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Essay Contest Finalists

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The 10 essays on this page are finalists in the 2004 South Middle School Essay Contest. The names of the writers will be added after they are judged and the winners are announced. The topic for this year's contest is "The Greatest Problem Facing Teens Today."

   Isn't it amazing how a young person's goals and dreams can be demolished in one action?
   Teenage pregnancy is the greatest problem facing teenagers today. When someone becomes pregnant at such a young age, they can become confused and depressed. The world around them can fall just because of the simple word abortion.
   She wants to be an actress and become a famous star, but at the young age of 16 that dream she has is torn apart. Her parents have disowned her after her child's birth and her boyfriend has left, so what is she to do? She has a job at a local restaurant and now has no time for school. She lives in an apartment with no plumbing and holes in the wall, but it's all she can afford. The story would be seen in a movie, but what if it were real? The sad thing is, it is real. Teenage girls face this problem a lot and with the amount of time to care for a baby, where's the room left for a dream?
   With the financial support a baby takes, maintaining school work and a job becomes impossible. Buying diapers, clothes, toys, furniture, and formula starts to all add up. The government would give the teenager some money, but not all that a teen would need. When a teenager has to drop out of school just to support a baby, it's not only ruining her life, but the future, too. Our future is on the shoulders of these teens. Losing teens to babies means losing doctors, dentists, lawyers, and teachers. It is really a waste.
   But it isn't just teenage girls who face this problem. Boys who are loyal to their girlfriends stay and help. When they do that, it is easier for the girl and the fiancee, but still, it is hard for both of them. Then again, not all boys are willing enough to stay and help.
   Abortion is another decision a girl can face, but that leads to more worse than better. Abortion is a big topic facing not only parents, but politicians, as well. The decision is a major one and many go against it. It would be terrible to the girl who gets an abortion because some people would hate her before they got to know her or her situation.
   Teen pregnancy destroys dreams and goals for the youth of the nation. If it could be prevented at all, it would be to find a way to keep the thought of sex out of a teenage mind. Taking it out of the media and movies would be a giant step, but taking the thought entirely out of a mind is impossible. Keeping kids off the streets and occupied is another way to stop it.
   So, in conclusion, with the growth of pregnant teens comes the decline of a chance for a great life. It can only bring trouble and hardship for teens and those around them.
   The greatest problem facing teens today is peer pressure. Peer pressure causes teens to try new things and possibly get addicted to or develop unusual habits.
   Let's say you're a freshman and these seniors invite you to a welcome to the high school get a "Great Rep' party. Would you go? I know I would (just being honest). So you go and when you get there, there's pop and pizza and loud music. People are dancing and having fun. Then the hottest, most popular everyone wants to be like guy has some booze and then maybe some weed. Well, you just kind of ignore it at first and you're still just hanging out, talking and having fun, while this guy that everyone wants to be like and wants to be with comes up to you and asks, "Hey, you wanna go upstairs?"
   Well, you figure, "What the heck, right?" You are just sitting in a room with this guy and he pulls out some shots and some weed and tries to get you to try some. So what do you do? Well, maybe you can just try a little, so you try a little. Then maybe just a little more and maybe things are going too far. How do you stop? What will he think? What will your rep be if you stop? If you don't stop, would you get pregnant? What about your family? Religious beliefs?
   You have all of these things going through your head, but you're having so much fun. Well, you know what's right, but you just let it go. So next week, it's Monday and you think nobody knows about what's happened. You walk in and all of a sudden you're being called "fresh meat" and nasty names. So you try to ignore it and you walk up to this guy and he's standing with his friends. You're like, hey, tap him, "What's going on?"
   He turns around, looks at you like you're nothing and walks away with his friends and leaves you alone, standing there, not even knowing what to think. Everything's wrong. You have become the "slut" of the school. Every morning, you just feel sick. You decide to make sure you're not pregnant. You are sure you're not, but you better just make sure, right?
   So you take your test. Well, guess what? YOU'RE PREGNANT. Now what do you do? Do you tell your parents? Do you tell anyone at all? You feel stuck. You feel alone in the world with a baby on the way. And you're only 15. Too young to be working and your life is worthless.
   This is only one thing that could happen. But yet, it is possible. Now you could have said no and gotten a different reputation. This story could be you. Peer pressure can lead to many things, depression, eating disorders, drug addictions, and so many more things. There's really nothing that anyone can do to stop it. But when people tell their stories, maybe it can help. People make better choices.
