OCEAN SPRINGS -- Shortly after Mayor Connie Moran delivers her state of the city speech, Ocean Springs people can get a more youthful assessment of the triumphs and challenges of the Jackson County city.
Youth Council President Cady Cooper will base her state of the youth address on a study the 30 high school juniors and seniors on the council made of the city's young people. Most of their assessment is based on the more than 500 students who returned questionnaires the council distributed. The top three concerns uncovered by the questionnaires -- drugs, drinking and driving -- have been around for years.
Cooper along with Sally Boswell, special projects coordinator, and Kassidy Biss, communications and technology coordinator, met with Sun Herald in advance of the state of the youth to talk about the survey results.
"We took the results from the survey and developed an action plan," said Cooper. "Through the action plan, we're trying to fix the problems they saw."
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Drugs have posed a problem for schools for decades. But, as honors students, they said they weren't apt to encounter drug use in the classroom. The drug of choice elsewhere in the schools, though, is marijuana, they found.
"A lot of people agreed it was easy to get," said Bosell, "even though administrators have taken a hard stance against it."
Drinking is more prevalent with some parents condoning it.
"Administrators were passionate about helping us start a big change in what people do outside of school and places to hang out," said Boswell.
Ideas included a teen center or cyber cafe where young people could gather with some adult supervision but without the feeling that it was part of school.
Part of the problem with battling drinking and drug use at school is a reluctance among students to "tattle" on their peers.
"It was easy to get away with drug use and being under the influence at school," said Biss. "People are afraid to leave class and report and instance like that to an administrator."
They are looking at solutions such as anonymously reporting drug or alcohol use without leaving class, so classmates would not be tipped off that someone is reporting them to the administration.