And there is no magic blanket, "secret formula" or quick fix for the challenges we are facing with our children. PERIOD! So there is no sense in having arguments about whose fault it is, who's to blame or who's to be punished for the behavior of our children. Those rants will get us nowhere but broke while we drop more dollars into prisons. I know we want to do better; I have faith in us as a collective.
My synopsis doesn't come from watching episodes of First 48 sprinkled with some Gangland and Boondocks- I started working with at-risk youth in 1991. And while I went off and did other things, that's what I've done most of my adult life. So I know a little bit about the complexity of the circumstances.
In my opinion, here's the grit of it: children born in the internet generation have been exposed to, have access to, and utilize technology and information like none before them. As a result, they are freer to be, do, see, hear, say and express. And with that freedom of expression comes identity; very specific identity. In my high school, there were 4 or 5 social groups you fit into…PERIOD. Now, there might be 40, or more, with possibility and likelihood for more to be created very high. Because the influx of information and freedom has blessed our children with the attitude that says they can be successful AND happy.
So as we go and plan and strategize not just to get our children to put the weapons down, but to aspire, dream and achieve, let's keep ALL of our children in the front of our minds. It will not matter to anyone outside your circle if you build a great program that no one wants to participate in. When we talk accountability, let us be accountable to our young people that we will consider what they want and need. Further, I've found it works to have young people at the table when it's decision making time, EVERYTIME. You may or may not need them throughout the entire process, which might be up to schedules, priorities, etc., but I would not feel comfortable having not heard from anyone not considered old by anyone else.
And if you're really ready to make a difference, let young people run the process. Yes, it might (will) take some extra preparation time, but it is worth it. They have more energy, more time, and there seems to be so many more of them with little to do- might as well put them to work (even for pizza). I've seen young people do great things when they were really empowered to lead the process and understood the barriers. Most importantly, I've seen young people answer the question that seems unanswered: what are we going to do with our young people?
The views expressed are the sole opinion of the writer and do not represent any entity, organization, or agency.