Thursday, October 25, 2007

"Two Kids.Five Days. We're living in a crossfire."

The front page story in today's Chicago SunTimes was about the senseless shooting of two more Chicago kids. One was 10. One was 13. A quote with the front page headline reads "We are becoming veterans of doing this. Too many young people are dying for stupid reasons."

In one of my email messages today one of my former volunteers contacted me. She reports that the student she worked with has had one baby. Her sister has had two, maybe three. Both are under 18.

The only good news about this is that the volunteer is still in contact with the teen mother, and with Cabrini Connections. We don't have magic to prevent kids from making decisions that make their life more difficult (or end it), but we can build and sustain an adult support network that will be available as these kids wise up and look for alternatives to the bad decisions they have made.

That's what the conference on Monday was all about. Alternative Schools Network recognizes that there are almost 250,000 kids out of school, and out of jobs. Many of these kids are ripe for recruitment by street gangs, who provide a self esteem and reward negative behavior.

There is no simple, or short term, solution. Another march in the streets, and another headline in the paper, won't change habits that have built up over many years, and many generations.

The only solution I know is a difficult, long road. It's one of getting informed, and getting involved.

We're hosting a tutor/mentor conference on Nov. 15 and 16. That's a place to begin to get informed, as is this blog and the links I post when I write articles. If people visited this blog as often as they go to church or another faith based institution, or as often as they read the newspaper, or watch TV, we'd have a lot more people who were well educated about the problem, and had a wider range of solutions that they could bring into their actions.

However, getting informed, is only relevant if you also get involved. Visit the Chicago Program Links, or the Program Locator, and find a tutor/mentor program in Chicago, or another city, where you can become a sponsor, a volunteer, a leader, a network weaver, or a student.

The more you stay involved, the deeper your commitment becomes, because it becomes more personal, and your knowledge becomes more sophisticated.

As you build a personal understanding of how difficult it is to get kids to participate, stay involved, and to change habits, all of the information you can find on the internet can stimulate your creative side, and lead to new ways that you support a tutor/mentor program, or a youth, with your time, your talent and your dollars.

There's a process to this. I wrote about it here.

Establish a learning group at your college, in your high school, at your law firm, in your synagogue or mosque or in your business. Grow your understanding of the problem and the ways that you can be part of the solution.

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