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For Immediate Release
Office of the First Lady
October 5, 2006

Mrs. Bush's Interview by AM 1700 Teen Radio
Buffalo, New York

photos  Photos

October 4, 2006

1:50 P.M. EDT

Q This is AM 1700. I am Miss Diva, Amber Bellamy, here with the First Lady, the First Lady, Mrs. Laura Bush. Wow, it's a great experience.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks, Amber.

Q And I'm here with Mrs. Bush and Amber Bellamy. This is DJ Whiter. We're here with Mrs. Bush, like Amber, Miss Diva, said.

Mrs. Laura Bush participates in a radio interview with Amber Bellamy, age 17, left, and Elliott White, Jr., age 22, Wednesday, October 4, 2006, during a visit to the Children’s Training Network/AM 1700 Radio Program in Buffalo, New York, as part of the President’s Helping America’s Youth initiative. Together with Crucial Human Service Center and other Buffalo community programs, AM 1700 Station encourages caring adults to connect as mentors with high-risk youth. White House photo by Shealah Craighead Q Mrs. Bush, the First Lady, this is a great experience, wow.

Q Yes, real great.

Q The First Lady, who -- in the Helping America's Youth initiative. We know you have a busy schedule, but we're going to get straight to questions.

MRS. BUSH: Okay, terrific. Thanks, Amber. Thank you very much for having me on the show. I'm really happy to be here.

Q It's an honor, it's an honor. Can you tell us what Helping America's Youth initiative is about?

MRS. BUSH: Helping America's Youth is an initiative that President Bush announced in his 2005 State of the Union address, and it's an initiative to try to highlight all the ways that people in the United States can help young people learn to make wise decisions for their lives so they can live healthy and successful lives. So I've spent -- since the President announced the initiative in January 2005, I've traveled all over our country. I've visited with mentors and Big Brothers and Big Sisters and schools and after-school programs, and fatherhood initiatives, sports programs that teach character through sports, gang intervention programs where I've met young people who are leaving gangs and finding jobs.

And I'm here today, of course, because CRUCIAL and this radio station are both very important groups in the Buffalo area that help young people learn to make wise decisions for their lives, which is exactly the point of Helping America's Youth.

Q Okay, what is Helping America's Youth based on? Is it just about gangs, school dropout, teen pregnancy?

MRS. BUSH: Well, it's all of those things, and it's really based on a lot of research that shows that young people who have adults who are highly supportive in their lives, who are actively involved in their lives, do better -- young people who have parents or teachers or coaches or mentors or pastors that support them and help them learn how to make wise decisions.

And so one of the purposes of Helping America's Youth is to encourage parents and grandparents and community leaders around the country to become actively involved in the life of young people, to find out what the problems are that young people are facing, all the things you just mentioned. Of course, we know drug and alcohol abuse, dropping out of school is a very crucial and sad choice that some children make, because it really does set you back when that happens-- all of the ways that each one of us can reach out to young people and help them make a successful life for themselves.

Q In society today, young females are just as at risk as young males. Why is Helping America's Youth initiative focused on more young males instead of young males and females?

MRS. BUSH: Well, Helping America's Youth is focused on both girls and boys. But we do know that boys face higher statistical problems. We know that, obviously, more boys drop out of school; fewer boys go to college now than women -- about 56 percent of the people in undergraduate school in college are women; boys are much more likely to get in trouble and be arrested; boys are more likely to be victims of violence themselves. These are all statistics that we know. Boys drop out of school more than girls do.

And so we know that we need to pay attention to both boys and girls, but we should pay special attention to see what we can do to reverse these trends for boys, to have boys stay in school longer, go to college, do all the things that we all know, that every one of us know are what will lead to a successful life.

Q In Buffalo today, a lot of our committees are being swiped away because of the funding. So now it's like, if it wasn't for your Buffalo, I couldn't meet teen radio, I wouldn't be able to meet you, which is a wonderful experience. But we don't have -- there's really nothing for the teens to do anymore because no more funding.

