HOW does a 17-year-old columnist start his first column?

I suppose it’s best to start with a vote of thanks.

I have always enjoyed writing and that is in large part due to the dedicated teachers I have had over the years.

My P6 teacher, Miss Oliver, and my P7 teacher, Mrs Coyle, played a huge role in my love of literacy.

My high school English teachers Mrs Devlin, Mrs Sloan and Mrs Sullivan helped to develop this passion even further, so much so I will be sitting my Advanced Higher English exam in just two weeks time.

Teachers change lives. We all have at least one teacher whose wisdom we reflect on throughout our lives. Although we may forget what they said, we never forget the care they had for us, the attention they gave us or the support they provided in a time of need.

As I prepare to leave school for the final time this year, the two teachers whose wisdom I will take with me wherever I go in life are my head teachers. Mrs McCabe, my primary head at St Ninian’s, Gourock, and Mrs Devine, my secondary head at St Columba’s, Gourock.

To me, there is no greater feeling than to be asked for your advice. As a young person, when an adult asks you for your opinion on a topic or seeks your counsel on an issue it makes you feel included, it makes you feel noticed.

That is exactly what both of my head teachers did. That brings me to the topic of this, my first column. Listen to young people.

Far too often, adults are quick to dismiss the views of young people due to perceived naivety. Their opinions are sometimes disregarded almost as soon as they are formulated. This can lead to young people feeling as if they are not valued, it encourages them to detach from the people around them.

Therefore, adults should ask young people for their opinions. Rather than view young people’s sentiments as uninformed or lacking experience, why not see them as an alternative vision through fresh eyes?

My message to the Tele’s readership is simple; give young people the benefit of the doubt.

Most young people just want to be seen; they want to be noticed. They want to know that you care what they think. Even if you don’t care, pretend to listen. Or as my P7 teacher, Mrs Coyle, used to say, ‘smile and nod!’

Don’t be afraid to discuss the world’s issues with your young people even when they disagree. Give them alternative points of view to ponder but don’t close their thought process down entirely.

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly divided. Take the first step in dismantling the disconnect between young and old. When you see a young person this week, ask them what they think. They may not thank you for it now but they will when they grow to be just as old as you.