile Family members who have been charged with misconduct on Fort Bragg or who have committed crimes.
“You have kids who have been caught shoplifting in the PX or smoking marijuana on the base or fighting; different disciplinary issues. They go before (the Juvenile Rehabilitation Board) and each case is different. But it does give the kids a chance to wipe their slate clean and start over. Part of that is going through some mandatory training,” said Balduf.
“We want them to learn the lesson,” said Tyson. “I have told them ‘You guys have a privilege here. If you were a civilian and you were not military, you wouldn’t have a second chance. You would have a criminal record. We do this because we care. We do this because we actually want to see you benefit or make something out of your lives.’ When kids feel that you care, you tend to get a connection with them,” Tyson explained.
Children who are referred from the JRB to attend the class are sent depending on their attitude, said Gudrin Blackmon, the JRB justice coordinator. Disruptive youth may interrupt the safe environment the facilitators try to maintain so all participants will benefit from lessons learned, she added.
Both instructors have a passion for children and seeing them make a difference.
“When they come to class, I don’t want to know the past story. I want to see what can be produced after they leave this class, what difference they can make,” said Tyson.
Balduf feels the class helps him with his own children, with one still in her teens.
“Talking to other teens helps refine my skills as a parent,” he said.
Before the class is over, the facilitators ask the students to take an oath to use the skills they have learned.
“‘We’ve given you the tools, what’s the oath that you’re going to make to yourself once you leave this class?’” challenged Tyson.
“We never know what we’re going to get when we come (to the class). A lot of times, they’re kicking and fighting when they come. When they leave, they have a different perspective on life and that is the most important thing to me — that I made a difference in these teens’ lives,” she said.
The next class is Dec. 22, from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information about registering, call 396-5521 or visit www.fortbraggmwr.com/acs/family-advocacy/.
Life Choices for Teens Dec. 22, from 9 a.m. to noon. Call 396-5521.