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posted: 4/27/2014 1:01 AM

Think again before you write off today's young people

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Maybe you saw their caravan drive up the Chicago Avenue hill in Naperville. Or maybe you passed them on the interstate -- three or four buses, a couple of semis and assorted smaller trucks with names like "Cavaliers" or "Phantom Regiment" or "Madison Scouts" emblazoned on their sides. Or a particularly impressive marching unit at a Fourth of July parade might have caught your eye.

What if I told you that close to 10,000 teenagers (and more often than not their families as well) almost live, eat and breathe Drum Corps International each year? Or did you know that the marching unit you saw likely will travel coast to coast this summer performing sometimes three or four times a week? Oh, and that the sound they produce is made by more than 150 or musicians who can blast an audience right out of their seats. And did you know that the Cavaliers or Phantom Regiment or Madison Scouts are sometimes harder to get into than an Ivy League college and they audition potential members from all over the world?

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The Cavaliers, based in Rosemont and Chicago's premier group, Phantom Regiment from Rockford, and Madison Scouts based in Wisconsin are among hundreds of active drum and bugle corps. Most corps tour each year; the biggest and best put on a show with choreography and music equal to anything you could see at the best halftime show, band concert or perhaps even Broadway musical.

This is not an ad for drum corps (though the national finals are in Indianapolis in August and all three corps are among the top contenders for the title); actually I am leading into a point I'd like to make about today's adolescents and young adults.

As a youth minister, family psychologist and parent, I've spent a good bit of time with teenagers and young adults. And it seems to me that most of the kids I've gotten to know are, bottom line, good people.

I recognize today's youth face all sorts of problems -- from figuring out where they fit socially, to drug use, to casual sexuality, to too much (or too little) pressure to achieve or perform. And heaven help the young adults who are trying to sort out what sort of adult life they should begin to prepare for.

Given all that, an awful lot of teenagers and young adults out there are doing a pretty decent job of figuring this all out. They don't get it right all the time, but, hey, none of us do (not even those of us who've been around for a lot longer).

So the next time we find ourselves worried about, frustrated with, scared for or scared of today's teens and young adults, we might want to step back and consider all that these folks have to deal with, and just how well they do most of the time. And we might even want to mention to the ones we know that we appreciate that, as hard as it is, they are doing the best they can do.

• Dr. Ken Potts is on the staff of Samaritan Counseling Center in Naperville and Downers Grove. He is the author of "Mix Don't Blend, A Guide to Dating, Engagement and Remarriage With Children."

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