MRS. BUSH: Well, that's a problem, and Helping America's Youth is not a funding program. It does support community groups around the country -- or I've visited community groups around the country that do receive federal funding. But not all of them do. Some are faith-based, some are supported by different churches or mosques or synagogues. Others are just started by groups that want to do something good and raise their own money privately, without federal funding.

But you're right, it is important to pay attention to funding. And there are a lot of grants in a lot of different federal departments -- the Justice Department, for instance, which I think is a funder of the Weed and Seed program here in Buffalo. The Education Department has a number of grants that they can give. A lot of the departments do. And one thing that Helping America's Youth did when we started the initiative is we brought people from -- policy makers -- from each one of these departments and put them together to design this initiative, that we've done conferences now around the country.

But it's also a way for each of these departments to know where -- what kind of grants they have, and how they can make sure these grants get spread around the country in a very constructive and positive way.

Q Yes, I went to the national Weed and Seed, which was in Arizona. And they asked the question, what did I want my community to look like? And what I drew was -- I'm not a good drawer -- but I drew buildings of community center. And one day I hope I will be able to make my own community center call The Voices. I think young people need to be heard.

MRS. BUSH: They do need to be heard, you're absolutely.

Q I want a community center called The Voices with a face that's -- on the building. So I think --

MRS. BUSH: Well, I like that, and that's one of the great things about this radio program, and this chance that you all have to be on the radio program, is that you both have a chance to get your message out to people, to ask other people their opinions.

But while I'm on your program, I'd like to say something specifically to young people, to both of you and to young people, all your listeners everywhere who are young people. And that is, think about your life, really think about what you want it to be. It's like asking to draw what you want a community to be.

Also sit down sometime with a piece of paper and a pencil, and make your goals for yourself. Think about what you want your life to look like. And then when you've got those goals, take that list to your mother, or to your grandparents, or to your teacher, or your favorite counselor or coach, and say, these are my goals. I've thought about it and this is what I want my life to be like, and how can you help me strategize what are the important ways I can reach my goals.

And it might be, number one, doing very well in school. And we know that. If you can do well in school, then you're more likely to be able to go to college or get a good job. Or it might be avoiding drugs or alcohol. It might be a lot of other things. It may just be a desire to help people, to make sure every single day you do something that helps your family or your friend or your school or your community in some way. We know that when we help other people, when we reach out to other people, we expand our own lives, and we make ourselves happier.

Q How can community programs find out about Helping America's Youth program?

MRS. BUSH: Well, there's a website for Helping America's Youth, and it's -- that's g-o-v at the end of it. And when you get on Helping America's Youth website, you can actually put in your own community, and the website will show you some of the problems that young people in your community face. And then it will also let you know about some of the resources your community has to address those problems.

But also on the website are a list of the many, many resources that are across the country that you can look through and think, Buffalo could really use this; or I wish we had that in our community. And it's a way to try to address the problems that are specific here.

And for communities whose law enforcement has crime statistics mapped, those communities can put their crime statistics on top of the map of their town, and they can see that there's a lot of crime at this corner between 4 in the afternoon and 7 at night, which makes you know that kids are out, they don't have any place safe to go, and they're just on the street and getting in trouble. And so then that allows the community to say, this corner needs a Boys and Girls Club, or this corner needs a public library where kids can go after school and do their homework, or whatever. It's a way to really address specific problems about your own specific community.

Q Well, I would like to thank you for coming. Wow, it's a very good experience.

MRS. BUSH: Thank you to both of you. Thanks for getting good messages out to young people all over the world. I saw your letters from Japan and South Africa and Scotland and other places.

Q International.

MRS. BUSH: That's right, that's right.

Q This is AM 1700. We're in the building with the First Lady, you guys, the First Lady, Mrs. Laura Bush, wow -- a member of the Helping America's Youth initiative.

MRS. BUSH: Thanks so much, Amber. Good luck to you both. Thanks a lot.

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