   Next time you are in a tough situation, think of everything that could happen.
   Teens these days have many problems, from abusive parents to peer pressure. Some may say that teens' greatest problem is peer pressure, some may say it's drugs or alcohol, but these are only side effects to the problem. The real problem is the deterioration of family values.
   Alcohol has been around for many centuries, yet is has only been a problem for about the last half a century.
   Drugs have also been around for centuries, but only lately have so many people been discussing how drugs have been a major problem.
   Peer pressure has always been around and people have always had to deal with it, so why do people act like it's a new problem?
   Many of the problems that teens face today are due to the deterioration of family values.
   Nowadays, the divorce rate is higher than it has ever been. If you were to walk into a school in America, you would find that very few of the children's parents are still married. This makes it hard for the child to learn all the things they need to learn from both parents. How is a son supposed to learn how to be a father when he has children when the child himself only sees his father every other weekend?
   Teens today are in tons of activities,such as clubs or sports, and since there are so many that you can be in, teens have a very busy schedule. Due to this fact, parents don't make a large effort to spend time with their children. Many parents don't talk to their children very often, which is a horrible thing for their children could be on drugs or drinking alcohol and the parents would never know. If the parents don't talk to their children about these things, such as peer pressure or drugs, how are their children supposed to know how to deal with these things?
   Many families nowadays are broken in many ways. A family should be full of people you can rely on, but what happens when those people aren't there?
   Some teens may have both parents together, but that doesn't mean their parents are people they can rely on.
   Hardly any kids have the ideal family with two parents who are together, four grandparents, and maybe a brother or sister. Their parents are loving, caring, give discipline, listen to their children, and are there for their children when they need them. Grandparents that tell you stories about the old days and spoil you rotten. Plus, a brother or sister who is a pain, but who is there for you when you need him or her. If a child has a family like this, that child is very lucky.
   Many parents don't discipline their children and just hope they turn out all right. This allows the parents to have an easy job, but it hurts their children.
   Family values should be reintroduced to teens. This would be a much better place in which to live if they were. Plus, if these values were reintroduced, maybe some of these other large problems in society would go away. It never hurts to try.
   When you wake up in the morning and start getting ready for work, you aren't worrying about who you should talk to or what you should wear. When you get in your car and start the engine, you don't immediately pick up your cell phone and punch in the number of your closest friend or start fiddling with your hair, wondering whether he'll like it. It's not realistic to suggest that you never worry about what others think of you, but to say that you worry about it all the time would be false. You see, as time progresses, there's always one thing that changes, one thing that people protest more and more as they grow older. It's the idea that what you wear or who you talk to, determines who you are as a person, where you stand.
   By most, it's called peer pressure, and justly, for it's found more among your own peers than anywhere else. Everyone deals with it. They may not talk about it, but it still affects every day of their lives. For some, it's worse than others, and for teens, peer pressure is at its peak. Even just walking into a high school or a middle school shows you how far peer pressure has pushed students. Some long for attention, wearing obscene clothing of cussing in every other sentence. Others withdraw into a corner, speaking to no one and losing all sense of who they are and where they belong. Many will simply look away, only worrying about themselves, afraid for their own social status if they don't and who can blame them?
   The saddest part of the matter is, peer pressure grows worse year by year, day by day. As television and advertising grow bolder, so do teenagers. In result, the teenagers around them do the same, giving up all sense of reason and clarity just for a chance to fit in, to be normal. When you consider the lengths that that can lead to, you begin to realize the true complexity of the situation. It's an eye-opening revelation to consider. One single person could change the way so many others see themselves, and their peers.
   You're probably telling yourself, if that's the case, how can anything ever be done? How can you ever change so many people's views of each other? It can be done. To change others' mindsets, you must first change your own. If you can't learn to accept people for who they are before passing judgment, how can you ever change how others think? That can be a hard thing to do, even for adults. To look past your differences and see people for who they really are is easier said than done. It is people's actions that decide who they are, not their intentions. To begin seeing everyone as equals, we must first get to know everyone equally, treat them all in an equal mannere. How else can you ever begin to understand what they're going through?
