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Young and Wiser addresses everyday adolescent issues

Former college counselor Tom Bissonette believes everyone moves at their own pace.

When it comes to development, some people develop social skills faster than academic proficiency, or some people may score great with social and academic skills but lack the ability to cope emotionally with the things going on in their life, he said. These developmental inequalities can often put pressure on one or more aspect of a person’s life, particularly when that person is young, in college and trying to deal with a lot of things at once, he added.

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Photo contributed by Eleanor Angel

UTC students hang out outside the University Center on UTC’s campus. Young and Wiser, a new local nonprofit, plans to pair adolescent ambassadors with adults to lead seminars for college administrators across the country.

These pressures can cause people to make irrational or bad decisions that have lifelong consequences and prevent people from reaching their ultimate potential, because they don’t understand what’s going on with their development, said Bissonette.

“Too many people fall through the cracks. That’s the bottom line,” he said. “Our goal is to prevent suffering. Too many young people suffer unnecessarily and make life-altering decisions because of developmental issues they aren’t prepared for.”

After two decades of counseling students at the collegiate level and years of teaching at UTC, he recently started a new nonprofit organization called Young and Wiser to help fill in the gaps. He hopes it will help college administrators and students work together to help students understand themselves better, he said.

Ultimately, Bissonette said he hopes to implement a program across Chattanooga and the United States that teaches college administrators how to work with students and help them understand their own development so they can make better decisions. Oftentimes alcohol abuse, sexual misconduct, destructive behavior, anxiety or depression are symptoms of a developmental delay in a specific area, he said.

To help the nonprofit in its first year Bissonette is hosting the organization’s first fundraiser Thursday, Feb. 14. at 7 p.m. in the University Center Auditorium on UTC’s campus. The event will feature live music from Smooth Dialects and comedian Steve Hofstetter. Admission costs $5 for students and $15 for non-students. Tickets can be purchased online www.youngandwiser.org.

He said he hopes the “fun fundraiser” helps draw people in for a great night of entertainment and a short message about what Young and Wiser is trying to achieve.

“What young people need to hear is that they’re not alone and that there’s nothing wrong with them,” Bissonette said. “They’re all just trying to deal with difficult developmental challenges.”

For more information visit www.youngandwiser.org.

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