Watching MTV's and Hollywood's portrayal of teens and children these days, it's sometimes difficult to not jump to the conclusion that today's youth are a bunch of debased monsters. But the truth of the matter is that for every andquot;badandquot; kid out there, there's at least a dozen more who are good and are building up our community.

Locally, that was made quite clear during the past few days. Last Friday, three students read their poetry before a crowd of more than 100 people on an outside stage next to the library. Not only did their poems celebrate living in Del Norte County, but each of the students (especially the young elementary and middle school winners) showed some real courage standing up before a crowd of adults. Then, the next evening, six teenage girls took part in the Junior Miss Scholarship contest, participating in talent, spirit, self-expression, fitness and scholarship competitions. To enter, each had to be college bound; indeed, the program wasn't a beauty pageant out of the 1950s but tests of skill and character.

In the days ahead, several of our youth will take part in another community-building effort that shows their hearts and minds are in the right place: Some of them will join the discussion to form a vision for how our county and city should grow economically. To be held during Australian economic guru David Beurle's return visit to Crescent City, the youth will offer their insights about what's right and wrong with the community. If the adults listen, it should help ensure that we keep doing what's working and fix what's not.

That we hear our youth and involve in them such efforts is vital. Our youth are our most precious commodity, after all. They are the community's future business and civic leaders. They are the citizens who will vote, who will report the news and who will teach about the history of our small time on this world. Despite daily fretting that some child-rearing mistake has been made, parents and the broader community can take solace that many of our kids are turning out all right.

A postscript about those andquot;badandquot; kids: Ethical behavior and character are learned and forged through experience, just as are criminality and remorselessness. Giving up on such children is more a sign of a bad adult than a andquot;badandquot; kid.