   One of the biggest problems facing teens today is their parents splitting up. There are more failed marriages now than there have been in the past 30 years. This could be huge reason why teens turn to drugs and sex after their parents split up. Some kids live with one parent during the week, and then the other one during the weekend. This is really hard on children's lives because they are having to deal with two different lifestyles and still expected to make good grades, hang out with the right crowd, and always make the right choices.
   This is hard for a lot of teens because they don't have both parents watching over them 24/7, and the parents probably have two different ways of living. One parent might think that it's okay if their kid stays out late, but then the other one might not. It is just really hard on a child to keep up with both lifestyles and not make a lot of mistakes.I know from experience how hard it is on teens when the parents split up. I didn't make those mistakes, but my sister did. She was really bad at first, but she never did anything too drastic. She was in the middle of her teen years when it happened and we moved. It wasn't too long after the divorce that she learned how to deal with her emotions, but that isn't always the case with kids. Most kids just don't talk about it and try to act like everything is okay, but it really isn't, so they turn to drugs, alcohol, and sex as ways to let all of their anger go.
   They know that it's not right, but they don't know any other way of letting it all out because they feel like they can't talk to their parents about it because they won't understand. Parents do understand on some standards, but not on everything because they don't have to try to focus on school, making friends, and trying to spend time with both parents. So the children just feel like they can't talk to their parents about it, and that leads into just not talking period. This is never good in any kind of relationship.
   When parents tries to talk to their children about  their feelings and their children won't respond, the parents become easily frustrated and get upset and yell at the children which doesn't help matters at all. When teens are under a lot of stress, they will hang out with whomever wants to do something. That isn't always a good thing because they could start to hang out with the wrong crowd and then they could do stuff that they wouldn't normally do.
   This is one of the biggest problems facing teens today. Teens need to learn how to communicate with somebody, even if it's not their parents, just an adult, so they don't turn to bad thing to let their anger out.

   There are so many problems that teenagers have to deal with today. Drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, and violence among them. It is hard to decide which one is harder for teenagers to deal with. Many of the problems have to deal with emotional needs as well. The percentage of divorced parents is increasing, which causes teenagers to want to rebel. It is upsetting to see what teenagers will do to make themselves feel complete and better about their lives.
   Most of the problems end up with teenagers being depressed and that depression leads to drug use a lot of the time. It doesn't always lead to drug use, but it does enough that it is a serious problem. Drugs, as we all know, are terrible things for you. They destroy your body and put you on your deathbed much sooner than you would like. When people are under the influence o drugs, they do things they wouldn't normally do, which is not safe at all.
   Teenagers are used to getting in trouble. They enjoy testing the limits and being perilous, but sometimes they take it way too far. I'm sure there are many people who try drugs and decide not to use them again, but many can't give them up. Many are pressured into using them and a lot actually become addicted.
   Peer pressure has been getting worse over the years. It is difficult to imagine how horrible it is going to become in the future. Teenagers think they have to do things just because their friends say they do. They don't realize that drugs can be very harmful to them, so they take them anyway.
   It is almost as if teenagers plug their ears in health class to escape learning how to stay healthy. Teachers tell students about drugs every year, but a lot of the time it doesn't get through to them. They still assume that nothing bad is going to happen to them if they take drugs. Either that or they assume that they are such good people, who would never think of doing anything like that, then they end up doing it.
   Teenagers who take drugs are not only putting themselves in danger, but others, too. They are putting others at risk every time they get in their cars under the influence of drugs and drive off. Think about how horrible you would feel if you had just taken drugs, were driving in your car, and killed an innocent family. It isn't one of the best feelings in the world.
   Drugs are just a way to kill yourself faster. They only cause harm, unless they are prescribed by a doctor. Even then, if they are used inappropriately, they can still be very harmful. The number of overdoses per year have also been increasing. People are asking the doctors for medicine, then taking way too much because they think it will help them solve their problem or problems. Some do it on accident, but quite a few do it on purpose.
   Drugs are also promoted on television.There are so many shows and movies where there are people taking drugs like it is perfectly normal.
   That leaves a lasting impression on the minds of teenagers and others. Teenagers might see their favorite actors or actresses using drugs in movies and assume that is fine for them, too. Many don't understand the influence people in the entertainment industry have on younger minds.
   So, as you can see, teenagers using drugs is becoming more and more of a problem every day. If things continue like they are now, pretty soon, everyone may be using drugs. Think about how that will affect you, your future, your friends' futures, and your families' futures. Sounds inconceivable, right? Well, it may not be as inconceivable as you think.
