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Inspired by teenagers

05/29/03 12:00AM By John Morton
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(Host) Commentator John Morton says that recently he's acquired a fresh - and very positive - perspective on teenagers.

(Morton) Lately, I've felt hopelessly out of touch with the younger generation. I can't relate to the blue spiked hair or the baggy pants which threaten to drop to the floor with every step. I can't stand rap music, and I think video games are a total waste of time. So it came as a pleasant surprise, when three recent interactions shattered my stereotype of teenagers.

Last summer, I designed a cross country trail for Hazen Union High School in Hardwick, Vermont. Laying out a new trail is the easy part; cutting the route through a dense forest is hard physical labor which seems to take forever. But in Hardwick, all the back breaking work was done by the thirteen boys and one girl in Hazen Unions Forestry and Natural Resources Program.

After training his students to work safely in the woods, instructor Marc Luneau issued the chainsaws and set his young lumberjacks loose. The students finished a five kilometer loop that was so popular with local skiers, that an extension to the trail is already taking shape this summer. Some of these kids may wear baggy pants under their Kevlar chaps, but it doesn't slow them down in the woods.

Not far from Hardwick, at Lamoille Union High School in Hyde Park, another trail is taking shape. Once the project got underway last summer, the contact person became a student who had created an independent study project focused on the trail. He tagged along as I designed the route, often helping me find boundary lines or significant terrain features. By using e-mail, he contacted almost 100 volunteers, and organized them into work crews which cleared the first two and a half kilometer loop by autumn. He even took his turn in the excavator, burying stumps and installing culverts. To cap it all off, he created a compact disk of the project, which documented the creation of the trail.

Then, on the morning of May 7, two strapping, eighth grade boys arrived in our yard, ready to get dirty, as part of Operation Days Work. Students first select a developing country to study, then they contact community members willing to hire students for a day. All the proceeds are contributed to a worthy project in the selected country. Over the past four years, $140,000 has been raised for educational programs in Haiti, San Salvador, Nepal and Ethiopia.

I may never appreciate the noise that throbbed from the boom box as the two Thetford students sweated in our front yard, but I certainly admire their hard work in support of educational projects in Bangladesh.

Come to think of it, maybe we adults should just turn the world over to the teenagers now, before we botch everything up beyond repair.

This is John Morton in Thetford.

John Morton designs trails and writes about sports.
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