Last night I was hanging out with a couple of guy friends who were genuinely excited about a mentorship program they’re involved in. Earlier that day, friend 1 who is in charge of the program brought the male teenagers from a Harlem school to visit friend 2 at his job. They spoke with enthusiasm about the potential in a few kids and the upcoming planned activities. I loved it so much because underprivileged young men need people just like friend 1 and 2 in their lives.
This morning when riding the subway, 4 young men got on talking about where they were going to kick it. They had book bags on, so i figured they should’ve been in school. They were using the N word loud and aggressively, talking about smoking, and i really wanted to mind my business, but i couldn’t. I just couldn’t be okay with knowing these kids were cutting school and no one was going to question them about it. One woman felt so ‘threatened’ by them that she got up to move seats. Something inside of me wanted more for them. So i intruded.
Me: “why arent you guys in school?
Them: one rolls eyes, one takes a headphone out, and two look up kind of shocked.
kid 1: i was suspended
Me: for what?
Kid 1: fighting in class
Me: for how many days?
Kid 1: only a couple
Me to kid 2: what abt you, why arent u in school?
Kid 2: suspended.
Me: whatd u do?
Kid 2: beat this dudes a** (chuckles from all 4)
Me: you? (To kid 3)
Kid 3: my school had a riot, everyone was fighting.
Me: wow. You? (To man 4)
Man 4: i’m 19.
Me: oh so you graduated?
Man 4: No.
Me: Oh. Okay. GED?
Man 4: No. (With a ‘tude)
Me: how old are the rest of you (answers: kid 1 – 13, kid 2 – 13, kid 3-16). You guys absolutely have to go to school and graduate. 13 is too young to drop out. If you ever want to work you’re going to at least need a diploma. Your other option is jail.
Kid 1-2 sounded like they cared at 13 years old. I could tell 16 yr old Kid 3 and 19 year Man 4 were already lost causes.
NY has the motto “When u see something, say something!” because NYers typically mind their own business. But i think it’d really make a difference if we start to apply that same mentality to young kids who are effing off. The ones who are young and impressionable, need to have the right people instill positive values in them. I think sometimes we take for granted all that we have to offer teenagers who are at an age where they will either choose to succeed or unconsciously choose to fail. I will now sign up for a mentor somewhere, it’s important that WE step up and guide these children instead of allowing the drop outs to guide them down the wrong path.
Be the change you wish to see in your community!