   "Come on, you can do it. No one will know." Many teens are being pressured by their peers into doing things that are indeed against their will, something they wouldn't do at any other time. Deciding what to do is hard though, but deciding what to do when you have your friends egging you on is even harder.
   In difficult situations, many teens can be pressured so much they actually do the stuff their friends are doing, resulting in dire consequences. Jail time would be one of these. At the turn of the century, drugs and alcohol have been on the rise among minors. Most of these young teens are pressured by friends who think it's "cool" or "okay."
   No one really knows why minors think they have to be cool or look cool in front of others just to fit in with the "cool group," "the in-crowd," or just the people who usually dominate the school population, the jocks and preps.
   Back 30 years or so, around the year 1974, people and/or "children" the age of 18 or 23 didn't even know the words cigarettes, marijuana, or beer, unless their parents were the ones in the home who were associated with these substances. The reasons are today still unknown why the turn of the century caused so many of these children to put their lives on the line with alcohol and drugs.
   Drugs and alcohol are not the only problems among teens today, but gangs and bullying play a big role in the lives of teens, also. Most teens join gangs to feel accepted among a group of people, in which these groups are not always the honor roll model students. Teens who join are sometimes told they have to do acts or stunts to join the gang, a test for them.
   Bullying is an important aspect of teenagers' lives, especially if they are the ones being bullied. People get bullied basically because they are younger, smarter, specially impaired or are sometimes of different color. Sometimes, when one joins a gang, the other members will urge them to prove themselves worthy by bullying or beating up one younger than them.
   In conclusion, if one person's friends are telling him to do something and this one person tries so hard to fit in and does not succeed at any time, chances are he will do almost anything for his 15 minutes of fame in the eyes of the more fortunate popular kids. When one gets these 15 minutes of fame, he feels what the other popular kids feel, they wish to bask in the glory of getting noticed and they want to continuously get noticed, but to get noticed they must resort to doing all of these stunts that their friends tell them to do. When teens do what these so-called "friends" tell them to do, they get into trouble and end up in very serious situations. A lot of teenagers face a problems, but this is definitely one major problem.
   The greatest problem facing teens today is peer pressure. Most teens are self-conscious on how they look and act. They are only self-conscious because of peer pressure. There is nobody who likes to be different and stand out from the crowd. Being different isn't a bad thing, but many people seem to think it is. Being different just means you have a special quality that nobody else has.
   Peer pressure has been a problem for a long time. There hasn't been one generation of people that hasn't had peer pressure. If some people weren't different, life would be boring. Peer pressure often keeps you away from your family because the peer pressure of being cool makes you spend more time with friends than family.
   Not everything is bad about peer pressure. It keeps you participating in activities, socializing, and playing in sports. Peer pressure can keep you busy so that you don't get involved in bad things such as drugs or gangs. Peer pressure also keeps adults busy.
   When kids become teens, they become distant with their parents. Teens do this because other people their age think that talking or hanging out with parents is uncool. Sometimes it is the peer pressure. The distance between parents and their children is also caused because of family problems, such as economic difficulties or divorces. When these happen, the teens usually depends more on peers for emotional support rather than their own parents. The problems between teens and their parents is also caused by the arguments parents and their kids have. At their age, teens cuss a lot and to be cool, they say it to their parents. Usually, the distance is due to the teen, but sometimes it is the parents' fault. The parents ignore their kid so the teenager becomes involved in gangs and other groups like that.
   There are people who are aware of all the peer pressure going around. Those people form groups to cope with peer pressure. One way they say is good to cope with peer pressure is to join some kind of group to keep your mind off the pressure and your problems. Those having to deal with peer pressure could also make good peer relationships. They could also encourage parents and teachers to help teenagers make and maintain positive peer relationships. The teenager could get a part-time job to have money for the stuff they want, that way their parents wouldn't have anything to say. The job could also help them relax. Many parents don't understand what teenagers go through. They were once teenagers also, but sometimes they forget. The parent could attend programs for families with teenagers. If they did attend those groups, the parents would be better informed about how much peer pressure teens have and how big the expectations are that teenagers face in peer relationships.
