Reaching Kids: Story of Failure and Call to Action
Every time news breaks of another premature teen death, school shooting, or violent hate crime all of us at OneSeventeen Media cringe and ask, “Could we have prevented that?”
Eliminating youth violence and providing kids the resources to be heard and make better decisions requires all of us working together and taking on the responsibility of acting independently to impact youth. Instead of blaming different programs, or the lack there of, the question needs to be, “What can I do to make a difference?” At OneSeventeen Media, we’ve decided to make our life’s work answering this question through our products. The center of our mission in designing PlumbBrain is to create a community to support tweens and teens in the really complicated process of growing up.
What we’ve learned through our research is that youth are significantly less likely to drop out of school or act out violently if they feel they have a meaningful relationship with an adult in their lives. Be that adult. If you’re a teacher, reach out to a student on the edge with kindness, if you’re outside of the classroom volunteer to mentor and build that relationship with a child who needs you or even just seek out quality time with a kid you already know. Particularly look out for kids who aren’t necessarily the dynamic ones with great people skills and easy to engage, but they are the ones who most need our attention and our time. The Boys and Girls Clubs of America is a great place to start if you’re looking to get involved.
The long term impact of positive attention from a mentor most clearly sticks out to me in a story about my mom (Dr. Susan Keehn, pictured on left) and one of her 2nd grade students, “Alex.” Alex and I were in 2nd grade at the same time, and he was in my mom’s class. Alex was a hellion. Never in my mom’s 30+ year career had there been, or was there ever, a student who gave her as much grief. I’d known him since kindergarten, and I’d already figured out he was an angry kid you steered clear of at all times. However, my mom was not as easily deterred by Alex’s behavioral call for help. Much to my young dismay, he became a regular fixture in our minivan for trips to the park, cookie baking sessions and museum visits. In small groups Alex did really well, but it didn’t stop him from still being a classroom terror come Monday morning.
While Alex’s behavior improved slightly, he still struggled to control himself. When his second grade year ended, my mom felt a mix of relief and failure that she wasn’t able to make more of an impact on Alex’s life. He moved and Mama and I changed schools in the next year, we simply lost track of Alex in the system. We’d occasionally hear tidbits about him, usually indicating he was just further down the slippery slope evident in his second grade behavior.
When Alex and I should have both been in 10th grade, my mom got a call from juvenile detention, where he was incarcerated for gang violence, asking her to come out for an intervention, at Alex’s request. She was one of “the only two people who ever cared about him in his life”— his grandma, and his second grade teacher.
Mom went and participated, but without any real resolution. I don’t know where Alex is today, but while his story might not have a happy ending, the lasting impact of my mom’s experience with him is my understanding of the power of mentoring and relationship building. It’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s absolutely necessary. Imagine how Alex’s story could have been different if he’d been shown along the way that more adults cared about him. Make the decision to be one of those adults for an Alex in your life.
Entry filed under: Doing Good, Education, Kids, OneSeventeen Media, PlumbBrain, Relationships, School, Volunteering, Youth. Tags: Boys and Girls Clubs, building relationships with kids, campus tragedy, hate crime, how to make a difference with youth, mentoring, OneSeventeen Media, PlumbBrain, Susan Keehn, violence prevention, youth violence.