COLUMBIA-To combat summer boredom and express herself, Aurielle Sisson-White, 16, has turned to her own creativity.
“A few weeks ago I nailed some boards together and painted a mural in my room,” she says off-handedly, as if she were mentioning what she ate for lunch.
Then, in one swift movement, she takes out her cell phone.
“I take pictures of everything,” Aurielle says, scrolling through the dozens of tiny images that make up her life. “I took this one of my dog when I gave him a Mohawk. Oh, and there’s one of me in bad stage makeup. Ah, look at Samantha’s hair.”
Aurielle clicks through the photos until she finally finds one of her bedroom. The mural, covered in painted swirls, hangs just above her bed, surrounded by photos and pages ripped from magazines. She’s also tie-dyed the curtains.
It’s not just her phone or her room. Aurielle finds ways to express herself through the music she listens to, the clothes she wears and the words she chooses. She writes poetry, which she describes as “pretty demented,” but she finds it a better outlet than any writing she does for school.
“Teachers still won’t let you write about certain topics like abortion or the war,” she said. “They say they’re too overplayed. They’re trying to put a leash on us about what we can or can’t write about.”
Aurielle participates in the Interact Teen-to-Teen theater group. Through its skits, the group educates other youth about things like safe sex, body image and abusive relationships.
“Parents generally don’t like talking about this stuff, so I think they like our performances,” explains Aurielle, who goes to Hickman High School. “No parent wants to be like ‘Hey Jimmy, here’s how you use a condom.’”
It is up to teens to educate their peers about these touchy issues because, according to Aurielle, no one else does it adequately.
Rehearsing for performances and going through peer education training has taken a lot of her time this summer, but it is a welcome distraction in a town she thinks has little else to offer.
“We just need a place to go,” Aurielle says. “There’s no place for teens to go in Columbia.”
She receives nods of encouragement from a friend as she talks about one of her latest frustrations: restricted mall time. After 4 p.m., no one younger than 17 can be in the Columbia Mall without someone 21 or older.
“I know why they did it,” she says. “But it’s not just kids shoplifting. Adults steal, too.”
Aurielle’s ready for the summer break to end.
“Columbia gets so much better once school starts,” she says as she giggles. “Wow — that’s kind of sad.”
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