   In conclusion, friends are a very large part of a teenager's life. Usually, they replace family as the center of the teen's social life and who they hang out with in their spare time. Most of the time, parents don't understand what a teenager is going through because they forget what it is like to have to cope with all of these problems. They should try to understand.
   Many teens today do not think for themselves. They just do whatever people, mainly their friends, tell them to do or think. Teens just go with what everyone else is doing. They go with the flow.
   If you have never met a person, but someone who has met them tells you about them, and they tell you they don't like that person, you probably won't have a very good impression of that person, whom you haven't even met. You would just assume that person is mean because your friend told you so.
   In school, most students just believe whatever their teachers tell them, without questioning the teacher or finding the proof of what they say. There are some students who do think for themselves and do not believe everything that anybody says, but that does not happen very often. Teens are very impressionable.
   When you are hanging out with your friends and they are doing something, don't you want to do what they're doing, too? Whether it be to go to the mall, the movies, or in some cases, smoke or do drugs. This is a problem facing many teens. They want to fit in with their friends no matter what. They don't think about what is best for them. They think that they're cool if they're just like their friends in every aspect.
   If you were at a party with "popular" people and they were doing drugs and other things that you know aren't right, would you still go along with them so you can be considered "popular?" This is how many kids end up in jail or in hospitals.
   Kids get hooked on things they know are wrong because their friends tell them it will be o.k. and not to worry. I mean, who's going to know? You will know and the guilt of what you have done will tear at you and eventually you won't be able to live with yourself.
   Many teens develop their opinions of the government by what their parents or friends say. If their friends act like anarchists, then teens will eventually develop that attitude. If the teen's parent is for the Republican Party, then the teen will grow up with the same attitude as their parents. The same thing goes for a teen whose parents are for the Democratic Party or whatever party they may be for.
   Kids today have no respect for their elders. I have heard many people say to one another, "What's the matter with kids today?" Parents have become less strict in how they teach or punish their kids. Kids in get more trouble than they used to because they don't think for themselves. Teens act before they think. Whatever they want to do, they do, without thinking about the consequences of what might happen.
   The overall message that I am trying to get across is that kids and teens need to think for themselves, realizing the consquences or what they do. I would like to leave you with these words, so let them soak in, think for yourself.
   There are a lot more problems facing teenagers than most people realize. Teenagers face stress caused by facing bullies, trying to fit in with everyone, which can lead to major peer pressure, making the right friends, and not mention keeping their grades up. But different people have different problems. For some people, one thing might be a bigger problem than it is for another.
   A problem that's always a big problem for every teenager is having a young relationship. People get together as a couple, date for a while, do everything together, then one person dumps the other. Someone always gets hurt.
   As a person enters high school, the relationships are still a little young, but they are a lot more serious. The older you are, the more you try to find that special someone who you can spend the rest of your life with.You need someone to lean on, and someone to give everything you can to. Some people get too involved in the relationships and get really hurt when they end.
   When people get too involved in relationships, some get cheated on, or go too far. This sometimes results in a child. Most teenage mothers and fathers aren't ready for parenthood. This sometimes results in abortions, or in other cases, the parents will put the child up for adoption. This is usually better for the child if the teenagers aren't ready to be parents. When the teenage parents try to raise the child, some can't handle the stress, or their parents won't help them with the baby, so they have to drop out of high school because they can't juggle school, a job, and spending time with their child. These parents won't have a chance for a good, steady job, which will mean that they will have an even harder time taking care of the child.
   There are other people who take advantage of having a relationship. If people get into a relationship and then get a chance for another one, instead of picking between the two, they choose both. They end up cheating on both people. When someone finds out that they are being cheated on, they get hurt very badly. Some feel used, or tossed to the side, like everything they gave that person meant nothing, even if it did mean something.
   In conclusion, the greatest problem facing teenagers today is having a young relationship. Even though teenagers face stress with grades, fitting in, making the right decisions, and just finding themselves and who they really are, having a young relationship can get pretty tricky. People get cheated on, really hurt, or taken advantage of. Others just take things too far.
   Having a young relationship is always fun, but it can also get complicated. No matter how hard you try, someone always gets hurt. So be careful how close you get to someone, and be careful what you tell them. Always be aware that what you feel might not be what you think. Don't leap into anything too fast. Just have fun, but always be aware. And as Mick Jagger said in Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul, "It's all right letting yourself go, as long as you can get yourself back."