Celia Armstrong: A sobering look at youth in city of Pittsfield
PITTSFIELD — Some of the content in the following essay may be shocking or even hard to read for some. All the data in this essay is real and obtained from direct or reliable sources. This is a personal evaluation of our youth in the city of Pittsfield. I have known, and become familiar with, Pittsfield since the age of three. My mother first lived in a building they call the "Tyler House." After that, she lived on Circular Avenue, where just up the street a few houses, a man was found dead inside a parked van. Sure, Pittsfield has always been known as the "worst" of Berkshire County, but it has also been working to get its numbers up. Pittsfield is now above Holyoke but below Springfield as far as homicides are concerned.
There are a lot of things that contribute to the chaos of Pittsfield. Lack of community activities for youth, drugs, crime, lack of employment opportunities and welfare. We have two big high schools here with a total of 1,569 students, just in the grades 9 through 12. We also have a whopping rate of 1 in every 10 students dropping out by 10th grade. Being around all of this can cause depression. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a study done showed that one in every four students who dropped out of school would get clinical symptoms of depression. One in every four people who suffer from depression turn to substance abuse. We have overdose deaths too often in Pittsfield. Why are they turning to heavy drugs? This is just another one of our current issues here.
As the dropout rate goes up, so does the teen pregnancy rate, whether they are dropping out because of a baby or dropping out leads to a baby. We have a 33.6 percent teen birth rate in girls ages 15-19. Some may come from good families and have good financial support. Others are not so lucky. That leads to more unemployment, welfare, etc. It just keeps this chaotic cycle continuing.
Just in the past year, there has been one 14-year-old girl, and two 15-year-old girls that I know about who have gotten pregnant. Fourteen? When I was 14, I hadn't even had my first kiss yet. Nor had many of my classmates, never mind being a parent. The 14-year-old mother continuously brings her baby to group fights and there has been proof posted to social media. Also, she has threatened to "stab" and "shoot" at people. (Direct quotes taken from her messages.)
One of the 15-year-old girls posted that she had a miscarriage, her body probably not being ready to bare children. Another girl from Pittsfield with whom she was in a dispute posted to her Facebook timeline saying, quote, "Karma. I just know my baby is alive while yours isn't." What is making these young girls all want to have babies so young? Also, why are they so angry? Where are their parents? Better yet, why aren't they supporting each other as young women, especially young mothers. And how are these kind of young ladies going to be able to raise a child properly?
If you're not in school, and getting the proper education, what exactly are you doing? Some are working, to try to attempt living a stable life, others are falling into what's around them in Pittsfield, and that is a problem. Just within a few months, a 21-year-old friend of mine has lost one friend, almost two, to gun violence. Both instances were because they did not get along with each other's "groups." Tragically, an 18-year-old lost his life. The perpetrators were only 18, and 22 years of age. Also, they were young adults that we know. It is sickening to think someone my age could be a cold-blooded murderer and leave someone to die in a driveway during a snowstorm. It makes people ask themselves: What led these young men to commit this horrible crime?
Overall, it all begins with our youth. Our youth are a reflection of the future. Why is it that we have approximately 1,600 students, grades nine through 12 alone, and only two main community centers? Why are so many kids dropping out? Why aren't they taking their education more seriously? Why are so many young girls getting pregnant? Why are there so many young men with so much anger they are willing to shoot each other?
The biggest question is, why isn't Pittsfield talking about this and trying to come up with resolutions? I think it is time we began talking.
Celia Armstrong wrote this as an essay for her English 101 class with Patrick West. She resides in Pittsfield and in Housatonic.
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