'Ready, set, go...where?' - Denese Rodgers

Several of my friends have teens who are about to "age out."

They have 16- or 17-year-olds who are ready for "what's next."

But how do you know when they're ready?

I had three teens doing community service last year, and none of the three knew how to use a broom, or clean a restroom.

I've decided that we need College 101, a kind of what-to-know guide. Now, since I write this in a rather off-the-cuff manner, these "lessons" are not in strict order:

Lesson One - How and when to clean. Those things like linens and toilets get icky quickly, and need to be cleaned often. How to maintain schedules for dishes and laundry (subsection on colors vs. whites, and what will shrink). Dishwasher? For heavens sake, do not put oatmeal, grits, or rice in the dishwasher unless you want them eternally attached to your dinnerware. Did you know that you can use 20 Mule Team Borax to keep roaches away? Oh, and sweeping, mopping, countertops, and dust. I'm still not too good on dust, even now.

Lesson Two - MONEY. Just because you still have checks, does not mean that you still have money. We need to include credit-card debt in this subject, because college kids get inundated with credit-card offers (the cute guy at the beach party who just wants a little personal info on an application). We need to explain interest, savings, investments and identity theft.

Lesson Three - Personal health. Get a physician and have your annual exams (guys, too). Understand what you are at risk for (hypertension, diabetes, allergies, etc.) and be proactive in watching out for your own health. Everyone has heard of the Freshman 20. That is the pounds you pick up during your first year as you consume massive amounts of pizza, fries, and beer.

Lesson Four - Safety. Please, please, please be careful. Watch your surroundings, know who is in the room. Know specifically where you are and how to exit. Don't get caught in a situation where you think you are a potential victim. It is much more important to be alive than it is to be cool. Understand basic self-defense. Your police department can tell you where to find classes. Have a network of friends where you keep an eye on them and they keep an eye on you.

Lesson Five - Grocery shopping. Don't go grocery shopping when you are hungry. You'll wind up buying the entire Cheetos aisle. Make a list in advance, and if you have the patience to use coupons, you can save some money.

This is just a quick glance at some of the highlights. What we need most is to invest the ability to utilize choice and control. If you think about it, exercising choice and control is where maturity begins to enter the picture. Does your son or daughter have the ability to make good choices? Can he or she make an unpopular decision and stick to it in light of peer pressure?

I certainly don't have the magic answer. I just remember that for me, my parents always stayed in touch and I always knew that I could seek their counsel.

I'd actually have been better off a time or two, if I'd heeded their words, but they never said, "I told you so." They always just said, "I love you."

Denese Rodgers is executive director of Connecting Henry, a social-service, networking, community organization in Henry County.