One of my favorite parts of each yearbook my journalism students create is the senior baby photos. I love seeing the resemblance between the sweet infant faces and the current already world-weary countenances filled with a curious mixture of anger, longing, pride and distrust.
When I get frustrated with their seemingly incomprehensible actions, I try to picture them as babies and toddlers and for me that puts any situation in perspective.
At the school I teach at, fighting, gun possessions, suspensions and verbal disrespect are a matter of course and accepted too frequently as a part of daily life. So the recent Downtown shootings of 10 teens during the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration unfortunately came as no surprise.
The recent discussion amongst police, school and community officials has been enlightening but it is too easy to get off track.
Yes, a task force is needed to look at making Indiana Black Expo safer. This wonderful event is a source of pride and provides a showcase of talents and necessary services for the community.
But I agree with the Rev. A. Thomas Hill of Healing Streams Word and Worship Center that our youth need undergo a “heart change” to get to the root of the problem of teen violence.
This will not come from any task force action, or through safe zones (who are the ones we are really making safe?)
You can’t force a change of heart upon a young person. As a teacher, I long ago realized that young people are quick to know who cares about them and the adults who are just biding their time. They know that a safe zone with metal detectors is just a way to really keep them out – to push the problems back to their neighborhoods. They know that task forces are just another set of adults who will lay down the rules that won’t apply in the world the teens live in each day.
I agree too with IPS Superintendent Dr. Eugene White that to get to the heart of this problem you need to look at parents. But I would suggest that his call come from a place of cooperation and consideration, not blame.
I have students in my classes whose parents were sitting at those same desks only 15 years ago. We have teens who still need love, support and guidance to develop adult maturity, raising babies. We are fast raising a generation of young parents who see the school system as the adversary rather than the place for opportunity.
We have a culture that tells you to survive you have to have a gun in your hand, seek solace in sex and drugs and be constantly ready to fight the hand held out to help.
Yes, teens need a change of heart but I believe every adult, every parent in the community needs to have a change of heart as well. They need to see these youth with their “pants on the ground” as their children; they need to truly care about the teens’ well-being and safety, not just care about protecting themselves from these “unruly and disrespectful” young people.
The resources are there but as Michelle Study-Campbell of Reach for Youth said the students are not using them. Good intentions are not enough, the situation is more urgent than that.
Every adult needs to roll up their sleeves and volunteer – mentor, tutor, offer their expertise at a local public school. Give of your time and more importantly give from your heart – not from a distance.
The network of area agencies, non-profits and churches need to lead by example and provide parents with unconditional love and support tempered with faith and values. Provide opportunities for them to learn how to give their children not what they ask for but what they need. Celebrate the talents of our youth – they are still our babies, our future, our hope.
We need to ask ourselves: “Do we really care or are we just scared? Who are we really trying to protect?”