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Editorial: No lazy summers for these kids
Area youth applying their efforts to better themselves, community
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Gainesville High School students, f rom left, Ryan Nguyen, 15, Solomon Riley, 16, and Elizabeth Markey, 17, paint over graffiti Saturday during Generation Inspiration's Operation Untag Gainesville. Generation Inspiration is a summer youth leadership society that helps Gainesville students give back to the community. In this initiative, various groups cleaned up areas around downtown Gainesville that have been tagged with graffiti. - photo by David Barnes

Back in the day, summertime for area kids was not only longer by several weeks, it was full of gleefully idle hours spent barefoot in the sunshine, hanging out by a pool, wetting a line in a lake, playing ball on a dusty sandlot and chasing after the ice cream truck.

Today’s kids still have fun, even if more of it is spent in the den battling pretend aliens in hi-def. But many others, facing a time when competition for spots in college or the workplace are harder to come by, are using their time productively to better themselves and their community, as chronicled in a few recent stories on our pages:

• Last Saturday, Gainesville High students joined Generation Inspiration in efforts to “untag” the city by painting over graffiti in areas around town. Such organic art once was seen as a harmless artistic expression, but now more often indicates gang activity. These local students spent their Saturday to help scrub out some of these unsightly symbols in seeking to reclaim their city from such destructive behavior.

The idea started as a way for high school kids to start “counteracting some of the gang presence” in the community by beautifying areas around town, said former county commissioner and local attorney Ashley Bell, who started the group.

A little paint might not seem like much in such a battle, but it shows the commitment these young people are willing to make to display their community in a more positive light.

 With computer hacking constantly in the news, the need for smart people to counteract the cyber goons is vital. One such effort recently brought together a group of 40 high school students, including two from Gainesville, for the National Cyber Warrior Academy at the University of North Georgia Dahlonega.

The program, one of 130 nationwide sponsored by the National Security Agency and National Science Foundation, teaches youngsters advanced computer skills in hopes some may help join forces against Web predators. Among the exercises they took part in were drone racing and hacking into a car’s computer.

Whether any of these young people end up working with government agencies or for businesses, the demand for high-tech watchdogs will increase in coming years. These bright youngsters could be heroes in a future that likely will belong to the lovable nerds of the cyber world.

 Other students with a more artistic inclination took part in the International Ballet Intensive program this summer at Brenau University. The camp brought in some 35 young dancers ages 11 to 18 to receive instruction from world-class ballet teachers to help them improve their skills.

While others were whiling away hours watching reality TV, these kids were sweating through their leotards under coaches who constantly kept them on their toes (bad joke, sorry).

Many of them will get a chance to show off what they’ve learned Friday in a performance at Brenau’s Hosch Theatre. If you’d like to see them in action, tickets are $12 for adults, $9 for seniors and students, children under 7 free; call 315-751-3498 for information.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with kids who work hard for nine months getting to goof off a bit during a season that invites us all to enjoy a little leisure down time. But to those ambitious and engaged young people seeking to improve their futures and that of others, we doff our panama hats in tribute.

Share your thoughts on this or any other topic in a a letter to the editor; you can use this form or email to The Times editorial board includes General Manager Norman Baggs, Editor Keith Albertson and Managing Editor Shannon Casas, plus community members Susan DeCrescenzo, Cathy Drerup and Brent Hoffman.