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FIRST-PERSON: One meritorious teen

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–Odds are you don’t know Guy Swift, but you should. An 18-year-old senior from Sprague, Wash., Swift is an excellent example of someone taking responsibility for his actions.

According to a report by the Seattle Times, Swift traveled with members of his class to Seattle for a school-sponsored senior trip. Once in the city, the students from the small farm town near Spokane took in such tourist attractions as Pike Place Market and the Space Needle. A few students, including Swift, decided to add a strip club to their itinerary.

The ill-advised detour occurred when the sponsor of the trip allowed students the liberty to roam on their own. Nine students took advantage of their freedom and slipped into Deja Vu Showgirls. The students’ foray into the world of erotic entertainment was discovered when they were late returning to the bus. A sponsor went searching and asked the manager of the strip club to see if any students might be inside.

Once discovered, most of the straying students were anything but apologetic. The Times quoted one student as saying, “I don’t really care what people say. We’re 18. We didn’t do anything illegal.”

If this story were typical of the dozens I have in my files detailing people caught in embarrassing situations, it would have ended with the defiant words of the unrepentant teen. However, the story in the Times concluded with the apologetic words of Guy Swift who expressed regret over his choice to enter the strip club.

“He [the teacher who led the trip to Seattle] did give us a lot of trust and free time where we could split up from the group. We were selfish, thinking only of ourselves,” Swift said. He also made clear that the actions of the rogue students reflected badly on the sponsor.

You have to pause for a moment and allow Swift’s admission to sink in. Here was an 18-year-old refusing to justify a foolish choice. Swift understood that his actions impacted others. His choice to slip into a strip club affected the sponsor, embarrassed the school as well as the community, and will affect any and all future school outings.

More times than not, those who engage in bad and embarrassing behavior attempt to justify their actions. When teens are involved, the parents readily climb aboard the excuse bandwagon. Rarely have I found anyone, much less an 18-year-old, who is as forthcoming as Swift.

Consider the following recent incident reported by a variety of news outlets. Thirty-two seniors from the Glenbrook North High School in Glenview, Ill., have been given 10-day suspensions for taking part in a violent hazing incident.

According to eyewitness testimony and videotaped evidence, senior girls from the school beat their junior classmates and showered them with human excrement, mud and garbage on May 4 at a Cook County park. Five girls were injured seriously enough that they had to be transported to a nearby hospital.

Police have indicated that charges may well be forthcoming against students or any parents who supplied alcohol. Many students were captured on videotape drinking beer at the function. At least one parent has admitted that her daughter paid $12 to help supply beer for the event. Criminal charges for assault and hazing also are probable.

Thus far no apologies or regrets have been expressed over the hazing incident, only lawsuits and excuses have been issued. Those who have been interviewed have only voiced concern that the suspensions might adversely affect plans for future education. At least three parents have filed suit to halt the school’s disciplinary action.

Guy Swift’s decision to sneak off to a strip club was unwise. However, his refusal to justify his actions or pass the buck is refreshing. His understanding of the implications of his behavior reveal a maturity many adults do not even posses. May his tribe increase.
Kelly Boggs is pastor of Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore. His column appears each Friday in Baptist Press.

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