I’m 16

By: Peyton Lawson

I am a 16-year-old high school junior.

Wait, don’t close your laptop, lock your phone, or put down the paper.

What I have to say is important.

If you doubt that, I’m writing this for people like you.

Teenagers have ideas, valuable ideas. Teenagers can be successful and do incredible things. Teenagers are not unworthy of your attention. Our opinions have weight. We hold a specific point of view; we are more mature than children but are still living under the roofs of our adult parents and their guidance. Contrary to the popular idea, we have brilliant ideas and we understand the world around us. We are deemed too naive or too inexperienced to understand or converse about things like politics or poverty, too rebellious to go to the bathroom without asking an adult. But, we are deemed mature enough to drive a car, plan our college future, and hold a job. When I put it that way, it seems pretty silly, right?

After 13 years of having the school system educate me on subjects like math,science, history, and English, I have learned things. I have knowledge. I can contribute an understanding of facts.Yet so many times, this preparation is not enough for adults to even give my ideas a second thought.

This isn’t a problem within the bubble of a high school classroom. Us high schoolers work together to develop solutions to problems, and with the support of adults and the ability to flourish, we are capable of doing some pretty cool things. In Heritage High School’s GLS classroom, we have been working hard to positively impact the world around us and develop an understanding of the world’s major problems. Believe it or not, in a few weeks, we have created a human trafficking campaign week throughout our school, sold several hundred tee-shirts to help end child slavery, communicated with local and international organizations, and created a school-wide environmental awareness social media campaign. The thing you might be shocked by is we are not mega-geniuses, child-prodigies, or mini Einsteins, we are just a bunch of regular high schoolers. We come from different walks of life, never really knew each other before, and yet, accomplished so much. This only occurred when we were given the freedom to take our own curiosities and passions and do something great. Our teacher and admin have given us the platform to do things and we did not let them down. When put into an environment where we feel empowered and trusted, we do great things. The majority of teenagers could, but are never empowered to do so.

The real point is that nothing changes on the morning of a teens 18th birthday. We don’t become instantly smarter or learn the truths of the world overnight.  Too often, adults disregard the opinions and ideas of teenagers simply because of their age. If you trust an 18-year-old to vote, why do you not trust a 17-year-old to provide their political opinion or pursue and plan an anti-hunger campaign. If you say teenagers have inflated egos or immature understanding , maybe you need to look in the mirror and reflect on the extent to which you’re judging a young mind simply for being a young mind. Teens are not puppies. Adults can stop putting us on leashes and strapping muzzles over our mouths. Let us bark. Let us run. We cannot continue our training until we are trusted to walk on our own.