I think things get tarnished a little more quickly nowadays.

Steve Chuck graduates from North Hollywood High School on Tuesday. He is going to college in the fall and hopes to make the football team. Chuck is considering a career in zoology or sports medicine. He lives with his parents, John and Lysbeth Chuck, in Studio City.

I played a lot of sports in high school: soccer, football, basketball, volleyball and track. I earned eight varsity letters. You don't have to be a monster to play a sport in high school. If you're out there and you're scrappy and you're sticking with it and sucking up the pain and you keep driving, then you'll do well and you'll play.

All three years I was at N.H., I was there from 8 in the morning to 3 for my classes, and I was there till 5 or 6 at night for the sports. From 8 until 6 was almost like having a regular job. I think it helped me in a lot of ways to keep my grades up. You had that time structure, and there were no outside distractions. I would come home after practice, study and pretty much go to sleep.

I realize that in college I'll have to be a lot more disciplined than I am now and a lot more responsible. You've got all of that free time because you have that much more studying to do. High school counts, but college is where you start to make or break your future. It's time to get serious, because the harder you work now, the easier it is down the road.

Kids today grow up too fast. I don't feel victimized, but I think the society we've been brought up in forced us to mature more rapidly than they did in my father's or my grandfather's time. You have to be aware of so much more, about taking care of yourself and responsibility towards others.

Take driving a car. Thirty or 40 years ago not everyone had to drive a car. Now, in L.A., you almost have to. You need a way to get to school, to your job and home from practice. It's a responsibility, because you're driving something that could take someone else's life.

As you grow up, people are telling you that the men in the White House want to blow up the world or you can get a fatal disease from a drinking fountain. We experienced things, and we tried things, and we deal with things earlier than most other generations had to.

They call AIDS the new plague, and people kid about it, but you realize it is serious. You can be careful, you can be responsible, you can be a celibate person who rarely goes out of the house, and you can catch it from a blood transfusion. We have to be more responsible for ourselves earlier. Now they're teaching fourth-graders about AIDS. This is something that they realize they are going to have to be responsible for. It's a life or death thing here. And they're only in the fourth grade. It makes you wonder.

When I hear about a job, the first thing I think is, "How much coin is it going to make me?" It's frightening to think that to be comfortable, to be middle class or upper-middle class, that you're going to have to go out and find a job that earns you $125,000 a year. That's a lot of money, but if you want to stay in Southern California, I think that has a lot to do with it.

I would like to get married someday and have children and give them the best things possible. I'd like to think I'm going to lead a long and happy life, but one war would change it all. It's not part of my plan. I don't have a Plan B in case of nuclear attack.

I don't feel I can control those things, but as I grow older and have opportunities to do things, I'd like to make this a better place to live in. You have to know what's going on. You have to be educated about facts. But you also have to be able to reason and know how things really are. I think you can make a difference if you work hard, lead a decent life and instill values and ideals in your children and try to do well by others.

I look back to grammar school and realize how easy I had it. So I tell my 6-year-old neighbor, when he tells me about school, "Enjoy it now, man, because things get really tough." I think that is one time when kids are still kids and everything is still bright and new. I think things get tarnished a little more quickly nowadays.

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