Teenage Years 101 lecture draws huge crowd

By: Lynnsey Gardner
By: Lynnsey Gardner

September 26, 2006

The teenage years can be hard on parents and teenagers.

Columbia County kids are getting help from the law...before they end up on the wrong side of it.

Chief Magistrate Wade Padgett has apparently struck a nerve with his lecture series Teenage Years 101. Hundreds of teenagers came out again tonight to hear his message.

More than 350 kids packed the Columbia County performing arts building to hear Judge Padgett talk about drugs, alcohol, the internet, and sex. Nothing was off limits.

"I hope to learn what to do and what not to do," said participant Kristyn Coogler. "What's safe and what's not."

"I know a little bit," said participant Cory Barden.

Cory and Kristyn are only 13, but they heard all about sex, drugs, alcohol, and dangers on the internet from chief magistrate Wade Padgett.

"After 14 years on the bench, I decided I got tired of seeing kids go to jail and they claimed they didn't know what the law was," Padgett told News 12.

So now he is bringing the law to the people and laying it all on the line.

"I think it's a good idea," said participant Kevin Nelson. "It's a lot easier than talking to adults."

And kids aren't the only ones who are learning. Parents came two weeks ago for their own lesson.

"Little things you thought could be passed up as childhood pranks aren't that way anymore," said parent Douglas Nelson. "A lot has changed."

"I was absolutely shocked and appalled at some of the things I learned," said parent Shannon Walden. She returned tonight with her 14 year old son and 12 year old daughter.

"I'm scared that they may do something with another child and end up with a record for the rest of their lives and be put on a website for kissing or anything else like that that's actually illegal these days," she said.

Kristyn's mom, Brenda Coogler, doesn't think it's ever too young to learn.

"She's got her own free will, and if she chooses to go down the wrong path, then I want her to learn consequences and take responsibility for her actions," she said.

Judge Padgett also asked the Columbia County Sheriff's Office to bring in one of their inmates, hoping to drive the point home.

William Stulb spoke tonight to the hundreds of teenagers at the forum.

He shared what happened to him after he was arrested and convicted.

He talked about how he was in the same boat as many of the kids sitting in the audience tonight, and how he never thought anything bad would happen to him.

Stulb was sent to jail for having sex with a 14-year-old when he was 18.

So many teens came tonight that some had to be turned away. And Judge Padgett said he had the same problem two weeks ago at the parents' night.

Judge Padgett has been surprised by the response so far. He said you can't really picture the impact your vision is going to have when you are at home planning it out on the computer. But now, with the support he has received and the widespread interest, he hopes to take his message all across the state with a goal of saving at least one life.

Two classes have been added next month. The October 16 session will be for parents, and on October 18, teens are invited to come out. The classes will be held at Augusta Prep.

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