I moved to Mountain City a little less than a year ago from Massachusetts. As Im 21 years old, I looked to people my own age for things to do in this area. I came to the realization that there are definite social issues pertaining to the treatment of the youth. Since my arrival I have observed the number of locations accessible to the 16-25 youth decline from the very few places they had to begin with to almost none. They have been told that they cant be at the park after dark, yet when people who appear to be older use the park, they are rarely questioned or told to leave. That takes away one more place young people like me have to congregate – simply to socialize or play ball. I find the lack of locations suitable for us while visiting friends deplorable.
To add to this problem, Ive even been told that there is an attempt to impose a curfew on people under 21 to limit crime and vandalism while the age of recent vandals hasnt even been confirmed. With a curfew, what are they expected to do if they cant work past 9:45pm? The young people in question make up most of the local unskilled labor force. An early curfew would cut their already small wages. Most of us work, making the evenings the only reasonable time to visit friends. Often, socializing in public places later in the evening after work is our only option.
All Im asking is that the previous generations consider how they would deal with this blatant inequality if they were in our shoes. We are not bad kids, and punishing the majority for the actions of a small, unknown minority seems unjust. The local government, community betterment groups and committees, churches and law enforcement need to make a concerted effort to work with the youth of the community to solve the long-standing problem of nowhere to congregate, no gym for wholesome athletic activities and a perception that everyone out after 10 p.m. is a problem. The towns three soda fountains and as many movie theaters are long gone. Where can young people socialize, especially when they dont live at home with parents? Where are they welcome to eat, drink, listen to music, play ball? The solution to this problem will take time and patience on the part of both parties but will hopefully lead to reasonable solutions in the future.