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Teen Scene teaches valuable life lessons

Posted: September 23, 2009 10:43 p.m.
Updated: September 24, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Larry Schallert, director of adult education and outreach service at the Family and Child Center, talks with Sonia Rodriguez and her 13-year-old daughter, Natalie, during the eight annual Teen Scene Unplugged event at the Valencia Hyatt on Wednesday.

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“Julio,” clad in baggy clothes and a knit cap, swaggered across the stage Wednesday, talking about his poor relationship with his father and the home he’d found in a gang.

A teen girl talked about the world of sexual promiscuity she’d fallen into and the possibility she’d contracted HIV.

They were just two of several characters presented over about 15 minutes by Susie Vanderlip, who addressed a crowd of some 500 parents and youth at the Santa Clarita’s eighth annual Teen Scene Unplugged, held at the Hyatt Valencia.

“The problems that these characters have are rampant all across America,” Vanderlip said.

She said the vignettes she uses to lead off her presentation are inspired by people she has met in her 18 years as a speaker.

That includes drawing on personal experience.

Towards the end of the hour, she told the story of high school sweethearts who eventually got married, and whose dream life became a living hell when the husband gradually became a drug addict and alcoholic.

The story was punctuated by the revelation that it was her own husband who died of a drug-induced heart attack some 25 years ago.

Throughout her talk, which focused on the need for teens to address emotions and not just symptoms like drug and alcohol abuse or sexual promiscuity.

“There’s nothing worse than feeling completely and utterly hopeless,” she said.

Vanderlip said the four keys to dealing with emotional fears and problems are: Getting out of denial, reaching out and asking for help, setting personal policies to deal with difficult times and committing your life to service.

She finished her talk by going back into character as Julio, whom she described as a young gang-banger she met who eventually finished high school and college and today works with troubled youth.

“There is somebody to love, and that’s you,” she exhorted the audience.

Teen Scene Unplugged is organized by the city’s Blue Ribbon Task Force, which deals primarily with youth issues.

Year after year, many of the issues facing the valley’s youth remain the same, Community Services Analyst Tess Simgen said. Those issues include abuse of alcohol, illegal drugs and over-the-counter drugs.

Events like Teen Scene do make a difference for local kids, said Camilla Maalouf, 15.

“We’re going through a lot of hard times and (parents and educators) don’t get it,” the Valencia High School student said, and added the key to dealing with problems is to “forgive, forget, move on and don’t look at the past.”

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