To the Editor:
We applaud the recent attention that space for teens has received in the Milton Times. Three years ago, when the Milton Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (MSAPC) released the results of our first Community Assessment, one of our top recommendations was to make Milton a more teen-friendly community. Since then, many groups, individuals and organizations, have stepped up. (Not surprisingly!) The Select Board appointed a Youth Task Force who have been looking at this issue for the past year. They have visited teen centers around the state, talked to key stakeholders and held focus groups with both teens and parents. The First Congregational Church and our town’s Parks and Recreation Department have entered into a unique agreement that will lead to a fantastic after-school drop in space for middle schoolers opening later this fall. The Milton Art Center has held teen-centered classes and events including the popular Young Bloods concerts. Parent Sean Roche has an idea for the deck over Route 93, transforming it into a fun area for youth to play and socialize. Teens have something to say about this as well. Last year, a survey of middle and high school students showed that youth want a place that is safe and fun, where they can socialize away from the pressures of school and with a bit of independence from parents. They want it to be inclusive, not overly structured but a space that allows them to come up with their own ideas for events and classes, or just to hang out. The work of MSAPC and the Youth Task Force has replicated these findings. Mental health issues among our kids is a rising concern, not just in Milton; we hear the same things from other coalitions across the country. Just as adults who are stressed or suffering from depression or anxiety sometimes turn to substances in order to escape these feelings, unfortunately so do kids. MSAPC has documented that too many Milton youth are turning to underage drinking, marijuana use, and the vaping of nicotine. Kids fear they are missing out (FOMO) if they don’t go to The Woods and other gathering spots. In these unsupervised areas substances are frequently consumed. Often, what begins as the innocent and developmentally appropriate need to socialize with peers, add in availability of drugs and alcohol and peer pressure, can end in addiction. Yes, we have many space needs in town. Let’s look at these needs holistically. Let’s intentionally provide youth with opportunities for them to tell us what they need and how to best provide for them. Let’s all continue to find alternative spaces for kids in town. After all, it’s hard to ask them to avoid The Woods if we don’t provide them with safer options.
–Core Stakeholders Group,
Milton Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition