03/25/07 — Youths present thoughts on future

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Youths present thoughts on future

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 25, 2007 2:05 AM

U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre, D-N.C., is asking the state's next generation of leaders what they think about their futures.

McIntyre hosted a youth summit Monday in his hometown of Lumberton.

"Young people are the future of our great country. We need to listen to them and engage them," he said. "Every way you look at it, this was a successful event. It's great to have young people come together and talk about what's going on."

Invited to the event were juniors from high schools in Brunswick, Columbus, Cumberland, Duplin, New Hanover, Pender, Robeson and Sampson counties. McIntyre explained that the goal of the summit was not only to hear what issues today's students feel are the most pressing, but also to encourage them to work to make a difference in their own schools and communities.

"The reason we invited juniors is because they have another whole year in school and they are to be leaders in their schools and attack these problems," McIntyre said.

Among the issues discussed were school violence, testing, the soaring cost of college, peer pressure and societal pressure.

"It's all just overwhelming," he said.

But the discovery that struck him most deeply, McIntyre said, was the need for good role models.

"I think that's an eye opener," he said. "Those kids want positive role models in their lives."

And while East Duplin High School student Brian Fountain, 17, the son of Barry and Bonita Fountain, thinks his community has good role models, he said it was interesting to hear the perspectives of other students.

"It made me understand that our school is not the only one with problems," he said. "I also got to hear how other people are trying to do things."

One issue that interested him in particular was how to reduce the stress put on students by teachers, parents and themselves. It was the topic on which the tennis player and member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club, Beta Club and the Technical Student Association wrote his application essay.

"What my main point was, is that they're staying up too late because they feel they have to be perfect students and that can be a lot of pressure on them," Fountain said.

One idea he picked up to remedy that -- and one he said he'd talk to principal Ben Thigpen about -- was having only two tests per day.

"(The summit) really gave me some good ideas to help out with some stuff at my school," he said.

But he also felt that the topics discussed gave McIntyre and his staff some thoughts to take back to Washington, D.C.

"Every one of the staff that I saw, really seemed like they cared," Fountain said. "They were actively listening in our (small group) sessions, and McIntyre went around and sat with every group and wanted to hear what we were saying.

"They acted like they really cared."